worker taking photo on job site of incident using tablet

4 Ways Mobile is Streamlining Workflow for Field Service Businesses

By Michael Benedict on August 18, 2016

Field Service Automation Through Mobile AppsA recent study by technology research company Aberdeen showed that best-in-class organizations have prioritized mobile technology to ensure their field teams have real-time access to information. Especially in a field service business, where technicians may be working far from the main office — maybe in another state or time zone — and distributed work is the norm, giving everyone access to information at their fingertips is crucial for business success.

It used to be that a schedule change would have required a tech to phone a dispatcher or drive back to the office to pick up paperwork. Invoices and paperwork were usually carbon copies of actual paper, signed in triplicate, smudged, and crumpled from a day in the truck, and perhaps lost or misfiled back at the main office. A missing part would require a tech to make an unplanned stop at a centralized warehouse.

Today, all that’s changed. By harnessing the power of digital technology, field techs can access information from anywhere. Mobile devices and apps connect field workers to the back office, customers, and equipment — facilitating a real-time end-to-end flow of information that allows techs to make fully informed decisions on the go. They can use mobile devices to request information or assistance from other coworkers already in the field, and find spare parts at a co-worker's truck down the block instead of driving back to the warehouse. They can process invoices with a tap and get supervisor approval on estimates in seconds, without ever making a phone call or going into the office.

Of course, knowing that digital can make you more productive, and actually reaping the benefits of that productivity, are two different things. A recent survey of field service providers found that efficiency and productivity are the top two areas of concern for service companies — but 22 percent still use paper-based workflows, and 27 percent use a homemade application (which often doesn't integrate with other systems and databases).

Another survey, from Trimble Field Service Management, found that nearly 30 percent of field service organizations believe that they are ineffective at using the data they collect to make decisions; only 1 in 5 said they get the information they need from field service data to successfully do their job.

Mobile technology in the field — with the addition of workflow automation — can be the missing link. With automation, like that made possible with Canvas's new Workflow tool, you're not just collecting data but automatically routing it to the person who needs it at that specific time.

This is truly the future of field services. Here are four specific ways that digital automation is making a huge splash in field service industries.

Workflow Automation for Field Services

  1. Increased customer satisfaction. 
    When a field worker or service technician has easy and complete access to a customer’s service history and customer information, he or she can make valuable service suggestions and get the job done faster.

    A mobile app can quickly access a customer's history, because all records of previous jobs are stored in the cloud, not in a dusty filing cabinet.

    According to Trimble Field Service Management, a field service company that can accomplish this makes the customer “feel as though they are getting a personal service.” The result? “They view the field worker as a proactive, valuable partner.”

  2. Interactive scheduling. 
    The Service Council recently polled field service organizations and found that while 8 out of 10 organizations have given their employees mobile devices, most employees aren't using them well. Organizations still find that technicians spend too much time in back-and-forth communication with dispatch or scheduling their daily service tasks or visits. That time could be saved with a mobile app, which allows field techs to know where they need to be at all times —even with a last-minute schedule change. And by adding a workflow tool, scheduling and timesheet approvals are easy and nearly instantaneous.
  3. Faster collection of payments.
    Consider this common scenario: A technician finishes a job and brings the paper invoice back to the office for processing. Then the invoice gets buried under another pile of papers and it isn't even sent out to the client for payment for another week. Or the paperwork sits for days in the backseat of the technician’s truck.

    Mobile apps enable your techs to accept payment right on the spot — with a credit card.

  4. Guaranteed accuracy. 
    With manual processes, the more times a piece of information is handled, the more chances there are for mistakes to creep in. Trimble Field Service Management says that automated workflows “minimize human intervention and touch points,” which is a nice way of saying that the fewer people who have to manually write down or type in the same information, the better. Automation and mobile also save time and provide businesses with a big-picture view of what's happening at the company.

Want to learn more about how workflow automation can change your business? Download the eBook, How Digitizing Workflow Will Transform Your Business.

Are you still shuffling paperwork around? Give GoCanvas a try today.