The following article provides a clearer view of what Field Service managements is, and how you can get started using Mobileforce FSM with your organization.
Work Orders & Service Tasks
The work that is performed out in the field, is often recorded in a Work Order, comprising of individual tasks or Service Tasks, which may need to be performed in a specific sequence by workers who possess specific skills to help them complete the Service Tasks.
The work performed in a service task is referred to as a Service, and it may be in proactive response to a planned activity or a managed service. This work may be covered by a pre-existing maintenance contract or installation service. This Service may be scheduled well in advance (often weeks to months). Contracts that are specifically related to purchases of products or services typically specify the frequency and timeline for such work.
Alternatively, the work may be in response to an unplanned activity: such as a repair or break-fix. Such work may be covered under a warranty or service contract, or it may be outside the scope of such a service contract. Such work may be scheduled as an emergency service, to be completed in a rapid period of time, depending on the severity of the repair. Such work typically is initiated by a Service Request, which may come into the organization via a phone call, an incoming email message, a chat message from a website or app, or even a social media channel.
Most work orders require the person performing the work to possess one or more skills. Work orders may also require specific resources: such as equipment or parts. Work orders are tied to specific locations where the work needs to be performed, and hence impose geographic requirements on the worker who can be dispatched to do the work. Finally, work orders may also require a careful synchronization of a sequence of service tasks. Only when the service tasks are completed in a specific sequence, would the work order be complete.
Work requests for a home remodeling company could be for the following:
- Minor, short term, maintenance issue projects requiring a single technician (such as plumbing or electrical repair)
- Major, long term, major remodel projects requiring multiple technicians (such as a kitchen remodel requiring a plubmer, electrician, carpenter, and a general contractor).
For minor and major projects the work order allows you to group several service tasks under a single order. Each service task is associated with specific skills, ensuring that a technician with those skills is assigned the task.
Work orders are only used to better organize service tasks and allow agents to better manage and review progress.
The workers travelling outside of their offices to locations where the work is performed are often referred to as Technicians. These Technicians possess specific skills, work in specific territories, and may either be employees, contractors, or freelancers who provide the services for an organization. Technicians typically work out of a specific office, which is often their starting location for the day's work and can be assigned tasks in specific geographic areas, based on their familiarity with the region or the area they can cover in a given time period.
A home remodeling company would have multiple employees who are used as technicians with different skills: electrical, plumbing, framing, general contractors. Additionally certain employees may be skilled/certified in multiple skills.
So the Mobileforce admin for the company would ensure that these were represented as Skills in Mobileforce FSM. Then the admin would create User profiles for each technician, assigning the applicable Skills. Additionally, the admin would assign each technician to a specific office, and specify where the technician begins and ends their day, typically either Home or Office.
Agents and Dispatchers
Mobileforce provides automation tools for the non-field employees, such as Agents and Dispatchers, that allow them to create, manage, and schedule Work Orders and Service Tasks, as well as dispatching, and routing the technicians to the locations where the orders and tasks are to be peformed.
The employees responsible for receiving requests for service are often referred to as Agents. Agents typically monitor communications channels through which incoming work requests are routed, and are primarily responsible for creating work orders and service tasks. Typically, Agents do not go out into the field and remain inside the organization at a specific office. Agents are often the first and only point-of-contact for the party who contacted the organization requesting the Work Order or Service Task.
An Agent's job is not only to create the Order or Task in response to customer requests, but also to perform entitlement checks ensuring that the requestor is entitled to the requested service based on their service contract or purchase agreement. Additionally, Agents often assign the created Work Order or Service Task to specific offices from where a technician will be sent out to fulfil the Order or Task. The Work Order or Service Task is also given an "address" (typically a customer location) by the Agent and the office selected by the Agent is typically in proximity to that location.
If the home modeling company is headquartered in San Francisco, California, a densely populated area, it may have multiple offices to manage and service customer requests from different geographic areas in the region.
In this example, the main location in San Francisco would handle would handle requests from the city, and send work from the outside areas to the appropriate branch location.
The Dispatcher role processes all Work Orders and Service Tasks after they have been created by the Agents. The Dispatcher is another worker, similar to the Agent, who do not typically go out into the field and remain inside the organization at a specific office. One or more Dispatchers process all of the requests assigned by an Agent to an Office or to a group of Technicians.
Dispatchers are responsible for the following activities:
- Scheduling (assigning) a Work Order or Service Task at a specific date/time and assigning it to a Technician. In this process, an appointment is created for that scheduled task, and the technician is notified (often via a mobile app) that a work or a task is assigned to her, on a specific date and time.
- Checking that the date/time when the Work Order or Service Task is scheduled, is acceptable to the customer. If so, the Dispatcher confirms/locks the appointment on to the Technician's calendar.
- Dispatching (scheduling) the Technician for the specific day: this could involve routing the technician from one appointment to another, ensuring that there is sufficient travel time between the appointments. Furthermore, the dispatcher has the ability to re-order appointments in a day for a technician, if the re-ordering results in a more efficient travel schedule: that minimizes travel time.
- Routing the Technician from their home location to the job location, or at the end of the day, from the last job location to their home location.
The Dispatcher decides which technician to assign to the order or task, taking the following factors into account: Availability; Skill; Location; Territory; Past History with the task, order, or customer. Additionally, the Dispatcher determines the scheduling of the Work Order and Service Task based on urgency, skill requirements, completion time, and dependence on other tasks, as well as taking into account who has the resources (equipment and parts) needed to complete the task. Finally, the dispatcher handles any real time isssues that may arise when the technician is en-route to perform a task, at the site where the task is being performed, or even after a task is completed.
If Jane is a dispatcher at the San Francisco office for the home modeling company, she would assign technicians to the applicable service task, for example:
- Assigning an emergency service task to the technician who is closest to the location.
- Assigning a service task for an important customer to a technician who has previously serviced the customer, regardless of their location.
Mobileforce FSM provides tools for inventory tracking allowing you to record when resources are available. Tracking the resources (such as parts, products, and tools) needed to complete tasks provide a crucial value for keeping an accurate inventory and track how often the resources are used. Resources can be located in an office, in a wareshoue, on the technician's vehicle, or even at the customer location.
If completion of an electrical service task requires a specific circuit breaker, then the dispatcher or the assigned technician can ensure that the circuit breaker and any additional tools or equipment needed to compelte the task are available.
The tools needed by technicians to complete their tasks range from equipment, electronics, and sofware, are often used for:
- Recording and tracking (for example, mobile apps with cameras)
- Time management or physical resources (for example, clock in/clock out software and forms)
Mobileforce FSM provides the software to store and corelate what was recorded such as photos or video, with the actual work order or service task. In addition, Mobileforce FSM also provides clockIn/clockOut tools for technicians to record and bill based on time spent. Mobileforce also provides a powerful forms engine that enables the recording of structured information (often in an off-line context) that the technician would otherwise use paper and pencil for, thus digitally transforming the business processes.
If an agent creates a service task for a new customer who does not have a warranty or maintenance contract, then they may quote a price for the job based on Time and Materials. The technician assigned to the task must record the time spent at the customer premises using the Clock-In/Clock Out feature for each day visited.
Additionally, if the job requires connecting to existing equipment and coordinating with the local energy company to turn the electrical service off and then back on, the technician may
In the example above, Jane finds that the customer requesting a Circuit Panel upgrade is a new customer, and not under any warranty or maintenance contract, so she quotes a price for the job that is based on T&M (Time and Materials). This means, Charles needs to record the time he spends at the customer premise using clock-in/clock-out, and keep track of the time spent over several days: if the job requires connecting to an existing panel, co-ordinating with the local electricity company (Pacific Gas and Electricity) to turn off and back on, the electric meter etc. Charles may also have to fill a standard electrical panel upgrade form as mandated by Pacific Gas and Electricity. Furthermore, as a part of the permit process, Charles may have to take pictures of the newly installed 200A Panel and include them with the permit application, to the City of San Francisco.
As you can see Mobileforce Field Service Management provides quite a bit of automation that streamlines the activities of dispatchers and technicians, providing your service team with the right information, from all relevant data sources, at the right time, on any device.