Most field service organisations have one simple objective: to get the right engineer to the right place at the right time. The better their ability to do this, the better the outcome for their business – less time lost, more profitable service visits, and a happier and healthier customer base.
For some service teams, however, there’s another compelling reason to have a watertight scheduling and dispatch process in place: compliance.
This is because a lot of service and maintenance work in the UK is carried out specifically to fulfil a regulatory requirement. Frameworks like PUWER, LOLER and the Electricity at Work Regulations, for example, make it mandatory for companies to carry out routine maintenance on a regular basis if there’s a safety risk associated with the use of their equipment. A single missed or late service call could land the business in serious trouble for non-compliance – so, when it comes to awarding a service contract, you can bet that demanding SLAs are on the cards.
Another great example is legionella control. Every single business or person in control of premises in the UK is required by law to assess and manage the risk of legionella – the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia – in their water supply. This generally means getting a water treatment company to conduct on-site risk assessments and any necessary follow-up work on a regular basis.
Again, failing to fulfil this requirement can have serious consequences, ranging from massive fines to prison sentences. Most recently, the security firm G4S was fined almost £2 million this month for non-compliance with their legionella control duties – even though there were no confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease on their premises.
The problem with SLAs
Compliance, therefore, is a common driving force behind demanding SLAs in the field service industry. The trouble is, a lot of field service organisations apparently struggle to uphold said commitments to their customers.
According to the Aberdeen Group report State of Service Management 2015, the average service team achieves an SLA compliance rate of 80%. For industry leaders, the figure is a somewhat modest 90% – and for laggards, just 63%. So, broadly speaking, SLAs aren’t an easy subject for many field service organisations to talk about.
What I’d like to argue here, though, is that the right software can deliver a significant improvement to a low SLA compliance rate.
The benefits of ERP for compliance
Even today, a lot of field service organisations rely heavily on manual processes for the scheduling and dispatch of engineers. So jobs get assigned to engineers at the start of the day, for example, and thereafter service managers can only communicate with their teams via telephone, if at all. It’s impossible to monitor SLA compliance on the fly, and difficult to minimise lost time when engineers’ or customers’ circumstances change in the middle of the day.
With the right software, such as a field service management (FSM) or ERP solution, a field service organisation has it in their power to change this. A product like SAP Business One with the Coresuite add-on, for example, provides sophisticated scheduling tools that allow service managers to monitor ongoing work – and reroute or reassign engineers – in real time, ensuring their compliance needs are met consistently and with complete visibility.
Another area where the right software solves field service compliance problems is record-keeping. To return to the example of legionella control, water treatment engineers often need to record some rather complex information: the locations of individual outlets in a building, the temperature range of water from a given outlet, and so on. When a customer’s compliance is at stake, it’s important to have a fast and accurate way to store, reproduce and report on this data.
In this respect, ERP is especially useful – perhaps more so than a dedicated FSM solution – because of its emphasis on keeping all of the organisation’s data in one place. There are no silo walls between contract information, scheduling, inventory management and so on.
As one final point, getting the right software in place can also help field service organisations build credibility in their customers’ industries. It’ll allow them to share compelling performance data with big prospects, and even use internal data to write and present SLAs more accurately and confidently in the first place. When your competitors are still struggling with manual and paper-based processes, that’s a serious competitive advantage.