Managing the Impacts of Coronavirus within your Organization

In a few short months, the coronavirus pandemic has changed our global landscape. Manufacturing shutdowns, stock market fluctuations, travel bans and shelter-in-place orders are forcing organizations to completely rethink the way they operate.

While some factories are temporarily grinding to a halt, others are becoming increasingly busier. For food and beverage manufacturing, medical equipment companies, hospitals and more, avoiding equipment downtime is more critical than ever. Field service organizations will need to meet these demands while facing unique new business challenges.

Cost Pressures will be Higher

Many field service organizations will start feeling the financial crunch. This is why it’s imperative that they start thinking about what remote technologies and offline support tools are available to help them achieve lower service costs. Solutions aimed at reducing truck rolls, time on site, return visits, and incorrect parts orders are a good start.

Now is also an excellent time to revisit your current technology. Are there any features or add-ons offered by your field service management platform that you could be utilizing? What integrations to they offer that could help you lower costs and increase efficiency? Focus on technology that is quick to implement and is easy to use. Your IT team and field service engineers are under enough pressure and don’t need added stress or tech overload right now.

Access to Knowledge is Critical Right Now

Many executives are struggling with the dilemma of how to keep their workers safe while also keeping their customers up and running. A survey from TSIA found that almost 88% of companies are continuing to deploy field service engineers to sites, with 67% implementing significant restrictions like limiting travel and time on site, as well as increasing the use of local 3rd party providers.

Minimizing time on site and return visits are crucial right now. Additionally, the need to keep contact to a minimum means training techniques like job shadowing are not a safe option right now. Because of this, your engineers will need immediate access to technical and parts information. Making sure they can get the answers they need is vital to helping them stay efficient, while also reducing equipment downtime. In addition, it will lessen the impact on your call center and support staff during this time.

If your company is relying more heavily on the use of 3rd party providers due to travel restrictions, it’s vital that you empower them with the tools they need to deliver the same quality of service as your full-time employees. Ensuring that they have mobile access to important break/fix, installation and parts knowledge will be one of the most important arrows they can have in their quiver. This will help improve the 3rd party technician’s efficiency and accuracy, while showing your customer that you can still deliver excellent service in a time of crisis.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

This is perhaps the most important thing you should be doing as a company. As we have all seen, information and guidelines are changing by the hour. It’s important not only for your organization to stay informed, but to then keep your employees and customer informed as well.
Field service engineers are remote by nature. During times like these, it’s common for them to feel more insular and out of touch with the company. This is made more difficult by the fact that organizations must limit physical contact between their employees.

Daily virtual contact with your team through video conferencing or phone calls is a great way to help ease anxiety, keep everyone informed, emphasize important information and reinforce the important roles they are all playing in keeping your company functioning.

Perhaps your engineers have been grounded for all but the most essential jobs. They may be struggling to find structure in their new routine and stay focused. Offering virtual training courses, information exchanges or product information sessions will go a long way in helping them feel productive.

It is also important to stay in contact with customers. They are facing anxieties and pressures of their own. Knowing that you are still there to literally keep them up and running will go a long way in strengthening customer loyalty after this pandemic subsides.

Everyone’s Talking About Parts Catalogs…

There’s a topic that keeps coming up at every field service event I attend…

Parts Catalogs.

There’s intense pressure to reduce costs and increase profitability in many service industries. And yet, equipment is becoming more complex and regulations keep changing. That’s why more businesses are looking for better parts catalogs.

Incorrect parts orders are one of the biggest challenges to increasing profits.

According to Aberdeen Group, one in four parts orders (25%) are wrong. The reason? Engineers cannot determine the right part from the information they have.

Imagine if you could eliminate incorrect orders…

Your service costs would reduce. You’d deliver a faster fix. Your customers would be happier.

Most importantly, your business would be more profitable.

That’s why everyone’s talking about parts catalogs.

Many companies struggle with disparate data. Important technical information is often locked up in corporate silos and scattered across several different departments. It’s not unusual for parts lists, exploded diagrams, parts images and price lists for equipment to all resided in separate departments within a single organization.

Even if a company provides parts information for their engineers, there is no guarantee that it will make them more efficient or accurate. Often, engineers struggle to access any information at all because of connectivity issues onsite.

A limited system hinders performance and extends the time it takes to find the answer and information is often missing.

It’s not ideal. It wastes engineers’ time and your money.

So, what does the perfect parts catalog look like?

Four key elements will make a huge difference to your results:

  1. Offline access

Whilst onsite, your engineers might have online access to information via a mobile device. But what if there’s no signal? In this situation, your KPIs will suffer. Offline access is a game-changer.

  1. User-friendly information

Your business will have thousands of pages of parts information: technical documents, parts lists, exploded diagrams, and more. It’s one thing to collate it on a shared drive, it’s another to make it work for you. The perfect catalog needs to give answers – fast. Parts lists must display next to diagrams. Hyperlinks must link to other relevant information. Only then will you accelerate your service.

  1. Integration with field service management

Switching between screens is slow and frustrating. Integrated systems are a reality today, with impressive efficiencies. They reduce errors, they speed operations, they enhance service.

And they increase your profits.

  1. Up-to-date information

Is that part available or out of stock? Has it been recalled? Is it obsolete and, if so, what is the alternative part that’s taken its place? These are all possibilities in a parts ordering scenario.

Data can become outdated as soon as it’s published. It’s a huge challenge for many. Your engineers will stop using your parts catalog if they cannot rely on its accuracy.

The perfect catalog provides up to date answers every time.

Incorrect parts ordering can be overcome. Implementing a solution that offers online/offline, integrated parts catalogs is the ultimate solution to ensuring accurate parts ordering every time. It might not be a quick fix, but it is an important investment in the future of your business.

 

 

Why data-driven field service businesses perform better (and how to be one)

There’s no doubt that the best performing field service businesses are driven by their data.

Aberdeen Group says these organizations are reporting a 7% decrease in operating costs. Just one advantage to data directing your business operations.

But what does a data-driven business look like, and how can you become one?

Why is data so important?

That might seem like a question with an obvious answer. We all know how important data is. It provides us with facts to replace hunches and assumptions.

Working with data is certainly not a new thing. Far from it. But using data to inform, influence and predict the performance of your field service business is relatively new – and incredibly effective.

Data can help to better allocate your resources and identify knowledge gaps and training needs. It can also enhance your customer service and in turn, your customer loyalty.

Put simply, data can help to transform your field service operations. It can save you money, make the most of your time and ensure excellent service.

Savvy businesses have been working to harness the power of data for years. Back in 2012, an Economist survey identified that 63% of those ahead financially were also ahead on data usage.

And today, data is no longer past tense only. You used to learn what had happened with data, weeks or months after the event. Collection methods have revolutionized since then. We can now access data that tells us what’s happening right now, in real time. It helps us to become predictive, not just react to events of the past.

Where is it?

That’s the thing. Your data is everywhere. You’re probably drowning in it. Overwhelmed by the many sources and the sheer amount of it.

Having the data is one thing. Using it effectively is another.

It’s a major challenge for many large organizations. There’s no benefit in grappling unsuccessfully with large amounts of data without extracting practical learnings from it.

Many departments have access to data that could be useful. You might have machines that collect data, not to mention many service systems via mobile devices. Digital transformation has delivered the goods, we just don’t know what to do with it all.

Which data matters for field service?

The data of most use to your business depends on your objectives and KPIs.

As a field service operator, that’s likely to focus on delivering excellent service: first time fixes, rapid response times and maximum job completion per day.

Your field service management software is likely to collect the most valuable data for you. That’s to say, your field technicians working alongside your customers. They’re on the front line of your operations.

Thanks to digital transformation, field service data is often available in real time. And with the right software, you’ll be able to gather even more.

Such knowledge enhances performance too. AnswersAnywhere Analytics recently uncovered that the top 20% best performing field service engineers were also the most frequent users of the knowledge base. A useful insight for the remaining 80%.

Remember: data is for everyone

There’s a myth we need to dispel. Data is not just for top-level managers when it comes to field service. Every level of your business will benefit from being better informed; from chief executives right through to the field service team themselves.

And getting buy-in at every level is powerful stuff.

Take the example of HVAC and parts ordering. If your parts managers have access to data that highlights key seasonal peaks in demand for particular parts, they can manage their stock accordingly. Hold more when demand is high, and less when it’s not. The result is two-fold: less cash tied up in stock and faster fixes for your customers.

Spread the love of data across your entire organization. If you get the right facts into the right hands, you’ll transform your operation.

How do I start?

It probably seems like an enormous task. As with many such challenges, starting small is often the answer.

Choose some core KPIs – just one or two if you like. First time fixes, jobs completed per day and mean repair time are all common measures of performance. By engineer, by machine and by customer.

Let’s say you decide to monitor first time fix rates.

So, gather data to understand which engineers have the highest first-time fix rate. And monitor which pieces of equipment get fixed first time. This might throw up some training gaps on certain equipment, or the need to have more parts available to speed the fix.

Monitoring first-time fixes by engineer might uncover some best practice to make more widespread across your field service team. Do your better-performing engineers use certain tools or resources to speed their work? Do they follow a different fault diagnosis process?

If you cannot gather the field service data you want to see, talk to your field service software provider. They might guide you towards analytics that already exist or help you with relevant reporting.

Should you have gaps in your field service data, consider new methods of collecting it. Such investment could make a significant difference to the future performance of your business.

How AnswersAnywhere helps your field service data analysis

At AnswersAnywhere, we’re acutely aware of the importance of data-analytics. It helps to drive our customers in many ways.

And that’s why we’re constantly developing new capabilities in our mobile software. We want our customers to have direct insight on how their engineers are using AnswersAnywhere. For example, the products or manuals they access most frequently, and the customers that require this type of on-site support.

Such clarity will enable AnswersAnywhere users to understand where to focus their development of this parts and technical data tool. They’ll also appreciate the knowledge that’s being under-utilized, prompting important training opportunities.

Without doubt, data analysis is helping field service organizations get ahead of their competition. The effective process must achieve three things though. You need to be collecting the right data in the field. You must then process it correctly. Finally, you must get it into the hands of those who can learn and act on it.

Achieve this, and you’ve just found one of the most powerful tools (to date) in the 21st century.

Improving Field Service Training with Knowledge Management

There’s no denying field service organizations pour a large amount of time and resources into training new talent. In fact, it’s estimated corporations spent around $19.7 million last year on training expenditures alone.

Effective training increases employee retention – this is a no-brainer! According to a survey by Society for Human Resource Management, one third of newly hired staff quit their jobs after the first six months, with the majority citing lack of skills one of the major reasons they leave. Considering the fact that the Millennial worker is twice as likely to leave a job after two years than their predecessors, it’s no wonder field service organizations are putting more emphasis on training than ever before.

What is Effective Training?

So now the question is, what does effective training look like? Companies have long known that the typical “one and done” onboarding process doesn’t work, and this is especially true for field service. Training needs to be an ongoing process and companies need to figure out how to provide new workers with continuous support in the field, in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

Some companies rely on new staff calling support centers for questions and guidance. But let’s be honest, call center staff are already busy, they don’t need the additional burden of providing support training as well!

A Crucial Component in Field Service

Enter Knowledge Management – organizations are starting to realize what a crucial role this plays in the training process, both initially and throughout the employee’s tenure.

A good knowledge management application will provide the digital training new hires need to learn the solution. It allows for scenario-based learning, which in turn makes lessons more impactful, especially when combined with the ability to refer back as needed. Additionally, some knowledge management platforms will allow trainers to monitor everyone’s progress by providing analytics to see who is accessing what information and work individually with those who need extra guidance.

Also consider that millennials are native tech users and expect access to information at all times. By embracing knowledge management, you’re being the kind of forward-thinking organization that millennials want to work for.

Making Knowledge Management a core component to your training process also makes new hires feel empowered. By giving them access to knowledge in the field, they will feel more confident to handle any task that may come their way. All of this leads to increased retention rates in the company.

Increase Adoption to Drive Efficiency

A common complaint we hear from executives who have implemented new software in the field is that workers “don’t use it”, either out of inertia, lack of training (or confidence in that training), or simply because they prefer the “old way of doing things”.

However, by making knowledge management an essential part of new hire onboarding, not only will it provide additional support in the training process, but it will drive adoption of that technology. We already know knowledge management is crucial in the field, reducing repair times by more than 50% and increasing SLA compliance by more than 26%. Ingraining the use of these tools early on will help companies drive efficiency like never before.

Ready to learn more about how knowledge management can make training more effective and empower your field service engineers?

TSIA Report Field Service

New Report Shows Knowledge Management Reduces Repair Time by 50%

TSIA (Technology Services Industry Association) has released an eye-opening report. The 2019 Field Service Technology Stack report focuses on the importance of technology to field service operations.

It showed that knowledge management had a huge impact on performance, with significant improvements in mean time to repair (>50% reduction) and annual employee attrition rates (down over 3 points).

According to TSIA, a leading firm that helps companies embrace technology, the report further cements knowledge management as a “need to have” among field service organizations. This important technology captures, maintains and reuses knowledge to enhance productivity.

Why such a huge fall in repair time?

Quite simply, when field service engineers have insight from a knowledge base, they can achieve faster repairs. In addition, a good knowledge management process increases engagement, resulting in lower staff turnover.

Why Knowledge Management Reduces Churn Rate

Knowledge management’s correlation to faster repairs isn’t exactly surprising. After all, it’s been well documented in numerous studies – we’ve even written about it many times on this very blog.

The evidence is unanimous that giving field service engineers access to the critical knowledge they need on site will transform fix rates (and if your knowledge management solution is AnswersAnywhere, it will eliminate your incorrect parts orders too).

However, the TSIA report managed to highlight an oft-overlooked benefit of knowledge management in field service organizations – reducing staff turnover (also known as “churn rate”).

High turnover is something that many field service organizations struggle with, and it’s only getting worse as companies lose experienced workers to retirement and millennials fill their shoes. After all, millennials are twice as likely to leave a job after two years and are only half as likely to be employed by the same company after 10 years.

For a while now, industry experts and thought leaders have been saying that one of the best ways to retain millennial employees is to engage and empower them with technology. Now, thanks to the Field Service Technology Stack report, we have evidence that this is indeed the case!

Advice for Organizations that Want to Invest

As equipment becomes more complex, so does the knowledge management needed to complement it. Because of this, it’s difficult for companies to know where to start. The TSIA Report offers these recommendations for investing in knowledge management (and new technology in general):

First, benchmark your technology footprint against other members. If your organization’s technology is lacking, examine where those gaps are and revisit what technology will assist you in meeting your goals.

Also, be sure to include integrations in Phase 1 of the project. Integrating technologies like knowledge management can boost adoption and improve performance. According to TSIA, critical integrations are often pushed to later stages and then end up never getting off the ground.

Read the full TSIA 2019 Field Service Technology Stack Report here.

service knowledge management

The 5 Knowledge Management Pitfalls to Avoid in Field Service

The knowledge experts at AnswersAnywhere have over 23 years of experience building and deploying mobile knowledge bases for field service.

This means they’ve seen A LOT of mistakes made by companies attempting to get their knowledge management under control. Here are the Top 5 most common mistakes they recommend companies trying to avoid.

1.     Not Collaborating

Knowledge management isn’t the task of just one department. Make sure the entire organization collaborates and all departments benefit from it. This is especially important for organizations dealing with an aging workforce. What better way to capture the information from the heads of experienced retiring workers throughout your company?

Here are more tips for capturing the knowledge of your experienced workers.

2.     Ignoring Your End Users

This seems simple enough, but you’d be surprised at how many field service organizations don’t talk to their engineers and support staff before launching a knowledge management system. Make sure you consult end users throughout the process and gather regular feedback after launch.

The best way to do this is through a survey. Contact us for a template!

3.     Not Keeping it Up-to-Date

Keeping a knowledge base updated, optimized and free from outdated information is not for the faint of heart! However, it’s also extremely important to your field service engineer’s job.

Here’s some useful advice on how to keep your knowledge base current and accurate.

4.     Not Going Offline

As field service goes mobile, engineers are running into this problem all the time. Accessing the information they need on site requires them to be online but the location they’re at has zero signal. Offline access is the only way for field service companies to be truly mobile without letting their KPIs suffer.

Psst. Did you know AnswersAnywhere works offline? Learn more!

5.     Doing Too Much, Too Soon

Where do I start? It’s a question we get all the time! When it comes to launching a knowledge management project, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, AnswersAnywhere CEO Jonathan Ralphs spoke about this very topic at Field Service USA 2019.  Check out his advice here. 

 

Ready to make a move to better knowledge management? We can help! Our unique service provides the people, process and technology needed for knowledge management success. In short, we do the hard work and you reap the benefits. Contact us today!

 

Is Your Field Service Knowledge Secure?

Does this sound familiar?

You’ve hired a third-party contractor for one of your field service jobs and they need access to your technical data.

Your company’s security protocols might make it difficult for you to grant the contractor access to sensitive data. However, not having access makes it difficult, or even impossible, for them to complete the job they were hired to do.

Or perhaps you have a small team of employees working in an extremely security-conscious environment and you need to control what data they have access to and for how long they have it.

Or maybe you’ve got a hierarchy of employees within your organization, all with different levels of security clearance to sensitive technical data.

These are all scenarios that come up frequently when we speak with organizations.

Let’s face it – in field service, security access is never created equal!

The good news is, there’s an answer.

AnswersAnywhere has functionality that helps security-conscious organizations control who sees what, and for how long. This means you can give someone clearance to access only the exact data they need— for instance, the specific equipment they’re working on – and nothing else.

But wait, there’s more!

AnswersAnywhere works offline, which means contractors can download data onto their phone to help them in a location with no mobile signal.

You can set an expiry date on the data. Think of it like a self-destruction date!

The ability to determine exactly what each employee accesses helps your organization stay secure and compliant. Furthermore, you’re demonstrating to customers how seriously you take the security of their business and assets.

Check out our one minute video to learn more about AnswersAnywhere’s cool security features!

When it Comes to Servicing Medical Devices, is There a “Silver Bullet”?

The demands placed on the medical device field service industry are growing rapidly. How can medical device service organizations achieve compliance, set themselves apart from the competition, and provide support for the new generation of technicians, all while ensuring they are achieving maximum efficiency in the field and increasing profitability?

In a new guest blog for Field Service Digital, AnswersAnywhere’s VP of Sales and Business Strategy Bo Wandell explores why more and more medical equipment companies are turning to knowledge management to help, and how they can ensure they have the right system in place.

 

Posted by / July 24, 2019 / Posted in Blog

Is Your Field Service Knowledge Up to Date?

In field service, things change quickly. And that includes your company’s knowledge.

The ugly truth about knowledge management is that a knowledge base is outdated as soon as it’s published.

Installation manuals, parts lists, and technical information all need to be kept updated frequently.

Field service technicians lose faith in knowledge that’s inaccurate or outdated. Costly errors occur from ill-informed decisions. Incorrect parts are ordered. Time technicians don’t have is spent searching for the right answer.

All of this lowers their productivity, increases your service costs and frustrates your customers.

Sound familiar?

There’s no doubt that knowledgeable decision-making leads to more first-time fixes. And better business for you.

Get your priorities right

Trying to capture and manage all knowledge can be mind-blowing. It quickly becomes impossible, unless you have a more technological system in place (like AnswersAnywhere, dare I say?)

So, in the short-term, focus on the knowledge that your field service team actually NEEDS in order to service and fix the equipment.

It sounds simple, but you’d be amazed by how tangled up many businesses can become at this point.

Our advice? Speak to your field service team and establish these priorities with their involvement.

How to keep it current and accurate 

Once your knowledge priorities are clear, identify the key personnel to involve. You’ll probably need to get different departments talking to each other and sharing resources.

This in itself, can be a big hurdle.

Try to develop a system that works for your business and your level of knowledge management. Ponder these questions:

* Where can updated files and documents be found?

* Who collates them?

* Who processes them?

* Should your documents be coded or tagged?

* Where will your updated knowledge be stored?

* How will this be communicated? To whom?

Look Towards the Future

Granted, it’s time-consuming to keep your knowledge current. Especially with limited technology and support. But the potential benefits to productivity, customer service, and profitability make it an essential task to master.

And consider this: future, game-changing technology such as AI is likely to depend on it.

Think about what your knowledge needs to look like. Would templates help the management process? Should lengthy documents be summarized? Scrolling through a 200-page manual to find the answer is hardly productive.

Also consider how and where you’ll store your current knowledge. A shared drive? A login section on your website? In the office, ready to support phone queries?

The more central, collated and systemized your knowledge is, the easier it will be to keep current and accurate. 

How to transform your knowledge management system 

If your present way of doing things is driving you and your field service team mad, consider a change that’ll make a huge difference. Ask me about our Discovery Workshop. It’s an affordable starting point for a daunting task.

Our knowledge experts will walk you through the process of identifying and utilizing your knowledge. We provide you with the people, technology and expertise needed for a knowledge management project. Essentially, we do all the work and you avoid all the stress!

The result is the ability to arm your field service team with the answer to everything. Instantly.

This is how you thrash those KPIs, once and for all.