What Is Field Service Management? +Best Practices

While many of us automatically associate field service work with utilities, field service operations are foundational to businesses in many industries, from healthcare to telecom. Over the past several years, increases in remote work and the growing complexity of technology have contributed to a shift toward service-based business models and economies. 

As field service operations become more complex and technicians cover more significant regions, organizations need effective processes and resources to manage these efforts. 

In this article, we’ll explore the concept of field service management, types of field service management technicians, best practices, challenges, and best field service management software.

What Is Field Service Management?

Field service management (FSM) is an umbrella term for managing and optimizing business operations performed off company property. Field service is common in various industries where technicians get dispatched to different locations to install, inspect, maintain, and repair equipment. 

FSM software allows teams to coordinate and monitor all field service activities more efficiently by dispatching technicians, scheduling work, and improving communications, all in one place.

Field Service Management Activities & Components

Field service management involves every aspect of field operations, especially: 

  • Work order management: The management and tracking of service requests and work orders from creation to completion
  • Field service scheduling and dispatching: The coordination of schedules and transportation to send field service personnel to service locations
  • Inventory management: The process of tracking and managing the movement of a company’s inventory across manufacturers, warehouses, and other facilities through sale. 
  • Service contract management: The process of ensuring that an organization’s services align with formal contracts like service level agreements
  • Customer relationship management (CRM): The management of all activities related to relationships and interactions with potential and current customers

What Types of Companies Utilize Field Service Management?

Any company that regularly deploys service employees and assets to external locations is participating in field service work and can benefit from field service management. Here are some of the most common types of businesses that field service management to optimize their field service operations:

1. HVAC companies

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) companies use field service technicians to install, maintain, and repair equipment in residential and commercial buildings. HVAC service workers use various tools and equipment to manage these systems and work with chemicals like refrigerants, which require safe handling procedures. HVAC companies use field service management tools for operations, service requests, dispatching, and communications.

2. Telecommunications and cable service providers

Telecom companies often use field service management to optimize labor, transportation, and scheduling and perform preventive maintenance. This helps telecommunication companies and cable service providers deliver high-quality customer service and ensure that SLAs are met.

3. Healthcare equipment providers

In healthcare environments, keeping medical equipment up and running is important to business and the well-being of patients. Companies that sell medical equipment or provide healthcare services use field service management software to optimize processes, improve issue resolution times, and perform preventive maintenance.

The medical industry is also highly regulated, making compliance critical. Many FSM software also include reporting and field validation tools to ensure adherence to required procedures and manage data retention.

4. Utility and energy companies

Businesses that provide utilities like gas, water, and electricity use field service technicians to install service, resolve issues, and maintain complex utility networks. Utility companies use FSM to dispatch field service workers, coordinate schedules, and provide timely resources for techs to tap into at a moment’s notice.

5. Construction and property maintenance services

Construction and property maintenance companies are frequently juggling multiple projects that require service from contractors and other field service professionals. These types of companies use field service management to manage work orders and inventories, optimize scheduling and dispatching, and facilitate communication between main offices, field service agents, and customers. Field service management provides an avenue for coordinating repairs, construction, and maintenance tasks to complete projects promptly without glossing over safety standards.

6. IT and tech support services

While many IT and tech support teams tend to in-office service technology issues, many companies dispatch IT field technicians to client locations to assist with service installation, hardware repair, or other support. These companies use field service management to coordinate the activities of these employees, including ticket triage, technician dispatch, and support ticket progress. Using field service management for IT and tech support helps companies improve response and resolution times, improving overall support.

7. Delivery and transportation companies

Any companies that deliver goods to customers or transport large inventories between store and warehouse locations can also use field service management. With field service management software, field managers can track the movement of field service personnel and manage inventories to optimize travel routes, improve communication, and minimize costs in the long run.

Benefits of Field Service Management

Field service management benefits field service workers, customers, and larger organizations by streamlining processes and ensuring optimal customer service. 

Here are some of the most common benefits organizations get from managing field service operations:

1. Increases uptime and reduces time-to-repair

Through field service management, teams can develop a well-oiled system for maintaining equipment in the field. By optimizing dispatch, scheduling preventive maintenance, and supporting field service agents through repairs, field service managers can ensure that assets function properly and can be repaired quickly as issues arise.

2. Reduces field service operational costs

Through field service management, teams can create a system that provides visibility into technician productivity and resource use to cut unnecessary costs and provide support to make field service work more efficient.

When bolstered by FSM software, field service teams can automate processes to reduce time spent performing administration work, coordinating schedules and invoices, and monitoring work order progress. All of this automation eliminates inefficiencies and associated costs.

3. Improves customer satisfaction and service quality

Speed of service is a major factor customers expect when evaluating their experience with a brand. With field service management, teams can use data analytics to improve processes, optimize dispatching, and support field service workers so they can provide high-quality service and keep customers satisfied.

4. Enhances real-time communication and coordination

Many field service management solutions also include communication and collaboration features to facilitate the dissemination of information and make it easier for managers to assist their agents in the field. These features help improve field data capture and analysis and contribute to more effective on-site problem-solving.

5. Provides valuable field service insights through data analysis

Field service management software provides a centralized system from which to monitor performance. With these powerful data analytics tools, managers can draw from operational data, performance analytics, and compliance reports to improve operations and make better, more informed decisions.

6. Streamlines inventory and asset management

Field service management software minimizes the need for manual data entry, making it easier to optimize inventory and asset management tasks. These solutions provide real-time visibility into asset conditions and inventory across devices, making it possible for managers to track movements, manage asset usage, and perform quality control.

Challenges of Field Service Management

Field service management relies on employees in non-traditional spaces away from the office, which results in many contextual challenges faced only by field service workers.

1. Scheduling and routing inefficiencies

As operations grow, the need for field service grows with it. Without proper management, this can pose problems for scheduling and dispatch, like double booking, overlapping time slots, and inefficient routes. This causes frustration, poor service, and low employee satisfaction.

FSM software can automate these processes and guard against scheduling snafus by streamlining routes, alerting managers about potential conflicts, and appointing backup service representatives.

2. Training field service technicians

Field service representatives need comprehensive training encompassing technical skills, product knowledge, and customer service to do their jobs independently and keep customers happy. The speed of technological progress can make providing this training challenging, but with field service personnel training, managers can update learning content and disseminate in-app learning prompts to smooth the process.

3. Supporting field service technicians on the job

When field service technicians arrive at customer homes or client businesses, complex situations can cause frustration and long resolution times if techs need to be equipped with the proper tools. From connectivity issues to tablet tech issues to simple lack of knowledge, lack of support creates many challenges for field service teams. 

With field service management, field service techs have the resources and support they need to provide optimal service and tap into guidance when issues arise.

4. Real-time communication

Communication between field service managers, employees, and customers can be challenging or even impossible when field sites are out of network or when issues are too complex for guidance via phone calls.  Field service personnel need the right tools to provide managers and customers with updates and access to real-time support

With mobile FSM software, techs gain access to knowledge bases, tutorials, and a direct connection to internal field service applications they can use to connect with managers and enter field data.

5. Integration of field service management technologies

Field service operations do not exist in a vacuum, so management efforts need to integrate with other business areas and operational applications to function effectively. Otherwise, teams risk productivity loss from redundancies, tech issues, and operator error. Choose a field service management solution that seamlessly integrates with common applications or an API to keep your entire technology stack connected.

Best Practices in Field Service Management

While field operations are unique to their organizations, there are several best practices followed by effective field service managers across industries. Here are some of the most critical best practices seen in field service management:

1. Regularly train and upskill your field technicians

A culture of continuous learning provides wide-ranging benefits for individuals and their organizations, from individual proficiency to employee engagement to elevated customer satisfaction.

 Utilize field service training solutions that deliver personalized, digestible learning content to personnel regularly and make it easy for them to interact with that content as needed, on the go. Develop new lessons and update existing content as new technology is rolled out, when protocols change, and when regulations are updated to keep field technicians at the top of their game. 

With a digital adoption platform (DAP) like Whatfix, provide in-app training to your field service employees that guides them through their contextual processes step-by-step. These guided learning experiences overlay your field service management software and provide contextual training to your employees.


2. Provide field technicians with on-demand support

Field technicians need comprehensive support from management to provide optimal service to customers. Use modern field service management software with in-app messaging, self-serve knowledge bases, and mobile accessibility to help field service workers help themselves in the field. Maintain direct channels to the central office, through which field techs can seek out additional assistance for more complex issues. \

With a digital adoption platform (DAP) like Whatfix, you can enable your field service workers with Self Help. Self Help overlays your tablet and mobile application devices, bringing a self-help resource center right into your employees’s workflows. Self Help integrates with your knowledge base, help center, SOPs, training documents, playbooks, and more – providing in-the-field support when your technicians need it.


3. Focus on customer communication and collect feedback

Customers don’t like being left in the dark regarding services they have paid for. Ensure that field service teams communicate arrival times, issue context, and action plans to customers to keep them in the loop and feeling positive about your company’s services. 

In addition to standard field service metrics like response time and time to resolution, seek customer feedback to get a more comprehensive idea of their experience with your field service team. Use that feedback to make improvements. This process demonstrates a commitment to strong customer relationships and builds brand loyalty in the long run.

4. Utilize data and analytics for continuous improvement

Effective field service management requires an approach based on continuous improvement. Use data collected from field service activities, like issue reports, visit metrics, and feedback forms, to optimize field service processes. With field service management software, data analytics tools can track all this information and provide intelligent recommendations for process improvement and optimization. Take advantage of these features regularly to keep your team on the cutting edge.

5. Implement preventive maintenance strategies

Field service teams regularly work with complex systems and expensive equipment in potentially hazardous situations. Incorporate and prioritize preventive maintenance into field service operations to resolve issues before they escalate and maximize uptime. Preventive maintenance goes a long way toward cutting costs in terms of both time and resources and keeps customers feeling satisfied with your organization.

6. Ensure safety and compliance standards are met

Safety and compliance are essential components of field service work, not only to protect the organization from liabilities and penalties, but to ensure the safety and well-being of employees, customers, and customer data. Incorporate relevant training, protocol, and reporting activities into field service management plans and include mechanisms for updating training and procedures as regulations and safety situations change.

What Is Field Service Management Software?

Field service management software – designed to optimize all field service activities from a centralized digital hub. Most field service management software includes these critical features:

  • Mobile field service apps and tablets
  • Scheduling and dispatching
  • Customer communication and service management 
  • Billing and payment processing
  • Enterprise asset management and equipment monitoring
  • Inventory management

Future Trends in Field Service Management

Constantly evolving technology and customer expectations have brought field service into the digital age with no signs of slowing any time soon. In coming years, there are several trends sure to shape the evolution of field service management:

1. Adoption of augmented reality (AR) for remote assistance

Augmented reality, technology that integrates digital content with a user’s environment in real time, is becoming increasingly common in field service. AR can be utilized to provide on-the-job guidance and assist with remote troubleshooting through the use of tablets or phones, superimposing instructions onto real-life work environments. AR also empowers field service personnel to tap into manager expertise for in-the-moment guidance and collaboration. 

By streamlining issue resolution, AR can increase system uptime, reduce truck rolls, and improve first-time fix rates.

2. Increased use of drones for inspection and monitoring

Using drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV),  to conduct visual inspections has become increasingly popular in field service management – especially in utility and infrastructure. With drone inspection and monitoring, UAVs are fitted with cameras that can collect visual, spatial, and thermal data to determine the status of different assets and whether an in-person inspection or repair is necessary. 

This can benefit organizations by identifying risks, improving safety by reducing the frequency with which techs enter dangerous situations, and optimizing the expenditure of resources and expenses.

3. Greater reliance on predictive analytics for maintenance

With predictive analytics, field service managers can leverage data on asset conditions and performance, energy efficiency, and safety risks to make informed decisions and create customized maintenance strategies for different equipment and assets. With these tools, field service software can predict equipment failures, pinpoint trends, and generate response recommendations. 

Predictive analytics helps field service teams address problems before they escalate, improving uptime and allowing for better overall service. As technology becomes more and more advanced, predictive maintenance is sure to become a priority across industries.

4. Expanding integration of IoT devices

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are hardware programmed to interact with their environment and transmit data over a certain network – some common IoT devices are security cameras and smart thermostats. As IoT devices have become more common, field service technicians spend less time pinpointing issues and more time resolving them.

These devices provide real-time data for remote asset and equipment monitoring, which can facilitate preventive and predictive maintenance as well as inventory management to improve customer service and optimize operations. In the long run, integration of IoT devices helps field service teams reduce costs and provide better, more efficient service for optimal customer satisfaction. 

5. AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly versatile and valuable in recent years, making it highly applicable to just about every area of field service operations. Without a doubt, the integration of AI will continue to permeate field service operations. With smart field service management tools, AI can automate scheduling and dispatch, execute predictive maintenance, and provide high-quality, personalized service to customers. Ultimately, integrating AI into field service operations creates a more solid foundation for field service managers and their employees to focus on their core responsibilities: maintaining and repairing assets and equipment in the field.

Field Service Management Software Clicks Better With What

Facilitate your team’s adoption of field service management tools and workflows with Whatfix. With Whatfix, create in-app guided experiences that overlay your field service management software workflows, guiding employees through critical processes. Whatfix Self Help enables technicians to receive on-demand help.

With powerful behavior analytics, Whatfix helps managers identify gaps and optimize use to keep field service teams operating efficiently.

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What Is Whatfix?
Whatfix is a digital adoption platform that provides organizations with a no-code editor to create in-app guidance on any application that looks 100% native. With Whatfix, create interactive walkthroughs, product tours, task lists, smart tips, field validation, self-help wikis, hotspots, and more. Understand how users are engaging with your applications with advanced product analytics.
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