How Automation Helped My Company Create an Agile Field Service Workforce
When the pandemic hit, Mobile Technologies Inc., a global leader in retail merchandising and services, accelerated a plan to digitize field service management and create an agile workforce. Here are five takeaways.
Shannon Litten, senior director of enterprise solutions at MTI, contributed to this blog.
As the Vice President of Technology and Engineering at Mobile Technologies Inc. (MTI), I lead global technology, internet of things (IoT) strategy, engineering, and business capabilities. My team and I focus on ways to use technology to drive automation, improve efficiencies, and create a better overall experience for our customers and employees.
At the beginning of 2020, our company set out to digitize operations with a strong focus on field service management. We started the project in earnest last March, a week before COVID-19 restrictions went into effect and when, suddenly, everything became much more urgent.
Most of our customers are in the retail industry, and were hit hard by pandemic closures and restrictions. They needed to adapt their in-store experience to meet the needs of a remote workforce. We, in turn, needed the ability to reallocate our field service workforce based on our customer’s needs and requirements.
Our primary goal was to create an agile workforce. But how could we get new tools into the hands of our employees as quickly as possible, and therefore help our customers faster?
Here’s what we learned through the process.
The only way to meet today’s challenges is to create an agile workforce. That means getting the right tools and technology into the hands of our employees as fast as possible.
Lesson #1: Don’t delay technology investments
At first, we did the typical thing that most companies do: We threw people at problems. We didn’t invest in technology at the rate at which our business was changing. Instead, we used a combination of spreadsheets, homegrown systems, and our enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. As a result, our service team had to navigate many disparate systems to close out a case.
Based on our volume and our customer’s requirements and expectations, we knew we needed to change fast. That meant expanding our use of Salesforce, which our company already implemented for sales and CRM in early 2019, and to start integrating field service management into CRM. Salesforce Field Service enabled the following:
Our field service technicians need the right information to service our customers, and dispatchers need an accurate view to assign the right worker to the right job. Now, our field service team works in a single platform with a 360-degree view of the customer. Field service technicians get critical information immediately, and we’re able to proactively communicate with customers to help them with their business decisions.
We wanted to bring automation to the field to optimize scheduling and ensure the right person is assigned to the job. Automation helped us decrease manual scheduling by 79%. Now, about 84% of our resources are assigned with automated scheduling.
Contact center transformation
We know better employee experiences lead to better customer experiences. Now that our service agents work off of a single source of truth, we’ve seen queue times (from the time the call enters the queue to the call wrap-up) drop 21%, which is an incredible improvement and dramatically improves the level of service to our customers.
Lesson #2: Connect service partners and third party contractors to field service management
We have a global workforce, but there are countries where we do not employ direct staff. In such countries, we have a network of long-term partners with the same technical skills and values to offer our customers a seamless execution globally. Those partners are all on the Salesforce platform and use the same set of tools which drives consistent execution. They are trained on Salesforce Field Service and receive their work orders and service appointments just like the rest of the team — from the mobile app.
We also use third-party contractors to scale up for various ad hoc projects. For example, if a customer is launching a new product and needs supporting technology ready in 7,000 stores in one day, contractors help fill this short-term capacity need. When this happens, we create contractor licenses in Salesforce Field Service so they have the same visibility into the system and enter the same information as on-staff workers.
Lesson #3: Offer regular training
Right now, we use a homegrown learning management system called MTI Expert. Currently, we’re migrating to Trailhead, Salesforce’s online learning platform. We require all of our technicians go through training, and Trailhead will help us centralize the knowledge.
In addition to digital learning, we host rigorous training for our subject matter experts (SMEs) each quarter to improve their skills and knowledge. We also hold monthly “coach’s corners” in which our SMEs teach the rest of the organization about a particular function, such as how to maximize the use of our scheduling optimizer. Lastly, we rely on our knowledge base to help us consistently use the same technology, processes, and language across the business.
Lesson #4: Get everybody on the same page
One of the biggest hurdles was getting everyone to communicate with the same tools. Some people were using different channels supported by the company. Others were using their own tools outside of company standards to communicate.
We prioritized a plan to ensure that people communicate on the same channels. We were diligent about governance around policies, procedures, and ownership. For the executive team, this meant communicating a consistent message that standardized processes and software were needed for communications. We used change management to get everyone on board. The value and overall benefit to the organization has been huge. Everyone stays up to date, everyone stays on task, and everyone knows how every project is progressing.
Lesson #5: Look at the holistic needs of the company
To become an agile workforce, we consider what the company needs not just for today, but for tomorrow. The executive and product leadership teams meet weekly or monthly depending on the implementation phase to map and understand where the business is going.
Beyond service, we’re also a hardware organization and a software organization. We look at what we can build off of our platform that can help the company as a whole.
It’s about really understanding what you need from the ground up. That’s the greatest way to benefit and maximize our key performance indicators, and ensure our customer’s success.
Now that we have the foundation in place, 2021 is all about optimizing productivity. On the short list: adding asset management and entitlements to drive our service level agreements and migrating more tools into Salesforce Field Service so our field service team has a simple, consolidated view of our world.
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