Information technology can help increase
the productivity of service techs
By Tom Duffe
This article is Part 4 of a 4-part series. Parts 1, 2 and 3 addressed information technology tools to help make dispatchers, drivers and CSRs more productive. The focus of this article is how those tools can help make service technicians more productive.
Typically, a more knowledgeable, more experienced technician will be more efficient than a less skilled service technician, and to that end, continuous education and training should be a staple for all service departments. The information tools presented here go beyond skill training and are aimed to make all technicians of all skill levels more productive.
There are a number of areas in which improved information can improve the efficiency and productivity of any service technician. Areas that present significant opportunity to improve technician productivity include windshield time, inventory, paperwork and service history. In addition, a technician equipped with the proper information technology may actually help drive revenue.
Mapping software and on-board navigation systems help the technician get from Point A to Point B more quickly. Technology exists today that allows the dispatcher to map customer addresses and route-optimize those stops. Latitude/longitude data can be sent to a smart phone running an application linked to an on-board navigation system. The technician loads the waypoint into the navigation system directly from the phone and instantly gets turn-by-turn voice and on-screen directions to the customer’s doorstep. Time wasted driving down dark streets with poorly marked addresses can be virtually eliminated. Getting the technician to the call more quickly is a first step in improving his/her productivity.
Significant time is lost at supply house counters waiting for a part or rooting through bins in a service truck or parts room looking for stock items. Except for the occasional specialty item, a service technician should not lose time procuring a part. Equipping your service technicians with an on-board computer will allow them to better track parts available on their own vehicle, other company vehicles, a company parts room and, as a last resort, the closest supply house. Today, that on-board computer can be a simple smart phone. A well-designed application running on a smart phone can track inventory, capture completed job details and send the detail to the base office.
When the back office captures data from the smart phone, you have essentially solved the age-old struggle of getting the paperwork from the technician on time. Although paperwork can be manually collected from service technicians in a timely manner, it can only be done at a rather high cost. Capturing completed job detail electronically allows you to answer customer inquires promptly, invoice immediately, generate restock-parts lists at the end of each day and review work-recommend reports before the technician ever has to return to the office.
The same smart phone that sends waypoints to an on-board navigation system and captures the job detail can capture and store critical service history for the accounts assigned to the technician. Armed with detailed information on the nature of previous calls will help the technician diagnose the current problem.
If the smart phone doubles as a camera, the technician can photo document the work for sales or technical support purposes. A manager can get an immediate visual of the equipment in question and better aid the field technician to diagnose a problem or explain the nature of the situation to the customer. You improve efficiency by electronically raising the skill level of field technicians and harnessing the knowledge of your most skilled staff. In addition, you increase the probability of driving billable work by having a more qualified staff member explain the nature of the problem to the customer from a position of better information. The technician on-site can then perform work that is sold on the spot; this further increases productivity since the cost of traveling to the customer’s property is sunk.
Information technology tools will allow you to reduce windshield time, manage inventory, improve the handling of paperwork, harness the experience of your most skilled technicians and generate more billable work. Information empowers; if you arm your technicians with more powerful information technology tools, they will be more productive and you will be more profitable.
Editor’s note: See related articles ‘Beyond Wrenches, Parts 1, 2 & 3, 08/04, 09/04 and 11/04 issues of FON, ‘The ABCs of OBCs” 03/04 issue of FON, ‘Selecting a Meter Register” 09/03 issue of FON and ‘Why Wireless, Why Now” 02/03 issue of FON.
Tom Duffey is an oilman; he runs Kelley Energy in Philadelphia. He is an avid supporter of technology. He is also co-founder of Digital Dispatcher, a productivity enhancing solution that offers many of the tools presented in this series of articles. He credits the technology of Digital Dispatcher for increasing his company’s office and field staff productivity by as much as 20 percent. He is available for comments or questions about this topic at: firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on Digital Dispatcher, visit www.digitaldispatcher.com.
In the back office, the dispatcher or service manager can review the job detail sent back to the office from the service technician’s phone in real-time. The office can monitor field progress from a dashboard screen, allowing you to run status, inventory, productivity and other reports.