The blog post was written by Alison Chappell, Strategic Development Manager, Infomill Ltd
With such dynamic and rapid developments in technology across the globe, it seems surprising that so many people remain ill-equipped with the right knowledge to carry out their job effectively on a day-to-day basis.
Field service operations and indeed, the UK heating industry, is no exception to this conundrum and yet, before you leap on the first piece of broadly relevant technology that you come across, take some time to consider what is actually going to make a valuable and long-term difference to the performance of your business.
Why is knowledge management important?
You might wonder why having access to such knowledge – a situation we describe as “knowledge management” – could make a significant difference to how you operate. Sticking with our example where perhaps you’re a heating company, out in the field servicing boilers on a regular basis, you should consider the following:
It’s all about plumbing skills, turning up on time, being nice to the customer, and fixing the fault, right?
Whilst all those points are important, just think how much more effective and productive you might be if you had the right knowledge at your fingertips on a mobile device – even when there was no internet connection. Just consider how much your service might improve if all aspects of your work joined up and everyone involved in each job – from engineer, to call centre and administrative office – had exactly the right information to hand, just when they needed it?
What is the knowledge gap?
Many busy field service industries are finding that their efficiency is being hampered by the “knowledge gap” and that this in turn, is costing the business money.
Money that is a cost instead of profit. A disabling knowledge gap can develop when critical manufacturer technical data in addition to parts codes and information is not directly available to the engineer in the field.
In the heating field service industry, an engineer might need to refer to technical manuals and manufacturer or supplier parts lists in order to diagnose a fault and identify the correct part to order. Not having direct access to this key information leaves him having to call the office for help or even contact the manufacturer and ask for guidance.
All of which takes time and results with a system that can be fraught with errors. The wrong part might be selected, the wrong fault might be identified. And so, the problem continues and a further site visit is inevitable. All costing the field service business time and money.
This is the knowledge gap and it can prove costly. The good news is that careful choice of the right knowledge management system can effectively fill the gap, empower the engineers and result in efficiencies and enhanced customer service like never before. If you're not sure about what's out there and you'd like an overview of some of the most popular systems, Helpjuice has a great rundown on the best knowledge management software around.
Choosing a knowledge management system that is tuned to field service
Life doesn’t get any easier when you’ve decided to invest in a knowledge management system however. There’s such a huge number available, thanks to that rapid development in technology I mentioned.
But taking the time to consider the options with your own specific industry requirements in mind will ensure that you make a much more informed choice.
Firstly, identify knowledge management tools that have been specifically created to enhance field service. Don’t simply be impressed by the technology; look to understand how it can practically work for your industry, your business.
Ask for a demonstration. Ask to hear about other businesses that are using the software.
Ask for case studies that highlight the potential efficiencies and improvements you might enjoy.
Does this meet with your expectations for return on investment?
Also consider whether a particular knowledge management system has the capabilities you’re looking for in terms of data management and processing.
Field service can be a complex business and you need your new system to be on the ball from the word go and capable of growing as you do. Understand what back up and support is available too, should you need it. This is an important decision and hopefully, you’re only going to make it once.
Specific requirements for HVAC
Just like any field service industry, HVAC has some specific needs and there are field service knowledge management systems available that will go the extra mile for you.
A key requirement for an HVAC system should be direct access to manufacturer and supplier information that is relevant to your business. Not every software option will have this, but if they’re integrated with PartsArena, they will. And this addition will add enormous value to your system and the productivity of your engineers every single day, every single year.
Increasingly, field service operators need to have one, fully comprehensive system that manages their operations from the moment the customer calls, right through to the invoicing and administration stage.
This requires some smart integration and given the huge level of technological drive, we’re in the fortunate position of being able to make this happen. It’s simply a case of determining the right choices to join everything up, helping your business to work at a higher level, meeting stricter KPIs whilst delivering customer service that is leaps and bounds ahead of your competition.
That being the case, who wouldn’t take the time to understand how they can “mind the gap” and develop a concise and explicit smart knowledge management system that delivers rewards to your business at every single level?
The benefits are quite clear to see, whether you’re operating as a one-man band or as a larger team of HVAC engineers amongst a wider customer service team within an organisation; all poised to be far more productive and efficient with the right knowledge and management systems to hand.