Paul Whitelam

By Paul Whitelam

July 20, 2017

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Finding the right person for the job is essential when you want to get it done the first time—and absolutely critical in an emergency. In industries from home healthcare to utilities to manufacturing, organizations manage mixed-skill workforces who need to be appropriately scheduled and dispatched to make their time productive and ensure availability exactly where they’re needed.

A wide variety of potential jobs and skill sets brings a lot of complexity to the equation of managing your workforce. More businesses are turning to artificial intelligence to optimize assigning service professionals to the work best suited to their skills and experience without increasing the cost of service delivery or sacrificing customer satisfaction.

The wrong skills bring heavy consequences

Most field service providers strive for a first-time fix every time. Not only does it make for a more productive workforce, but it shows customers you value their time. Keep in mind your customers might be taking off work or missing out on something else to be there for a service call. They’re depending on you to solve their problems that day, so you don’t want to let them down.

Without the right person or skills for the job, there won’t be a first-time fix and your customers will be understandably upset. Below, we illustrate the importance of matching the right skills to the right job across verticals.

Capital Equipment Manufacturing

Why the right person matters:

Capital equipment manufacturers build and maintain mission-critical assets for their customers, who rely heavily on the product uptime. Any downtime could be detrimental to the customer’s business, so problems must be solved immediately.

Example scenario:

The ATMs stop working at a busy bank branch, and customers lose their transactions. People are furious because they can’t access their funds, and long lines form at the teller windows. The chaos slows productivity and upsets even more customers. If the ATMs aren’t fixed soon, the bank could lose customers to a more functional competitor.

Utilities

Why the right person matters:

Utilities companies maintain living essentials that people rely on – water, electricity, oil, and gas. Any downtime interferes with people’s daily lives. More so, many utilities manage the infrastructure of entire buildings and cities, meaning several people could be affected by an outage.

Likewise, the utilities workforce is truly mixed, with skills ranging from infrastructure fixes to meter installs. It’s important to know who has what skills so you can dispatch more strategically. For instance if someone is not normally dispatched to a specific job type, but is closer to the job site and can read a meter, they could be sent over instead of someone further away whose skills could be used elsewhere.

Example Scenario:

A university campus loses power. Professors must cancel classes, dining halls shut down, and students can’t complete their assignments without a charge or access to internet. As long as the power’s out, the entire campus is non-functional. Many students who live on campus are far from home and have no where else to go. They feel frustrated because they’re trapped on campus with nothing to do, and limited by darkness when night falls. Not to mention they feel helpless, because as soon as their phone dies, they’ll no longer have easy communication with the outside world. Meanwhile, parents are furious because they’re paying thousands for amenities and education their kids aren’t receiving.

Home Healthcare

Why the right person matters:

Caregivers are responsible for the lives and well-being of their patients. It could literally mean life or death if a caregiver doesn’t have the right skill set to treat their patients.

Example Scenario:

A patient with a heart condition takes several different medications throughout the day. Each require different doses, and must be administered at a specific time. The patient also has difficulty swallowing pills, so the caregiver must crush the medication and mix it into the patient’s food. It’s important that the caregiver knows exactly when and how to administer the medication, and that they are highly detail-oriented. Otherwise they could give the wrong medication, or miss a dose, and the patient’s health could be at risk.

AI can help avoid mistakes

Field service organizations are made up of varying but complementary skill sets to handle all sorts of customer problems. It’s easy to send the wrong person to the wrong job—especially when you’re only human. Fortunately, with the right data and the help of artificial intelligence, it’s possible to optimize scheduling by mapping the right skills to the right job automatically.

You might already have a system where you keep track of employee information such as their name, job title, and address. To keep track of varying degrees of experience, log employee skill sets into the same system. As their skills will likely develop, make this an ongoing process so the system is constantly updated. You should also track the skills needed for each job type so you know who to assign.

Artificial intelligence can learn from this data and alert you if you’re missing the right skills to complete a job. Let’s say a team has to replace a utility pole, but there’s no one that can operate the excavator needed for the job. The AI will see that there’s a skills gap and flag that the job is in jeopardy. Likewise, data on individual performance can help service organizations determine who is the most adept at a certain skill. That way, if there is a high priority job they can assign a tech with more expertise, who will likely be more effective under pressure than someone who is just competent enough. And if your scheduling solution is AI-driven, it can automatically assign the appropriate techs for you.

In an industry with so much variation in skills and job complexity, mapping the right field service technicians to the right job can be overwhelming. But with the right technology and data, this process can be automated with greater accuracy.

For more on artificial intelligence and technology trends subscribe to the Field Service Matters blog.

Paul Whitelam
By Paul Whitelam

Paul Whitelam is Group VP of Product Marketing at ClickSoftware, where he works with field service management leaders across a variety of industries. Paul has more than twenty years’ experience in enterprise software, working on both the technical and business aspects of many of the areas that are fundamental to field service such as mobility and sensor technology (Nokia), data management (Endeca), and machine learning, SaaS and GIS (HERE).

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