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How can automation streamline field service businesses?

How can automation streamline field service businesses?
December 12, 2022

Field service businesses rely on their workforce to deliver quality customer interactions that translate to a healthy cash inflow.

This billion-dollar industry covers technical work in multiple sectors, including installing, selling, repairing, and maintaining pieces of equipment, systems, or properties. 

Workflow processes for these sectors can become complex, and numerous companies need field service automation tools, such as plumber business software, to do their jobs well. Field service automation and similar applications can effectively streamline processes and helps contractors organize and minimize downtimes and errors, increasing customer satisfaction. 

Unfortunately, some service businesses have yet to discover the benefits of field service automation. If your company is one of them, read this article to find out how field service automation helps cut time and costs while increasing operational efficiency. 

The field service automation market  

According to estimates, the field service automation (FSA) market is expected to remain robust, experiencing a compounded annual growth rate of over 15% from 2022 to 2027. Demand mainly drives this growth, as many firms realize technology is a worthwhile investment.  

By automating the entire service processes, like job requests, dispatching, tracking field tasks, invoicing, payments, and follow-ups, contractors can eliminate costly inefficiencies, errors, and downtimes. Here are some of the compelling reasons to automate business processes:   

1. Fast online booking and ticket creation 

With automated booking and ticketing services, for instance, contractors can receive service requests and inquiries from leads and prospects whom they can visit for the required follow-ups. Instead of listing customer details on paper, which is prone to errors and losses, customers can fill out the online form, where a ticket will be assigned. 

The ticketing system organizes multiple client requests and indicates which services should be prioritized. Having this technology automates business workflows. When a ticket is created, it's easier to make a job order, assign technicians, and monitor the job through its completion.  

2. Seamless technician scheduling and dispatch processes 

Companies find technician scheduling and dispatching processes difficult, especially for emergencies, cancellations, and other last-minute changes. 

With automation, however, information can be viewed in real time, so you'd know the most recent job requests and can assign field technicians in minutes. For instance, the plumbing software lets users view schedules in different settings to avoid overbooking, underbooking, or double booking. The application also lets you monitor your field staff through GPS tracking, allowing you to dispatch technicians quickly with just a few clicks. 

3. Remote access to customer and job data

Field technicians are often restricted if they don't have real-time access to information, including changes in job requests, schedules, and product or equipment inventories. 

Additionally, on-site workers must maintain an updated client information database, including profiles, request history, billings, follow-ups, and other data, to know what needs to be done. Failure to have these on hand could result in costly mistakes and miscommunication, leading to staff and customer frustration. 

At the same time, teams need to collect job-related information like before-and-after photos and other documents. Compiling, organizing, and uploading data with automation is easier and saves a lot of administrative work compared to manual processes.   

4. Route optimization

Rising fuel prices negatively impact businesses, especially those that rely on transportation, including firms that regularly send their teams on-site. Using a field service automation system, the staff can generate the most fuel-efficient routes to save time and expenses even when their schedules change. 

This essential functionality benefits the company, reduces client downtime, and increases field staff productivity. As a result, clients become more satisfied and will likely become repeat customers, while your technicians accommodate more work on any given date. 

5. Collaboration and real-time information sharing 

According to a recent survey, service history review and access to service manuals, knowledge base, company inventory, and training videos are the primary challenges for field service staff. With FSA, teams can access real-time information or receive notifications of changes in their job information through the mobile application. With this feature, field teams can easily coordinate with the office staff to adapt to these changes. 

For instance, a technician whose scheduled job was canceled can take on a service task instead of sending another team to do the job. Automation lets the manager view individual members' schedules and job progress details, as well as dispatch aptly skilled technicians at the right time.    

6. Reporting and analytics 

One of the best features of automation software is the reporting and analytics information. With this functionality, your business can track operational efficiencies and weaknesses. For instance, if your pre-set metrics don't match your actual numbers, it can be a sign that you need more technicians or must upskill existing members. 

Similarly, if you're struggling to get new leads and prospects, review your marketing strategies and implement certain changes, like using chatbots to boost sales or enhancing customer service delivery. 

7. Fast invoicing and payment processing 

Automating invoicing and payment processes means your business gets paid faster, leading to healthier cash inflows. Instead of waiting for your technicians or the client to confirm task completion and preparing the invoice or receipt, field service management software allows entities to create and send estimates and quotes online.  

And because the estimate and quotes come in easily fillable templates, your staff don't have to spend hours completing one invoice. Moreover, batch invoicing is possible with this technology so that you can send multiple quotes simultaneously or print them before mailing and showing them to your clients. 

Some FSA software enables companies to process credit or debit card payments online or facilitate manual payments faster. 

Conclusion 

If you're one of the 52% of service companies still using manual field management systems, it's time to revisit your business strategies and include field service automation as a priority. The upfront costs may discourage your company from getting one, but it’s a worthwhile investment, especially when used strategically. 

Automating field processes reduces costs and time. More importantly, it improves operational efficiencies and customer satisfaction. And for service companies, nothing is more important than these two business aspects.  

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