Why should Distributors offer Field Services?
These are challenging economic times and distributors need to distinguish themselves from their competitors. One way to do this is to use field service software to provide value-added services to customers. These value-added services could include, for example, remote salespersons visiting the customer to take the customer orders or provide quotes. Other field services that are highly valued by customers can include delivery, equipment installation, maintenance, repair services and/or on-site consulting. Many studies have shown that customers have a strong preference for in-person service. As a result, field services - if offered and delivered successfully - can greatly increase customer satisfaction and retention.
What is Field Service Software?
Many distributors already provide some field services such as mobile sales, delivery, equipment installation, maintenance, and repair services to their customers. To successfully deliver these kinds of remote services requires being able to manage and communicate with field services personnel in real-time. That’s where field service software comes into play. It allows distributors to send and receive data from their ERP systems via mobile apps to field service personnel using mobile devices.
What Field Service Software Can Do for Distributors?
By making ERP data directly available to and updated by field service personnel, distributors can cut down on data errors and ensure that all users are working from the same data. Without field service software, field personnel have to rely on paper forms and data is captured manually and then updated manually to the ERP system. This is very time-consuming, inefficient and error prone. Using field service software helps distributors increase efficiency, improve productivity, provide value-added services that improve customer retention, and deliver better customer service. Another benefit of field services is that it allows and facilitates remote users, which is becoming more and more important to today’s workforce.
Field Service Applications for Distributors
Field service software supports a wide array of applications that could be offered by distributors. Some of these applications include things such as mobile sales, scheduling delivery, obtaining proof-of-delivery, dispatching of field technicians, updating customers on technicians’ arrivals or delays, tracking field services and invoicing, and tracking assets. Some of these applications can be delivered through web-based, cloud, ERP solutions that can be accessed directly by field personnel using handheld devices. There are, however, several problems with this approach. Firstly, many sites from which field personnel operate don’t have reliable Internet service, secondly, most ERP solutions are not designed to be effectively accessed from small form-factor devices, and thirdly, many distributors do not want to give remote users access to their ERP systems. Field service software addresses these problems by delivering slimmed-down mobile apps that are designed for and can be cached on mobile devices. These apps will continue to work on the mobile device without Internet coverage but will sync up once the device gets into cell coverage. Remote field service personnel do not have to have access to the ERP system or be ERP users.
Many distributors have remote salespersons and allow salespersons to enter prospects, update customer records, provide quotes and take customers’ orders in the field. Some distributors also facilitate truck-based sales and direct to store delivery models.
Distributors who manage their own fleets of delivery trucks can allow drivers to pull up customer addresses and locations for all their deliveries, collect receiver signatures and capture GPS coordinates of delivery point on mobile devices. Distributors can also track the progress of deliveries and update status of deliveries immediately.
Distributors that offer repair or installation services can receive incoming service calls, create work orders, and then assign these to field technicians based on a variety of factors such as: availability, proximity, skillset, customer history, or available inventory.
Distributors that do installation, maintenance or inspection, can use field service software to track technicians’ arrival on site, time on the job and completion. Technicians can record travel time, parts used, charge for labor and create and email invoices from their mobile devices. They can also take payment.
Customizable Field Service Apps
Because field service software is delivered through small mobile apps, existing field service apps can be easily customized, or new customized apps can be built and deployed quickly for a specific application. By linking a full-featured Cloud-based ERP system with a mobile app delivery platform, distributors can easily manage all their field service operations.
Field service software is a powerful tool for distributors. It can facilitate in-person services, improve efficiency, reduce errors, and increase customer satisfaction and retention. If your distribution business management software doesn’t allow you to effectively manage your field service personnel, contact us. Let us show you how our cloud-based Accolent ERP solution delivers field service software for distributors and light manufacturers.