About Field Service, COVID and Lemonade
COVID-19 is forcing us to adapt the way we do business. Companies will need to adapt the way they manage their field service operations. This will require a flexible and scalable field service application as well as a few changes to the way your business is managed.
We recently contacted many of our past and current customers to listen and learn how they manage their day to day work under the strict limitations of social distancing, and collected a list of tips on how they do it. Some of the ideas were already implemented, while others are in the pipeline, but it is always exciting to see how creative and resilient people and organizations can be when facing extreme challenges.
We heard two very clear guiding principles that we think should drive any decisions we make during this time.
Guiding Principle #1: Protect your employees, protect your customers
Your employees are scared. Your customers are scared. We all want to stay healthy and safe. This should always be a top priority–though it is one we may have taken for granted. Everything we do must align with keeping our employees and customers safe.
Guiding Principle #2: Deflect the work – less truck rolls, less interactions
Deflection of truck rolls will always save us money. This is why it is one of the key KPIs in most FSM implementations we have. But COVID-19 has added another reason to focus on deflection: the fewer technicians I send out, the less exposure my employees will have. The recommendations below focus on decreasing truck roll while keeping your employees working and customers happy.
We would recommend that every field service business consider the following changes:
Provide self help through communities and knowledge
A customer portal is a great tool to provide another channel for excellent service to your customers. chatbots quickly and easily provide information to your customers. knowledge can be used to expose walk-throughs, self help, quick fixes and community support–all proven methods for deflecting calls and decreasing truck rolls. Customers will appreciate being able to solve problems themselves, rather than invite people into their homes. Salesforce communities work beautifully with FSM, and are even capable of providing self-service tools like appointment scheduling, chatbots, ticket management, and other capabilities.
Provide remote support through live video streaming
Video streaming is easier and more affordable than ever. Adding live support allows a customer to point their phones at something and share a live video of their issue, while a call center agent or technician watches and provides consulting in order to help them resolve the issue immediately. Some live video tools can be integrated with any CRM platform and some even come with an AppExchange package that can be easily added to your Salesforce org.
Idle techs can still provide remote support
Technicians are experts. If they are unable to make service calls, use their knowledge and expertise to provide some of that remote support discussed above. Move them to the desktop and teach them how to use the agent console. With a properly planned change management process you’ll be surprised how simple this transition can be. There may be some resistance, but at the end you’ll have a subgroup of super techs that can do it all. Many field technicians already have that “Customer Service DNA” in them.
Use approval processes before dispatching the work
Sometimes all the deflection efforts we put in won’t help to solve the problem, and we have to roll that tech out to the customer. If in “the old days” this used to be a dispatcher’s call, now this might call for a higher level of approval. Using built-in approval processes within Salesforce, we can escalate any dispatch decision to 1 or more managers to approve. For example, during this crisis perhaps every service call should be approved by a Regional Manager and the direct manager of the tech, while any installation job should be approved also by HR and the Sales Manager. This should prevent unnecessary onsite calls and will make sure every truck that rolled out has a very good reason to do so.
Door-to-door service – serve your customers as close as safely possible
Just because we can’t install inside the house it doesn’t mean we can’t deliver the goods. Make sure your customers know and understand that. We can use automation to send an email, a text message, or add a task for a call center agent to call the customer and explain that. We can send an email with installation instructions or a text with the link to the self-help guide we already posted in the customer portal. Update your Work Types with shorter onsite duration (since we only drop off and skip the installation), and use street-level routing, predictive travel, and optimization to get better, tighter routes that will save you time, gas, and money. It will also allow you to do more drop offs during the day.
Replace the customer signature with a photo or a verbal agreement video
We were strong advocates for gathering customer signatures via the techs mobile device. Unfortunately, for now we will once again have to adapt. Perhaps we need to think differently about what you would consider as a sign-off. Some examples: a photo taken of the merchandise delivered or a video of the customer verbally agreeing to the successful completion of the work could be possible alternatives. Use mobile flows on FSM Mobile app to easily and quickly capture those photos/videos and save them on the Work Order as evidence.
Build the backlog – those work orders will be executed in the future, don’t lose the data
Despite the slowdown in business we still see calls come in from internal and external sources. Make sure you capture and track that data. Creating Work Orders that are tied to Cases and Sales Opportunities is the best way to make sure you don’t lose the data. At some point, you’ll be able to roll out those appointments to the field. It will be important for scheduling the people and resources to handle that pipeline. Use reports and dashboards to track the future utilization of your workforce. Use automation to push out the planned work to the future, use optimization to prioritize important tasks.
Respect every state’s restrictions, be flexible
Every state or city may have its own shutdown policy. Some will not allow any commercial work to be done, some will allow all work, and some will prevent you from doing anything that isn’t considered an emergency. Use a combination of Gantt Map polygons and scheduling policies to easily shut down and open up service areas in real time.
Use this time to grow your IT powerhouse
This may seem counter-intuitive. Some customers are using this period to boost their IT capabilities, specifically with Salesforce and Field Services (well, this is what we do here after all). We’ve heard from multiple clients something like: “We already have the people available so we might as well make good use of their time and help with those IT plans we never found the time to do…”.
Our customers are seeing double the availability and double the number of people that are willing to help with a project. For a system integrator this is super exciting and super helpful, and it reflects in the lower delivery time and higher quality in every release.
“… and at some point when this whole craziness is over, we will emerge ahead of the competition with ability to scale and grow our business”.
We are all asking ourselves how we can make the best of what we have. How do we make lemonade from these lemons? We do this by taking care of our employees and colleagues, caring for our customers, and building a strong infrastructure. These are always the right things to do for your business, but in dire times these basic survival rules become even more important.
Hopefully, the recommendations we’ve made above help your field service business consider every opportunity to keep your customers safe and your employees safe and productive.
We would love to hear what you think, which key item you found most relevant, and about any way we can help.
Stay well. Stay safe. Take care of your loved ones. Call your parents, they miss you.