How Service Management Software Enhance Efficiency

By | Field Service, Service Business | No Comments

The delivery of service to a customer invariably requires getting several things done at the backend, triggering many variables, to execute a chain of events. The more seamless the workflow, the faster the execution of the service, and more rewarding the customer experience.

Strange as it may seem, many enterprises still use paper-based systems to manage their service operations, as they can never take the time required to invest in a new team, and are anyway hesitant to invest money in it. Investing in a service management software is well worth the while, having the potential to transform enterprises to a whole new level, improving accuracy, accelerating the workflow, unlocking several insights not possible, enhancing customer satisfaction extent, and leading to overall all round efficiencies.

Service management softwareThe Basics of Service Management Software

Even the most rudimentary field service management software automates the following core service functions:
• Scheduling of tasks
• Tracking progression of tasks
• Managing quotes
• Billing and invoicing
• Inventory and dispatch management
• GPS navigation for field service suites
• Work order management
• Technician and personnel management

As the adage goes, “anything not automated will slow you down”. Automation accelerates the workflow and spares executives from being bogged down with such routine tasks, allowing them to spend more time on their core competency, with the customer, or to further their business.

Field Service Management Suite

Field service management suites go a step further in delivering additional efficiencies, by making it very easy to coordinate field management operations. A standard field management suite logs and tracks service schedules and complaints, assign technicians, track the movement of technicians, notify clients of the expected arrival time of technician, track the progress of work, links to the command and control center for assistance in troubleshooting, generates the invoice, and take feedback. Without a service management software, the entire process would be chaotic, marked by ad-hocism and confusion. Much energy would be wasted on technicians seeking confirmation on what to do next, services getting postpone for lack of timely communication or instructions, customers repeatedly contacting customer care to know when the technician would arrive, and much more.

Field Service SoftwareService Management Software Implementation Best Practices

However, service management solution delivering efficiency is not given. The suite delivering on its intended purpose, and boosting efficiencies depends largely on how the suite is conceived, developed, and executed.

Understand the business requirements. Especially be aware of the pain points, and design a workflow on how the service management software would improve such pain-points. Estimate the required capabilities and the metrics used to measure success, and make sure to co-op in the service management software.
Successful software development is a collaborative process, involving not just the developers, but also business managers, end users of field technicians who would be using the suite, and other stakeholders. Institute a system in place for seamless collaboration, and make sure to co-opt user requirements to the software. Software design is not a one-off project, but a continuous process, with the suite updated to reflect the changed business and environmental realities.
Mobility solutions are growing at an exponential pace. The best service management software offers delivery through mobiles, preferably through apps. App based delivery allow field executives, managers on the move, and even remote offices to update the system in real time, improving accuracy, boosting productivity and improving the quality of decisions to no small extent. With service management powered by mobile apps, the stakeholder can get the latest information, and take the required action, in real time, without waiting to get to the office or make a follow-up for want of information.
Institute ticketing capability in the service management solution. When customers make a request, a ticket is generated and assigned to the appropriate technician or executive. Each ticket, which denotes an incident, may be linked to problems, change requests, and more. Such a ticket based workflow make it easy to track the progress of work, control the scope of work and pending orders.
The entire problem and workflow may be throughout their life cycle and recorded in a knowledge repository, for fine tuning the system to prevent similar incidents in future, and for prompt or pre-emptive action if similar issue flares up later.

Efficient service management solutions streamline the entire service request management, from creating the incident to resolution, automate all possible tasks in its wake. The suite integrates seamlessly with IT operations management (ITOM) solutions, such as network management, server monitoring, and remote support software, to make the entire operations seamless and tightly integrated.

As the indispensability of service management software becomes more and more evident with every passing day, the market is in a state of churn, with many new vendors cropping up every year, and existing vendors increasing their capabilities. Opt for a vendor who has withstood the test of time, and who has a dedicated and talented team who can walk the talk. We fit the bill in all aspects, having delivered cutting edge service management solutions for a host of companies, cutting across sectors.

Best 6 Growth Hacks for Running a Service Business

By | Service Business | No Comments

Running a service business is by no means easy. The cut-throat competition and keeping pace with the ever changing technology are challenging enough, without plotting strategies to take the business to new levels. Here are six growth hacks for running a service business.

1. Institutions, not Individuals are Supreme

The importance of human talent can never be understated in today’s age where creativity is a key source of competitive advantage. However, at the same time, people are cyclical, and keep on moving, as opportunities come knocking. A truly successful enterprise lives up to the adage, “no one is indispensable,” and builds systems and processes that enable the enterprise to deliver excellence regardless of who is “behind the wheel.” Successful enterprises manage to entrench its culture and core values among the workforce, rather than fall into personality-centric trappings.

2. The Pyramid is not Sacrosanct

The classic service business operates on a pyramid model, with several junior people, lesser mid-level, and few senior people, epitomized as the minders, grinders, and finders respectively, in the mix. While this is a time-tested model, nothing is set in stone, and successful enterprises have no option but to evolve and change according to the dictates of the marketplace in which they operate. Today’s highly fluid businesses environment may necessitate a loose matrix ecosystem of specialists connected to a client strategist lead.

Also, highly successful CEOs lead from the front. They take an active role in pitching to new prospects, meeting new clients, open the door, and do everything. The benefits of such a hands-on approach are manifold, ranging from a first-hand understanding of what really sucks and requirements improvement to getting blunt, direct feedback from customers, and everything in between.

Pyramid Management - Growth Hack3. Manage the Growth

Successful businesses are never satisfied with the status-quo or the current levels of enquiries and sales opportunities. They adopt a culture of continuous improvement, constantly seeking to grow their business and instill a culture of performance. The best kind of growth is organic, as it does not involve culture clashes or earn-outs.

The talk of growth notwithstanding, all enterprises run into a crisis from time to time. Success depends on how well they manage the crisis. Smart enterprises embrace experimentation and innovation to drive growth, but at the same time, are prepared and ready to accept failure if the initiative does not click. For instance, when adopting change, the best option is to start small, with the change affecting only a small subset of selected customers, rather than risk untested change on everyone.

4. Master the Four Stages of the Customer

The four broad stages of a service business model are the acquisition of the customer, activation of the account, retention, and revenue collection. Often there is a fifth stage of referral, which makes the process cyclical, with one acquisition ultimately resulting in another one, repeating the cycle.

The obvious aim of the enterprise is to progress the maximum number of “users” from one stage to the next. The ways to do so are many, including analytics to find out which initiative clicks, and several change initiatives designed to try and “beat the control.”
Each customer is unique and has different needs. New customers especially have expectations that need to be met before they feel comfortable.

5. Get Innovative with Marketing and Promotions

Regardless of how unique or good the service offering, there is no shortcut to marketing and promotion. Identify the most effective strategies by gauging the sentiments of the target audience, deploy A/B tests to gauge the performance of ads, monitor click through rates and conversions of online ads, and more. However, conventional “push” marketing is no longer enough, no matter how efficient the delivery. In today’s age of cut-throat competition, businesses need to look into “pull” tactics, such as nurturing influencers who command massive influence over a target audience, and whose insight and experience potential customers trust.
Promotions and Marketing - Growth Hack

6. Client Management Rises in Importance

The true power and worth of an enterprise is no longer the number of its workforce or the extent of its geographical footprint, but the size of the clients, and how long the largest clients have been running. Client management is now just as essential as geography management. Successful business tries to reduce churn by delighting customers, understanding very well it existing customers is worth up to 10 times more than their first purchase.

While specific strategies can and should vary depending on the circumstances, there is no workaround to orienting internal systems and processes to the customer. A good example in musical artists tending to release tracks toward the beginning of the week, when they are most likely to capture people’s attention. Fine tune all initiatives depending on the behavioral preference of target customers. Research, with help from big data analytics, is the tool for success.

In today’s age of the pampered customer, there is no alternative to putting the customer first in whatever the enterprise does. This is easier said than done and requires fine-tuned systems geared to catering to customer needs. Reach Out Suite is the perfect solution to develop seamless, customized, and tightly integrated systems and procedures, such as workflows, audits, and inspections. Sign up now, your first 3 users are free!

How the Cloud is Shaking Up the Field Services Industry

By | Field Service | No Comments

Think workforce management, and what appears in today’s digital tech age are mobile solutions delivered via the cloud. With such rollouts, employees gain anytime, anywhere access to the critical customer and job-related information. But paradoxical as it sounds, field service, one of the sectors that can extract the maximum benefit from such rollout, is only just starting to exploit the possibilities offered by the cloud!

In 2014, only 23% of companies ran their field service management software in the cloud, and this figure has risen only marginally to 26% in 2016. However, realization seems to have struck of late, with the benefits becoming even more apparent, and legacy on-premises software in many companies slowly reaching the end of its tether. In fact, adoption of cloud-based solution has already seen a spurt in mid-sized companies, with 37% of such companies already having cloud based solutions, a significant rise from the 21% levels in the same category, in 2014.

The proliferation of smartphones and tablets in the workplace make software-as-a-service solutions viable for various field service requirements. Integration with the back office in real-time, facilitated by such apps, allow businesses greater control and visibility into operations, and enable taking real-time decisions, vital in today’s fast-paced and cut-throat business environment.

Impact of Cloud on Field service Industry

The transformative impact of the cloud on field services runs far deeper.

Streamlined Operations

Most of the key benefits of the cloud, be it less reliance on the in-house IT team, built-in disaster recovery capabilities, auto updates, lower overheads, and more, are very much applicable to field service suites as well. The priorities may vary, though. Among those who migrate to the cloud, 76% value the scalability and flexibility offered by the cloud as the most compelling reason, and 71% cite easy remote access as a compelling reason.

Over and above such benefits, a cloud-based mobile field service app streamlines disjointed manual processes, and offers seamless workflows, fully customised and integrated with the overall business and process flow. Equipped with a cloud based digital app, a field technician may customise her engagement with the customer, in the context of the relevant business challenges. Real time access to information eliminates the need to go back and forth, accelerating the process, and getting things done quickly.

With APIs and web services becoming the norm. Most cloud-based field service apps work well with the apps already in use. For instance,  53% of companies who operate a cloud-based field service solution also have a cloud-based CRM –  the real-time transmission and updating of data, and accurate tracking further improves process efficiency

Dynamism

A cloud-based app empowers field service technicians like never before. Service technicians can execute and update work orders, request parts, update their schedule, look up manuals, renew maintenance agreements, issue bills, take payments, seek help from experienced resource persons elsewhere, and do more, all in real time. These benefits  speed up processes, and unlock new possibilities for process improvements and customer engagement. Field technicians can also communicate problems more effectively, to keep all stakeholders updated about the status of repairs, inspections, or audits. Such dynamism allows improved productivity,  and often disrupts existing paradigms to  enable new efficiency oriented field inspection models.

Automation

Digital technology enables the rolling out custom forms and reports, and auto-populating many fields, either by tracking previous entries, or even without user intervention, through sensors. When such apps and forms are delivered from the cloud, it can be customized for the specific purpose. For instance, the SaaS suite could leverage the smartphone’s geolocation capabilities, to determine the location of the field service inspector, and deliver the form specific to the location, complete with a snapshot of the history of previous inspections.

A residual benefit of such automation is field service executives being spared of after-hours catch up with the paperwork and filing. With everything updated in real time, all the required forms are customized and generated automatically, eliminating manual paperwork. The resultant efficiency and productivity gains alone is worth the investment required to hook up to the cloud, many times over.

Future Prospects

The future promises, even more automation and integration, and reducing human intervention in the grand scheme of things. Machine-to-machine learning will facilitate seamless communication between the equipment and technician, especially about specific faulty parts, expected life of battery or charge, glitches or malfunctions, and more. The technician hooked up through the cloud, may follow an auto-generated schedule or itinerary, drawn up by considering such factors.

Field services, including quality audits, compliance inspections, service calls, and more are a $15 billion industry. A back of the envelope calculation pegs the number of field service executives worldwide at over twenty million. With over 25 billion devices already connected to the internet, and the number expected to rise to over 50 billion devices by 2020, thanks to the imminent IoT wave, cloud-based mobility is set to surge big time. Enterprises who remain trapped in the pen and paper stone age, or even excel form neolithic age will miss out big time. To ride the wave, partner with a strong provider who understands your exact requirements, and delivers cutting edge customised solutions. ReachOut Suite, with our highly talented team and expertise in executing hundreds of projects cutting across industries, is your best bet in this regards.

Why should you use Custom Management Software to run your Field Service and Repair Operations?

By | Audits and Compliance, Field Service | No Comments

Companies involved in sending staff out for services, such as on-site repair often rely on their ERP system rather than a dedicated repair service software to manage field staff. The reason they claim is cost efficiency, but we believe they are only making matters more complex and expensive in the long run. ERP software is designed to help enterprises have a control over their internal entities. But, for field service companies, the game is altogether on a different horizon that ERP software may not be able to handle even with additional field service plug-in apps. So this is where you invest in dedicated field service software, as it brings several advantages over integrated ERP systems.

Let us see the advantages of a custom software over ERP, to manage your field service operations:

Automation

Field service software can bring about a great deal of automation in the management of workforce. This allows for efficient time management, lesser human resource requirement for work planning and scheduling, more productive workforce and ultimately lowered organizational costs for staff management.

Field Service Automation

Anywhere Anytime Access to Information

The biggest concern for field service operations is the lack of information for field staff in order to rectify faults at customer locations. The information may pertain to hardware or software reconfiguration policies at the customer location or related to potential information about service policies, etc. With dedicated field service software, organizations can offer real-time access to their field agents to acquire information from their centralized information portal. Through designated apps, information can be delegated to the agent’s mobile phone and thus allows the data to be accessed anywhere anytime.

Information collected fast

Work Allocation and Management

Field service applications allow managers to trace service requests and organize schedules for field service associates on the go. Work orders can be easily transmitted to remote workforce technicians according to factors such as their proximity to the customer site, availability, skillset, level of experience and many more. The possibilities are limitless.

Faster Service Delivery

Dedicated repair service software systems can be integrated with navigation features of smartphones and hence can effectively charter work schedules to help customers get their desired services delivered in shorter time spans. Based on traffic conditions, field service software systems are able to route consumer requests to the nearest available remote technician and thus lower transportation and logistics overheads for the company.

Mobile Inspection App

Transparent Billing

With repair service software systems, customers can be easily offered with accurate invoices as soon as technicians or field service agents complete their work rather than traditional invoice generation practices, where the customer gets the bill by post or by email only after the field associate completes the work and returns to the office after duty and provides details of the work carried out. Also this opens up venues for better customer dispute settlement, since work logs are transparent and can be accessed by the concerned team to evaluate bill discrepancies.

Standardisation

With automated workforce management and work progress measurement, it becomes easy to create a well-organized system for carrying out employee evaluation. Performance improvement tips can be offered to field technicians to do their job better and it becomes easier to identify unproductive work schedules or in other words eliminate idle time during office hours.

Work History Access

While on deployment at consumer premises, technicians and field service associates may face situations that they might not have encountered before. However, there might be customers who have encountered similar issue before and the same would have been rectified by other technicians. The rectification measures and the work would have been entered in their work history and with field service management software, this information is easily made available to the new technicians.

Streamline Accountability

With a well-organized mobile workforce, there is no scope for malicious work time management and undue benefits or under cut wages will become inexistent. There is increased visibility into progress of each assigned work and hence it is impossible to tamper with time logs to perform non-billable or non-priority tasks while top priority tasks are in the queue.

Customer Relationships

The customer is ultimately the King for any service oriented company, be it for field services or online or at office services. When you have a dedicated field service management software, it becomes easier for technicians to interact with customers due to the large amount of information they can readily access about the customer, their previous work history, troubleshooting and service tips, extended remote support and much more. Customers, on the other hand, gets faster service, more reliable choices and above all, transparent billing for the service they received. Data collected from customer premises can easily be transferred to centralized CRM systems that help marketing and sales associates to better connect with them for repeat service orders.

Customer Relationship Management
So overall, implementing a dedicated repair service software system is a very crucial step for service companies in order to create a more productive workforce, reduce costs and bolster positive customer relationships. 

Sign up for free and test all the features of ReachOut suite, a simple and easy solution for field service management software

How can Field Service Companies Improve their Turnaround Time with Dedicated Field Service Management Apps?

By | Field Service | No Comments

If your organization is looking forward to managing operations and workforce within a closed work environment, like a factory or production plant, then your ERP software with a customized plug-in or add-on to enable employee communication would be more than enough to facilitate efficient management. However, if your business involves contractual on-site or geographically distributed work orders that require field associates to travel to customer locations to deliver the service, then your ERP may not be the best option for managing them. Same is the situation if you happen to be a company that sells products and services, and has a large workforce of sales associates who are always on the move trying to sell your offerings to potential customers.

For work that is dispersed over a wide geographical area, there is always a need for communication frameworks that allow smooth collaboration, transparent work order management and increased visibility into work progress schedules. As far as sales associates are concerned, they need to be empowered with technology-enabled tools to assist them with information that is vital to close sales deals. Also, they need to constantly communicate with their managers, as well as access customer lead tracking units back in the office that would then provide feedback for marketing campaigns.

Having a custom field management software or app will bring in the desired levels of operational efficiency for sales and marketing staff as well as for their reporting managers. Let us examine a few ways in which a custom field management app can make service delivery faster for field service companies.

Faster Information Access

If we look at the case of a sales personnel, a field assistant app would allow them to access crucial product or service info on the go and hence provide greater insights into how a potential buyer could benefit from the offering. This increases the chance of the sales deal turning into a reality much faster than it would be without an app to assist them. Consumer queries could be directly answered by searching the relevant info on their mobile app rather than having to call product specialists elsewhere to get details. Besides, sales and marketing folks can have instant communication links with their line managers to decide on spot offers and promotions to attract and convert leads into deals quickly. As for field service staff such as on-site engineers, technicians, etc. speedy access to information will allow them to quickly resolve issues at customer locations.

Faster Information Access in field service

Better Resource Allocation

Thanks to easy availability of location information, it would be easier for organizations to allocate field staff that is in close proximity with the customer location. This would reduce costs considerably and also help to resolve customer complaints and issues faster.

Resource Allocation of Field Service Officers

Transparent and Speedy Billing

Field service management apps facilitate transparent communication of work information between managers and field associates. Correct tracking of working hours, availability metrics, accurate resource allocation and other factors allow companies to offer the best deals for consumers in terms of billing. Besides, consumers can be billed in real time at their premise rather than having to wait for days to get the invoice from a centralized billing center. The field service app would transmit necessary data to billing resources to produce real time bills and offer settlement to customers instantly.

Easy and Simple Invoicing for Field Service Work

Targeted Promotions

This is especially true in the case of marketing and sales associates who travel to customer locations. They can collect information about the customer or use information that has already been collected and analyze them to create personalized marketing campaigns on the go. With field apps, checkout processes can be accelerated since it would be very easy for field workers to address consumer queries without leaving their proximity. Thus increased sales is a big advantage offered by field staff management apps.

Targeted Promotions for Customer

 

Improved Accountability

This is in the case of marketing associates who travel to potential customer locations to generate leads for sales. With transparent information access guaranteed by dedicated field service apps, enterprises are able to effectively monitor performance of their field staff. Information such as number of customers surveyed or visited, data collected, genuine sales leads for further follow-ups etc. can be easily tracked using such apps and further utilized to improve performance of associates. This would over time eliminate unproductive travels, lengthy sales cycles and ultimately bring in more revenue for companies from their marketing efforts.

Enterprises that involve in field services as well as those who employ sales and marketing professionals to drive ground sales, will definitely benefit from the convenience and operational efficiency guaranteed by field service management applications. The investments they make for implementing such a dedicated management system will yield results in a very short time period and it is easier to measure ROI in terms of productivity improvements. Rather than causing more load to their organizational ERP software, it would be a wise move to incorporate a dedicated field service management software to help your workforce become more competent.  Contact us to get a demo of ReachOut Suite.

Key Trends in Next Generation Field Service Mobility

By | Field Service | No Comments

The success of any field service support system depends on the remote field technician having access to the right information and data, at the required time, enabling timely action without delays.

The combination of mobility and the right technology offers cutting-edge tools that empower field service technicians in this direction. Here are the key trends in the next generation mobility field software.

Mobile Apps and Software Get Enhanced Features

A mobile app or software enables field service technicians to remain visible and always connected with their office, and exchange information in real time. However, beyond such a basic vanilla app, field service executives are now leveraging next generation mobile solutions to improve their productivity and sync their workflow seamlessly.

The latest field mobility software enable technicians to access the latest information related to performing their tasks, such as the required forms and checklists, technical information on how to conduct audits, and more, on the fly. Field service executives making customer calls also get the latest and relevant information related to their customer. State of the art mobility systems offer real-time access to knowledge and back-end systems, enables accurate data entry, facilitates real-time scheduling and tracks data to execute what is required, without delay. There is also the provision of real-time support for the field executive, from the office. The focus is not just on smoothing workflows, but on delighting customers, with reliable appointment windows, accurate arrival times of technician arrival and real-time status updates.

The cloud plays a critical role in facilitating seamless, field-based collaboration. Today’s field apps have tight back-end integration, facilitating a smooth workflow.

Real Time Tracking Becomes a Norm

The supercharged business environment, where speed is of the essence, places a premium on real-time tracking. About 24% of companies enable real-time tracking of technicians, parts, vehicles, and equipment, to facilitate seamless operations. Side by side, there is improved connectivity between the technician and the office, through mobile VPN, using technologies such as video streams, to facilitate such real-time tracking.
The benefits such real-time tracking and improved connectivity offers are multifold, and include:

  • Ability to get the accurate position of the field executive
  • Ability to diagnose efficiency of the technician in real time
  • Ability to get exception alerts, such as over-speeding or slack by a technician
  • Get updates on the status of work done by field executives, and more.

Embedded Analytics Becomes Popular

In an increasingly data-driven world, the best field service software come embedded with analytical capabilities.

Today’s field service technicians and inspectors collect data from a wide range of sources. IoT is set to churn out more data from machines, customers, products, and other installations. Amidst such data overload, enterprises face the challenge deriving actionable insights. With speed now a critical essence for success, field service technicians and inspectors would require analytical insights from their data in real-time, to avoid productivity destroying delays, or unthinkable repeat visits.

The solution that has caught on is embedding the field mobility software with sophisticated analytical tools, which offer real-time actionable insights to field service technicians and inspectors, and also offer customized and easily consumable reports instantly. Successful field professionals tweak their performance based on the real-time data input, to optimize performance, productivity, and quality.

The Rise of Augmented Reality

Newer technologies are making a deep impact in how work is done, in a big way.  A case in point is Google Glass, which heralds the concept of “Vision as the new Interface.” Here, the field technicians can control other connected devices using gestures and eye movements. Another device that can have a profound impact on how field executives work is the Smart Helmet developed by DAQRI.

These devices allow field technicians and inspectors to access information, drawings, instructions, and schematics in a hands-free mode, improving safety and productivity. Linkage to IoT “things” also delivers timely alerts on changes in key parameters of the devices they are supposed to monitor or service.

Security Become Even More Pressing

Security has always been an issue with mobile apps, but with more and more data and functions now residing on-field mobility devices, security has become a top consideration. Advanced security features, encrypted transmission of data, and a more robust approach to developing code to eliminate vulnerabilities are all now integral part of the app development process, rather than an adjunct.
Effective Security however requires a wider approach. Apart from making the field mobility apps tighter security-wise, there is now a coherent effort to update users with the right tools and protocols, and also educate them on the do’s and don’t’s.

Increased Customization

Servitization, or matching the increasing needs of customers rather than solely selling a product is fast catching up in the mobility space as well. Field mobility platforms are becoming highly customized to solve the pressing needs of specific businesses.

Different stakeholders in the field service dispensation have different uses with the field mobility solution. There may also be different front end apps, to suit managers, technicians, inspectors, and others, closely tied up to an integrated back-end.

A field service manager would want to spend more time on the field, while still keeping in touch with his office, in real time, to remain in control over the pulse of the business, and handle customer complaints or issues remotely. He would also need visibility into the status and operations of all field technicians. Apart from the software that facilitates all these, he would require long battery life, and hence a lightweight app that does not drain too much power. On the other hand, an inspector would require forms and checklists to do his or her job, and also technical information and historical data that allow her to make the correct assessment.

The best approach to successful implementation of a field service platform, fully configured to customer satisfaction, is custom development. Custom development, however, needs to keep up with the fast pace of the changes in actual work processes, changes in regulatory requirements, and other changes in the wider ecosystem. Partnering with ReachOut ensures the delivery of a highly adaptable, flexible and customizable field solutions. ReachOut has the expertise and experience of developing hundreds of field mobility solutions, for companies cutting across all industries.

Multiple Teams, Better Compliance Calculations, Laptop interface for Field Techs!

By | New Feature Release | No Comments

We have a few more weeks until Christmas, but who doesn’t like an early stocking filler! Earlier this week we pushed out a new release with three wonderful features that many of you had requested: The ability to manage multiple teams, additional features for automatic inspection or audit compliance calculation, and laptop access for field technicians.

Managing multiple teams:

If your business is organized into different teams, you may want to give each team the autonomy to manage their own work orders and inspections. You may also want to control access across teams. As you grow larger, you may simply want to assign items to team leads, who can then manage their own day to day operations- while you still retain visibility and control of all operations. This is what our new feature, “Teams”,  enables.

Create multiple teams

In ReachOut, teams are a subset of people in your account. When you add a new user,  you can now mark them as a team lead. Head to the team sections to create a new team by choosing the team lead and adding field techs in the team. You can now assign inspection tasks and work orders to team leads, who can in turn assign them to their own team.
This feature may also be useful for those of you who may not be organized into multiple teams at present. For example: Adding your sub-contracted staff to another team can provide a separation for easy management of contract staff by a different supervisor, Staff executing AMC inspections can be managed separately from technicians executing jobs and work orders, Staff with different skillsets or serving different areas could be managed separately by different team leaders.

Inspection baselines: Weighted compliance

When we first released the Inspections feature, you could add a baseline to a form. The baseline for a form determined the compliance percentage for each inspection conducted using that form. While creating a baseline, you could indicate whether a specific option was counted as compliant or non-compliant.
With this release, we are taking this a step further. Not only can you indicate whether an option is compliant or non-compliant, you can also provide the degree of compliance. For e.g.  Your Supplier compliance questionnaires may include questions like “ Does the supplier regularly execute audits for their own suppliers and vendors?” with options like:

  1. Yes, all suppliers and vendors are audited
  2. Yes, most suppliers and vendors are audited
  3. Only key suppliers and vendors are audited, most aren't
  4. Some suppliers and vendors are audited, but a few key suppliers are not.
  5. No audits are performed

Option 1 indicates that the supplier is compliant while option 5 is clearly non-compliance. However options 2, 3 and 4 indicate varying degrees of compliance.

  • Option 1 - 100%
  • Option 2  - 75%
  • Option 3 - 50%
  • Option 4 - 25%
  • Option 5 - 0%

These can now be added to ReachOut.

Compliance percentage for Inspections

If you use a points based system, these can easily be converted to percentages and used in the new Baseline tool. Happy inspecting!

Web access for field technicians

A few of you wanted the ability to complete inspections on your laptops, instead of having to use a an Android or iOS smartphone. Well, with this release, you can work with both inspections and work orders from your laptops. You don’t need to download and install any new software. Simply access reachoutsuite.com and access the “Go to my App” button on the top right. You can use the same username and password ( which you use for your smartphone app) to log in to the web application. Inspections and Work orders can now be executed from your browser! This feature works on all modern browsers, including the latest versions of Chrome, Safari and Edge (Windows 10).

If you have already subscribed to ReachOut will receive this upgrade at no additional cost!

What’s next?

We are planning to release some exciting upgrades to the work orders /jobs feature. These include upgrades to both the web application and the mobile application. That’s right! More goodies coming your way before Christmas 🙂

 

Field Inspectors: Start 2017 With a Bang!

By | Field Service | No Comments

“Ring out the old, ring in the new.” Field service inspectors cutting across sectors and industries can take inspiration from this quintessential A.L. Tennyson quote to start 2017 with a bang, leaving all the clutter, inefficiencies, and rut behind.
However, while intent is one thing, realizing it is a different ball game altogether. Here are some tips to achieve excellence in your field inspection efforts.

“Sharpen the Saw”

Most of the field inspections that take place are for statutory compliance or audits, to meet quality standards. Either way, reports are integral to the process, and such reports need to invariably confine to strict formats and have accurate measurements. A successful field inspector spends considerable time “sharpening the saw” or equipping themselves with the requirements of the inspection or audit, gathering the correct forms, understanding the nature of input required, and having a clear cut idea as to how to approach the inspection in a way that would enable realization of the objectives in the quickest and easiest way.
The tricky part is keeping abreast of the latest requirements. Regulations and requirements are fluid, and just as business processes, these too keep on changing. If you are a field inspector looking to excel in your work, you need to keep yourself attuned to the “in-thing” and the latest developments in your niche. Trade journals, popular online forums, and website of regulatory bodies are good starting points.

Audit Software

Go Tech Savvy in Data Collection

Going tech savvy should rank very high on the list of a field inspector’s New Year resolutions.

Data runs central to the scheme of things in inspections and audits. The success of field inspectors depends on collecting accurate and quality data. Developments in technology already make data collection easy. Emerging technologies such as IoT sensors offer scope to unlock even more types of data and automate to the next level. However, inspectors still have to setup and configure such technologies. Going tech savvy, to leverage the possibilities offered by not just IoT, but also GPS and other technologies should rank high on the agenda of an inspector looking to make 2017 more productive and efficient.

Capture of data is only one part of the equation. Processing the collected data is equally important, yet often overlooked. The best approach for today’s field inspectors is to upload the collected data into a cloud-based repository, allowing other stakeholders to follow up on the findings, and conversely for the inspector to start off seamlessly from where the previous inspector left.

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Understand the Larger Picture

Data is rarely collected for the sake of it. There is often an underlying reason for why the data is required. Having a sound understanding of the primary nature of the business, and the basic safety best practices place the inspector in good stead in executing the job to perfection.
For instance, pole inspectors seek out damaged or overloaded poles to prevent such poles falling down and harming lives. Likewise, food safety inspectors need to have a sound understanding of the conservation measures in farming operations, to understand the risk assessment strategies adopted and advocated by farmers. They would also need to assess risks such as pathogens coming from a livestock area, and conduct any corrective actions to address underlying problems, for which they require a high degree of conceptual awareness.

Be Aware of the “Smaller Picture”

While understanding the larger picture offers loads of benefits, inspectors, especially those dealing with statutory compliance require precise “yes” or “no” answers. For instance, if personal hygiene has been compromised as part of a new process, the inspector will have to mark an “unsatisfactory” report and seek change, regardless of the long-term benefits the new method may bring about.

Apart from clear cut checklists to identify unacceptable conditions, the inspector also needs to engage with the stakeholders to convince them of the situation, answer questions, and often assist farmers or others with countermeasures to mitigate the unacceptable situation. Excellent communication skills and even negotiation skills can put the inspector in good stead.

Invest in Collaboration

Success often requires teamwork. Effective field inspection requires not just the right tools, but also experience that comes with handling several cases and issues, and expertise in solving complex cases that one encounters during the course of the work. An effective system to collaborate with experienced field inspectors, making field inspection a team effort, offers rich dividends.

Develop an Inspection App

The need of the hour is a good inspection app that reduce vexing paperwork, offers field inspector knowledge on best practices and up to date information related to the field, automatically generates and populates compliance and audit reports, facilitate seamless collaboration with team members, generates workflows and checklists, access previous reports and studies, and much more. Scheduling is also an integral part of the job, with many inspections to take place unannounced.

Inspection App

 

With our expertise spanning several projects, cutting across industries, be it food, automobile, or any other domain, where we have automated many complex and knotty situations, we are best poised to offer cutting edge field inspection software and solutions, customized to your needs. Partnering with us is guaranteed to enhance the efficiency and productivity of your field inspection interventions.

A Food Inspection App for Easier FDA and DEFRA Approval

By | Audits and Compliance, Food Inspections | No Comments

Any business that prepares food, or is into agriculture, is subject to regulations and inspections for compliance with the relevant food laws. Inspectors aim to safeguard public health by evaluating the premises, the type of food being made,  the work methods, and the food safety management measures in place. They may also check the description of the food on the menu or food labelling for accuracy.

Food Safety meeting DEFRA standards

 

Inspections and licensing of restaurants and grocery stores are typically handled by local and county health departments. However, FDA serves as a scientific and technical consultant to state and local regulatory agencies by publishing the FDA Food Code, which sets forth model provisions for keeping food safe in restaurant, cafeteria, and institutional food operations.

Whereas in the UK and Northern Ireland, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is the major government department responsible for setting standards and regulations related to food and farming industries. DEFRA guidelines call for inspections in establishments that produce and serve food. The nature of the inspection can vary, and the specific inspection activities may include taking samples and photographs of the food, inspecting records, seizing suspect foods, and issue notice seeking specific improvements. 

Compliance is a serious business, with non-compliance making the enterprise liable for a criminal offence. Inspectors, responsible for overseeing the compliance of several enterprises are often left hassled trying to track the state of the compliance in so many enterprises, and issuing notices.

An inspection app can make life easy for food inspectors in so many ways. Here are some:

Proactive Compliance

Delivering a checklist of FDA and DEFRA approved requirements through the app allows employees and other stakeholders to indulge in proactive compliance, to accelerate the certification. For instance, the app could issue timely alerts on some of the most common or likely violations, such as improper hot and cold holding temperatures, incorrectly stored equipment, linen or utensils, issues related to cleaning, issues related to plumbing and drainage, incorrect usage of toxic substances, and more. Such alerts help pre-empt the problem or nipping issues in the bud..Food Audit Checklist

Paperless Inspections

An inspection app enables paperless inspection, sparing the need to carry notepads, checklists, forms, sign-off sheets or cameras. The resultant accuracy and reduced paperwork boosts productivity and reduces costs. Data stored in the cloud, accessible from anywhere, by any authorised user, at any time boosts process efficiency in a big way.  

Food Inspection Audit

Capture Issues

Recording the inspection in real-time, leveraging the camera, barcode scanner and other features of the smartphone improves record keeping, helps to highlight issues, and generate detailed reports.

Inspection Checklist on Mobile

Raise Tickets for Flagged Issues

The inspection app can keep track of the instructions issued by the inspector. An intuitive app would generate a checklist based on the compliance requirement, complete with a process flow deadlines, and reminders. For instance, if the inspection discovers an exposed electrical wiring in the kitchen, the app takes a photo, annotate it, and pinpoint the area needing attention.  The app then sends out to-do lists, issue timely reminders, and make a follow-up to specific stakeholders responsible for compliance. Each issue could be raised as a ticket and tracked to its logical conclusion, across workflows.

Auto-Generate Reports

The inspection app could auto-generate forms and checklists based on FDA and DEFRA guidelines, and also for internal audits, sparing valuable times creating the process manually. An intuitive field inspection suite standardise complex forms to make data entry easy and then populate such forms automatically.

Improved Visibility

The inspection app gives instant visibility and access to all inspection reports and related materials. Such reports offer valuable data, and visualising such data offers scope for improving internal processes, while remaining compliant at the same time. The analytics and reporting capability of the app makes explicit audit summaries, trends, and areas for improvement. It enables taking informed decisions, and tracking the status of safety and quality issues instantly.

Appeals

In many instances, the establishment would prefer to go in for an appeal against an FDA or DEFRA inspector’s requirements. FDA and DEFRA lay down a formal appeals process, with the establishment encouraged to contact the head of environmental health or trading standards services at the local authority, in a bid to resolve the problem through a meeting. The materials recorded using the inspection app comes in handy to track what exactly took place in the inspection. The app could also draw into the establishment’s database to confirm or refute the charges.

Marketing

The food inspection app can double up as a good marketing tool as well. Publishing the results of the inscription brings in much-needed transparency into the functioning of the food kitchen, and is the perfect way to assure patrons about the quality of the food and the establishments.

The investment for rolling out an inspection app pays back for itself within a few months, considering the manifold benefits on offer. However, the success of an inspection app depends on a sound design, and how well it is synced with the specific requirements and nature of the establishment. It pays to partner with ReachOut, which has a track record of executing field inspection and auditing app and software  for a host of establishments cutting across sectors.

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Mobile Field Inspection Software

By | Insights | No Comments

We live in the age of smart-watches that tell us how many steps we’ve taken, calories we’ve burnt, give us notifications from our phones etc. And yet the field inspection industry has been rather hesitant in embracing technology to make use of its full potential. In this article lets go over a few reasons why field service management companies may find it difficult to move to the new world order of mobile phones and web apps.

Inertia

One of the major hurdles in the widespread adoption of technology in the field inspection industry is the inertial tendency of habit. It is difficult to change the way things are routinely done. There is obviously the discomfort associated with the transition phase when employees and administrators have to relearn the techniques used to perform tasks, that they used to do with ease earlier, out of habit. But besides that, there is the very real economic cost of downtime associated with the transition period, when the system is being installed as well when productivity drops while the workings are being learned.

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Usability

Physical forms are intuitive and easy to use, we’ve been using them for centuries. It’s easy to quickly jot down observations, make notes etc on a handy piece of paper, there’s a reason that 3M’s Post-it notes became a runaway success once people got their hands on them.

Nowadays though, the handheld electronic mobile device is ubiquitous. It is, as a matter of fact more likely that one would have a mobile device at hand than paper to take some notes on today! When dealing with physical forms though, obviously dedicated forms are used for the recording of information and not a scrap of paper found at hand. It would however make the process of recording information much easier on the agent involved if the forms are stored on a digital device and possibly the agent’s own device as per the BYOD philosophy.

The process of actually filling out the forms and recording the data, are currently at about the same level of difficulty; writing or drawing on physical forms and keying in text or drawing onto a device screen. Most people nowadays are not only well accustomed to using a virtual keyboard on a device screen to enter text but are fairly adept at it too.

Bottleneck

When the information has to be used however, things change. The data on physical forms has to be fed into a digital system, since we use digital systems nowadays. They have to be painstakingly entered which is a cumbersome process. This is a major bottleneck in the process as no other work can be done until this information is entered. The physical forms have to be brought or sent to the location where the data can be entered as well for this to happen.
Alternatively, when it comes to software, the data is entered into a digital system at the beginning of the process. This digital data can be automatically synchronised with the back end or even just sent electronically if it has to be sent in as well. Thus the data is instantly sent back for reports to be created or for any other purpose eliminating that bottleneck altogether.

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Archival and retrieval

Forms often have to be pulled up for reference in the future and archiving them properly can make this process swift. Physical forms need to be stored physically and indexed properly for reference to be an option in the future. They take up a lot of space and need an enormous amount of sifting whenever information is to be retrieved.

The same task in the digital realm is uberously simpler. The data can be archived to be stashed out of view for daily activities, but when retrieval of information is required, a simple search string could be used to pull it up given that the entries are all indexed.

Added functionality

Digitally acquiring data would also mean that images can be added directly to the form data for a clearer picture to be obtained of what is being inspected.

Automated reminders can be generated and sent to both agents as well as administrators informing them of pending inspections that are nearing their due date. Agents can also receive push notifications on their devices  that will inform them of tasks assigned as they get assigned to them.

The digitizing of data at the onset has the added benefit of automation; when data is entered digitally, the data can be reformatted and reports comprising the data can be generated automatically. Software systems would speed up the entire process manifold.

Another added benefit is that the mundane, repetitive tasks that agents previously dreaded doing, will be made much simpler if not allowing them to completely avoid doing them altogether, thus giving them more productive time to thoroughly complete their inspection tasks.

Wrapping up

Sorting, retrieval, archival, etc all take merely seconds to do rather than being the laborious process that they would be in the case of physical forms. At the end of the day, moving to a digital, mobile field inspection software solution may take a little time and effort to do, but will be worth the investment.