STOP PLANNING FIELD SERVICE APPOINTMENTS WITH OUTLOOK
4 min. reading time
02 September 2021 ·
James Alex Waldron
nterprises offering a field service nowadays know to ensure maximum flexibility and high productivity in order to compete among growing competition. Although these factors have become indispensable, many providers still schedule their visits with Microsoft Outlook. Find out what disadvantages this invites for field service, and how an integrated FSM platform can provide a best-of-both worlds experience.
PLANNING FIELD SERVICE WITH OUTLOOK: LOW FLEXIBILITY AND EXPENSIVE CONTROL
An attempt at field service scheduling with Microsoft Outlook persists in many companies. This is often due to the notion that an investment in the Microsoft 365 architecture will give suitable, flexible appointment booking tools. However, the often cumbersome nature of service calls becoming works tickets means continual arrangement by email and then finding and filling 'white space' as appointments in shared calendars. This has distinct disadvantages:
Time consuming administration
Access only for approved employees
Reliance on an architecture built for office environments and Teams meetings
For rigid, repeated scheduling, Outlook might lend itself to field service. But this rarely has any semblance with reality. Appointments are postponed at short notice, cancelled, or take more time than originally planned. Field employees themselves hardly have the possibility to react to these changed conditions and to adjust the planning in real-time. After just a few minutes or hours, time consuming plans made in Outlook are obsolete.
Many field staff, especially subcontractors, are not granted the required level of permission to scheduling functions in Outlook. Instead, printouts created each morning serve as the daily schedule for the routes and tours.
PLANNING FIELD SERVICE WITH OUTLOOK - AN IMPACT ON CUSTOMER SATISFACTION SCORES
Scheduling a field force with MS Outlook has critical consequences for customers (trade and consumer) and their service satisfaction. This is because non-dynamic planning means it's not uncommon for works orders to be completed late or to be postponed by days or weeks—not to mention wrong-sized appointment windows and long lead times. This is usually not received well by clients (especially in the reactive maintenance market) and a decline in customer satisfaction can therefore quickly result. And once a reputation of unreliability has spread, loyalty wains, and the number of new jobs will also continue to decline.
Instead of relying on rigid route and order planning with Outlook, companies should seek a modern, intelligent software solution with which they can increase customer satisfaction again and look positively towards future growth.
PLANNING WITH AN OUTLOOK INTEGRATION SAVES TIME AND MONEY
Due to the time-consuming planning and rescheduling of field service with MS Outlook, considerable resources are already wasted in the back office. This kind of planning also leads to considerable inefficiency in the field service. Unnecessary routes, wasted miles, and inaccurate planning of resources increase costs and thus reduce margins. If the coordination between the dispatch team and field service must be done manually, this also leads to a high coordination effort.
With a modern software solution, these inefficiencies can be significantly reduced. Changes are automatically stored in the system and communicated to the respective field staff technician, or team or technicians. Consider the additional work that's generated through multi-skilled works (electrician and gas engineer to a boiler installation or including return visits to a depot to collect parts and tools). With the appropriate mobile device, a field force is kept up to date in real time. All these measures demonstrably increase the efficiency of the field service.
TWO-WAY OUTLOOK DATA INTEGRATION WITH MOBILE FIELD SERVICE TOOLS
For a successful field service operation, it is important that employees have access to upcoming appointments and orders at any time, and anywhere. With Outlook, this is only possible to a very limited (often 'read only') extent. Scheduling new appointments or recording orders is virtually impossible on the road. In addition, shortened or extended services are not even recorded. Therefore, in the course of the day, the target and actual planning very quickly no longer match.
Here, too, a modern software solution can provide a quick remedy. This is because the system records where the employee is in real time. By simply pressing a button, the employee can report that an order has been successfully completed. In this way, the target plan is constantly compared with the actual plan. If necessary, changes can also be made to the schedule. For example, if an order unexpectedly takes longer, the following customer can be informed of the delay at an early stage.
ENSURE BUSINESS SUCCESS WITH A SCHEDULING SOFTWARE SOLUTION
Keeping Outlook for everyday business and moving to a modern, purpose-built software solution for order planning can lead companies into a successful future. This is because it is very easy to increase efficiency and flexibly set up order planning. In the end, this optimises customer satisfaction and increases profits.