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Derek Bryan, director of Fleetmatics, explains how service engineering departments can take advantage of the benefits mobile working has to offer through using field service management technology.

According to industry analyst Gartner, the percentage of technicians with wireless access to formal packaged field service management solutions will increase from 12 per cent to 40 per cent over the next two years.

By using such software, service departments can better manage their field-based engineers by automating service call management, job dispatch, signature capture and invoicing through one integrated system, according to Bryan.

In addition, field service departments can increase visibility and productivity, reduce overheads, ensure a faster receipt of payment and increase customer satisfaction by enabling engineers to complete multiple (and often complex) forms relating to a specific job on a Smartphone, personal digital assistant or other mobile device.

Bryan believes that mobile phones are now more capable than ever of contributing to engineering businesses’ bottom lines because of how the telecommunications and mobile sectors have evolved over the years.

For example, there is a large selection of affordable devices, data and call packages available.

A mobile device should, perhaps, be viewed as a compulsory tool that forms part of an engineer’s modern-day tool belt and something that can help businesses communicate and manage staff more efficiently and cost effectively.

There are many useful applications for service engineers to use – such as navigation software, document readers and email – but of the applications available to service-engineering-led businesses field service management technology is key, as it allows businesses to better manage their service desks and teams of remote engineers.

Typically, the service desk is managed centrally using sophisticated job scheduling technology.

From here the service desk sends jobs and instructions to service engineers’ mobile devices; the service engineers then receive, accept and action their jobs from their phones without the need for paper forms.

At the highest level, field service management technology allows the businesses to have more visibility over their engineers and job statuses and allows service desks to plan and split their teams’ workloads more efficiently using the service desk management software.

It also allows businesses to minimise productivity losses from engineers coming to the office to collect job sheets or parts, as job sheets are stored, completed and then sent back to the service desk via the mobile device.

Another benefit to businesses is that, because job forms are stored on the device, engineers can complete them as soon as a job is finished – even if they are out of signal range, such as in a lift or a basement – and send them back to their service desk immediately so that they can be checked and invoiced, speeding up the billing process and increasing cash flow.

The technology also helps businesses that are trying to reduce the amount of paper they use and, because of the benefits of electronic signature capture, the entire job dispatch and completion process is shortened and recorded more efficiently.

It helps reduce any awkward inaccuracies that may have previously been recorded as a result of using paper systems, including bad handwriting.

Another benefit of a strong field service management solution is its reporting capabilities: it should allow business owners to take a holistic view of how their company is performing in real time according to the type of work that engineers are carrying out – for example, letting them see which engineers are performing well or what jobs and clients are profitable.

This provides them with the knowledge they need so that they can make informed decisions about their business operations.

In the right context, mobile phones are multipurpose tools capable of enhancing communication, boosting productivity, accelerating cash flow, reducing overheads and improving customer service, according to Bryan.

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