Technologies to support your field service operations represent a large investment in both time and money. For an integrator that delivers IT services these are mission-critical technologies.
But before investing in new technologies, there are numerous decisions to make in order to equip your field technicians properly.
Field service automation covers a wide area — everything from handling project management to tracking service calls and contracts, to remote monitoring of customer systems and patch management tools. The range of things that can now be accomplished in the field is a compelling reason for utilizing the latest technology.
Part of this evolution is the role of the telephone. A generation ago, a voice phone call was the primary support connection and a lifeline from the tech to headquarters. With smartphones and tablets, field service means today’s technicians can carry a full suite of office applications on their daily rounds.
Just as phones are smarter and more capable, the days of the desktop as the primary support tool are numbered. Using a packaged desktop or client/server app for field automation tasks have given way to SaaS (software as a service) and cloud-based software on any device. All that’s needed is a web browser and/or an app for access.
The customer also has more means of communicating with you, including posting Tweets and Facebook messages along with direct emails to your employees. This has launched a new breed of social media monitoring tools that businesses use for early warnings of customer problems and to track their resolution.
With your business and your customers in mind, let’s take a look at four considerations for assisting your technicians while they’re in the field.
Just as you tell your customers, your first consideration is identifying your needs and selecting the right software to meet those needs. Most of the modern field service vendors now offer both on-premise and cloud-based software, so you have a range of choices.
The cloud can provide flexibility. You don’t need particular servers or software, but you will need sufficient Internet bandwidth to handle the cloud connection
Most automation vendors support at least Apple iOS or Google Android devices; some support both. With Android support it’s important to know the version of your operating system, as some vendors only support more modern versions or those associated with particular wireless carriers. Look at some sample apps to get a feel for the options available for your particular mobile device.
While more bandwidth is always better, calculate whether broadband mobile access is needed more often than Wi-Fi for data connections. Make sure your planned broadband data contracts are sufficient to cover the communications you expect to have among your field personnel.
You’ll also want to measure network latencies between your mobile devices and headquarters or cloud apps to ensure that your technicians can do their jobs without having to wait for slow connections.
You have to understand what kinds of Internet connections are needed from your data center or from an automation provider’s network to handle the expected load of your applications and users. You’ll also want to examine the various Internet connections to your customers, contractors, OEMs, third-party administrators and parts vendors.
With these considerations in tow, your field staff will be properly armed to handle just about anything that crops up while they’re out on the job. They’ll maintain better communication with the office, as well as with the client to ensure everyone’s satisfied.