By Mike Karlskind
June 30, 2016
Field supervisors do not have easy jobs. They’re trainers, mentors, time keepers, and paperwork shufflers. They must have stellar communication, interpersonal and computer skills—all on top of being the first class technical experts in their field. Of all the demands made on them, the trickiest obstacle they face in performing their jobs well is balancing in-office tasks and field work. How do they manage?
Mobile technology seems to be the answer. However, and ironically enough, mobile technology hasn’t reduced those obstacles in the least bit. Instead, the opposite has occurred—mobile devices have increased everyone’s expectations and standards of what constitutes quality customer service and how much technology adds to the bottom line. Clients are more demanding and internal stakeholders require more aggressive cost management of field tech labor.
While mobility offers the potential for field supervisors to manage their teams more efficiently and cost-effectively, it will stay just that unless companies take the right approach when implementing mobile tools and work processes. If you don’t, you’ve just made things more complicated and frustrating. Your field supervisors work too hard to deserve that. Keeping that in mind, here are 5 ways that mobility empowers field supervisors.
Figuring out who does what
Figuring out who is qualified to do what is a huge part of scheduling and getting it right can make or break a company. If you send a field tech without the technical qualifications handle a given service appointment for a customer, the result is disappointment across the board. The field tech can’t work and the customer doesn’t have their problem resolved. This is a bottleneck that needs to be prevents at all costs.
Field supervisors also are a sort of bottleneck due to the sheer volume of office and field tasks he needs to get done. In addition, the field supervisor has to split his attention between the bigger picture and immediate tasks at hand. Mobility can solve this by having the scheduling system easily and accurately serve up the information he needs—no matter where he is—to make the right decisions in prioritizing his attention. This is where the real-time, mobile updates are so critical.
With mobile technology, a supervisor can find another tech to handle an appointment for another technician who is delayed, find out what the issue is and even decide whether to give a third technician his requested vacation—all from one device and while in the field!
Having the right tools for the job
When doing a job properly, it’s all about the tools. You can have the best oven technician in the world, but if you give him a poorly-made set of screwdrivers, he’s not getting any work done.
With regard to mobility, not all systems are equal. A scheduling system that can send out an alert to a field supervisor that a field tech has been double-booked isn’t much help if it also doesn’t provide the field supervisor with the ability to handle the issue. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis on mobile deployments, implementing the right mobile tools and approach to field operations improved productivity 20 to 30 percent. It also was found to decrease the time needed for field between five and seven percent, which translated into saving millions of dollars each year. To do that, the right mobile tool has to meet two more criteria:
- The speed and robustness to provide real time data. Field supervisors can only complete managerial and paperwork tasks remotely with reliable, up-to-the-second data. The opposite is also true: He can only control field operations from the office if he can see what’s happening in the field. Accurate, real time information gives the field supervisor visibility into what’s happening on the ground. He can see that a field tech isn’t where the schedule says he should be and can contact that field tech immediately.
- It has to be easy to learn and easy to use. One of the main reasons new software rollouts fail is lack of adoption by the end client. Both field supervisors and technicians need their mobile apps to work or they won’t use them. Or won’t use them well enough for the company to gain any of the supposed benefits of a mobile system.
Accessibility everywhere and anywhere
This is the “golden egg” of mobility—the ability to access information so decisions can be made at any given moment. A speedy, full-function mobile app empowers the field supervisor in two major ways:
- The distinction between “field” and “office” tasks disappears; location no longer restricts what the field supervisor can do.
- Because location no longer constricts the field supervisor, the field supervisor is no longer the bottleneck preventing other people from completing their tasks efficiently.
That vacation request? Approved by the field supervisor on his mobile device, which updates the system in real time so the schedulers back at the office are aware of the change in capacity for that day. If an emergency service request comes into the office, the mobile field supervisor sees it, and can assign it to a tech already nearby. Now the customer gets same day service, and your company gets maximum utilization out of a field tech who isn’t left idle during his day.
Who gains the most from field supervisors being mobile?
There are numerous stakeholders relying on field supervisors being able to the demands on their time. However, the most important beneficiary is always the customer. And who is the lynchpin between the field supervisor and the customer—the field tech.
By erasing the boundary between office and field tasks, the field supervisor can do his most important task – training and mentoring the field techs. Whether it’s more time side by side with a field tech on a call, or being available to answer questions via text or chat, your field supervisor can better serve his techs once freed from his desk. Field techs can use the camera on their mobile devices to show the field supervisor what they see.
When the field supervisor has more time to train and mentor the field techs, you get happier, more qualified field techs. As their skills grow, they are able to complete more tasks and this increases the field utilization potential without increasing labor. Best of all, your field supervisors can spend more time mentoring field techs without falling behind on the operational and managerial tasks the back-end stakeholders rely on.
Fast Pace and High Pressure Make Mobility the Release Valve
Empowering field supervisors via mobility so they can carry out their responsibilities regardless of location means they need the ability to monitor and act in real time. When field supervisors don’t have to choose between sitting at a desk or being in the field, they can more efficiently complete all their responsibilities, as well as allocate their time and energy where it provides the highest return: mentoring and assisting field technicians to deliver quality customer service.
By Mike Karlskind
Mike Karlskind has over 15 years of experience streamlining processes and optimizing decisions for service organizations in a wide variety of industries including computer services, utilities, telecommunications, capital equipment, home services, retail services, insurance, and medical equipment. This includes recommending and implementing streamlined processes, service policies, user roles, programs for change implementation, training courses, and defining user roles for greater productivity. He also wrote "Service is Hard" with Steve Smith and Alec Berry.
Field supervisors do not have easy jobs. They're trainers, mentors, time keepers, and paperwork shufflers. They must have stellar communication, interpersonal and computer skills—all on top of being the first class technical experts in their field....