See what kind of benefits your organisation can achieve by centralising business support processes. By Steve Scott, Managing Director, Astea APAC
In recent decades companies have effectively utilised new technologies in order to centralise business support processes such as Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Payroll, Human Resources, IT Management and others. With the advent of new technologies for automating field service management (FSM) such as mobile work order applications and GPS tracking, the question gets asked by most large service organisations is whether or not to centralise FSM.
There is no doubt that with sophisticated scheduling and dispatch tools like Astea’s Dispatch Console and Dynamic Scheduling Engine, used in conjunction with mobile work order management tools such as Astea’s Alliance Mobile Edge, service organisations have everything they need to allow centralisation of the dispatch process. Doing so can yield significant benefits:
- Modern software applications allow automated scheduling, drag-and-drop manual scheduling, skills matching, route optimisation, on-time parts supply, etc. These capabilities make it possible to efficiently schedule and dispatch more field staff using fewer dispatchers.
- Centralised dispatchers are able to achieve more optimal utilisation of field service staff. By having global visibility and centralised control, they are able to shift resources quickly from areas of light workload to supplement areas where work volumes are high.
- Through greater visibility, improved service level agreement (SLA) compliance can be achieved without the need to increase field staff.
But are these benefits enough to warrant centralising service management?
The answer to that can only come after a careful analysis of potential costs.
In recent years some large service companies have taken the opportunities provided by modern FSM applications to centralise their service management, often to the detriment of their relationships with customers and field service staff. In some cases, after losing customers and staff, the decision has been reversed at great cost and after the damage has already been done.
The answer to this conundrum is to centralise the dispatch process without centralising the whole field service management structure. Service dispatchers take the day-to-day responsibility of ensuring that the field staff is well utilised and operating efficiently, SLAs are being met and jobs are getting closed off and pushed into the billing process in a timely manner. Regional managers and supervisors can stay in place where their local knowledge and relationships with customers and staff are maintained, or even improved on as their days are no longer filled with scheduling challenges.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is that of management compensation plans. Often service managers are paid bonuses based on how well their teams meet SLAs or how effectively utilised they are. With centralised dispatch, the local managers do not have direct control over these factors anymore, so continuing to pay bonuses on that basis is a recipe for constant staff disputes.
This is not a reason to not centralise the dispatch function. Employee compensation plans are meant to provide an incentive for employees to work towards implementing the company’s strategies and achieving its goals. They should not be an impediment to the implementation of those strategies. The compensation plans need to be changed to be in line with the new strategy. Local managers and supervisors should be compensated based on factors they can control, such as customer retention, the effectiveness of staff training, the discipline of the staff under their management, etc.
It’s also critical that under a centralised dispatch model, quality and timely information is provided to the local managers and supervisors to allow them to do their jobs effectively. The communication channels between the dispatchers and the local managers must be kept open so the managers can be advised of any discipline or training issues affecting their staff. Access to reports on KPI and analysis of staff utilisation, SLA compliance, first time fix rates and other important metrics is crucial in helping them to identify issues in their service territory.
Centralised dispatch and scheduling, along with the software tools that enable it, are extremely effective at achieving efficiency gains and improving customer satisfaction, but it’s critical that it be implemented in such a way that it does not open a rift between your service team and your customer, and does not leave your field staff feeling isolated and unsupported. If properly managed, the exact opposite can be achieved. Customer facing managers will have more time available to attend to these critical relationships.