Nathan Ollier, vice-president of Public Sector and Field Service at Advanced, discusses how field service management has changed during the pandemic in the face of higher customer expectations and limited budgets
The UK is experiencing an exciting revival of its urban centres. As explored in the white paper The Urban Revival many have undergone widescale developments in housing, retail, business, amenities, and leisure facilities.
These are connected by smart infrastructures and transport networks and altogether have changed the way those urban spaces look and function. With more people living within the city limits, demands on vital services have increased too.
The growth of online retail pre-Pandemic, precipitated a sharp rise during lockdown. The efficiency of major players like Amazon, has raised customer expectations for prompt, reliable delivery and transparency of delivery mechanisms. As consumers, we want it all, and we want it now.
Tenants and homeowners are expecting equivalent levels of customer service, with responsive delivery and dependable appointment times from other service providers, including trades. When people know how quickly they can get a new pair of shoes delivered to their door, they don’t expect to have to wait for weeks for a crucial electrical repair, and then stay indoors all day waiting for an operative who may not turn up.
If COVID -19 has taught us anything, it’s that people are placing a higher value on their leisure time and quality of life. They are looking for ways to strike a good work-life balance, and under-par service delivery that wastes their precious time just doesn’t cut it anymore.
This is the current challenge for field service management – higher customer expectations, limited budgets and, while the pandemic continues, variously depleted workforces. Local authorities and housing associations, online retailers, privately-owned service companies and utilities supplying homeowners and tenants are all facing this tricky juggling act.
The solution lies in digital technology, with powerful software that can transform scheduling and operative allocation processes, thus making the very best use of everyone’s time and resources.
Riverside and Advanced
Riverside is one of the UK’s leading providers of social housing, formed almost 100 years ago in Liverpool. It now operates across 160 local authority areas in England and Scotland, with almost 56,000 homes for over 90,000 people. The organisation had previously used a simple appointment slot system, based on a fixed number of trades per day.
These would fill up, dictated by demand, with no coordination of journeys. Operatives faced often impossible schedules that sometimes meant travelling much greater distances and back-tracking than they should have had to, with customers often kept waiting or let down.
Riverside introduced Advanced’s Field Service Management Solution, including its Dynamic Resource Scheduler (DRS), and mobile job management platform, Job Manager. Combined, they brought a digital solution that transformed the way Riverside offer appointments, organised its schedule and deliver services.
The solution offers the most relevant appointment slot with the resident’s needs considered, while continually optimising the overall plan to deliver the most cost-effective outcome. Operatives begin their shift with a workable and achievable day set out, with customers kept informed throughout the lifecycle of the job, from booking to arrival at the resident’s home.
The software was a game-changer for the office-based planning team, who used to need in-depth training and technical knowledge alongside local geographical experience, so that they could try to figure out who to send – where, and when. The AI-based scheduling engine of DRS does this for them now and supports a reduction in work-related stress and employee churn.
“Any organisation looking to partner or seek investment needs to be able to match private sector standards”
Planners are now served with powerful insights which allow them to ensure that every job is completed on time, as planned, safe in the knowledge that the Dynamic Scheduling engine takes any last-minute appointments or changes in its stride. If a job takes longer than expected, or an operative has to go home sick, the schedule automatically updates with any affected jobs and reassigns, to ensure seamless delivery.
Advanced’s Field Service Solution has transformed the way that the operatives work. Previously, operatives would need to return to the office regularly to enter job sheets, or to make unexpected collections of equipment.
The information relating to each job is now entered in real time, giving the back office a dynamic view of progress across the entire plan throughout the day. Risk assessments and safety checks can be mandated to ensure operatives are working safely, in compliance with standards at all times.
Operative On Way is a key component of the solution. As consumers, we are all coming to expect clear visibility of when an event is going to take place, like the arrival of a parcel at the door. Operative On Way is designed to achieve just that – a real time mapping service which connects the customer to the operative, keeping them informed on the operative’s precise ETA. It enables two-way communication which allows a customer to let the operative know if they won’t be home, avoiding wasted journeys and driving down costly no access rates.
Any organisation with a field operation will benefit from a Field Service Management solution. In addition to connecting the field team to the back office in a seamless way, the right solution will ensure that planned or project-based activities are delivered effectively alongside any responsive visits, protecting the optimum use of an organisation’s most valuable assets – human resources. Operatives are able to focus on delivering positive outcomes for your customers, not sitting in traffic during unnecessary journeys.
Organisations that can meet customer demand at this level can also present themselves to potential investors and other stakeholders as a modern, forward-thinking and dynamic proposition. The private sector has already undergone massive digital transformation and any organisation looking to partner or seek investment needs to be able to match private sector standards, to be taken seriously.
Ultimately, using digital tools to deliver in superior services makes life easier for employees, increases levels of customer satisfaction, and drives greater efficiency and profits for the service provider.
Housing Digital Stakeholder Advanced is the third largest British software and services company in the UK. Advanced helps organisations create the right digital foundations that drive productivity, insight, and innovation – all while remaining safe, secure, and compliant.
Image: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock
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