This technical analysis of field service technology is intended for IT professionals or organizations supporting field service software buying decisions in small businesses.

If a field service management software implementation project fails, it’s likely because of poor planning and execution, rather than the software itself. The field service management software market is mature; the technology is robust and constantly developing to accommodate advances such as the internet of things and artificial intelligence.

Despite the large range of field service management software for specific industries such as HVAC, pest control, and manufacturing, many prospective field service management software buyers fall into the trap of overcustomizing a solution to suit their unique needs.

CHALLENGE: According to data we collected from more than 7,000 prospective field software buyers, 70 percent are looking to invest because their current system isn’t good enough. In many cases, this can lead to a tendency to overcustomize a new solution.
RECOMMENDATION: Gartner predicts that through 2019, more than half of field service implementations will include customizations that should have been avoided (full content available to clients). Scope creep and overcustomizing software lead to high maintenance costs and large dents in your IT budget for customization that your business doesn’t need. With the help of this article, you can begin to create an implementation plan to determine whether you can accomplish the same business goals without heavy customization.

Field service management software definition

Field service software is designed specifically for organizations that employ service technicians who visit on-site customers. This includes larger industries, such as energy, utilities, manufacturing, construction, and HVAC, and smaller businesses providing pest control, plumbing, and electrician services. These organizations can all use field service management software to manage both their remote employees and general operations.

Features such as job scheduling, tracking, and routing help managers organize their on-site field technicians, while features providing easy access to customer information, parts information, and visit schedules benefit technicians.

Within cloud-based solutions, these functions can usually be automated and used across mobile devices. This frees up time spent on highly manual tasks, reducing labor costs. However, according to original data we collected from small to midsize businesses seeking to invest in field service software, 46 percent of organizations are still using manual methods to manage operations.

According to Gartner, the key functionality of field service software includes (full content available to clients):
 

  • Work planning: Optimization of technician shift and job scheduling.
  • Technician enablement: Mobile access to GPS, routing abilities, customer information, and parts information and history.
  • Operations: Fleet management, billing and invoicing, and overall customer management.
  • Demand management: Customer portals, quoting, and customer communications.
  • Work order debrief: Custom forms, signatures and approvals, and payments.
  • Analytics and integration: Performance management, predictive analytics, and ERP and CRM integrations.

Field service management software features

The following are features that GetApp defines as being core or common to a field service software product. All products that rank on GetApp’s Category Leaders for Field Service will offer all of the core features and at least one of the three common features.


 

Core features

Common features

Core features

Billing and invoicing

Manages customer balances and sends invoices for payments. Some systems enable mobile payments, eliminating the need for invoices, which can add days to receival of final payment.

PDF invoicing in Commusoft

PDF invoicing in Commusoft (Source)


Dispatch management

Optimizes appointment scheduling and the management of employee calendars. Dispatch management also makes real-time schedule adjustments to account for emergency jobs and clashes. Schedules can also be made by using optimal routing features that account for where each job site on the schedule is located, and jobs can be matched to the most qualified or relevant technician.

Drag and drop dispatch and scheduling in ServiceTrade Commercial

Drag-and-drop dispatch and scheduling in ServiceTrade Commercial (Source)


Work order management

Tracks and monitors the progress of a job from scheduling, to assignment, and throughout the work to completion and payment.

Work order management in mHelpDesk

Work order management in mHelpDesk (Source)

Common features

Customer management

Records, tracks, and analyzes customer job histories as well as valuable customer and payment information. Some systems also feature a marketing component for reminding customers about routine maintenance.

Customer management in Kickserv

Customer management in Kickserv (Source)


Contact management

Leverages customer contact information for job reminders and notifications. Also enables contact between back offices and mobile employees in the field

Contact management in FieldEZ

Contact management in FieldEZ (Source)


Inventory management

Tracks and manages the quantity of products and tools used for service. Some systems even account for inventory on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis, so mobile employees know what parts and tools are stocked in their vehicle.

Inventory management in Synchroteam

Inventory management in Synchroteam (Source)


Field service management software goals and objectives

Many organizations will buy field service management software without considering what it will help them achieve. Without knowing what you want to result out of the purchase, you’ll never push the software to its full potential.

The following are 4 of the core and common goals that field service management software can help you achieve:

1. Identify areas for business improvement with analytics features

Field service management software can help identify areas of inefficiency. It can eliminate routes that have cheaper alternatives or find quicker access to parts inventory, ensuring that technicians arrive with everything they need.

2. Manage a spatially diverse workforce

One of the biggest challenges to any field service business is managing a dynamic working environment. Field service software helps both your office and mobile field staff to maintain contact, update schedules, and update work orders in real time.

3. Drive ability to generate profit

Investing in field service management software can help organizations generate the level of profit that they’re not currently attaining. Field service software can help planning and forecasting efforts, and it provides opportunities for cost reductions.

4. Enhance workforce mobility

Mobile access to schedules, expenses, billing, timesheets, and customer information is crucial for the modern field service workforce. Mobile field service software connects directly back to your back-end operations and increases the visibility and accountability of decision making.

Field service management software benefits and risks

Implementing field service management software can help organizations not only become more efficient but also grow and scale. Here are the main benefits and risks of field service software.

Benefits

Reductions in scheduling costs and mistakes

Field service management software takes the headache out of scheduling decision-making through forecasting and prioritization. Unlike manual systems, cloud-based software enables a much larger overview of the big picture, prevents appointment clashing, improves travel times with intelligent routing, and reduces the impact of human errors.

Read more:How to improve overall productivity by optimizing your field service scheduling

Increased customer satisfaction

Field service software gives technicians access to diagnostic tools, equipment information, manuals, parts prediction, while also improving the overall accuracy of scheduling. These features can improve technician arrival times and first-time fix rates, and in turn, customer satisfaction rates.

Read more: Customer service training for field technicians is a top priority: Here’s what to focus on

Reduction in fuel and maintenance costs

Data-driven route planning and optimization determine the most efficient routes for technicians to take, which can have a huge effect on vehicle mileage, vehicle maintenance, and fuel consumption.

Read more: 5 Benefits of GPS vehicle tracking systems for your fleet

Improved employee and contractor management

Field service management software tracks vehicles, locations, and job statuses, and therefore provides a huge amount of visibility into the organization as a whole. Additionally, with a widening skills gap and an aging workforce, more organizations are employing third-party and outsourced contractors. Cloud-based software also helps to manage this side of the workforce with real-time scheduling and time tracking.

Read more: Want to prevent a field service skills gap? Use field service outsourcing

Risks

Field service software is unlikely to be a panacea for all of the challenges you face as a business, and in some cases it can lead businesses to overcomplicate certain tasks. The following are a few issues that you’ll need to be mindful of when implementing a new field service tool:

Overcustomization of field service tools

Organizations can be hesitant to accept the standard cookie-cutter field service tools, knowing that the functions may not perfectly match their processes. Businesses would rather adapt software to their processes, rather than the other way around. However, this can lead to an eagerness to customize their solution in a way that doesn’t always fit the bill.

Businesses can be tempted to customize field software tools to suit their every process and business goal. However, there are always extra programming and implementation costs tied to unique customizations, not to mention any ongoing tailored maintenance. There’s also a risk that these customizations may not be compatible with any future software upgrades.

PRO TIP

Save your customization budget for where it’s most needed. Before seeking customization, ask yourself: Are our current processes only borne out of previous technological constraints? Even though it’ll require an adjustment period, how could this software actually improve these processes?

Overscheduling your technicians

Field service software is designed to make your scheduling decisions easier, but there’s also a risk of using every scheduling application feature. This can result in overscheduling your technicians. This can affect efficiency, customer satisfaction, and first-time fix rates.

PRO TIP

Keep track of everything you used to do before you implemented new field service software. Though it’s designed to help you make decisions more easily, it still doesn’t know the ins and outs of your organization. For example, if the software indicates that your technician can make 10 on-site visits per day, but you know that five visits is their historical maximum, make manual adjustments where necessary.

Field service and the internet of things

Gartner predicts that by 2021, 10 percent of customer-reported issues won’t require an on-site technician visit because of the enhanced connectivity of the internet of things (IoT) (full content available to clients). Through the IoT, devices can remotely send their status, meaning that technicians may not necessarily need to be dispatched to diagnose the issue.

Not only does this mean that your technicians will need to become skilled in reacting to a different type of service request, it also means that you’ll need to adopt a data collection strategy and a training plan for the whole organization.

Read more: The Internet of Things and your field service processes: What needs to change

Field service management software leaders

If you’re ready to start evaluating field service software, you’ll be faced with many options from a wide range of vendors. To help you begin, take a look at the following applications: They’re the top seven solutions on GetApp’s field service Category Leaders, a ranking of the top 15 cloud-based field service applications in Q3 2018.

The top 7 GetApp Field Service Category Leaders


1. ServiceTrade Commercial

2. FieldEZ

3. Commusoft

4. Jobber

5. Housecall Pro

6. Kickserv

7. Synchroteam

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Field service software selection criteria

When recommending a field service solution to your team or to your client, remember to bear in mind the following 6 field service solution selection considerations:

1. Integrations

Your field service management software must integrate with your other applications—and most importantly, your CRM.

Both systems handle different but essential information relevant to your customers. While your CRM handles all information related to your customers, your field service management tool manages the jobs that your technicians undertake for your clients. Both systems need to work in harmony in order to meet effectively meet customer needs.

However, many field service management products also have their own built-in CRM system. You’ll need to decide whether to integrate two systems or implement a new field service system and import your existing data.

2. Staff training

If this is the first time that your organization is employing cloud-based field service software, the vast majority of your staff will need training in how to use it effectively. Many vendors will offer extensive training, either as part of the software package cost or at an additional.

Vendors may also offer change management assistance at an extra cost. You’ll need to consider whether your organization will benefit from these offers and how much it’ll increase your overall spend.

The following GetApp resources are designed to help guide your field service software search. Start browsing field service tools here.

3. GetApp features

Summaries and detailed product feature descriptions help you to align your business needs with the right applications.

GetApp Category Leaders: Field Service Management

4. GetApp alternatives

The alternatives tab provides a quick side-by-side view of similar options to a specific product.

GetApp features list

5. GetApp comparisons

Compare up to four different field service products, with side-by-side comparisons of supported platforms, pricing, reviews, etc.

GetApp Comparisons

6. GetApp integrations

Discover which essential apps integrate with each field service app.

GetApp Integrations

Field service software implementation plan

Field Service Software Implementation Plan


METHODOLOGY

Products identified in this article were shortlisted based on inclusion in GetApp’s Field Service Category Leaders Q3 2018. GetApp’s quarterly ranking showcases the top 15 Field Service apps based in the cloud. Each app is scored using five factors, worth 20 points each, for total possible score out of 100. These factors include user reviews, integrations, mobile app availability, functionality, and security. Each app’s score is independent of commercial interests and existing relationships that GetApp has with app vendors.