Field service managers face several unique challenges in controlling their operations. Verifying completed work, knowing which workers are where, prioritizing tasks, responding to emerging situations, and ensuring customer satisfaction all impact how well they can manage their distributed teams.
Generally, field service challenges stem from a lack of integrated communication and collaboration tools. Without them, distributed team management means working through a multitude of blind spots and inefficiencies. For distributed teams to win in the field, managers and workers need to be armed with real-time information, contextual communication, and enforceable processes.
How to Manage Distributed Teams in the Field
Field service operations in every industry can meet the challenges of managing distributed teams with collaboration tools, such as Coolfire. For example, consider a telecom service provider that receives a maintenance request from a customer to repair on-site infrastructure. In the past, the central office would receive the request and then make calls to find a technician in the field.
However, the operator wouldn’t know each technician’s location or whether they’re available to fill the service. Without operational visibility, identifying and reaching the appropriate worker becomes much more difficult. After the worker is reached and accepts the job, the information they receive over the phone is limited. It lacks essential pieces of context about the job itself — including the customer’s specific requirements, which tools will be required, and historical information about previous service calls to that location.
Once the technician is on-site, the field service manager has little control over whether the technician follows the proper procedures and fulfills the customer’s requirements. Managers often wait until the end of a technician’s shift to receive updates and paperwork for each service call. Additional complications such as information loss and errors can also arise when technicians complete paperwork at the end of the day. These blind spots open up the possibility of less-than-exceptional service and leave the customer dissatisfied with the quality of work.
Clearly, outdated and manual processes such as these present service assurance liabilities and make distributed team management overly complicated. Instead of relying on manual processes and guesswork in reaching workers in the field, managers can use real-time collaboration technology to stay informed and in control. Here’s how.
1. Get the right information to the right people.
Collaboration tools that combine geotagging and mobile communications technology allow field service managers to not only know exactly where their employees are in the field, but also reach them immediately. Coolfire’s technology enables managers and dispatchers to identify and assign the nearest technician for a service call without ever making a phone call.
2. Deliver information with context.
Teams that share information with context such as time, location, and project status can eliminate lag time and improve decision-making in the field. Coolfire’s collaboration technology goes one step further by organizing all information as well as communication and tasking into projects (called Sessions). When field service managers assign employees to tasks in a Session, they can instantly access information about the customer, the exact service request, and the history of service at that location.
3. Connect teams, vendors, and customers from anywhere.
For team collaboration tools to work, the platform that connects them must be accessible from a wide range of devices. In Coolfire, teams can access and participate in Sessions from a smartphone, laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. By designating roles and permissions for all parties, field service managers can also provide customers and vendors with real-time visibility into a job’s progress.
Field service teams are on the go. To ensure their effectiveness, they need the same level of access to people and information that they would have in the office. Coolfire provides every user, whether at a desktop or on a smartphone, with the messages, files, tasks, deadlines, and maps that they need to do their job.
4. Keep field operations in sync with each other.
Collaboration technology can help teams identify what needs to be done and who is responsible. With Coolfire, teams share a common view of their tasks and deadlines via a Kanban-style layout. Managers create a “card” for each task, which outlines the job to be done, who’s responsible, when it’s due, and whether it has any dependencies such as tasks that must be done beforehand.
Collaboration technology is changing field service operations for the better. Coolfire’s collaborative suite can help managers stay in control of distributed teams, help teams stay on task from anywhere, and keep customers highly satisfied with every job.