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4 Steps to Become a Data-Driven Field Service Company

By Mike Henstridge

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Running a field service company without reliable data is like driving in the dark blindfolded. Instead of carving your own path and growing at your own speed, you’re blind to what makes your company successful. Recording data on paper and waiting for the back office to re-enter it at the end of the day just isn’t fast enough to be proactive decision makers and compete in the service space today.

By restructuring your field service operation with data at its center and a mobile app to facilitate data collection, you can begin to make small improvements like access to more timely information, more relevant data, and faster decision making that reap huge benefits.

Use the following four steps to transform your field service organization into a lean, mean data-driven machine.

  1. 1. Break Down Barriers to Information Access

The best way to make data accessible to the right people in the company is to integrate each piece of the service puzzle. One integrated system allows you to connect, collect, and centralize data for easy access from multiple areas of the operation, including:

  1. Work Order and Job Tracking
  2. Service Level Agreements and Contracts
  3. Parts Tracking and Inventory
  4. Customer Equipment Assets and History
  5. Technician Schedules, Skills, and Availability
  6. Customer site and call history

Recent studies have found that service organizations utilizing the right software solutions complete more orders and turn more profit than companies using paper or manual methods.

An all-in-one software system is easy to use and connects all sides of the business. For example, when a technician closes a work order in the field, the service manager can see all of that work order information in real time, which they can use to make real-time decisions. With custom portals and reports, data is displayed in easy to interpret charts and graphs, which lay out how you’re performing over time. When the data is integrated with the rest of the system, the service manager isn’t left to follow the leaders in the field. He becomes the leader.

-SWOT Analysis-Because of the high volume of work, and the thousands of field visits per month, service industries lend themselves to being data-driven. Small adjustments multiplied across an entire fleet of technicians can make major improvements.

Performing a SWOT analysis using data to measure your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be a great way to break down your current performance and determine small changes that will lead to large improvements.

  1. 2, Employ the Power of the Field for Data Collection

Because technicians are usually the ones collecting data, it benefits the whole company to give them the right tools to collect timely data in the field.

With a mobile system, technicians can perform inspections, clock their hours, and take notes for specific jobs. This information then links to the back office instantaneously, which leads to:

  1. Reduced administrative time in the back office.
  2. More accurate entry of data.
  3. Invoice and receive cash sooner.
  4. Ability to submit completed work order information for customer approval before they leave the job site.
  5. Access to training material while on site.
  6. By employing the power of the field workforce for data collection, field service companies can get real-time feedback concerning the projects and equipment they’re currently working on.
  1. 3. Benchmark Where You Stand…Then Act on It

Having data is the first step in determining where you stack up against your competition. But determining where you stand is just the beginning. According to a Trimble Report, “high-level trends and benchmarking can be used in performance management while real-time data means managers can make instant decisions based on robust and reliable intelligence.”

Access to service data isn’t enough. Follow these three steps to go from benchmarking to action:

  1. Plan: How much will the job cost?
  2. Measure: Based on the data collected, how much did the job really cost?
  3. Analyze: If the job cost more than the plan assumed, how can you account for those costs? Did the job take longer than expected? Was the technician’s training insufficient? Did it take the tech too long to get there? Did he have to go back for necessary parts?

Planning what data, you need and how you’ll use it once you have it are as important as collecting it in the first place. Often, companies don’t even know they’re having problems until they see the data, which is why it can be so valuable. Real-time data provides actionable information which allows businesses to identify trends, opportunities, and threats and forces them to reexamine their assumptions.

  1. 4. Deliver Data to the Right Person at the Right Time

Now that you’ve collected, measured, and interpreted your data, it’s important to get the results to the right people at the right time. A variety of roles can benefit from the data you’ve collected, including:

  1. Executives: With a big picture view, they can leverage analytics to make better business decisions and enhance field service performance.
  2. Service Manager: Can use the data to drive smarter decision making and increase service efficiency.
  3. Service Techs: With the right tools, they can spend more time on billable hours and less time entering data, traveling, and returning to the office for parts or training materials.
  4. Schedulers/Dispatchers: Time and inspection data give them more insight into how long jobs will take, making them better able to schedule the most jobs per technician per day.
  5. Stakeholders: Corporate offices, equipment manufacturers, and retail distributors can use data-backed findings to unveil what customers want and adjust their sales and/or production strategies accordingly.
  6. Customers: Won’t ever be surprised or disappointed when working with your business when they have their own portal to view equipment performance, service levels, and technician and ETA updates

Conclusion: Become One of the Few Data-Driven Service Businesses

It’s more important than ever for field service companies to have strategies in place to measure performance, and becoming data driven is the best way to make those measurements clear and actionable.

According to the Trimble Report, only 1 in 5 service organizations believes they get the field service data they need to do their job fully. Become one of the 20% and see where intentional, data-driven intelligence leads your service business in 2017.