Valuing Automation and the Power of People in your Field Service Business

Rhys Pattimore
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Whether collecting insights from our own staff, researching information online, or discussing details with experts from other industries: investigating automation has been an eye-opening experience.

We’ve been eager to share our findings, and it seems like there's been a thousand and one things we've been able to discuss around automation and job management software (and we’ve certainly addressed many of them).

However, whether it’s talking about how they can help improve your database management, optimise scheduling, save you time, or simply help you manage your business more efficiently, there’s a particular theme that’s kept coming up amongst it all…

From office staff, to engineers, to managers: it’s people that matter most.

  1. The importance of people when choosing software
  2. Overcoming the fear of automation
  3. Understanding the importance of training
  4. Appreciating the value automation can bring your business

1. The importance of people when choosing software

As exciting as new technology is—particularly when it comes to its usefulness in making tasks easier and our work-lives more convenient—it’s been refreshing and (to get a little bit poetic) poignant to hear that people are very much at the heart of what automation is all about. 

After all, when you think about machines and software, it can often feel easy to get caught up thinking about robots, digital devices, and screens of code. Whilst there are elements of these things when dealing with automation, the innovation I’ve discussed seems to be driven by the simple desire to help people and not just focus on turning a profit.

As Jibran Qureshi, Director at Clear House Accountants said during our conversation, software is great for providing data, stats and numbers, but having someone who can then interpret that data and use it is just one of the reasons why people are important to focus on. It’s why software needs to be accessible and offer value:

It’s a tool that gives information. It can say certain things, but the customer needs someone to translate that data. If an AI machine gives you some financial information without speaking to the customer, or without understanding their pain points [it’s less useful]. These things change as well, so there will still need to be someone there to interpret and use that data.

In this post, then, I want to address and not only reinforce the power that automation and digital solutions will bring to your business, but help allay some fears that people still have around using such technology, too. 

Whether it’s hesitation on change, or a misunderstanding of what digital tools will let you achieve: when you understand how something like job management software can help the people in your business you’ll see the benefits automation can bring to you, overall.

You won’t have to just take my word for it either! As mentioned, we’ve collected insight from experts both within our company and outside, and all have put forward excellent points and advice when it comes to implementing automation in to your business:

So, let’s start by considering something that a lot of people have been fearful of: that automation, or technology of any kind, might put someone out of a job…

2. Overcoming the fear of automation

Whether it’s for ourselves developing software as a service, or for your business (from fire & security, to plumbing, heating, HVAC, and more besides) making use of it, we know that change can be scary. 

However, change should never make you feel like your job is at risk, but we understand that for some people, it can be a genuine concern. 

That said, in all the conversations I’ve been having, the point keeps coming up emphasising that when implementing something like a job management software, people are important. Changes are being made to help optimise success, reduce wasted time and assist individuals to achieve more by letting them expand their roles, not to make an individual or a team redundant.

As Nisha, Manager of Clients Operations at Commusoft, says:

The software's there to make lower-end tasks redundant so you can do more important, more stimulating work. A company should buy software because they know inherently that it will improve efficiency and be purposeful for their business needs.

Change is good!

As an example, when I spoke to Paul Harrison, eBusiness Trading Manager at Wolseley UK, he explained that when introducing tech, there should be an emphasis on doing so to increase value for both the customer and your business:

I don't think it's saying that ‘we're going to [implement] tech and then take out X number of people in the organisation’. It's about how you redeploy those people to provide the customer with more added value opportunities. Tech is only part of it. The other two benefits are equally important and that’s the process and the people that are involved because without the right processes and the right people, the tech fails.

The old phrase, “a workman is only as good as his tools” rings true here, but equally, a tool is useless without someone to wield it. While yes: automation can take a task away from an individual, it does so because that task was likely menial, time-consuming, or inefficient.

Now that the processes—like sending emails, updating information, or sending reminders—follow an automated process (thanks to a digital tool), you or your employees can use the time to do more engaging work.  

In this way, a job management software doesn’t come in and take over from a team, it simply helps a business to become more productive. This, of course, still requires human input. Whether it’s stock control, job scheduling, or tracking SLAs, having a system that allows these processes to be controlled, structured, and better organised means everyone works more efficiently. Again, as Nisha explains:

I can't see any reason why having a software wipes out departments. What it does is make those departments better. It gives those people more time to start thinking about other things, to be more efficient, or to the ability to grow their business. 

To make the most out of these solutions you need to take the time to understand the product. This can also be a reason why people are resistant to change. It’s not just the fear of losing out (which we’ve established isn’t the case), but the inconvenience of taking the time to learn and adapt to a new way of working that can put people off.

However, if you understand how something works and the benefits it can bring not just to your business, but to the individuals that use them day in, day out, then you’ll go on to find success.

3. Understanding the importance of training

When you bring someone in to your company, you want them to be able to work well, right? If the answer is no, you might need to rethink your hiring strategy: but of course, you provide training and guidance for new employees and - if you’re smart - for all other employees too. Enriching your workforce by providing training and guidance, not just of new tools, but best practices ensure teams have the knowledge to work at their best.

This can sometimes mean making major adjustments. Jibran discussed a sentiment that I’m sure you’ll agree with and went on to elaborate about their own approach to training and adopting tech at CHACC: 

The key thing for us is our employees, but we also ingrained in the minds of our employees the value that technology brings. When you show them the value and give enough resources to employees, they’re more willing to adapt and grow their roles.

This also influenced their approach to training. Often we can be quick to criticise failings or poor performance without taking the time to understand the problem and find a solution, and it’s certainly true that adapting to new technology isn’t easy for everyone. Whether it’s old habits from a different system, inexperience from using the new one  infrequently, or a complex task that takes time to properly understand, 

You should take enough time for training, but if there are any failings, they [employees] should not be penalized on their performance because [in the case of tech] it's something new that's been put in place.” Give people the space to ask questions, learn, and grow.

If people are not onboard, it doesn't work. So the biggest part of technology is people. To implement and accept technology, by and large, it depends on people for it to work properly.

It's a similar thing with clients as well. You know, you could, you could have all these amazing technologies unless you show value to the clients. They're not willing to kind of onboard to that technology. 

That resistance is often the biggest problem when it comes to adopting new tech, or digital solutions, not the tech itself but the challenge of implementation. If you know how your teams work, function, and respond to change, then you’ll be better prepared to tackle the changes you want to implement.

What if you’re not sure? Well, talk to your colleagues and do some investigation! Discuss pain points, see where tasks are taking up too much time, or where cash flow might be a problem and, when you have your answers, not only will you be better prepared to fix problems but your staff will feel more valued by having been involved in the entire process. 

As Jibran went on to explain:

We want to develop our employees to build and motivate them. To see what they actually want to do, or what they actually struggle with, or where they prosper as well. Based on that you then build into to where they want to get to. After all, you can’t just leave them in silos expecting that magically, everything’s going to become efficient. 

Be proactive, investigate and take steps to make improvements as a team. You can only do that—and do it well—if you understand the people, the engineers, the office staff, the managers, and customers. If you can work faster and more efficiently which helps the business, then those benefits will certainly pass over to the customer as well, from faster response times to better, more personalised communication.

4. Appreciating the value automation can bring your business

As we close out this article, there are 5 major benefits you can gain from automating your business, when it comes to people management:

1. Increased Productivity

The collective time saved by automatic additions like this can then be better spent on tasks that require more attention, whether it’s fine-tuning specific security concerns, or answering customer queries quicker and in more detail. As a result, not only do they get quality customer service, but productivity for your business gains an overall boost, too.

2. Optimised Performance 

Introduce automation into the way you manage bookings and you can optimise the performance of your business, thanks to intelligent mass scheduling. When you’re scaling 100+ jobs per week, it’s paramount to implement an automated solution. It will help prevent human error, optimise the schedules of your engineers, and boost the overall performance of your business.

3. Reduced Costs (and increased earnings!)

It’s important to think about the reasons why you might need to automate in the first place. Is the cost of hiring admin staff causing you to suffer financially? Or perhaps it’s simply too expensive for you hire new staff? Automation provides a solution to both of these issues. 

4. Enhanced Communication

Improve customer satisfaction through timely communication and word of your successes may spread, filtering through to help you win more business.It’s not about offering superior service, it’s simply what customers expect these days, in the age of Uber and Deliveroo. 

5. Improved Reliability

Our CEO, Jason, says as much himself: “automation creates consistency - if something is automated in your business, it means it’s done every time, without fail. You’re not relying on a person to do something (or forgetting to do something). You also know it’s done in a particular way, every time.” It’s, therefore, safe to say that consistency helps improve reliability.

The Takeaway

When making any decision, it's always wise to consider the impact it'll have on the people you work with. Finances will of course dictate a lot of these decision, but if you plan appropriately and show you value the opinions of your workforce, you'll see that, when paired with technological solutions, you can take your success so much further.

If you’re eager to learn more from us, take a look at our Practical Guide to Automation, as well. In addition, why not subscribe to our mailing list below? We post weekly to help provide you with up to date information, advice, and guidelines you’re sure to find useful! 

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