IN THE OLD DAYS, work order management software stayed put in the office, and personnel plying the keyboard used the telephone to relay information to technicians out in the field.
Today’s advanced service management solutions support instant data exchange between the office and the field, enabling field personnel greater access to customer data. In some cases, technicians can even write work orders while at the jobsite.
Some solutions can be used with relatively inexpensive handhelds, allowing the benefits of wireless communication married to data exchange to spread through an organization at lesser expense, compared with solutions that work only on laptops.
Wennsoft’s Service Management Series is a modular comprehensive service dispatch, scheduling, invoicing and maintenance-contracting program for service industries with employees in the field.
The solution may incorporate MobileTEC, an add-on module that extends work-order management via remote database access to anyone in the field equipped with a laptop or a handheld computer with wireless network capability, supporting communication between dispatchers and technicians as well.
It may also include eCustomer Portal, a module that gives clients direct access to service data. Other add-on modules include a maintenance contract module and an invoice module that supports unlimited labor and materials price schedules and automatically adds travel expenses.
The core of Service Management is a customer service database that supports customer search by name, address, customer identification, equipment serial number or other user-defined fields. Service call records are re-callable by technician I.D., call I.D., contract number, scheduled date or description.
To maximize both customer satisfaction and productivity in the field, a dispatcher can use a “best technician” button that automatically finds the next available qualified technician to take a particular service call. Dispatchers can use the notepad function to attach comments to various fields and can also use the built-in document management facility to attach scanned-in work orders and other documents to a service call or equipment record.
When a service call comes into the office, a dispatcher selects a technician in the field and begins communication. The dispatcher can pick a particular technician based on whatever criteria he or she feels appropriate or can rely on a “best technician” key that automatically finds the next available qualified technician for the service call. Once the technician is selected, communications between the two can include problem description and type, scheduled data and time, type of service call, service history, and location, equipment and maintenance contract information.
For each call received, MobileTEC identifies the time the call came in and tracks technician status, including travel time, onsite time, work complete and additional work orders.
Technicians can record everything done on a job, including the labor, material, subcontractors, equipment worked on and mileage, as work proceeds. If the technician is equipped with a signature capture device, the customer can sign off on the job, confirming the work was done and allowing the billing process to start even before the service technician is back in the office.
Call closeout in the field improves efficiency, expedites payment and can reduce the cost of administrative overhead. The solution is used during work process, rather than afterward. The technician enters data just once while it’s fresh in his mind, eliminating re-keying of work order information, timesheets and notes.
MobileTEC includes a maintenance tasking feature that guides the field technician through the tasks required to complete maintenance procedures and allows the worker to enter jobsite readings, note site details and add comments, thereby eliminating handwritten logs.
The module also provides a quick way for technicians to create new work orders on the spot for additional work that comes up during routine maintenance, ensuring that all additional billable time is captured for invoicing.
MobileTEC can also keep tabs on inventory, assigning material taken from either warehouse inventory or truck stock to a particular work order.
The Web-based eCustomer Portal module enables contractors to offer customers the ability both to request service calls and to view their own service call history over the Web at any time. Contractors control the depth of available real-time details for each customer. This open access to information aids clients who, in turn, have to answer to their tenants, without having to place calls to the contractor’s office or otherwise track down the technician or service rep.
Over the life of the service contract, clients can track all the time-stamped maintenance work and emergency work performed. This function fulfills a frequent requirement of building owners and managers who want to see where the maintenance contract fees go.
It is also possible to set up the e-Customer portal so clients automatically can retrieve the kind of information they need in customer-specific report format.
This type of information is a value-added service that helps solidify the contractor-client relationship.
William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].