10 Remote Work Tools to Run Your Field Service Business From Home
May 20, 2020 - 13 minutes
Today, more than ever, it is important to be able to work, manage, and oversee your business no matter your location. Accessing your data in one, organised place helps you stay productive whether at the office, clients’ properties, on the road, or at home.
More and more field service businesses are turning to cloud-based software to enhance telecommuting. Digitising a field service business isn’t always easy, so knowing and using the best work from home tools is key.
Here are the top 10 remote work tools for field services:
Read on to learn more about the best technology for working from home!
1. Engineer GPS tracking
Know where your engineers are at all times to ensure safety, accountability, and efficiency
When you have multiple employees in the field at various job sites, having location information is an absolute must.
Here are the top 3 reasons employers implement GPS tracking, according to a tsheets.com study:
One of your engineers and trucks gets in an accident, and you don’t find out until hours, or even days, later.
Not only is the safety of your employees at risk without GPS tracking, your trucks and equipment/parts are also at risk during commutes to jobs. Knowing what went down in real-time helps provide data so you can address situations as they arise.
Great GPS tracking software provides travel records, allow you to troubleshoot what happened so you can try to reduce potential risks in the future.
Your engineer submits a timesheet, but since you weren’t by their side going from property to property, you don’t really know how the time was spent. This type of blind trust can cause you to have doubts and can affect your relationships with employees.
Beyond that, being able to track your engineers to see when they are on the way, arriving at the job, and leaving the job allows you to accurately understand their and your trucks’ whereabouts.
Countless studies show that workplaces with increased transparency and trust have been proven to work more effectively as a team and be more productive.
You might think that GPS tracking could make employees uncomfortable. However, according to the same study mentioned above, “78% are comfortable with GPS tracking at work, while only 7% are uncomfortable.”
Your engineer was scheduled to be at a property for 2 hours, but they end up being there for 5 hours and counting. The employee has been so busy working on the customer’s issue that there’s been no time to take a break to get in touch with the office or next customer.
The next customer is waiting with no notice, uncomfortably remaining at their house prepared for the appointment, but at the same time is wondering if no one is coming. If you want to give incredible customer service, having delayed or cancelled appointments with no notice is definitely not in your best interest.
This can all be avoided with GPS tracking. Your staff knows where engineers are, so if there is any change in schedule, customers receive a courtesy call so they’re kept in the loop.
Even better is the capability to send customers a tracking link, so they know when their tech is on the way and when they are expected to arrive.
Employees say the top benefit of GPS tracking while working is: “Ensuring I get paid what I’m owed”. This type of efficiency with payment benefits all sides.
2. Digital parts management tool
Use a parts app or desktop software, rather than visiting a physical location, to get information on parts statuses
Your engineer needs a part for a job and wants to check if the stockroom has it. They use fuel and company hours to travel the stockroom, and then find out the part is out of stock.
This situation wouldn’t be as painful if a remote work tool such as a digital parts management app was used. Rather than relying on other types of forms or systems, digital parts management makes it so time is used more effectively and that information is available on the cloud with real-time updates.
This type of system provides an overview of parts statuses so your team doesn’t have to keep going back to the stockroom to see if you need to order something – saving time, fuel, and frustration.
An excellent parts management tool allows you to see the following parts statuses wherever you are:
Furthermore, you know exactly at the cent how much money (parts value) you have in the stockroom. This makes up for any losses with parts or inventory.
3. Diagnostic Augmented Reality
When an in-person visit is difficult or unnecessary, visit customer properties virtually using innovative, easy to use technology
In some situations, it doesn’t make sense for an engineer to visit the property. That’s where Augmented Reality (AR) comes into play. Diagnostic AR is a brand new technology and is one of the best tools to work remotely.
Commusoft is one field service software business who has pioneered the use of AR for field services.
“An augmented reality (or AR) tool can save businesses from lost jobs and unsatisfied customers. With recent developments in technology, particularly Apple’s AR Kit, there are a few scenarios where an AR mobile application can be deployed and help customers soft-fix small issues, without wasting time and fuel for the engineer.” – Jason Morjaria, CEO of Commusoft.
Diagnostic AR generally involves a video conference with an engineer and customer. The customer uses video to present the issue, and the engineer acts as a virtual assistant – using AR to circle and highlight areas where the customer can fix their problem.
While it’s no secret that connecting virtually presents challenges, video chatting has more room for connectivity and human emotions. In fact, Video conferencing performs 30% better for communication than audio-only setups.
4. Estimate software
Make use of software that lets you create and send quotes anytime, anywhere
Stop being dependent on the office server or supplies to get estimates sent out. There’s no need to use paper templates or digital software that are only available on office desktops.
With remote work tools, you can use quoting software to take this process online.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to the quoting process, using software:
Create a quote right form a customer record
Send a quote to your customer via email
Your customer accepts from a link
The customer can pay a deposit right away
Receive a notification of an accepted quote
You’re no longer dependent on the office server or supplies to get these quotes sent out. Digitising the process also lets you get acceptance and any initial deposits sooner.
A great FS software notifies you right when this happens, and you can get the notification whether or not you are connected to the internet.
5. Invoice software
Use invoice software to create and send invoices, and your customer can even pay you online
Sending out accurate invoices promptly improves cash flow, no doubt. Your virtual field service office is more than able to handle the entire invoicing process.
Your remote employees can create invoices directly from the estimate, saving time while preventing double data entry.
Invoicing software has the following benefits:
A simple way to create and send invoices from wherever you are (create an invoice right from the quote)
An easy way for customers to pay (send the invoice to a customer via email)
More likely to get paid on time (they can pay straight from an embedded email link)
Seeing a real-time overview of your cash flow (and any customer debts, notified right away)
6. Cloud-based financial reporting
Know where you stand financially with an automated, easy-to-read report
Knowing your financial state is ideal, but this can be tricky when there’s information across software programs, documents, papers, etc. It can take some time to compile a financial report, and you have to keep updating it manually to be sure it’s accurate.
Whether there are piles of papers or information in several different software programs, finding the information you need often takes time.
What if you could automate the process and have all financial data available on one screen, in real-time? Cloud-based financial reporting gives you an overview of two key areas:
Where you are spending money (job expenses or parts expenses, for example)
Where you are making money (profits on individual jobs, as well as aggregate profit data)
Having all job, cost, and profit information in one placeoffers a useful solution. A comprehensive report, thanks to cloud-based financial reporting software, empowers you to know your financial state, at all times.
Give the team access to organised customer information from wherever they are
You’re currently working from home. A customer calls you for emergency work on their boiler. But, you’re unable to access that customer record as it’s in your office, either on your desktop or in your cabinet.
You’re scrambling to respond to their query. You might be asking questions trying to figure out who they are, which is never a good customer service move.
The bottom line is this: you don’t have the customer data you need to serve them, and the customer is left feeling let down, giving them all the more reason to move on to your competitors.
Clear, well-organised data and systems allow you to engage with your clientele across devices and locations. This invaluable remote work tool gives each member of the team an overview of each customer, along with all their work history, assets, property information, and more.
8. Online scheduling system
Your team can schedule and dispatch engineers from their couch or wherever else
Your engineer is on their way to a property, only to realise there’s no one home. They need a good way to communicate this back to the office, and your office needs a way to rebook this appointment ASAP.
If no one is in the office, then your engineer can’t get a hold of anyone. So, unfortunately, the appointment can’t be rescheduled right then and there.
For changes in jobs, such as a no-access or cancelled appointment, it’s great to have your engineer update this in a system where all staff can see the update right as it happens. That way, you can get that job rescheduled immediately, hassle-free.
Remote work tools such as cloud-based scheduling systems allow your business to be reactive to real-time updates and customer needs.
Updating the data is more effective than sending an email or phone call with the info because it’s accessible to everyone in real-time. You can see engineers’ available hours, their skills, and the work request all in one place – streamlining and saving valuable time.
When appointments are booked, you’ll want to have an accessible visual calendar with a map view so you and your staff see where your engineers are at all times.
Booking jobs ensures your business’s revenue and growth – it’s one of the most important parts of your business! That being said, optimising and managing your tech schedules with a synchronised system is key.
About 93% of respondents said they’d be more likely to choose a provider that uses online booking over one who doesn’t, according to getapp.com.
Why? According to the same study, 56.4% of respondents get frustrated waiting on hold and dealing with inconvenient office hours.
Restricting your ability to secure appointments to working hours isn’t the best choice. Online booking forms allow you to receive job requests even when staff is out of the office.
You have a job management schedule used for dispatching, and another calendar such as Outlook. When you update the job management schedule, you manually update the other calendar.
What happens if your remote employees forget to manually update one of the schedules? Scheduling errors can cause an engineer to not show up at an appointment, or show up at an appointment that’s been cancelled.
A software that has calendar integrations decreases the chance of such inefficient uses of time. Furthermore, having a software that has calendar integrations allows you to see business information from your favourite online calendars, and vice versa.
9. Mobile app for engineers
Give engineers access to resources via mobile devices, and send and receive information to them
4/5 engineers use tablets or smartphones for fieldwork and 66% of field services use mobile workforce management solutions.
There’s a reason why using mobile devices for fieldwork is trending. Cloud-based mobile platforms allow engineers to move quickly from job to job and also eliminate the need to carry stacks of papers between appointments.
Their mobile app should contain the job sheet, as well as any digital manuals or other documents they may need. Having mobile checklists and forms allows your engineer to stay organised by creating lists of parts needed for a job, assets to fix on the job, etc.
For example, why should your engineer have to remember asset information each time they go to the same property? Great software has the asset information on the app so it’s right at their fingertips.
On a similar note, property history is useful, but can be hard to remember when there are lots of other moving parts. Having this on the engineer’s mobile device prevents them from asking the same questions over and over again.
Engineers should be able to track their time with their mobile app so you have accurate timesheets for what time they arrive at a property and when they leave. Software allows you to see your engineers’ timesheet from a device wherever you are. No more needing to have them visit the office to turn it in.
You and your staff can see everything about the job in one, digital place.
Let’s say your engineer contacts you after your work hours asking for a customer address so they can travel to the job. Without your usual materials at the office, you likely can’t help.
Having an engineer travel into the office to gather a worksheet every time for a job isn’t the best use of fuel or time.
Instead, arm your engineers and office staff with digital job sheets. These documents are easy to read, customisable, and have everything you need to know for each job: customer name, property address, type of job, etc. If you use this remote work tool, engineers can receive and return job sheets without a trip to the office.
These job sheets carry over to estimates, invoices, etc. so there’s no double data entry, meaning less room for error.
This article has shown you 10 tools you can use to manage your remote field service team. These tools help you manage employees, customers, and your overall business, enabling you to grow remotely and rise above your competition. To take things further, why not look at 10 ways you can improve communication with our Customer Communication Toolkit
Want to learn more?
If you’re looking for a software that does everything mentioned in this article, Commusoft is an all-in-one job management software designed to available on both desktop and mobile devices. Our comprehensive field service management software offers a cloud-based solution to supply our clients with the tools they need to organise and manage their business.