Numerous challenges and opportunities face companies that offer energy-related
services to commercial customers and end consumers. The marketplace is large,
competitive and frag mented. Traditional players have an embedded infrastructure,
but do not have a long history of operating freely and unencumbered from regulatory
bodies. If those in your organization dealing in this environment don’t have
their heads spinning already, just add technology into the mix, such as wireless,
Internet, and customer relationship management software. At the end of the day,
we must confront the basic questions:
• How can we improve the productivity of the people performing the service
work at our customers’ sites?
• Where can we streamline the organizations and processes that support
• How can we significantly build and maintain customer loyalty?

It seems that “turning up the dial” in response to any one of these questions,
without “turning down the dial” in another area, could have adverse effects
on our ability to improve the overall profitability of our operations on a long-term
There is good news. By focusing on customer needs and prudently improving infra
structure, organizations can simultaneously:

• Increase revenue from existing customers
• Secure new customers and new channels
• Reduce the administrative time spent by service technicians
• Reduce support costs for service technicians

Imagining that we are packaging a few key requirements for a Request for Information,
as a precursor to a Request for Proposal or an Invitation to Tender, we might
ask for the following:

• Ability for customers to enter service requests over the channel of their
choice, including call center, interactive voice response, and Internet
• Capability to generate service requests automatically from remote-sensing
devices attached directly to equipment
• Route service requests to the appropriate dispatching department, affiliated
third-party service provider, or directly to the technician, based on customer
• Provide self-service features to allow customers to readily access the
status of their work as well as the service technicians assigned to the work
• Facilitate immediate service authorization based on standard practices
and fee parameter
• Eliminate paperwork for customers and technicians at the point of service
by providing a secure environment for electronic author ization
• Provide enhanced communication capabilities for service technicians that
does not hinder or encumber a technician’s autonomy

Responding to these requirements demands a balanced approach to change management,
software deployment and field service technology.

Begin with workflow, processes, and metrics. Collect your “as-is” information
and fill in the gaps. We may be eager to change and adopt best practices. Sometimes
we can do this without dwelling too much on the past, but the best way to make
this journey is to understand precisely where you are today.

Focus on the flow of work conducted by your field service technicians. If you
don’t have a preferred documentation technique or want to restate what you have
today in a fresh format, try using a “swimming lane” approach (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Workflow sample
See Larger Image

Next you will want to review your processes for “opportunity windows” (with
efforts over recent years to promote effectiveness and efficiency, we are hesitant
to use phrases like “non-productive time” and “non-value-added activities” in
this context). Companies with sound structures should have an easier time in
identifying “open windows” where significant amounts of “energy” may be escaping.
The opportunity windows should have the perspective of direct interaction with
the customer, service technician, and those supporting customers and technicians.
These are the items you will want to baseline and measure on an ongoing basis.
Figure 2 provides one way to organize the information.

Figure 2 – Sample model for organizing process

technical building blocks of the solution are illustrated in Figure 3 and embody
the following key concepts:
• Deploy channel- neutral CRM software
• Provide all stakeholders with multiple channels of communication to address
individual preferences and serve as backup
• Offer self-service options
• Use various wireless devices concurrently
• Leverage the Internet and wireless networks
• Allow the solution to coexist with existing processes, systems and devices.



Figure 3 – Multi-channel access

Requesting Service

There will be a decrease in call volume through self-service.
Wireless sensing devices can further decrease call volume through direct connection
of assets, where cost effective, to the CRM software system. While the cost
of a single call may increase as routine calls are moved to other channels,
this is actually desirable, as you want to spend “quality time” with customers
that have special needs or potential cross-sell/up-sell opportunities.

Optimizing Preventive Maintenance and Short-Term Scheduled Requests

When it is necessary to visit a customer site on an emergency basis, the service
technician will be more efficient if a scheduled service can be performed during
the same visit.

Assigning to Appropriate Technician(s)

The common data repository can be modeled to link technicians to customers,
unique customer sites, and even specific assets. Technicians can also be linked
as teams within a service organization, be it internal or a third-party affiliate.
As a result, the number of calls and talk time will be reduced for CSRs and
dispatching personnel. Notifications are sent in real time to the service team
leaders, the service technicians and other personnel via wireless devices.


Updating Status

There will be a substantial reduction in time for those requesting status as
well as for those making changes. Service technicians can punch a new time into
their wireless devices, eliminating calls to team leaders, dispatchers, and
customers. An ETA status change will be immediately reflected in the Web site,
allowing customers to serve themselves. CSRs have the same information and updating capabilities to support users that are out of the cellular footprint and/or
are not Internet-enabled.

Arriving on Site

A service technician will save time by scrolling to his or her job on the wireless
device and indicating arrival on site. The actual time of arrival is now populated
on the Web site, again reducing the time related to status updates.


Work Estimates and Approving Performance

Service technicians can choose from a list of standard repair, PM, or other
scheduled jobs. PM and scheduled jobs are verified, while repair jobs originating
from service requests, are checked for spending authorization levels. For example,
if a technician assesses a cooling problem as compressor-related and a standard
job exists for repairing that particular asset, the manual estimating process
is bypassed. If the repair costs fall beneath the established limit for that
particular customer, then the technician receives immediate authorization to
proceed. The time savings are magnified when the technician is actually working
on the asset.

Signing Off on Completed Work

The service technician, having completed work, has the client sign off by entering
a personal identification number into the technician’s wireless device. This
engages the customer and technician in a “customer satisfaction interaction,”
and provides an electronic approval for the work performed. Paperwork is drastically
reduced in this process.

Billing and Invoice Processing

The sign-off by the customer on the service technician’s wireless device,
coupled with a simple link between the CRM software and the back-office systems,
significantly reduces invoicing and payment cycle time. The process is almost
entirely automated unless a dispute is registered within a predefined window
that can be established with each customer.

Measuring Performance: The compilation of reports and the tracking
of metrics requires less labor with the crucial benefit of more accurate and
timely information for improving a variety of areas. A sample of these includes
measuring third-party relationships, customer satisfaction, planned vs. actual
arrival times, and actual vs. standard time to repair.

Managing Assets: Notwithstanding its inherent value in traditional
maintenance and repair arrangements, this aspect of performance addresses the
key to many facility management deals. Trend data extracted from the common
repository of asset will help manage such items as spare parts, retirements,
substitutions, and location optimization.

Working the Queues: The common repository maintained by the CRM
software and established workflow allow active queues to be maintained, bubbling
the highest priority situations to the top of the list. This applies to such
things as service requests entered but not assigned, technicians en route behind
schedule, quotes outstanding, and aging of receivables. Workflow rules can be
punctuated with audible alarms of various tones to alert service technicians,
supervisors and other management personnel that input and/or action is required
to keep the information and statuses up to date.

Numerous studies have documented the relationship of customer satisfaction
and loyalty to profitability. Our experience from both practical application
as well as modeling various business scenarios suggests the following improvements
are achievable:
• Reducing the average time spent on repairs by 5-10 percent
• Reducing time from service request to technician dispatch by 15-25 percent
• Reducing the time to quote and approve jobs by 25-50 percent
• Speeding billing, invoicing, and collections by 25-50 percent
• Eliminating paperwork and status phone calls by 50-75 percent.

Establishing a streamlined pricing and servicing model, along with improving
the infrastructure for stakeholder communications and self-service, will increase
customer satisfaction, save the customer time, and free up organizational capacity.
Your business strategy should direct the use of this excess capacity that will
be created from closing on the opportunity windows. Profitability will be improved
by some combination of eliminating unwanted capacity, capturing more traditional
business share from your customers, offering additional services to your existing
base, attacking competitors and opening up new markets.