Make automation easy for your field service team

Have you convinced your company that field service automation was a smart move to make? Maybe it was a hard sell, so congratulations! Maybe they were already on board. Either way, you’ve now got to repay your colleagues’ or employee’s trust by making the changeover as easy and smooth as possible.

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Fighting resistance in your quest to automate

Back in January, I showed you why field service automation is a great idea. If you’re still not using a tool like Synchroteam, though, something’s obviously gone wrong.

Roadblock!

You’ve hit a roadblock.

This roadblock is most likely coming from somewhere else in the company. Obviously, if you’re the one reading these articles, agreeing with me, and trying to convince your co-workers to do the same, then the hold-up is coming from somewhere else. Where?

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Millennials in field service – are you ready?

Back at the end of 2014, Business Insider published a report on millennials – the generation that comes after Generation X – and it made quite the impact. Such an impact, in fact, that now, nearly 6 months after publication, people are still talking about it. And guess what? So am I.

I’ll admit it, I have an outside interest – I am one. But I’m also here to tell you that although their sometimes negative perception can seem to be at odds with field service, millennials can be just as at home in FSM as they can in any other industry, even ones that seem a whole lot more glamorous.

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May 13th release: multi-job mode and status log

Updates in this release 

Projects ( or Multi-Job mode): We have added the notion of Projects to Synchroteam. It allows you to specify a job sequence and monitor progress for the set. You can define Project Types, and each will have a default Job Sequence. For example, you can create a “Standard Project” type that requires a sequence of four jobs:  Pre-visit, Installation, Quality Control and Post-visit. Any new “Standard Project” you create will use this sequence. Once a project is created, you can decide to add or remove jobs from the sequence (this does not impact the default Multi-job sequence). Each job can be scheduled and managed independently, and can refer to differing skill sets. We also provide a progress indicator for an at-a-glance view of work advancement.

Job sequence setting

Job sequence setting

 

Job sequence advancement

Job sequence advancement

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technician Status Log: From the mobile application, the technician can complete his daily schedule by logging events, such as: Start of day, In transit, At the office, Lunch break, etc. This new function also allows your techs to enter periods of unavailability, like vacation or sick days.

New Connector – XERO: Automatically send invoice data to your Xero account from Synchroteam. Xero.com is a provider of online accounting software.

 

Improvements

Customer Portal: Added two-step authentication. You still share the same public link with your customer, and for added security and privacy, you can now send them a private access key that provides them access to their protected space.

Reporting: Added “Week Number” to custom report fields

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Make sure your CRM and field service management tools play nice!

Buzzwords, acronyms and abbreviations – they’re everywhere in business, right? If you work in the field service business, you might have become aware of CRM and field service tools at the same time – the time when your business is taking the step from small to something a little bigger.

What is a CRM?

CRM stands for customer relationship management – in other words, a system to manage and maximise the information you have about your customers. These days, it’s a very hard job to do by hand, so most businesses resort to a piece of software to do it for them. It manages contacts, customers, sales, leads information, and is invaluable when it comes to making your customers feel like they’re genuinely important to your business. You probably already use one: some of the most popular are Capsule CRM, Sugar CRM, Salesforce and Zoho CRM. If you’re one of the relatively few business owners who doesn’t own a CRM, take heart – our friends at GetApp have written the perfect article for you!

old fashioned management

Old-fashioned customer management has to go!

So, what’s an FSM?

Now that we have the concept of a CRM system out of the way, it’s time look at the other side – the FSM. FSM stands for field service management, or scheduling software to manage the appointments and call-outs of your field service technicians, the kind you’d traditionally find in the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industries, but increasingly in other areas, like telecoms, medical and security. You know a great example of an FSM tool? Synchroteam! You can try it for free right here! If you need even more convincing about the benefits of using a field management app, I gave you lots of reasons a while back in my article “What can a field service management tool do for me?“.

So here’s the big question…

Why do my CRM and field service tool need to work in perfect harmony?

They need to work in perfect harmony because both tools manage different – but essential – aspects of your clients’ needs. And it’s only by efficiently managing your clients’ needs that you can keep those clients happy – and loyal. The CRM will ensure that you have all the information you need about your clients’ in order – where they are, what they do, who you need to talk to, your work history, special notes, contact records, etc., while the FSM will ensure that you correctly and efficiently manage all the jobs you do for these beautifully-managed clients. If they’re not working together efficiently, you’ll miss out on opportunities, growth and scope for streamlining processes.

How can Synchroteam help?

Synchroteam knows that for clients to be happy, you need to anticipate their every need, and fast. That’s why we’ve integrated it with the major CRMs: Capsule CRM, Sugar CRM, Salesforce and Zoho. Importantly, these integrations aren’t flimsy add-ons or plug-ins: they’re built right into the code of the app, so it all works flawlessly, without any extra effort required from you.

In real terms, this means you’ll have all the information you could possibly want about a client and the job you’re doing for them, right in the same interface. This will save you, and your technicians time, effort and money, and will win brownie points with your totally-satisfied clients.

synchroteam_connectors

Just some of Synchroteam’s Connectors

In later articles, we’ll take a look of each of Synchroteam’s CRM integrations in more depth, and show you how to get the most from them together. Until then, try out Synchroteam and let us know what you think!

Header image thanks to MGEARTWORKS and filing cabinet image thanks to redjar

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Is field service ready for drones – or wearables?

Would you rather a toolbox in the back of your van, or a drone? I read an interesting article the other day about drones in field service, and it really got me thinking. In fact, I was still thinking about it a few days later when Apple announced Apple Watch, and the two ideas couldn’t help but fuse together in the process!

Field service drones

Image thanks to Trotaparamos

While the little boy in me loves the idea of drones on the field, I don’t think field service is ready for the jump. Sure, imagination and innovation is what GE Ventures is famous for, but as things stand, I don’t think field service is ready to take to the air. Why not? Well, for a start, aerial work is pretty niche.

Most work is at ground level

Some field service work is carried out at a height, that’s true, but the majority of it is a little closer to the ground – and it needs a technician there right at the coalface. Until they start making drone/mini-chopper hybrids (I’m exaggerating here, but a small part of me thinks that would be pretty awesome), a drone by itself isn’t going to be much use in most situations. It could definitely come in useful if a technician needed to simply check (and not work on) a high-up location, but that’s a pretty small part of most technician’s jobs, and not one I think your everyday field service job is going to require.

It’s a pity, because as industries go, well…much as I hate to admit it, field service and route planning isn’t really the sexiest sector around. Field service drones would bring some much-needed excitement to the area, so I can see how GE – and the rest of us – jump on opportunities to investigate something new and interesting. As someone who makes a field service tool, however, I have to keep reminding myself what it’s really about – helping field service companies, not making life more difficult. As much as I like the idea of field service drones, I don’t think Synchroteam will be jumping on the bandwagon any time soon!

Fraught with problems

Why more difficult? Well, there are several problems. The biggest, and most significant, I think, are the legal implications. Some countries have very strict laws about who, where and when you can use a drone (I’m looking at you, UK!), and by flouting them, you’re committing a criminal offence. Then there’s the skill needed to pilot a drone – sure, flying up and down a pretty coastline to take a video looks simple enough, but manoeuvring and precisely approaching complex and often delicate machinery and installations are completely another. Correctly flying and professionally using a drone will take effort and training.

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch

I was still thinking about the glittering lights of GE Ventures when Apple announced their watch. As I watched the news, I thought “Now THERE is an idea that field service can get behind!”. Field service wearables – perfect! Lots of potential to genuinely help thousands of field service workers do their job more easily, efficiently and quickly. It turns out that I’m not the only person who decided that wearable field service tools would be an awesome idea. I saw other articles spring up, each of them convincing me even more that wearable field service tech is the way to go.

Field service wearables would be perfect!

Field service workers are practical, hands-on people. Even when dealing with high-tech services, the work they are doing requires them to touch and physically interact with machinery and equipment. So imagine this: a device, not necessarily a device as smooth as an Apple Watch, but in the same realm, that allowed them to easily see information that helped them with their job – without having to lift their hand from whatever they are working on. This field service wearable could provide them with all kinds of extra information, from practical details about their schedule, updated information from the office, or even extra or urgent information about the job they’re currently working on.

Field service wearables – ripe for the picking

Like Suzie over at GetApp comments, not all industries are going to benefit from wearables to the same degree, but luckily for us, field services is one of the industries that could. In fact, we’re so convinced of the fact, we’re already working on incorporating more wearable technology into our research here at Synchroteam. When we’ve got something solid to share with you, you’ll be the first to know!

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Real time workforce management will revolutionize your field service

Do your field service operatives have mobile device access? Great! But are they really getting the most from it? Mobile is good, but genuine, real time connectivity and workforce management is better. Does your field service tool make the grade?

Let’s try to imagine our dream FSM tool. In terms of real time workforce management, it’s going to need:

  • A mobile app
  • Real time connectivity with the office
  • GPS tracking
  • User-friendliness
  • Two-way communications
  • Feature-rich options

A mobile app

Real-time workforce management - manage jobs on the goThis goes without saying, but it’s important to remember. What devices do your employees usually use? If they are company-supplied, you might be able to introduce a single model for everyone, but if they are expected to use their personal devices, you’ll have to pick a tool that provides apps for…well, whatever they’ve decided is the brand for them! Luckily, most people now use Android or iOS devices; anything else (in North America and Europe, at least) is unusual. Even so, check before proceeding.

 

 

User-friendliness

See what your operative has on their schedule at any time

User-friendliness is a vague, hard-to-define concept, but the bottom line is this – if it’s awkward, uncomfortable, unintuitive or just plain ugly, your employees will have no incentive to play nice, and even less so on the move or in the middle of a complicated job. Most real time workforce management tools worth their salt offer a free, no strings attached trial period – take advantage of this and make sure to spend time using the tool via a mobile device, or recruit a trustworthy operative to give it a trial run and report back.

Two-way communication

Real-time workforce management - up-to-date info always available Two-way communication is another point that seems obvious, but doesn’t always play out in the way you’d expect. Of course mobile devices work both ways – but does your FSM tool allow your employees to feed it information in the same way as it keeps them clued-in? If operatives can’t file reports, add notes, reschedule jobs and make new appointments, then you’re missing out on a whole world of useful – and time-saving – features.

Feature-rich options

Real-time workforce management - communication should be two-way

Feature-rich options are the natural follow-on from user-friendliness. The more jobs, options, tasks and requirements your field service management app allows employees to take care of on the road, the more time, money and administrative headaches it will save your company. If you haven’t looked into the area before, you’d be amazed a what a real time workforce management tool can offer you. Check out Synchroteam’s options here – we’re particularly proud of our job reporting options and the ability to remain fully functional even when network coverage is lost.

GPS tracking

The more features, the betterGPS tracking is a hugely valuable tool. Sure, some naysayers might grumble about Big Brother, but when you look at the bigger picture – the efficient organisation of your employees, jobs and resources – there’s not much of an argument. Even so, you’re not stuck with it 24/7 – many tools allow for it to be enabled and disabled at the employee’s discretion. This is great for converting the dubious, but it’s a good idea to establish the ground rules early as to when this is – and isn’t – acceptable.

Real-time connectivity

Real-time workforce management - operative-added reports save timeToday, we’ve definitely saved the best for last. Real time connectivity just isn’t optional any more – it’s essential. If you can’t inform your operatives of changes, and they can’t inform you – other than making a call or sending an email – you’re stuck firmly in the last century. If you can’t make changes to the information they’re seeing, and they can’t update you with changes from their end – problems, notes, rescheduling, requests for help, for example – you’re losing huge amounts of time and efficiency. And as we know, in business terms, that’s the equivalent of throwing money down the drain.

Hopefully, we’ve made our case. Real time field service management is the best, simplest and most efficient way of managing your mobile operatives. If you haven’t given Synchroteam a trial run already, what are you waiting for? Your bottom line will thank you!

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Time-saving improvements for new version of Synchroteam – due February 9

Today’s your lucky day! Why? Well, we’re giving you a sneak-peek of the brand new version of Synchroteam due February 9, much improved and ripe for the picking. We’ve made lots of little tweaks and are really proud of the results – and we hope you’re like it just as much!

We’ve improved:

  • App navigation and layout
  • Search function
  • Callout mapping
  • Adding information to reports
  • And the mobile app!

The update aims to make using Synchroteam even easier for all users, whether you’re sending your technicians out to assess, repair or maintain your clients’ assets. It lets you streamline maintenance planning in pretty much any sector you can imagine, whether it’s energy distribution, medical equipment, telecoms, heating and cooling systems or even company after-sales services.

The new version is going to let you:

Optimize planning with the new version of Synchroteam

Make navigation simple via a new, drop-down menu system

New menu features

This time ’round, we’ve reviewed the whole field service tool to make sure navigating Synchroteam is as simple as possible. This will save you and your team time, effort and money. The new interface now makes the tool even easier to use, thanks to the combination of drop-down menus and direct sub-menu access.

Now you’ll be able to access specific items – like job report templates and unavailability types – in a single click. Before, you had to follow a tree-like nested structure to get to the option you needed. Now you can skip a few clicks, saving you lots of time when you’re planning the nitty-gritty of your routes.

It’s only a small change, but having all the options at your fingertips is the type of optimizing tweak that’s going to make your life easier. Small changes save only a few seconds each, but when you add that up over a day, week or even month, you’re really going to see a difference.

Reorganization of two key pages: callout details and client information

For increased clarity, two other key pages have been revised:

All callout details are accessible on a single page, via tabs: a description of the task, name of the technician who carried it out, date, elements of the callout report, invoicing, quotations, etc.

Improved information attached to each callout

The client details are clearer and more quickly identified: the address, information about maintenance tasks that have been carried out, the sites and the equipment involved.

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Make client management even smoother

New search field for better results

The Synchroteam crew have also added a new general search field. We’ll admit that we took our inspiration from OSX Yosemite for this one…it’s very easy to use, and allows you to have all the information that corresponds to a specific request – a contact, a callout number, an invoice…

This means you can find the name of a client by clicking on a callout number, for example, or a list of the companies that use a specific model of aircon unit by searching for the reference number of the equipment in question.

Search results are ordered by category to make them easier to assess.

The planning map is easier to read

New mapping feature with a clear, detailed view of the maintenance technician’s daily schedule

The new version of Synchroteam also has a new mapping feature for callouts and maintenance. This makes the callout manager’s job easier, as it’s easier to read and lets you see the workflow of the technician on the ground in real time.

Likewise, a single click on the technician’s name lets you trace his or her shift in detail: base point address (home or agency) and GPS location of the various callouts happening as they appear in the schedule on the map. A blue dot indicates that the technician is currently working on a job at that location. As well as the itinerary sketched out on the map, you’ll see a list of the different callouts underway, as well as distance and journey time information.

The new version’s mapping feature gives you better visibility of daily schedules, but that’s not all. Thanks to the streamlined planning optimisation features, the new mapping feature also allows you to visualize operations that still haven’t taken place, letting you pick the closest technician and plan callouts straight – taking location, availability and skills into account – from the map module itself.

New reports on mobile app

Synchroteam users can now insert photos on the move, straight into activity reports. What’s more, the callout manager can now make it obligatory to insert a photo when making an online report, helping technicians produce more complete reports. A document database has also been added to the mobile version. That’s useful for storing information about how to use various materials, or information about equipment a technician might find on a given callout, for example.

JobReport

The mobile app used by your technicians when they are on a callout has also been improved. It’s now easier for your technicians to create a callout request, and they’ll have access to more information on their smartphones, like callout history and data on each clients’ facilities.

For users: a field service management app that gives you more, and is even easier to get to grips with!

To make sure that Synchroteam users get the most out of the new version, all our technical support agents are up to date with the changes. That said, the new interface is really clear, intuitive and easy to use and we’ll don’t think you’ll have any problems getting used to the improvements you’ll find in the new version of Synchroteam, your field service planning tool!

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New year, better schedule: 4 easy steps to schedule optimization

Make 2015 the year your scheduling shines. Today we’ve got 4 easy optimisations you can make to your scheduling set-up, even if you’re all alone on the job and don’t have much time or resources. If you get started now, you’ll be able reap the benefits immediately, but they’ll also have a long-term improvement on how your business works. I suggest one point a week for the next month, and by Valentine’s Day, you’ll be head over heels in love with your new, improved schedule!

Benchmark 2014

Benchmarking is a buzzword, but don’t let that put you off – it’s not a gimmick, and it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You’re only going to understand how you improve in 2015 if you know how you performed in 2014, and once you’ve benchmarked once, you’ve got a template for the foreseeable future. It can be as easy as thinking about key elements, providing the answers yourself and by asking other staff for their input. Alternatively, you can purchase benchmarking templates, or even pay a 3rd party to come to your business and benchmark for you. To get started yourself, think about the key factors in your business, perhaps KPIs like response time, call-out duration, or weekly call-out total, and find the average from 2014’s data. Then sit down, assess which are good and which need work, and you’ll know exactly where you need to focus your optimisation. Then do it again next year and be prepared to see a significant improvement!

Think about extra help

No, I’m not talking about hiring more staff, although if you can, congratulations – you’re clearly doing something right! 2015 is the year you should see what a scheduling tool can do for you. When you carry out that benchmarking we talked about, you’ll see exactly how many elements go into the perfect call-out setup. Frankly, it can be a little scary. Using a service to manage them all takes a lot of the weight off, and leaves your brainpower free to decide what you can improve, rather than how to juggle it all. Any schedule management tool worth its salt will give you a free trial, and the really good ones, like Synchroteam, don’t snare you in any hard-to-escape agreements if you decide it’s not the solution for you.

synchro_planning

Get to know your new clients

Hopefully 2014 was a good year for your business, and you picked up a few new clients. Make 2015 even better by making them feel like royalty. Sit down with a list of clients, old and new, and get to know them in depth. Know what they do, what they need from you, who your contact is, and what makes them purr. Not everyone can win on price, but anyone can win on service, so make that an aim for 2015. In its most low tech scenario, you’ll have a rolodex card for each. Probably better, easier to share and easier to modify, is an online database, or the customer management module of your scheduling software. Doing this is also a great way to maintain more longstanding clients up-to-date. You’ll look sharp and solid by knowing the right names and the right details when you do business.

synchro_customers

Get better acquainted with your people

Once you make sure you’re up to date on your clients, it’s time to take a look closer to home. Good people make progress, and hopefully yours are no exception. Send out an email or better yet, schedule informal meetings, and see what they got up to in 2014. New training? Refreshed qualifications? Get a motorcycle license? Have a new baby? Fleet management and other companies that need schedule optimisation are a diverse bunch, so maybe not all these scenarios apply to your business. Even so, they should give you an idea as to what questions you can ask – the objective of this step is to find out if your employees and co-workers made any changes in 2014 that might have an effect on their call-outs this year. Once you know their situations, you can update your schedule notes or management software accordingly and make future call-outs much more effective.

So there you have it, 4 solid, actionable fleet management focus points that will leave you in a much better position to tackle 2015 head-on. These little changes, rather than hot tips, are processes that will strengthen the foundations of your call-outs, making your schedules watertight and flexible. Share with other fleet management mavens below, and if you fancy trying out Synchroteam, click here.

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What can a field service management tool do for me?

Synchroteam is a field service management tool that provides companies of all sizes and from all sectors with the ability to manage and organize their maintenance technicians’ call-outs. It’s a planning tool intended for businesses with workers in the field. Depending on the company, for example, these workers could be in charge of maintaining medical equipment, or repairing telephone lines.

Synchroteam general overview

Optimizing call-outs and increasing productivity – that’s what Synchroteam is all about. Synchroteam wants to make your company quicker and more profitable by saving time, reducing yearly technician mileage and their response times.

Always find the best tech for the job

Once you get a call from a client about an after-sales call-out, Synchroteam will help you find the best tech for the job: in other words, the technician with the skills needed, in the right area, with the necessary availability. Then the software will take other factors in consideration and automatically find the best person for this particular job: the technician who has the know-how, who is located nearby, and who can get there quickest. Even if the technician is already out on a job, he or she will get a notification on their smartphone, thanks to Synchroteam’s mobile app.

A simple, intuitive interface

Plan your field service jobs in real time

The call-out manager can communicate with technicians in real time and manage their jobs via the dashboard. You’ll see these technicians classified by their state: late, expected today, imminent, to be arranged. Planning for jobs is easy, since you can see the service calls you need to plan for all laid out in a single overview, as well as the ability to update planning in real time. In real terms, you can manage technicians’ jobs just by dragging and dropping – it couldn’t be easier.

Manage jobs easily

Tools to streamline callouts: ScheduleAssist and geolocation

A single click on a little icon will launch ScheduleAssist, the planning optimisation engine. This tool pulls in information already contained in the software (journey time, type of callout), and automatically suggests the name or names of the most appropriate technicians on the field, so the call-out can be undertaken as quickly as possible.

schedule-assist-1

Geolocation allows you to follow and modify each technician’s schedule in real time. That means that if an emergency job crops up, you’ll be able to alert him or her and get them to the problem quickly.

mapping

Obligation-free sign up

Synchroteam’s field service planning tool works via an online subscription. You fill in some details online, which gives you access to the tool. You then can try it out for free, and when you decide to sign up, you just pay a monthly fee. You can end the service whenever you want: no obligation, no strings attached.

Today, Synchroteam has between 200 and 300 clients around the world, and some 15,000 users. Both the tool, and the mobile app, are available in various languages.

To make getting to grips with a field service management tool even easier, Synchroteam has provided online help, including step-by-step how-tos in the online knowledge base. If you’d like to talk your concerns through with a human, our customer service agents will be happy to help.

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