How to implement a digitally enabled mobile workforce

Companies that deliver services in the field, whether it’s to consumers with broadband, energy or healthcare, or to businesses with printers, construction or capital equipment, face many complexities including managing fluctuating demand, meeting SLAs and controlling costs. Arguably the most important for organisations is to manage mobile workers so that they deliver the experience the customer is expecting from their brand interaction or sales pitch. We know that customers expect better ‘outcomes’ for the money they spend on service delivery. It’s not about just appearing on time and repairing the product or equipment any more.   

The challenges of working in the field often make the employee experience one of isolation where the goals of how to increase revenue or meet a customer experience objective might not be clear. This article will explore what steps and digital tools organisations can use to manage the employee experience so that they are ideally placed to not just lower costs but also deliver the outcome desired by consumers. 

First consider the best result for the customer 

By focusing your service offerings on customer outcomes you can edge out the competition, build customer loyalty and longevity, and improve the lifetime value of each and every customer. Additionally you can focus employees and other resources on a common and more easily understood goal. 

The simplest means to deliver business outcomes 

To deliver a good experience to customers in the field, mobile workforce management software is already a ‘must have’, not a ‘nice to have’. However, many of the ways companies go about achieving that good experience are manual and running at analogue speed. There are opportunities for improvement, where man, digital technology, and machine collaborate.   

The worker experience will move from reactive and administrative, to proactive, where, delivered via the cloud, he or she receive useful information from colleagues, IoT connected devices, knowledge libraries, and even the customers directly.   

Here are some tips on where to start your digital odyssey for your mobile workforce:   

Plan 

Going digital to manage field employees is a major undertaking. Get the resourcing right for the project, and know, for a time, you may need a dedicated team. 

In addition to a project manager, appoint internal digital stakeholders to investigate new ways of working.  Include a customer service representative, a field worker, a marketer, a supply chain representative, and an IT technician. The field workers’ opinion is particularly useful, firstly because they understand the work more than any other, and secondly it will help in getting their team’s buy in from the beginning. 

Evangelise the vision 

Make sure everyone in your organisation understands why you are considering digital technology to transform the worker experience in the field.  It could be for a combination of reasons, not only being more competitive, but to also improve the worker and customer experience.   

You can be creative with digital technologies 

Get creative, establish an internal brainstorm, and call upon your employees’ expertise in the digital project team and wider. Millennials working in your organisation, long used to working with digital, may have some great ideas.  So will the most experienced veterans that have ‘seen in all.’ Look externally at your competitors and look at similar sectors for benchmarking ideas. 

A good structure to use is to start at the desired customer outcome and then work backwards. That way all the technology, all the field employee training and all the resource deployment, will be focused on the same objectives. 

Engage with a technology partner who understands what is possible 

You don’t want to just implement technology with a vendor and have them walk away. You need a partner. Engage a vendor that understands you, understands your ideas, and that can contribute to what is possible to provide opinion about what else you could do to meet your objectives. Additionally, there are many field service solutions, make sure you connect with one that understands digital. Do they use tools like AI (Artificial Intelligence), real-time analytics, social collaboration and true cloud? 

Consider cultural impact 

Even with highly intuitive technology, digital is transformative. It often means huge change in working practices and therefore can shock employees. Get buy-in from senior management, win the hearts and minds of stakeholders with workshops, communicate to avoid rumors and provide training. For remote workers provide ‘How-to’ videos delivered via mobile and make sure you have adequate support to handle questions. But also, so they truly feel part of the project and not just stuck out on the road, you should arrange face-to-face meetings to build trust and engender project ownership. 

Mandate   

The greatest corporate risk to change is due to a lack of mandate and therefore adoption. Making the move to digital must be sensitively handled, and ideally different teams or regions are phased in with employees trained on the new way of working. Workflow is a great tool to help this process. Delivered on mobile devices, it will walk field-based employees through a ‘best-in-class’ process to make sure each customer gets the service they were promised and expect. Over time field based employees will be working smarter, spending less time on administration and more time on the job in hand, improving productivity and boosting their own sense of achievement. 

Go to market 

You will no longer be delivering analogue services at analogue speeds. You will have built a platform to digitally power entirely new revenue models and SLAs for which your customers may even be happy to pay a premium.   

Relentless improvement 

Powerful service management technology can help you measure and model every aspect of the workforce including how its collective behavior impacts customer outcome metrics. As well as digital tracking engage with employees, also ask them what works and what doesn’t. 

The relentless search for improvement will help your services stand out from the crowd as you move to the next quarter. This is especially true when managing the experience of your employees. They are the face of your brand and going digital in the right way will keep them happy and engaged. Your customers will notice, and it could make the difference to becoming number one in a competitive market. 

Marne Martin, CEO, ServicePower   

Image Credit: Perfectlab / Shutterstock