7 Ways Field Services Can Keep From Hitting Rock Bottom During A Pandemic
Beyond a public health emergency, a pandemic like COVID-19 creates havoc over the stability of the world economy. Millions of people across the world face lockdown or quarantine, with many manufacturing units shutting down, offices closed, and supply chains disrupted. Oxford Economics, a leader in global forecasting and quantitative analysis predicts that the global economy will shrink at a faster pace, with a 2% fall in the world GDP during Q1 of 2020. The bitter situations cough up new challenges for field service businesses. Affected by the scarcity of resources, field service providers need to make necessary adjustments to pricing, inventory, and customer services. Here are the 7 top tips for field service businesses to save their bottom line.
Related Reading: How Field Service Software Aids Contingency Planning and Management
1. Purchase supplies now
For many businesses, supply chain disruption is a common reality. A survey by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) discloses that around 75% of companies have experienced supply chain disruptions due to the breakout of COVID-19.
The better workaround in this situation is to buy supplies when you still can. Do not wait for inventories to fall low before re-ordering, as in normal times. Maximize your inventory levels.
Since we are in the age of global supply chain, material shortages, factory shutdowns, or transport bans in one country can lead to shortages in your area. Even when situations improve, it may take some time for the supply chain to normalize and become stable.
Aim for an inventory to tide over three months, to tide over the worst of the fallout.
2. Diversify suppliers
Explore alternative sources for inputs. Re-evaluate suppliers that were rejected as unviable. A higher price or a longer wait trumps the shutdown of operations because of the lack of spares or supplies.
Focus on local manufacturers and providers as alternative sources. Diversification of suppliers will give you a better chance to improve your stocks.
3. Manage inventories
A pandemic crisis underscores the need to manage inventory more than ever before. Every part saved or every consumable not wasted adds up in the time of shortages and high prices.
A good field service management suite with a robust inventory management feature enables:
- Real-time tracking of inventory
- Planning business activities around stock levels
- Formulating workarounds to avoid resources (supplies) that are scarce
4. Carefully monitor the demand
The outbreak of a pandemic poses both supply-side and demand-side challenges for field service professionals.
As major cities and countries go for a complete lockdown, field service businesses find it challenging to deliver their promised services. Likewise, the customers might need field services, but are unable to order or make requests.
It’s advisable to monitor customer demands carefully at this point. You can offer vouchers for canceled service, with a promise to undertake the service as soon as possible, and at the customer’s convenience.
You should also consider options for reducing costs if demand reduces. A feature-rich field service management suite like ReachOut Suite allows you to manage both supply-side and demand-side issues with ease.
5. Manage customer service
Field service businesses need to pay special attention to customer support during a pandemic crisis.
Keep in touch with your regular customers, and update them on the live situation.
Customized chatbots and automated responses to reflect the latest situation. If possible, hire extra hands to serve customer service lines. Monitor emails and social media accounts and improve your responses. Explain the reason for any increase in prices.
Related Reading: Keeping Your Field Service Customers Satisfied In The Digital Era
6. Take care of your workforce
The greatest asset of any field service business is its personnel. The onus is on the business to protect their workforce in the time of grave health hazards. Infected or affected employees impact the bottom line significantly.
Make provisions for non-field staff to work from home. Prepare a work-from-home plan, detailing the procedures. The field service app should offer the facility to collaborate and execute work from any remote location.
Here are a few useful tips for effective work from home/ remote working:
- Chalk out an action plan detailing the precautions and procedures for field operations.
- Provide protective equipment such as gloves, masks, tissues, and sanitizers to field staff.
- Enforce a policy of maintaining social distancing even when at work.
- Make it mandatory to clean hands with sanitizers after each contact. Clean and disinfect the vehicles after each trip.
- Communicate with staff through the field service app and text messages.
- Send push notifications to field staff on the latest health updates.
- Remind them to take basic precautions such as cleaning hands and social distance.
- Pass on vetted messages from WHO and other credible health agencies, to prevent the spread of misinformation.
- Review the applicable workmen’s compensation statute for the treatment of sick employees.
7. Pay attention to finances
A pandemic outbreak places a strain on businesses. Most businesses find their finances stretched and their cash flow in disarray.
Review insurance policies for business closures, trip cancellations, rent, salaries, and other expenses. Arrange with the bank or tap into savings for any extra line of financing, if required. This is important to keep the business afloat if demand dries down due to lockdowns, and to get extra inventory.
Have a cash flow plan in place. Stay updated on the various aids, grants, and loans announced by the government. Businesses that have been unable to operate owing to lockdowns may be eligible for government aid, grants, wage subsidy or tax cuts.
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has taken decisive action to offer disaster assistance loans to make small businesses resilient to Coronavirus-related economic disruptions. Stay updated on the latest news and apply for such benefits after proper evaluation.
During a pandemic, it is also time for field service providers to identify their business flaws and rethink their operational strategies. Once the health crisis is overcome and normalcy is restored, every business – small, medium and large – will have to face severe competition from their opponents. Only businesses that stand strong and navigate the critical period will be able to reap the advantages.
ReachOut Suite is at your disposal, during any hazardous time. Contact us to know more about how ReachOut can help you plan your fieldwork schedules and assist your administrative/ clerical staff seamlessly during the period of a nationwide pandemic.
ReachOut: Inspection & Work Order Management Software
Do you still use paper or Excel spreadsheets to manage your service business? ReachOut is a web and mobile solution for companies to schedule, dispatch and deliver inspections, work orders, ticketing and more.