Ask yourself the following questions to evaluate whether a remote workforce suits your business.
- Are you in a client-service business?
- Do your employees spend more than 50 percent of their time at client locations?
- Do most of your employees have laptop computers?
- Do you have employees who travel frequently as part of their jobs?
- Do the majority of your employees daily spend more than one hour commuting to and from work?
- Is the majority of your business conducted in a nonregulated industry?
- Do your employees have the technology tools needed to work remotely?
- Does your company have the ability to share documents securely?
- Do your IT professionals support users in multiple locations?
- Are your employees open to the idea of working remotely?
To see if your business should consider a remote workforce, add up the number of "yes" answers that you made to the questions above.
7-10: If you answered "yes" to seven or more questions, a comprehensive remote-work program and usage policy has the potential to significantly improve your business performance and employee satisfaction. Read on for additional information on the recommended infrastructure and protocol to best implement this across your organization.
4-6: If you answered "yes" to four-six questions, you would likely benefit from investing in specific communication and collaboration tools.
0-3: If you answered "yes" to three or fewer questions, you may not need a full remote-work program at this time, but you would benefit from establishing a remote-work policy. The policy should outline the proper protocol for employees to follow on the occasions they need to work from home.
Tips for Delivering the Remote-Work Announcement
A successful deployment of a remote-work program results in a combination of technologies with policies. After you have implemented the proper remote-work technology infrastructure, it is important to broadly communicate the usage policy. Setting clear guidelines and expectations right from the start helps establish trust between company management and staff, and it ensures effective use of the remote-work policy across the organization. Consider using the following three steps to help you unveil a new remote-work program:
- Step 1. Develop and share a plan that has clear expectations. This includes appropriate use of company property, such as computers and mobile phones, and guidelines on reimbursable expenses.
- Step 2. Address any potential concerns. Make it very clear that working remotely will not influence raises, bonuses, or promotions. Doing this reiterates performance expectations and company reward programs.
- Step 3. Establish clear channels of communication with expectations and schedules. Establishing and effectively communicating a remote-work policy sets ground rules and helps to build trust across the entire organisation.
Taking advantage of a mobile workforce management solution will place your company firmly on the road to continuous success. Below are seven key benefits to moving to a mobile workforce management solution:
Scheduling tasks manually requires a lot of time, effort and information. By moving to an automated solution, you not only cut down on manual processes, but you also free up employees for greater tasks.
Schedule optimization technology simultaneously considers numerous strategic and operational constraints when scheduling a resource. As such, it can consistently ensure that the best resource with the right skills and the right tools gets to the customer at the right time to achieve your goals. Through ‘drag and drop’ functionality, autoscheduling can be based on availability, location, skills set and more. Some solutions even offer the ability to have the schedule automatically affected by a defined service policy.
Automation is handled by background processes that work against a rule set unique to an organization’s needs and goals and can, for example, be conducted overnight. This way the schedule is optimized after business hours and is ready for the next working day. The dispatcher then only needs to address exceptions during the working day.
In a 2012 survey, IDG discovered that 63% of companies say that communication and visibility of issues on remote sites is ‘extremely important’ or ‘important’. Mobile Workforce Management solutions can provide an unparalleled layer of visibility into the daytoday operations of the field. It’s important not to look at this as a ‘Big Brother’ movement but rather the integration of field resources back into the greater company. The added visibility of using a solution ensures that the experiences and intelligence from the field is communicated back to the office in a timely manner, without being perceived as ‘red tape’ or ‘paperwork’.
With a Mobile Workforce Management solution, field technicians are able to:
- Report their working hours
- View service history
- Accept or reject job dispatches
- Record work performed
- Capture equipment or customer information
- Manage spare parts
- Communicate effectively with the customer
- Understand the details of the job
- Suggest upsell opportunities and offers unique to each customer engagement
So with this new found ability to automate and have visibility across the field and back office comes the added benefit of productivity and efficiency. However, simply implementing an automated scheduling and mobility solution is not enough. The real benefit comes from having one complete and integrated solution for dispatchers, mobile workforce, supervisors and managers.
Having one solution to manage the lifecycle of a service call—from initial customer contact, through work order creation, resource scheduling, dispatch, to realtime updates from the field and managerial reports—ensures that everyone has access to the information they need to make correct and timely decisions. This also means the seamless passing of data between departments and across different devices, including: desktops, laptops, smart phones and tablets.
Additional efficiency can be gained through the optimal use of resources; again through an endtoend solution, with advanced scheduling and decisionsupport capabilities. Advanced scheduling can also provide the right balance needed to execute the high priority jobs with routine maintenance jobs—making certain that the low priority work still gets done while maintaining operational efficiency.
Again this new found efficiency and increased productivity has a knockon effect, which ultimately results in an overall improvement in the customer experience.
4. Improved Customer Service Levels
Customer service is the heart of any field service organization, and the benefit of using a solution to manage the mobile workforce can have a huge impact. Customers benefit from the company’s ability to offer and deliver higher service levels through:
- Immediate appointment booking, with firm commitments based on reality
- Increased flexibility and options available at the point of booking and rescheduling appointments
- System ensures the field technician scheduled has the correct resources and skills required—directly increasing first-time-fix rate
- Providing customers with upsell and unique offers or incentives that are based on their existing service
As touched on in the benefit of ‘automation’, configuring and enabling the schedule to be affected by the business objectives can have significant value to the business. As inevitable changes occur to the schedule though the availability of resources and the ever changing number of jobs, the solution can automatically adjust the schedule to best reflect the business goals.
This feature not only vastly reduces the effort needed to adjust and produce an accurate schedule, but at the same time ensures adherence to the defined schedule policies and optimizes the allocation of field resources based on the business’ desires.
It is recommended to select a workforce management solution provider that has experience and an understanding of the service market to ensure that business rules, goals and values are integrated into the service policy and are used to guide scheduling processes.
The quality of the schedule can be defined based on several key criteria:
- Scheduling Value – Measure of work revenue
- Travel Time Cost – Costs for resource travel
- Delivery Cost – Use of regular/overtime/idle time in the schedule
- Time Utilization – Comparison of total available time to total work time
- Service Quality – Compliance with service date/time commitments
- Definition of Lunch Breaks – Allows global or individual definition of lunch breaks (assigning a lunch period and duration for each resource so that the solution can allocate time within the schedule for the appropriate break)
- Allow use of Optional Time – Provides a means for allowing use of potential overtime hours when offering schedule options and optimizing the schedule
- Coverage Area Definition – Defining the field coverage per individual resource
- Soften Territory Boundaries – Permits field resources to cross over typical territory boundaries to complete work, in order to make better use of field resource availability
- Contracted Resources Policy – Define how contracted resources are considered when producing the schedule
Providing uptodate information to decision makers is key in achieving an organization’s business goals. Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but implementing the analytical tools necessary to provide this level of information within a service operation can be very challenging. And having the right tools is more than half the battle.
Even in the best service organizations, problems and/or problematic trends spring up. The sooner these problems are detected, the better off the organization will be in correcting and subsequently preventing them. To do this, companies need to be monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) on an ongoing basis and keeping track of historical performance information for future use.
A Workforce Management solution with readytouse reports can provide a detailed insight into service operations and support for a streamlined decisionmaking process. Monitoring KPIs can catch potential gaps in the organization before they have become too costly or have too heavily impacted customer service levels.
7. Competitive Edge
To remain competitive in the marketplace, service organizations need to constantly strive to cut costs and grow revenues while increasing customer satisfaction. Each of the six benefits can positively affect the competitive edge for a growing company of any size. By providing a complete and positive customer experience, your customer will remain loyal, provide repeat business and hopefully recommend your services to others.
Technicians and dispatchers will operate with greater efficiency and will feel more satisfied in their roles, taking more pride in their work and the greater organization they are a part of.
The business will have increased visibility and access to the data required to make impactful decisions that are based on fact and not gut. With all of these combined the competition won’t know what hit them; the edge will be yours.