Features: May 8th, 2015

John Cameron discusses the importance of leveraging flexible fleet options to better serve the needs of an increasingly dynamic field service workforce.

There are a plethora of technologies on the market today that enable fleet and field services organisation to measure, record and analyse every aspect of their field operation; from knowing where their drivers are to controlling fuel costs, ensuring drivers’ safety and working to keep customers satisfied through intelligent scheduling.

Traditionally, in-vehicle telematics devices have proven successful in helping organisations that operate large vehicle fleets to manage and measure their field operations. However, with ever increasing customer expectations and rising competition in service, the dynamics of today’s field service workforce are changing to adapt to these demands. Contractor workforces are becoming much more of a necessity for organisations, to help keep pace with the speed and quality of service and achieve cost-effective resource management and as such leased or employee owned vehicles are becoming much more prevalent.

As a result, the need for more flexible fleet options is required to ensure all workers and vehicles are managed effectively in order to optimise the workflow and meet service commitments. Indeed, Aberdeen Group report that over half of organisations that have a hybrid workforce (both contractor and non-contractor) have prioritised further investment in technology tools which enable better field access information.

Managing a flexible workforce

Service organisations have become more open to diversifying their workforces with contractors because they know, if managed correctly, there will be no drop off in performance. Such a workforce offers field service organisations a myriad of benefits. These include, flexibility for service resources, increased coverage, a reduction in service costs and increased quality as a result of allowing the organisation to focus on core competencies while not being stretched too thin to meet customer needs.

Plug and play solutions are suitable for businesses that often lease vehicles or use contractor workforces. Such a solution can be easily installed and removed, can be moved between vehicles, is low-cost and offers the same benefits as traditional wired-in fleet management solutions. Real-time location information, driver behaviour data, vehicle fault codes and vehicle status can all be recorded offering the real-time visibility and insight organisations need to measure, manage and improve their operations.

Many plug and play solutions can also be integrated with work management solutions which can offer optimised scheduling and job dispatch so a business can have complete visibility of their jobs and mobile workers alongside their fleet, all in one solution.
This access to information empowers field workers with the customer and service insight at their fingertips necessary to resolve issues quickly no matter what type of worker they are.
Fostering fleet flexibility through mobility

Aberdeen Group recently found that 82 per cent of field service organisations identified mobility as a strategic initiative for the service operation in the next 12 months, as a tool to empower the field with real-time intelligence to make decisions and resolve issues to better serve the customer.

Indeed, an increasing number of field service businesses are integrating their work management capabilities into mobile applications, which they can then offer to their technicians to allow them to share, store and view job data while out in the field, offering them a virtual link to the back office that helps to inform and empower them. Contractor workers or employees who use their own vehicles can also benefit from the use of mobile apps, if initially provisioned in to the back end system.

The range of information offered through a mobile application can include previous work history of jobs and upcoming work details. For example, if a technician is en-route to a customer, a quick look at service history on a mobile phone can inform them that the customer has complained multiple times to the helpdesk about a product/equipment failure. This is vital information that can help the technician approach the customer with more care, helping to maintain a good customer service. Furthermore, when a technician reviews and accepts a job within a mobile application, the mobile device’s navigation tool can help them find the most efficient route. Helping to reduce fuel consumption and travel time. From a service perspective, the technician can then pull up the customer’s details and call them to confirm when they will be arriving on-site.
Ultimately, fleet and field service businesses are constantly changing the way that they operate to keep up with the needs of the market. Fostering complete visibility of a workforce will always be a main priority but more flexible fleet options need to be adopted today in order to achieve this across an increasingly dynamic field service workforce. Contractor workforces, leased workers and vehicles and employees that use their own vehicles for work are all becoming prevalent as each offers their own benefits for helping businesses to improve efficiency and boost their bottom line. Building flexibility into a work day and having access to ‘flexible’ technologies that provides the same level of visibility to measure and manage operations as traditional in-vehicle telematics devices are therefore vital to operational success.

John Cameron is general manager of Trimble Field Service Management.

For more information on how your business can benefit from flexible fleet options and the solutions available, download a quick guide “>here.