Field Service Automation: What is a Workflow Engine?

Rhys Pattimore
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From inputting customer data, to writing emails, to chasing payments; there are all sorts of jobs you and your team take care of every day.

But while all of these things are important, they can also be time-consuming or even become tedious. And that's when mistakes happen...

When set up properly though, a workflow engine can help take care of these simple but essential tasks automatically, and make those annoying jobs barely a second thought!

Feature_icon_blue_productivityServing as part of your field service business’ automation strategy, different workflows can be set up within your software and used to help your team focus on the tasks they enjoy doing. This way, they can get “in the zone” and do great work without being interrupted.

Let’s look at why you should take a workflow engine seriously:

  1. What is a workflow engine
  2. The value of a workflow engine
  3. Your business process workflow engine.
  4. A little logic goes a long way
  5. Advanced automation techniques

1. What is a workflow engine?

Simply put, a workflow engine is a software tool. With it, you can set up a specific process (like sending an email) to trigger after a particular action has been taken.

The easiest way to think of it is in terms of an: “If this, then that” sequence. 

A concrete example would be:

“If a new appointment is created, then the assigned engineer will be pinged with a notification.” 

That’s a fairly simple workflow and it’s typical of something a business process workflow engine will allow you to set up.

Workflow software is a great option for field service businesses who’re making use of job management software because it will enable you to take simple tasks and automate them to be taken care of by the software, rather than an individual.

It’s a powerful tool that can give everyone back more time, from your staff to customers. 

2. The value of a workflow engine

The true value of a workflow engine is that you can organise a whole series of actions and business personalise them to support your business strategy.

For example: using your current processes, your admin staff will be able to check to see if a customer has paid their invoice or if it’s still pending. From there, they can choose to send a follow-up email or make a phone call if needs be.

graphic_coins-01Whilst straightforward, it still takes time, especially if you find you’re chasing unpaid invoices for 100’s of customers. That would require hours of manual effort to copy, paste, redraft and write a follow-up email for each and every one of your customers with outstanding debt, requiring them to fill in the details, and contact the customer themselves.

A workflow engine can eliminate that job for you. 

With a customised workflow-enabled, your software can routinely check to see if a payment is still pending. If it is, then it can automatically create, complete, and send an email to that customer, auto-filling all the relevant details as well.

Even better, you can customise this process to take place at specific intervals (i.e. 2 weeks notice, 1-week notice, 1-day notice): all in an effort to chase the customer without your team having to get manually involved.

To take things a step further, let’s say your customer doesn’t respond to those emails. Your workflow can be made smart enough to recognise that if the invoice still isn’t paid, even after 3 attempts, then it’s time to create an office task so that your team can get directly involved. 

graphic_computer_automation_clock-01

This way, you’re not perpetually spamming your customer with 100s of emails for months on end, while only getting your team involved when they really need to be.

In most cases, a delay or missed payment will be down to simple human error.

An email is usually all you’ll need to prompt the customer to pay (especially if it’s easy thanks to your payment portal), but with a workflow taking care of most of the admin, you can save a ton of time and effort so that your business processes can continue to flow smoothly elsewhere. 

Achieving that "flow state" for your business is precisely what makes a workflow engine so powerful.

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3. Your business process workflow engine.

In an ideal world, we’d all love to be able to enter into that sort of flow state, with a free mind that helps us do our jobs, particularly if it’s something a bit fiddly and technical.

For your service business, you’ll know that when your engineers can work without interruption, it makes completing an installation or sorting a repair even easier. Not only that, but it can even lead to them doing better work.

green 4-01After all, technology and software can reduce the number of interruptions that your staff face. As a result, they can focus on important tasks that require genuine attention.

You’ll likely be well aware of how much better things are for your business now that you’ve ditched physical paperwork and are enjoying the benefits of digital admin. Making use of a workflow engine is another level-up from that experience and will significantly reduce the steps your staff needs to take when it comes to performing repetitive tasks.

With a workflow engine supporting your business, you can continue to take customers on world-class journeys and provide experiences that are more convenient for everyone.

Ultimately, if you can limit interruptions you’ll achieve greater results more quickly, all thanks to a little bit of logic...

4. A little logic can go a long way

A workflow engine works because it's all designed around taking logical steps to reach a conclusion. With it, you’re literally able to map out a friction-free path and can even set up contingencies when things take a different turn. 

graphic_puzzle-01For example, if a customer’s invoice is unpaid, then an email needs to be sent to prompt them, then 1 week later, if the invoice is still unpaid it sends another follow-up.

Alternatively, if the invoice is paid, then no further action is taken.

The example above may seem like a simple workflow, but that’s the idea: there should be clear logical steps that are taking place to get the job done, it just happens that this time, those simple steps are going on behind-the-scenes rather than manually completed.

Of course, there are more complicated routes a workflow engine can help you to take and this is great if you want to automate for a variety of different scenarios, be they simple or complex. That’s what a customisable workflow engine is for...

5. Advanced automation techniques

A workflow engine is a powerful tool, but as is often the case with a software solution, it can be easy to underestimate the complexity behind the tool.

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We've spoken before about how software is designed to be easy-to-use, but often what it does is actually let you solve complex tasks in a simple way.

As above, the workflow you choose to use can be simple, and most businesses will follow the same patterns when it comes to debt-chasing or sending invoices. It makes sense that there will often be pre-set workflows you can use right away.

At the same time, there will be tasks that you do differently, and that’s where a customisable workflow comes in. You may wish to create entire workflows of your own based on processes you know you can streamline.

This is where a workflow creation tool becomes more powerful, and a customisable workflow engine like this means you can set up any number of automatic protocols for tasks that are more niche to your own services, or the way you like to operate.

The Takeaway

If you want to eliminate tedious admin, then a workflow engine can help take care of that. 

Why spend 5 minutes fiddling with an email when a programme can do it for you? 

After all, no one wants to worry about debt chasing or sending out invoices and estimates. Not only will all your staff enjoy the flow state themselves, but automated workflows can spread this ultra-efficient mindset to your entire company and even give customers a boost, too.

To help you out on your automation journey, we’ve prepared a set of email templates that you can use (and even add onto) a workflow engine.

Whether you’re sending service reminders, creating estimates, or giving customers a helpful nudge about an upcoming job, The Customer Communication Toolkit has you covered. Download your free guide and see how Commusoft’s automation tools can help!

automate like a pro with the customer communication toolkit: 10+ free email templates to transform your comms. download today

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