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As efforts continue to protect public health and slow the spread of COVID-19, companies in mission-critical industries such as building and construction services, medical equipment and utilities are looking to technology to help them keep the world running and continue to provide vital services to their communities.

For field service teams, who are by nature not “sheltered-in-place,” there are significant considerations for how to adapt operations to meet the current situation. There is no blueprint for how to conduct business during times like these, but there are steps organizations can take to ensure the health and safety of their workforce and their customers while maintaining uptime of the world’s most important assets.

The Job Must Go On

When field service engineers are servicing essential assets, and simply can’t “work from home.” Here’s what business owners can do.

  • Reach out to customers to understand what the expectation is on their business. Understand whether they are closing down, ramping up or anything in between to start to paint a picture of resource requirements. This is the time to really create a partnership with customers and allow both sides to support each other effectively.
  • When speaking with customers, take the time to validate customer information over the phone in advance of a service visit. While there might be records of all of equipment, it may be in old systems that are not easily accessible to the technician in the field. By validating their data over the phone with the customer, and ensuring they have accurate location data, companies can decrease the number of locations and people a field engineer is exposed to. Get in, do the work and get out with minimal interaction.
  • Perhaps most importantly, ponder the unique personal situations in the field workforce. Do the technicians have young children that need supervision at home? Do they care for elderly family members living with or dependent on them? Are they in at-risk categories, with conditions such as asthma, or are they immunocompromised? Reassign these individuals to tasks that would reduce the risk of infection such as remote triage, or manning a hotline to share tribal knowledge with technicians in the field.
  • At times like these, everyone is dealing with uncertainty, especially field-based teams. Communication becomes paramount, not only for bonding and reassurance, but for helping teams get the job done quickly and effectively so they can get in and out quickly. Consider using a communication technology to keep teams connected and working effectively.
  • Consider a “Swing Shift” model. Schedule technicians to service the equipment while only security is onsite and the field service engineer has been given clearance to enter the building during those “off” hours.
    Stagger crew dispatch times to minimize crew interaction. Limit crew members to one per truck, with other crew members reporting directly to jobsites in their own vehicles.
  • Leverage a technology feature such as checklists to ensure field engineers are following new protocols that are required due to COVID-19.
  • Bypass the customer signature mandate to reduce the spread of germs, and/or send the invoice and complete authorization via email so the customer doesn’t need to get close to the technician or physically touch their iPhone/iPad.
  • Review the selection and use of personal protective equipment in the field. Can the gear provided be supplemented to give more protection? Ensure there is hand sanitizer in the truck, as well as hand sanitizer and effective soap in the shop and office.
A Home-based Workforce

If travel bans and the elimination of non-essential work has kept field service teams at home, here’s what business owners can do.

  • With tools such as Zoom, virtual training has never been more effective. Run product training sessions, operational how-tos, or get that new software solution deployed and live while teams have the time to give it their undivided attention.
  • Now is a great time to talk to field teams more and get their feedback. Make phone and video calls, send surveys, hold information exchanges and take the time now to learn and to implement changes that will make field service teams more effective in the future.
  • Complete all those high-priority but low-urgency projects that there is never time to get to. Tasks including accounts cleanup and inventory cleanup are so fundamental to having systems working accurately—why not tackle them now and reap the benefits later?

In building and construction services, field service teams have always held the key to operational excellence and long-term business growth. Now more than ever, it’s critical that field service teams are able to keep essential assets up and running while ensuring the health and safety of customers, teams and themselves.

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