The utility industry faces challenges on multiple fronts. Threat from competitors, human resource shortage, increasingly fickle and demanding customers, regulatory pressures, and more pose stiff challenges. In today’s tech neutral age, human resources are often the key differentiator among companies and the major source of competitive advantage. This is more so in utilities, where field personnel are the ones in direct contact with the customer. They are also responsible for core operations such as laying out basic infrastructure, establishing new connections, disconnections, and regular maintenance. Here is how field service software aids the utility companies and its workforce, facilitating great improvements and delivering exceptional customer experience.
1. Live Tracking
Uberization of the service sector is now a reality. Stakeholders, ranging from the top management to customers and even support staff themselves prefer live updates. GPS enabled field management software, delivered as intuitive mobile apps to the customer and other stakeholders facilitates such live tracking features.
The customer’s app makes explicit the location of the assigned technician and predicts ETA accurately. The supervisor’s app offers insight into all field-level activities, enabling them to keep an eye on their staff anytime, anywhere. The top management gets a birds-eye view of the entire gamut of field operations as it unfolds, enabling greater control. Strategists and planners derive valuable trends and insights, including identifying perennial bottlenecks fit for proactive intervention.
A field management suite converts scheduling from an inexact science to a tool that delivers powerful advantages.
2. Real-Time Analytics
With emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and artificial intelligence, field management personnel can perform their jobs in a much faster and better way than before. This new approach leverages analytics to turn the concept of maintenance upside-down, from repairs to prevention.
Field service software equipped with analytic capabilities turns the copious amount of generated data into actionable insights in real-time.
The Internet of Things (IoT), which connects billions of products across the globe, unlocks valuable insights for the technician. Connected sensors on vehicles, towers, substations, tanks, machinery, and other equipment constantly monitor the “health” of the asset and trigger abnormal behavior, low consumables, or other indicators to predict when it might fail.
The interconnected field management suite sets off automatic alerts and schedules proactive maintenance. Water and gas utilities use IoT gauges on storage tanks at customer premises to forecast gas needs and optimize delivery times. Machine learning algorithms allow service providers to forecast equipment performance with a high level of accuracy.
Smart utilities leverage such insights to make improvements such as optimizing technician travel routes, reduce technician idle-time, issue predictive alerts about impending failures, anticipate upcoming work, improve maintenance schedules based on commonalities, deploy back-up resources fast when needed, and in overall optimize the entire service chain radically.
3. Improved Automation
Field service software, integrated with core enterprise systems, automates several key tasks, delivering multiple all-round benefits.
Machines and equipment powered by IoT sensors generate tickets in the Field Service Management system automatically, whenever there is a divergence of readings from the mean. The ticket, in turn, generates a work task automatically, assigning the best available technician depending on the characteristics of the case. The digitally endowed field workers, along with other stakeholders such as the customer, get alerts in real-time.
On arrival at the site, the digital field workers use augmented reality goggles to get a deeper and in-depth view of the machinery, with annotations. The field service software makes explicit the service history, customer preferences and all other finer details. The collaborative component in-built to the suite allows the field worker to contact other technicians, or issue shutdown warnings easily.
4. Customer-Centric Approach
Today’s highly competitive business environment forces utilities to regard customer delight seriously. However, while 79% of utilities believe themselves to be customer-centric, the converse is not true. Only 7% of consumers believe their utilities are customer-centric.
Field management suites, delivered to the customer through intuitive mobile app interfaces, make the customer part of the process. Such apps allow the customer to track key metrics, get bills, make payments, schedule service requests, view service logs, make settings, or contact customer care for any issue or clarifications, live-track the technician, and do more.
5. Tapping into the Gig Economy
Deploying field service management suite allows utilities to tap into the “gig” economy, which is the favor of the millennials. Many utility providers track and control temporary and part-time workers effectively through the field management suite. The suite allows easy scale-up to meet seasonal demands or new market demands, or even use freelance talent to serve hard-to-reach areas.
The International Energy Agency estimates more than one billion households and 11 billion smart appliances to join interconnected electricity systems by 2040. Field management suite is no longer a luxurious bell and whistle, but a critical cog in the operations of utility companies.
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.