We’re living in unprecedented economic times. As the global economy continues to return to equilibrium after three years of unmatched infrastructure, health, and workforce turbulence, every industry around the world has felt the effects. But it’s fair to say that the field service industry has had particularly devastating roadblocks to overcome. From health mandates and enhanced safety precautions to talent shortages and supply chain delays, the field service industry has faced so much already.
While things will continue to improve, additional economic issues are compounding inflation, adding new obstacles that weren’t in the original forecast of economic recovery. This has led many businesses to find better ways to handle their work, and in many cases, automation has held the key to streamlining those business processes.
What Is Business Automation?
Business automation comes in many forms. For some, it can be utilizing a ticketing platform online to facilitate more streamlined communication with customers. For others, it can be embracing online application processes to expand their recruiting efforts. In general, business automation is the implementation of technology to streamline complex or meticulous tasks with minimal human interaction. The appearance of automation will vary widely based on your business, but if it’s a piece of technology (hardware or software) that allows your employees to keep their attention focused on the skillsets for which you’ve hired them, instead of mundane data entry or sorting, it’s a step in the right direction.
For the field service industry in particular, there are a substantial number of ways that embracing automation technology can support your business. Whether that’s through improving customer service capabilities and customer satisfaction, minimizing the workload for your team, or providing better insights into helping your business run more efficiently, automation is worth a second look.
Minimizing Paperwork and Administrative Tasks
Paperwork is typically the least favored aspect of any job, and field service technicians are no different. The 2022 Voice of the Field Service Engineer (VoFSE) survey noted that over half of the surveyed technicians cited “paperwork and administrative tasks” as the least enjoyable part of their job, surpassing both “time spent looking for information” and “pressure to work faster”. Thankfully, automation can play an exciting and important role in removing this pain point.
By embracing digital solutions, such as mobile apps for expense tracking, digital forms for administrative tasks, and even digitizing inventory tracking, businesses can easily make the lives of their field service technicians more enjoyable and efficient. Getting away from paper means keeping all the important tools, forms, and job data on the mobile devices your technicians already use in their day-to-day lives. According to a 2017 Automation in the Workplace survey, 80% of workers believe that automation makes them more efficient in their work, and 72% say they would use the time saved to focus on higher-value work. For your field service technicians, this can include things like upselling customers at on-site visits, building better relationships with customers for stronger rapport and returning business, and simply having the time to complete more service calls.
For example, instead of requiring a paper timesheet, your technicians can use a digital timesheet template to enter their hours each day. And with top-tier digital solutions, these can include pre-built logic for overtime calculations, or even require digital signatures and managerial approval for jobs lasting longer than their estimate. This can not only remove the likelihood of errors but also ensure your technicians are focused on their work, not their timesheets.
59% of surveyed workers say they could save six or more hours a week if the repetitive aspects of their job were automated.”
Automation in the Workplace, 2017
Empowering Your Team with Real-Time Data
While automation in the field can ease the burden on your field service technicians, automated data capture and native integrations can also help support your in-office team. Whether it’s handling invoices and billing, or work orders and inventory management, when your in-office staff has up-to-date information, your entire fleet can run smoother.
When your team utilizes digitized data capture, best-in-class systems can automatically transfer that data to other connected systems. This can include everything from ERPs to digital document management and cloud storage. By removing the need for manual data entry, you not only minimize room for errors in your data but also ensure that your data is available as soon as you need it. This can empower your leadership team to make strategic business decisions, driven by real-time data from every team member. The Harvard Business Review Analytic Services found that 58% of business leaders saw a noticeable increase in customer loyalty due to the ability to capture real-time data alone. Combine this with an ability to better track current process success, monitor competitor activity, and suggest improvements to other leadership team members, and it’s no secret that real-time data is key to making pivotal decisions for your business.
Automation platforms can also empower your field service technicians to make work order changes, complete their work faster, and improve their ability to upsell and support your customers better. The same 2022 VoFSE survey noted that one of the top priorities, and preferred aspects of the job, for field service engineers, is problem-solving. What better way to empower your team than giving them the ability to inspect, diagnose, and execute a solution for your customers, all from the job site? With digital platforms your technicians can review inventory and parts on the fly, automatically calculate quotes for installations and services, and even capture an electronic signature from the customer, all without leaving the customer’s home or office.
Supporting Engineers Despite Staffing Shortages
With talent shortages impacting all industries around the world, another devastating statistic is on the rise as well: employee burnout. As of early 2023, worker burnout rates are now at a peak level of 42%, according to a global survey. The field service industry isn’t exempt from these challenges either, as service organizations continue to struggle with growth at a time of talent shortages.
As employee engagement and satisfaction plummet, worker burnout is at an all-time high and service leaders are faced with the daunting task of attracting, training and retaining talent.”
Voice of the Field Service Engineer, 2022
One of the best ways to keep the workforce you already have is to provide them with the tools they need to effectively complete their work. Embracing automation allows menial tasks and data entry to be handled in the background, while your engineers and technicians focus on the work they enjoy and building trusting relationships with your customers. With manual data entry not only loathed by many employees, one survey in India found that employees lose up to 60 hours a month to this repetitive task. A Zapier survey focused on small to medium-sized businesses found that 83% of respondents spend up to three hours a day fixing errors, while 76% noted that they spend one to three hours each day simply moving data from one place to another. By simply automating your data capture, and integrating it with your data management platforms, such as your ERP or CRM, you can easily give employees hours of their day back to focus on impactful and meaningful work.
GoFormz is a digital forms solution that helps bring your data into a single, actionable place. We believe that everyone should be able to fill out their forms on mobile devices or online, and deliver products and services that redefine how people and businesses collect and process information. Whether you need sign-in sheets to track safety metrics or forms for inventory tracking, GoFormz can bring your processes to the digital realm. Complete with an open API and multiple native integrations, you can rest assured that your data is always ready, whenever and wherever you need it.