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.

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.

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 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.

How to Motivate Your Field Service Millennials

You’re losing your experienced workforce to retirement and recruiting younger workers. Millennials might seem like a whole different breed and there’s no doubt they are shaking up the way businesses operate!

Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials (Generation Y) are now well-established in the workplace. They’ve grown up in a fast-paced, digital environment – very different from the earlier internet-free, job-for-life culture.

Every generation has its own strengths and weaknesses. Millennial strength is learning digital tools quickly. Considering the massive digital transformation that field service is currently undergoing, this is a fantastic opportunity for organizations!

Of course, Millennial workforces aren’t without their weaknesses and organizations are feeling those frustrations.

Many Millennials lack the in-depth knowledge needed for their role. It’s not their fault – they just haven’t had the opportunity to build up the years of experience their older colleagues have.

With the growth of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, “human” research into problems will diminish. Perfect for Millennials! But until such technology is common-place, younger engineers will “Google” for an answer (unless they’re working with a more knowledgeable colleague). Where else can the answer come from?

Even more frustrating is that Millennials change jobs more often than any other generation. They are twice as likely to leave a job after two years and are more eager to “move up or move on” than their predecessors. In a recent survey, two-thirds of Millennial respondents said the “right” amount of time to stay in a role before being promoted or searching for a better opportunity was less than two years and a quarter said less than 12 months.

So, you risk building up knowledge in their heads, only to lose it again!

Develop Your Business the Millennial Way

Millennials are your workforce now – embracing them (and the tools they need) will enhance your productivity and put you ahead. Here are some simple actions to consider:

  • Make time for regular team feedback so that learning can be shared.
  • Buddy Millennials with older engineers (while you still have them!). Not only will this help foster camaraderie in the workplace, but it is a way to capture that valuable tribal knowledge from your more experience workers.
  • Collate your knowledge onto a shared drive, so workers know where to go for answers and won’t resort to “Google”.
  • Make your organization a great place to work – Millennials value emotional intelligence and a healthy work/life balance.
  • Involve younger engineers in shaping your future field service systems and let them know their input is valued. The worst think you can do is treat Millennials like “kids”. They have a unique set of strengths and want to feel respected.

Of course, the ultimate solution is a mobile, digitized knowledge management system that holds all the technical information they’ll ever need to access. It plays to the strengths of Millennials 100%.

By taking smaller steps now, you’ll be better placed when you’re ready to develop a more advanced system.

Want to learn more? Check out our infographic on how to get the best out of Millennials!

Combating the Challenge of an Aging Workforce

We’re all getting older…

Something we’re hearing time and again from customers is the challenge of an aging workforce.

I spoke to an attendee at Field Service USA last month who told me how at his company, all the complex technical questions went to a handful of people who had decades of know-how in their head. Unfortunately, these people will all be retiring soon.

His story probably sounds familiar to you. Every company is grappling with this same question: How do you extract the information from their heads and into the hands of less-experienced, junior colleagues?

Yes, the Baby Boomers are retiring and there’s nothing we can do about it. But you can prepare for the changes this will have on your service organization and surf this wave successfully.

Develop your plan now.

The worst thing you can do is ignore the situation.

Get key people in your organization talking about this. What knowledge does our organization hold in manuals and other sources? And what resides only in the heads of our ageing workforce? Who are our aging Knowledge Gurus and what are the common questions they get asked?

Can older engineers help you extract their knowledge through workshops, mentoring and coaching programs? Is there a way to turn their knowledge into how-to videos? In fact, according to Forrester Research, 75% of employees would prefer to watch a video rather than read an email or web page.

A danger with these plans, of course, is if the younger engineer leaves you’re back to square one. Millennials are twice as likely to leave a job after two years and they’re only half as likely to be employed by the same company after 10 years.

This is why diversifying your field service workforce with new hires that include mature workers is a great idea.

One of the most important steps you can take right now is starting a project to collate all your knowledge from various departments and put it in one place. That might simply be on a wiki or shared drive for now or it could be something like AnswersAnywhere.

But by just starting the first steps, you’re already ahead of many!

Want to learn more about how you can address the talent gap and surf the silver tsunami?