Did you venture out this past Black Friday to try and snag a great deal? Or did the long lineups and massive crowds scare you off? Perhaps you decided to shift your buying habits this year and do it all online, which saw record numbers this year, with $7.4 billion in online sales. Over Thanksgiving and Black Friday, Americans spent over $11.6 billion online, showing the change is happening from in-store to online shopping.
It’s the thrill of shopping when those doors finally open and the sales are released. It can be a stressful day for shoppers hoping to hunt for that one specific bargain, but it can also be a nightmare for retailers. There are more complex issues on Black Friday than perhaps any other shopping day of the year. Is there enough staff on hand? Do we have enough inventory to meet the demand? How do we get customers in and out quickly to make room for new customers?
Kind of sounds a lot like field service management doesn’t it?
Field service management businesses can learn a lot from Black Friday shopping. And no, not the part of heavily discounting your services to attract bargain shoppers. Instead, it’s looking at people, data and customer expectations. Let’s look at these in more detail.
Going with an on-demand workforce
Depending on the industry you are in, there are slow seasons and busy seasons. Black Friday is the busiest day in retail shopping, so all hands need to be on deck. And even that might not be enough, as often stores have to hire and train seasonal employees to cover the amount of work they have. The same rings true for those in the HVAC industry, or those who service industrial equipment, provide janitorial services and IT support.
According to the Aberdeen Group, 64% of respondents to their survey use some form of third-party support for some percentage of daily field service tasks. And with a talent shortage happening in the field service industry, more and more field service management businesses are turning to subcontractors and third-party providers. In fact, some businesses have turned entirely to these on-demand workers because today’s technology, including field service mobile apps and field service software, make it easy to dispatch, schedule and train new employees.
Subcontractors are using the same mobile field service apps as full-time technicians are. And with access to knowledge systems, they are able to provide the same quality service and complete tasks quickly. For a business owner, to know they can dive into a workforce pool that is ready and able to get up and running quickly can mean the world of difference when customers are calling and ready to crash down their doors.
Black Friday is more data
From Black Friday’s humble beginnings, it has blown up into the most lucrative day in shopping. Add in Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday sales, and you got the makings of a gigantic number crunch. There are so many moving parts that it’s easy to miss a critical piece of the business when people are coming in. Is there enough stock on the floor? What price is too high or too low for the sale? How do I distribute my stock from one low selling area to another high selling area?
What is comes down to is efficiency and productivity. Being the most productive during your busiest time will keep you in your customer’s good books for years to come. That is the same for field service management, especially during busy seasons and high demand. Buy using field service software and data-driven management, data is being used to optimize the business. That includes everything from which technician to send out on the road, to the parts to keep in stock and when to buy them, to the number of calls a certain technician can take.
Data has turned into a job winner for field service management. Having the ability to adjust your business before they become problems is critical. Especially when your busy season is looking down on you and you have to get it right. Field service management is even turning towards the Internet of Things (IoT) devices to help collect real-time data to reduce the number of on-site visits needed. Instead, a trigger happens when a device is acting outside of normal operations, and a service call is scheduled. It’s one of the many ways field service software is being used in a data capacity to handle the high stress of rising service demands.
Meeting the rising demands of customers
As mentioned before, online shopping is dominating Black Friday shopping. That wasn’t always the case, however, as before online shopping became such a hit, you needed to go to the physical store to get a sale. Now, through mobile devices, billions of dollars are being spent, all because the industry kept up with the demand of their customers. And while one person might see it as incredibly high customer expectations, others will see it as a great opportunity.
Field service management can meet customer demands in multiple ways, starting with communication. Just like walking to the store and waiting in line is part of the old days of shopping, so too is hanging on hold during heavy call volume. Customers don’t want hold music, they want to speak to someone or request service. So, give them new tools to meet that demand while opening up new opportunities. Chat options, automated phone systems, emailing, social media and QR codes are just a few of the ways field service management businesses are handling the demand. Customers are spending less time waiting to request service with these options.
Field Service Management with better results
Just as Black Friday has evolved, so too must field service management. Your service can’t be the same, wait for the door crashers to come in and hope you have enough people on staff. It needs to be a data-driven, field service software and third-party supported operation, especially during peak times. The best field service management businesses can look at Black Friday and learn from the struggles that retailers are having and apply it to their own business. And with better data and a mindset to meet growing customer demand, there is plenty of opportunity for future growth.