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Today’s field service technicians not only need to be technical experts, but they also need to be a repository of knowledge.

Demanding customers expect them to:

  • know how to diagnose and maintain a huge variety of equipment;
  • have a photographic memory of past service history for every piece of equipment;
  • know the details of maintenance contracts;
  • understand the service-level agreement for all locations of every customer;
  • juggle schedules to be on time for every appointment;
  • manage truck inventory to have the right parts; and
  • ensure billing is accurate.
Additionally, their service managers expect them to:

  • promptly record their time and materials and collect customer signatures;
  • use service calls as an opportunity to sell additional service; and
  • treat each customer with courtesy and respect.
Plus, they must make sure everything rolls into the accounting software in a way that allows for fast billing and data analysis. The good news is there are apps for that. The bad news is there are an overwhelming number of choices.

How does a contractor know what to look for and make a smart choice when evaluating potential solutions?

  1. Technician assignment review and live work status updates. Whether sitting in the driveway, at the shop or at a customer’s office, technicians need to have easy access to work assigned to them. Awareness of the nature of the problem, the customer’s environment and equipment, and any commitments that need to be met help guarantee first-time fixes and customer satisfaction. Technicians who keep the dispatcher aware of their current status electronically arm the dispatcher with the information he or she needs to schedule effectively and respond to customer questions.
  2. Contracts and warranty visibility. Knowing and sharing which work is covered by agreements and warranties and which work is not prior to work beginning allows for proper expectation setting with the customer. This helps eliminate surprises or disputes once the work is completed.
  3. Task lists. Whether it is a detailed maintenance checklist specific to a model of equipment and the season the work is being performed, a set of commissioning tasks that need to be completed, or a safety checklist, it is important that the technician has that list and updates the completion status of each item. This eliminates forgotten tasks and provides an auditable history of what was done. Some applications provide added functionality such as recording meter readings or answers to questions for tasks, or building logic into the task list so the list is tailored to the equipment manufacturer or model, size, etc.
  4. Equipment information. The more a technician knows about the equipment at a customer’s location, the better prepared he or she is to address issues that arise. From make, model and capacity to belt and filter sizes, meter reading trends and service history, a fingertip-accessible portfolio of information about the equipment is valuable in helping the technician address issues.
  5. Labor and materials capture. Electronic recording of expended labor and parts and materials used as the work is performed helps guarantee accurate and complete cost tracking, billing and reporting. Accurate tracking of materials such as refrigerants is necessary to generate special reporting to both the customer and regulatory agencies.
  6. Customer signature. Capturing the customer’s electronic signature on the technician's device and storing it in a centralized location helps prevent future disagreements. Presenting information about the work performed, the customer cost, and any terms and conditions in one place prior to collection of the signature provides full transparency and enhances the customer experience.
  7. Service history. Having access to prior service calls at the location or on a particular piece of equipment provides the technician with valuable information both in preparation for the visit and in diagnosing any problems. Notes, meter readings or photographs from a previous visit, a history of when preventive maintenance was performed, or recommendations that a technician previously made all contribute to quick and efficient identification of what needs to be done. It also provides customers with a sense of confidence that they are working with a knowledgable and dependable contractor.
  8. Barcoding and inventory management. A key component to a high first-time fix rate is having the correct parts and materials necessary to perform the repair or service. Having to run to get parts or order them often causes delays that frustrate the customer and cause subsequent scheduling issues. By being able to see in advance what parts are needed for specific equipment and tasks, the technician can make sure the truck is properly stocked prior to heading to a customer. Barcoding enhances the technician’s ability to maintain a well-stocked vehicle and easily track quantities used and replenished so he or she is aware of what is on hand and what needs to be re-stocked.
  9. Special instructions. Every customer is different. The technician needs access to things like alarm disarming notes, building access instructions, customer relationship considerations, etc. Having this information readily and centrally accessible eliminates the need for it to be communicated verbally.
  10. Functioning connected or disconnected. Despite an ever-evolving connected world, whenever working with a mobile device, technicians can encounter situations where they cannot access the data network needed. It is critical that the information needed to continue the work is mirrored on their devices to avoid disruption, and that any new information they record is immediately synchronized once a data connection is restored.
  11. Part of a unified system. There are numerous applications available for these functions and the back-office functions that use the information gathered. Avoiding double entry of information or numerous hand-offs via complicated interfaces ensures accuracy, efficiency and completeness of information throughout the process. The better the integration from the time information is entered until it is posted for payroll and financials, analyzed, billed or other back-end functions, the more confidence a company can have that it is accurate.
Any assistance technicians can get in aligning what they can deliver with customers' and the company’s expectations is welcome. The results are satisfied customers, happy and productive technicians, and a loyal and profitable customer base. Win-win-win.
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