Posted tagged ‘field service’

Providing Mobile Devices for Service Employees: Mixing Business and Pleasure

September 26, 2013

I have a dear friend who is a retired teacher, a former “Teacher of the Year” in Santa Clara County. One of his pet peeves is hearing business people talk about how easy it would be to overhaul public schools if only they would “run their schools like a business.” From this I’ve learned not to offer much advice in the area of education, since I have no expertise in this area. However, after reading today about how Los Angeles schools are having a crisis because it took just a week for nearly 300 students who got iPads from their high school to figure out how to alter the security settings so they could surf the web and access social media sites, I had to weigh in.

With apologies to my friend Matt, I have to say: schools should really take a lesson from business on this issue.

One of the biggest trends over the last 2 years has been the adoption of smartphones and tablet devices by technology firms, providing their field service employees with mobile devices and applications. Armed with these tools, field techs have real-time access to corporate info, entitlement data, trouble shooting videos, knowledgebases, and collaboration tools so employees can easily interact with team members when stuck on a problem.

I’ve had conversations with dozens of companies wondering if they should “lock” the devices to limit personal use of the web, email, social channels, etc. I think this is a terrible idea, and let me tell you why.

One of the greatest examples I’ve seen about this came from ServiceMax, a cloud based field service automation provider, who I’ve frequently written about because they have the sexiest iPad application for service I’ve seen to date. Making a decision to roll out iPads to your field techs is not that different from making a decision to roll them out to high schoolers: the devices are very expensive, and these users are hard on devices. A major hurdle companies must overcome is how do we get the users to treat the devices with care, using them as needed for work while making sure they aren’t cracking screens and demanding replacements every week?

For one ServiceMax customer, this was an easy problem to solve, and the model they used is one I recommend frequently to companies starting this journey. In the initial rollout, this tech firm bought 500 iPads for their field team. With the cheapest iPad with wifi/cellular connection costing $629, this was a $30,000 expense even before you add on extended warranties and sales tax. How did they make sure the employees would take care of the devices so they would last in the rough-and-tumble world of field workers?  Here’s what they did:

Instead of trying to block access to capabilities of the iPad not required for their job, they got all the field techs together, gave them all a brand new iPad, and said, “These are your babies. If you want to check your personal email or browse a website, knock yourself out. If you want to use the device at home for games or social media, knock yourself out. But you are responsible for these devices. Take care of them as you would a personal device. As long as you use the tool to do your job, we’ll let you use it for your personal use as well.”

As a result, the workers felt like they were getting a bonus. Not only were they quick to adopt and use the ServiceMax iPad application for receiving their appointments and logging work performed, they bent over backwards to take care of the devices and protect them from damage.

If you think blocking iPad capabilities is keeping employees (or students) focused on work, don’t be ridiculous. They have their personal smartphones they can use to access the web or social media any time they want. What you are actually doing is giving them a $629 device which they will resent, and not treat well. As a result, you will see lower adoption of the device and applications, you will have a much higher rate of lost and damaged devices, and a much more expensive and less effective mobile program in the long term. In other words, get ready to hear, “My dog ate my iPad.”

My advice to the LA schools is this: if you want to tightly control how students use mobile devices, buy them calculators. They only cost 99 cents at Walgreens. If you want to mobile-enable your students, establish rules about the use of internet and social during school hours–on any device–and stick to it. But don’t give them this amazing tool and then say, “You can’t use it to do what it was designed for.”

I also think Apple and Google should be talking to these students. Sounds like you have some great future engineers ready for internships.

BTW, I’ll be speaking at the ServiceMax Maximize conference next week in San Francisco at the Westin St. Francis, hope to see you there! And as always, thanks for reading!

Three Predictions for 2013: Self-service scheduling, BYOD impacts, Real-time collaboration

January 7, 2013

Oh, January is here, and everybody in high tech with a byline is publishing their 2013 predictions. How can I resist joining the herd? Here are my top 3 predictions for service-related technology topics in 2013:

  • Self-service scheduling. NCR takes credit for inventing the concept of self-service with the advent of the electronic teller in the 60s. When was the last time you waited on line in a bank? Tech support has been successfully moving customers to self-service for more than a decade. I think 2013 will see customers demand that the self-service laggard….field service….finally join the revolution, allowing customers to schedule their own appointment times online. Rarely seen in B2C, and unheard of in B2B, with more field support organizations adopting robust scheduling and dispatch platforms, opening up appointment scheduling to end users is a natural progression, and early adopters will get a lot of press–and customer goodwill–for making the effort.
  • BYOD impacts. Tablet and smartphone sales now account for some 40 percent of spending on electronics worldwide, with sales of laptops and desktops shrinking each year. I keep hearing more about “Bring your own device,” or BYOD, meaning companies assume both employees and customers are armed with the latest gadgets and the pressure is on IT to be sure all corporate data and applications can be easily and cleanly accessed via mobile devices. This means a lot of infrastructure improvements, massive UI overhauls, and companies beginning to compete on how well they deliver the customer experience to mobile users. This isn’t just about trying to be cool, either. With a new breed of young, fickle Wall Street analysts doing all their research via Blackberries and iPhones, some big legacy brands will start taking it in the shorts when they see buy recommendations downgraded because corporate websites are not easily navigable via a mobile device.
  • Real-time collaboration. Salesforce Chatter has made company-wide collaboration a breeze. Community platforms such as Jive are putting a big emphasis on making internal collaboration simple and effective. Vendors such as enterprise search specialist Coveo have introduced the concept of expertise management, making it easy to identify an expert on any topic, product or feature. With high planned spending for the last 2 years on collaboration tools, I think in 2013 we will finally begin to see examples of company (and maybe even customer) experts being pulled into real-time collaborations about critical customer issues. The tools are ready, all we need now is the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, and I think with growing numbers of younger collab-minded workers entering the workforce, 2013 will be the year we see real progress toward making this a support standard.

What are your predictions? Please add a comment and keep the conversation going! And as always, thanks for reading.

ClickSoftware’s New Release Radically Improves the Customer Experience

January 15, 2009

When I speak with field service organizations, they often ask me how to improve customer satisfaction.  My first response is always the same: give me a specific appointment time, not a window, and keep me updated on the arrival time.  The usual response is:  we can’t do that.  So I was thrilled today to hear about the new product from ClickSoftware, a leading provider of mobile workforce management and service optimization solutions, and a long time AFSMI partner, which I think is the first step to overhauling field service’s view of the customer experience.

Today’s announcement from ClickSoftware is the launch of ClickContact, a new solution for customer interaction management and the newest addition to the Company’s ServiceOptimization Suite. ClickContact offers a number of out-of-the-box features to help service organizations improve customer service by facilitating better communication with customers. Starting with appointment booking, the solution enables service organizations to offer customers the option of self-service appointment booking via the Internet–a huge plus for Web savvy customers.

Customer self-service appointment booking

Customer self-service appointment booking

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ClickSoftware brings real-time field scheduling to utilities, telco, tech and now…The Olympics!

July 15, 2008

Field service scheduling has come a long way since the days of printing out a route sheet at the beginning of the shift with the field tech’s entire day already planned. In preparation for various Green Support projects I have in the hopper for Fall, I had an update briefing today with ClickSoftware, whose solutions are helping companies drive up field tech productivity, increase appointments per shift, and decrease miles driven to lower the carbon footprint of field service operations.

Five years ago it seemed the CRM vendors were going to take the lead in mobile and field service solutions, but that never came to pass.  As CRM/ERP players began to focus solely on platforms, we stopped hearing about mobile devices and real-time scheduling from most of them, and that lack of focus opened the door for specialists.  This is well demonstrated in ClickSoftware’s revenues, which have been growing steadily, with 23% growth in 2007, and guidance of 20-25% revenue growth in 2008.  ClickSoftware has partnered with some CRM providers to provide ‘out of box’ integrations, including Microsoft CRM and SAP’s Netweaver. 

Today ClickSoftware’s revenue is evenly split between North America and Europe, though now with offices in Japan and partners across India and China, they are seeing rapid growth in Asia/Pac as well. (more…)