Logistics Challenges Involved in Field Services and How to Overcome Them
Jan 28, 2022
9 mins read
In times past, the notion of calling in a professional to attend to home cleaning or repairs was viewed as a luxury, reserved for the few who could afford it. Fast forward to 2023, and the scope of field services has radically evolved beyond merely employing domestic help and cooks. Propelled by the constraints of the pandemic, which necessitated extended time spent indoors, our homes have become hubs for a wide array of services. Now, everything from personal grooming, financial assistance, to pet care can conveniently arrive right at our doorstep, transforming the way we engage with, and perceive the concept of, field services.
High demand comes with high expectations
Owing to their sheer convenience, field services are nothing short of a necessity in the post-pandemic era. Home repairs and maintenance, installations, healthcare, diagnostics, beauty services, childcare and elderly services all fall under this category.
The global field services market is expected to grow to $1,133.40 billion by 2026. The industry only promises to grow with the advancement in technology and the ease of mobile bookings.
While the demand for field services is on the rise, customers aren’t all that easy to please. They demand a seamless omnichannel experience from the start to the finish. Poor or delayed service is often not entertained by them and they are quick to opt for the next best service available instead.
It is not impossible to gain their loyalty, but good quality, and on-time service is vital for customer delight. According to a report by MediaPost, 82% of consumers say their loyalty depends on a positive experience. They could also reschedule or cancel their appointments last-minute and expect it to be managed accordingly.
Field service businesses are here to stay
A highly modern and simple way to purchase and schedule services by professionals, field services are an efficient and time-saving option for customers. An increase in the adoption of technology makes this process smoother as bookings can be done using online platforms.
1. The sheer comfort and convenience of it:
There is no greater comfort than one’s own home and this makes field services doubly relaxing. Customers can take care of other household tasks or enjoy their leisure time while the service is being performed.
A big advantage of field services is the ability to save precious time. Customers can avoid the hassle of commuting, which is often tedious and counterproductive when all you want to do is get the task done efficiently.
3. Undivided attention from the professional:
A significant difference in the services provided by in-home professionals is that they are not distracted by other tasks or customers. As a result, the quality of service is considerably better and more personalized.
Running and maintaining a service center or a store comes with its costs; costs which have to be borne by the customer. field services eliminate these overheads, making the same services more affordable for the customers.
Logistical challenges faced by field service businesses
Last-mile operations have different meanings for different sectors. For most industries, it means delivering a packaged good on time, more so if delivery is time and temperature-sensitive. For the field service industry, the last mile varies in that instead of delivering goods, service providers must reach the given address at the right time.
The task is to make sure that the right agents reach the right homes and all activities are carried out on time and professionally. Challenges in the last-mile for field service businesses are often unanticipated due to delays in daily dispatches or on-ground inefficiencies. Some of the logistical challenges faced by field services are:
1. Adhering to customer-preferred time windows:
Managing time-slots is one of the most common challenges faced by field service providers. It is possible that resources are not available during a particular time window, making dispatch planning a difficult task.
2. Scheduling tasks in real-time:
As hundreds of orders pour in a day, managers need to first make sure the right executives are available and assign tasks in real-time. This can prove to be a daunting exercise without the right software and tools.
3. Handling shortages:
Resource availability is dependent on many conditions and shortage is common, especially during peak season or black swan events such as the pandemic. How a business handles order volumes in times of limited availability can make or break the service experience.
4. Planning optimal routes:
Day-to-day tasks for field service businesses involve planning daily/hourly dispatches and finding the most efficient routes for service providers to help save on extra miles and fuel costs.
Five ways to ensure customer delight in field services
1. Allow maximum customization options to the consumer
A big reason why field services platforms are so popular is the level of convenience they offer. They can decide what and when they need a particular service. Some businesses even allow consumers to ask for the same executive for select services like massages. In the early stages, it would be possible to meet their needs through spreadsheets and phone calls. But when the number of service requests jumps to thousands, even millions, automation is the most suitable to efficiently handle these volumes. Last-mile technology solutions like Locus’ Dispatch Management Platform have features that can make this possible. It has a built-in time-slot management feature that can share a range of convenient time slots to the user, which is updated in real-time.
The platform’s Order Management capabilities then automate the capture and assignment of service requests based on many factors such as the type of preferred time slot, the nature of the service, skill sets of the executive, their existing workload, among others.
2. Empower your executives to work better
Service technicians are trained and experienced enough to perform a task in the optimal amount of time. What they are not trained to do optimally is to shuttle between two appointments in the quickest possible time. This is where the Locus platform’s key feature, Route Planning, steps in to save the day. Its powerful route optimization software can compute the quickest route between by factoring in 180+ real-life constraints such as distance, time taken to complete a task, traffic, road restrictions, service level agreements, among others.
When the distance and time taken to move to different tasks is reduced, it frees technicians to take up more appointments in a day, leading to savings in time and fuel spent, and an increase in productivity. It also works closely with Order Management to accommodate real-time changes in a technician’s schedule. For example, if a consumer cancels an appointment at the last minute, the Route Planning module is updated. It automatically updates the route of the technician to move on to the next task. Parallelly, the Order Management feature also reassigns the appointment depending on another date and time according to the consumer’s preference.
3. Stay on top of real-time updates
Sometimes, technicians get delayed or are unable to complete their allotted tasks for unavoidable reasons like a vehicle breakdown or road accidents. To keep things on track, it is important to have real-time knowledge of the technician’s on-ground situation. Locus’ Control Tower solution allows supervisors to see the real-time progress of hundreds of drivers through a single screen. Automated alerts and notifications inform supervisors of any potential delays before they occur and help them take the right measures.
4. Keep the customer in the loop
There is a real benefit to consumers being updated on the status of their appointments in real time. It makes them feel involved in the whole experience and makes the waiting process more palatable. By contrast, keeping them in the dark about the status of their appointment, especially when delayed, is off-putting. This is a complete no-no, especially when the power of word of mouth can get easily amplified by social media. Tracking pages allow businesses to provide turn-by-turn updates to customers on their technicians. They can use these pages to communicate with the technicians and share any feedback and concerns to the business, which speaks volumes on how much their opinion matters.
5. Leverage data to spot last mile inefficiencies
Each day, field-service technicians generate vast amounts of data while carrying out their appointments. When aggregated for an entire fleet, this data holds deep insights on new ways to make operations more efficient. The Locus platform’s advanced analytics capabilities can bring out these insights and present them in an easily digestible manner through intuitive graphics on a customizable dashboard. Armed with these insights, field services businesses can continue to grow in new directions previously unseen.
The popularity of field service businesses will continue to soar, given that research suggests that the field services market globally is expected to reach $993.98 billion by 2025. But so will the strength of the competition. While top-quality services and competitive prices are must-haves, customer delight is also essential to being and staying the top choice of savvy, value-conscious consumers.
Field service businesses can benefit remarkably from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies. And, with the help of a dispatch planning software, they can amp up their game considerably.
Dispatch planning can help the customer pick the best possible slot keeping in mind customers’ priority, location, service type and availability of field executives. Live tracking and real-time alerts improve supply chain visibility, helping improve transparency in the last mile. In the coming years, speed, personalization and responsiveness will determine if businesses will stay in the game. Technology must be embraced with open arms for sustainable, long-term growth. Locus’ automated solutions are backed by data science and cutting edge AI for end-to-end logistics optimization and can power businesses for their future goals.
Do you wish to optimize your field service operations with smart and efficient logistics? Get in touch with our experts for a quick tour of our solutions.
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Logistics Challenges Involved in Field Services and How to Overcome Them
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