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Field service management (FSM) and customer relationship management (CRM) are best-of-breed solutions that tackle two areas essential to field technicians. While each tool is designed to manage different processes, when they do not work together effectively, businesses are likely to miss out on new opportunities—and suffer from less productive work processes. 

It’s common for FSM and CRM to be integrated with enterprise resource planning (ERP) to avoid duplicate data entry or mistakes due to lack of data—and to share this data in real time. But in most environments, integrating FSM software with CRM software can bring additional benefits and enable organizations to provide a consistent experience, whether a customer is contacting a CRM user or a field service technician. This is why some software vendors create standard integration models with ERP products.

A spotlight on FSM

Managing the customer experience is the job of the CRM Solution, whereas FSM software is designed to ensure customers are served successfully—and profitably—in the field. Enterprise grade software includes many different functions and capabilities, but there are some key areas that good FSM software should cover. 

  • dispatch and service scheduling, appointment setting, calendar-based scheduling from maintenance plans and automated scheduling optimization;
  • the ability to issue and record completion of work orders;
  • contract management to ensure service agreements are adhered to, even when terms are customer-specific;
  • service inventory, including inventory on each technician’s vehicle;
  • warranty management, so technicians in the field can determine which work is covered by warranty and which carries an additional charge;
  • tools to enable technicians to upsell new services, issue quotes and secure approval on quotes;
  • reverse logistics to take parts and subcomponents back into inventory, repair or scrap them, track ownership of the part and whether the customers or subcontractors are entitled to a replacement; and
  • service billing, used to collect details of billable service, pass it to ERP for invoicing and provide customers visibility into billing activity in the field.

Highlighting some of the core features of FSM software is useful because even if a CRM package has some level of field service capability, it won’t able to deliver all the functions needed for effective field service management. Even if a business has an advanced field service product being run as a standalone entity, it is likely to leave gaps in the ability to address the entire customer lifecycle, maximize revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

Providing a full picture

The combined view of CRM and field service enables improved customer service and offers opportunities to increase revenue. When a field technician can use the CRM solution to get a view of what service has been performed on a customer’s equipment in the field, then that technician can—based on frequency of service, cost of service and parts and even predictive analytics—record a sales opportunity to potentially replace the equipment.

In this scenario, a field service technician may learn that the customer site they are working on will be expanding and can quickly create a sales opportunity for additional equipment that might be sold. Combining these solutions is essential, as a company delivers a better experience when employees across the organization know about recent customer conversations, transactions, service calls, open issues, customer-specific requirements and correspondence.

Better information sharing 

Certain information will need bi-directional integration with FSM and CRM to make sure that this data is synced and updated within both systems. If service history and any ongoing sales activity are not recorded, neither field service nor customer service personnel will get the 360-degree view of customers and their needs. 

Giving field service technicians better visibility into sales history arms them with knowledge of the products and equipment at a customer site that isn’t covered by a service agreement and that could represent an additional revenue opportunity. Warranty information and contract management is another important consideration, as it can provide CRM users with a better idea of sales opportunities for each customer and show how well the field organization is performing against contractual requirements. 

Open architecture for enterprise agility

While some enterprise software integrations can be viewed as high cost or risk, not all systems are built the same. Solutions that are built on an open integration architecture offer standard but configurable implementations to CRM offerings, and businesses should look to these solutions. 

No two implementations of CRM products will be the same, and each integration will be somewhat unique. This highlights the importance of having a configurable and user-friendly integration, with drag-and-drop tools to add fields, repurpose fields and add tables. 

It’s about increasing enterprise agility. As the way organizations do business changes and those changes are reflected in a Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution, the integration can change without custom programming or external consulting fees. The result is quick, cost-effective and simple onboarding.

Handling transactions

When planning an integration, decisions about how to handle transactions between systems need to be made. Typically, some database fields are integrated synchronously, where a transaction relating to a particular field must be confirmed in the other system before it is recorded. Some will be handled asynchronously, where the transaction is recorded in the system immediately, without any acknowledgement that it has been received and approved by the other system. 

Synchronous integration is important for transactions such as quotes and estimates that need to tie back to current pricing in CRM or ERP, inventory commitments to ensure available-to-promise status of parts and credit approvals which need to be checked against payment history and credit limits in CRM or ERP.

Asynchronous integration is typically used to make the full customer list from CRM available in field service, so a field service technician can see all contacts at a company. Service history can also be made available in a periodic update to CRM to keep customer service and sales people informed.

CRM and FSM – the power couple

Field service management software shouldn’t operate as a silo and sharing data across an organization is going to be critical to keep up a competitive advantage—but a sound business case needs to be made before an organization commits to an integration. It is important to know how the integration will enable the business to become more competitive and in what ways it will help increase customer satisfaction and drive revenue.

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