Share on your Social Network
- Feb 24, 2017
- by Glenn Richmond
At CRM Online, we’ve spoken with, scoped and implemented field service solutions for a wide range of organisations - from machine sales and maintenance, to fire safety, electrical and IT, to garden maintenance.
The one thing that we’ve seen in each of these use cases is that every business has unique requirements. They’re not 100% unique mind you - almost every field services business requires job management, time and materials tracking, many require maintenance scheduling, and most require invoicing and purchase orders. However, the differences come in the detail of their processes as well as the reports that each business requires to run efficiently.
Tailor Processes Specifically to Your Requirements
As with any system implementation, the devil is in the detail. It’s important that the field services platform you choose is able to bend and be moulded to your specific needs. Perhaps you need to track jobs against specific departments, or you would like email notifications to be sent to a specific team of users when a job of a given type is completed? Or perhaps you simply would like to configure the language of your system to fit your industry?
This is where a CRM platform comes into it’s own. Any good CRM will have two key elements at a minimum - a customisation studio that allows you to tailor the fields, attributes, labels and business logic in your quotes, jobs, sites and any other module that you leverage, and a workflow engine that allows you to configure notifications (both customer and internal) designed around your business’ processes. Some of the more advanced platforms will even let you build entire custom modules to suit your needs.
Put simply, without both of these aspects in your field services system, you’re stuck using the system the way that the software developer decided it should work, rather than what’s best for your business. Believe me - I’ve spoken to many customers of major field service software products complaining about lack of flexibility, and not one of them had implemented their field services platform on a CRM platform.
Leverage Dashboards and Reports that specific to your Business Goals & KPIs
Moving beyond flexibility and fit for your business, one of the other key aspects when implementing a system designed to improve business performance is how you’re going to measure and report on that performance. Every business is different and needs to measure different metrics - is the problem you’re trying to solve that there’s a 7 day turn-around between an inspection or maintenance job and when you actually provide a quote to your customers? If so, how do you measure this? In this case, we’d want to track timestamps between maintenance completion, quote creation, and fault resolution. A CRM provides us the framework to implement this level of business logic, and the in built reporting engine to report and analyze this data over time. Compare this with a traditional field services system that doesn’t have that flexibility - you’re reliant on the software developer to implement this capability that will benefit your business, something that gets less likely the more unique your requirements are.
To summarize, configurable drag and drop reporting, and personalised dashboards are a key component of any good CRM platform. By choosing a CRM platform for your field services business, your system can help you solve today’s problems, and will be flexible enough to help you solve tomorrow’s challenges too.
Integration and App Ecosystem are Important
Most of the major CRM platforms these days provide open APIs (application programming interfaces), which allow you to integrate your CRM and field services platform with any other major systems within your business. In addition, many of the leading solutions include an app ecosystem that lets you extend your platform beyond it’s original use case. Certainly, both Salesforce and SugarCRM have a strong app ecosystem, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM is starting to evolve in that area.
What does this mean to your business? Put simply, it means choice - perhaps you’d like to tie in bespoke document generation and eSigning processes into your job signoff process, or you’d like to be able to store customer acceptance emails against the quotes that you generate - by choosing a CRM as your platform, you have those options.
Let’s also look at the scenario where you would like to put in place a customer portal, or you run one of the many complex ERP platforms on the market for your financials. Perhaps you’re running JD Edwards on an old AS400, or you’re running SAP ECC or Business One - good luck finding a field services platform that integrates with those products out of the box (unless it’s provided by those same vendors, in which case, this often means big $$). By leveraging a CRM platform with an open API, you have the ability to integrate with those ERPs using an integration tool such as Dell Boomi. If you happen to be stuck on a closed field services platform, your options are limited, and you’re often left with the choice of migrating to a new system, or putting up with double entry across your organisation.
Like the article? Share it with your colleagues!