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Trade contractors can easily find themselves facing losses from service contracts that are priced too aggressively, penalties for missed service level agreements (SLAs), inconsistent subcontractor delivery, and an inability to adopt new disruptive technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT).

Enter the new breed of intelligent field service management applications. Following are nine functional capabilities trade contractors need from their field service management software in order to make the most of aftermarket revenue opportunities.

Work Order Initiation

Modern field service software must be able to initiate a work order through three basic channels, depending on the customer’s preferred method of contact: phone, email and online portal. Preventive maintenance also should be considered, as contracts can mandate maintenance at specific intervals, such as equipment cycles or other milestones.

Thirty percent of companies use IoT for aftermarket services, according to a recent IFS survey. As more service requests are being made by sensors tracking equipment health (rather than people), field service software should be able to receive this information and automate the appropriate steps, including ordering parts and initiating work orders.

Quote Generation

Generating quotes is another key consideration from field service software—not only for customer service representatives taking inbound calls, but also for technicians in the field to sell additional work or service contracts. This means that information must be available in the system to support adequate pricing. For example, what did similar projects cost in terms of time and materials in the past? What customer-specific pricing might apply?

The software also needs to streamline quote approvals through automated routing structures configurable to a contractor’s review processes. Once it is approved, the quote must be presented to the customer—either through email, as a printed document or on a device screen—prior to work beginning.

Contract Management

Contract management functionality is essential to safeguard the customer experience while avoiding penalties for underperformance, as well as to keep track of what services and parts the contract covers. 

Contract management functionality should cover customer-specific SLAs that may regulate response times to have a technician onsite or to call back on a service request, preventive maintenance coverage or escalation rules. It also should cover customer- or equipment-specific pricing and invoicing, the scope of work and maintenance obligations, contract visibility and concession tracking, warranty management, and any additions, changes or cancellations to work orders.

Scheduling and Dispatch

Scheduling optimization can put management in control of the field service workforce by dynamically generating an optimized route and providing information on specific jobs for technicians. This optimization can include geolocation features on mobile devices or vehicles to determine which technicians are closest to a given site, as well as to let the customer know when they have departed and if they are going to be delayed.

As service requests result in work orders, the schedule adjusts and automatically assigns those tasks to another technician. Using scheduling optimization, service organizations have realized 15 percent reductions in travel and overtime costs, 40 percent improvement in technician productivity, and more than a 20 percent improvement in SLA compliance and on-time service delivery.

Inventory Management

Not having the required part is the single biggest factor preventing contractors from improving first-time fix rates. Technicians can get to the site quickly, but if they do not have the parts required, or if that part is out of stock, they will be wasting resources on return trips while damaging customer relationships.

Regulations require that some materials used in refrigeration and air conditioning units must be traced at the end of an asset life cycle. Field service management software can deliver serial traceability of specific parts, components and subcomponents by customer, worksite or by the machine or asset it is being installed in, along with the date it was put into service and warranty provisions from the company and the manufacturer.

Work Order Execution

Access to equipment manuals, schematics, service tutorials and live support from experts is required of today’s field service software. Access to this information could be on a mobile app with real-time data from the full service and asset life cycle. With work order functionality on a mobile device, the technician can issue quotes at a fixed or not-to-exceed price, secure approval and generate new work orders while in the field.

Checklist management functionality is one way to provide this. The software can streamline the creation of checklists that package required information on parts and processes involved in each service task. 

Subcontractor Management

If subcontractors are involved in a firm’s aftermarket service life cycle, the field service software must enable them to receive and complete work orders; capture information on the subcontractor’s capabilities, skill sets and available equipment; and enable tasks to be routed to appropriate subcontractors when additional capacity or skill sets are needed.

Visibility into subcontractors’ workloads isn’t always possible, so field service software should be able to route a service request to a preferred subcontractor and, if they do not accept it within a certain time, route it to the next until the task is accepted. 

Closing/Invoicing

Field service management software should have functionality to centrally capture all invoicing details to streamline the handoff of invoices and so that margin analysis can be performed at a granular level. This is essential for a contracting business to realize one of the main benefits of field service management software: increased invoicing efficiency that reduces administrative work while helping the company get paid faster.

Functionality should reconcile the invoice with the terms of the contract, including customer-specific pricing, any agreements on payment terms and requested routing rules for invoices for specific locations or equipment types. 

Analytics

Without field service management, it’s difficult to pull analytics on service and financial performance. Sales orders, service orders and other transactional tools all contain data for invoicing and should be part of a company’s solution. 

Operational metrics are just as important as financial metrics when determining if customers are well served. Field service software combines data throughout the service life cycle with data from contract management to get visibility into efficiency levels and how well contracts and SLAs are delivered. 

New, disruptive technologies mean customers’ expectations are evolving beyond a straightforward approach to aftermarket service. They will be looking for contractors to cater more to their needs, communicate more thoroughly through digital channels and be more responsive than ever before.  

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