For organisations with field operations teams, digital tools are going to become a battleground, with those that embrace these capabilities are set to have a significant competitive advantage.

As noted in a report by McKinsey: “Based on our experience, field organisations that transform themselves to capitalise on new technologies can generate significant gains in labour costs, productivity, and other performance metrics.” These are significant gains, and it’s worth breaking down the potential benefits offered by digital tools to better understand how a field organisation can benefit from them.

  1. Automation makes business management easier

Automating the administration of the business – payroll, invoicing and similar applications – is one of the most sought-after benefits of digital technology. Business leaders are embracing automation in order to make their lives easier and redirect their efforts.

Time spent in administration for these businesses is time spent away from revenue-generating or strategic activities. The more time that employees can spend on site, interacting with customers, or strategically planning the business, the more opportunities and revenue are going to be earned.

  1. Communicate better within the organisation

Digital tools can elevate the organisation’s communication beyond mobile phones and email. For example, GPS technology could be used to better track the locations of the employees in the field, and if a customer calls in, then the nearest available agent can be better assigned to the task.

Furthermore, once on-site, the field agent can create quotes and get authorisation immediately. The modern customer is likely to be frustrated if the field agent needs to return to the office to create a quote and then mail it out. They’re even likely to consider other options. Through cloud technology and mobile devices, the field agent can have a quote drawn up for the customer’s consideration on the spot.

Finally, for team projects, the ability to host video conferences on the fly is enormously beneficial. On-site agents can also share photos or videos to get immediate feedback. Digital tools like these make it easier for the entire organisation to be collaborative and, as the customer benefits from this cohesion, it becomes a competitive advantage for the business.

  1. The cloud means that the office is everywhere

Shifting workloads, documents, contracts and processes to the cloud means that they’re accessible from any Internet-connected device, including mobile phones. This means that field agents can maximise their efficiency by staying out in the field. There’s no need to return to the office to file paperwork or access documentation. It also means that the business can cast its net wider. Where customers may have previously been too distant to support, with the cloud an agent can service a region significantly distanced from the business HQ, meaning further new business opportunities.

  1. The customer’s environment can be better maintained

Many businesses are embracing IoT for the data that they provide back to the organisation. Take for example a HVAC. By equipping it with IoT sensors, a business can remotely monitor the device and diagnose issues, often before the customer even notices. For instance, a HVAC might be due for a filter change and, typically, this would mean that the customer needed to get in touch with the company and then wait for a replacement filter to be sourced and then installed. Now, rather than wait for the machine to stop working and the customer to get in touch, the field team can proactively contact the customer, offer them a filter replacement, and be on site to do so with no downtime to the HVAC.

Meanwhile, fault detection and alerts can make diagnosing and repairing issues more efficient. Rather than be on site, diagnose the problem and then potentially need to source replacement parts, with the right sensors on the HVAC, the technician can know the source of the problem before they turn up for the first time.

  1. Know your customers better

Companies need to evaluate their partnerships with customers and create simple and informative journeys which digital tools can facilitate.

Those sensors on the HVACs can provide insights into how customers use air conditioning and for what reason, and businesses can use that information to provide advice on what would best suit the customer’s environment.

Furthermore, a good digital platform, such a Microsoft Dynamics 365, will consolidate all interactions with the customer into a single CMS. That way, when the customer needs to speak to someone at the business, regardless of who they are, the full history of interactions is available instantly and the customer enjoys a cohesive engagement across the business.

With the right digital tools, a field operations business can run more efficiently, productively, and profitably, and enjoy a significant competitive advantage. Nexon has a wealth of experience in providing solutions to the HVAC sector that are tailored to the specific needs and challenges of these organisations. Contact the team here, or read more about the Field Service Solution here.