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Allowing the mobile workforce to flourish

A field service organization has a lot to live up to as far as customer service is concerned. Many competitors have already adopted means of ensuring that not only are all the customers satisfied with their service but that workers have a way to easily keep in contact with their home base. Modern technology can help enable a mobile workforce, something every business has access to, but it will take some work to ensure it truly works well for the enterprise

Brian Straight wrote on Fleet Owner that benefits of enabling a mobile workforce can include saving money, gaining efficiency and making it easier to adapt to new changes in technology. These are issues every industry will have to deal with, but in field service where customer service reigns supreme, it will be essential to make sure back-office tasks can be quickly taken care of so customers will feel their needs are being met.

The Aberdeen Group said saving time throughout the day by employing the use of field service software and mobile devices is something becoming more necessary as time goes on. A 2013 report by the company spoke with 144 service organizations to ask how these tools impacted productivity and found that the most successful enterprises have already begun utilizing smartphones and tablets to ensure employees are working as well as possible. Businesses are also using these mobile tools to gain access to better customer metrics, thereby allowing them to better work with an ever-growing base of new business.

Think BYOD
Mobile software professional Timothy Garcia said this shouldn't prevent a company from trying a program. First, he said there needs to be singular apps used among the business; this means platforms must be able to accept the use of this app and use it well. For example, if the main app the organization uses cannot work on Android devices, companies should not allow them to be used or find alternative means for those employees. This may take some testing and changing, but if one platform does not work for the field service software, it may not work with what the BYOD program is trying to accomplish.

Garcia said employees will need to be properly trained on the software and devices and said data security needs to be an issue the entire company keeps in mind. Across the board, from the most senior executive to the newest employee, everyone must be aware that data security is an issue that could harm the company and its customers. Protection should be practiced at every step.

"Companies must ask themselves several questions regarding cyber security when considering the potential risk to data security," Garcia told Straight. "Where do employees store corporate or customer data? What if a smartphone is lost or stolen? Are the data transmissions secure? How does the company get its data back and secured when an employee leaves the company?"

How the mobile workforce has come into play at other companies
TechTarget's James Furbush spoke with Kevin Rusin, McKinley Equipment's chief financial officer, who said his company recently turned decades worth of paper data into electronic information and gave field service technicians mobile devices to start working more efficiently in the field. Tablets are getting the most use, he said, as they let workers more readily speak and communicate with customers across every step of a repair and keep everyone in the loop.

Utilizing these tablets have allowed them to become more consistent in how customers are served, Rusin said. Work tickets are more easily updated, customers can easily see what parts they need and order them and payments can be completed onsite. There are also better approximations of when a job will be completed.

"That might not sound like a big deal, but imagine the technician has an old school paper order and has to go back to the office before ordering that part," Rusin told Furbush. "He shows up at the end of the day and our admins are gone, the parts department is gone, and maybe that part doesn't get ordered the next day because 55 guys all dropping a stack of paperwork at once is going to cause a pileup."

Instead of coping with delays like this, processes can now be completed quickly and efficiently, allowing the organization to save time and improve service.

Forbes contributor Ryan Galloway said utilizing a mobile workforce, even at its most basic, will lower a company's overhead costs. New developments have allowed companies to cut their spending on space and IT infrastructure, as each employee can utilize their own mobile network when out in the field instead of saving their work for back at the office. Mobile devices means savings in money, travel time and likely much more production from technicians in the field.

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