Field Service Digital Agility: Why Smartphone Scanning is Essential For a New and Better Norm

By Charlie Gibbs, Director of Manufacturing and Field Service, Scandit

The harsh impact of the COVID-19 crisis is forcing field service companies to rethink and quickly adapt to new ways of working. 

Globally, there are around 20 million operational field service technicians, with the vast majority continuing to provide essential frontline services to customers. In fact, according to salesforce.com, providers like telecoms, are busier than ever and are set to get even busier once the pandemic begins to wane.  

As field service companies consider how to keep critical operations on track safely, it shines a spotlight on the old ways of working – many of which are no longer suitable for a world where digital relationships, through necessity, are replacing physical ones. Instead, the digitalization of processes and workflows has moved to the top of the priority list. 

The adaptation of working practices is anchored to two core objectives; keeping customers and employees safe, while still delivering exemplary levels of customer service. Speed, self-service and safe social distancing are watchwords on the field service digital transformation agenda. 

The everyday smartphone, powered with barcode scanning has a crucial part to play in helping field service companies maintain business continuity, while switching to a paradigm where staying connected, safe and mobile are the new norm.

Smartphones: an essential part of PPE kit

While perhaps unconventional, a smartphone is becoming an increasingly important item in a technician’s PPE (personal protective equipment) kit. Gloves, masks, and sanitizers ensure an employee’s health. However, one of the big operational challenges in the current climate is minimizing human-to-human contact. 

With the health of workers and customers a top priority, speed and accuracy are essential to reduce the time technicians spend in customers’ premises. 

A digitalized process on a Scandit-powered smartphone ensures that onsite work is minimized, and any work done is fast, users record the correct asset and the technician won’t visit the customer for a second time exposing themselves to unnecessary risks.

Speeding up first-time fixes

First-time fix rates are now more crucial than ever with field service companies preferring not to send a technician back for a second time, both for safety and efficiency reasons. 

Part of the first-time fixed rate solution is about breaking down complex tasks into smaller tasks, where remote diagnostics are done by dispatchers and preparatory work is done by customers in advance of a technician’s visit. 

The accuracy of data from customer product scanning apps helps dispatchers assign the right technician, and makes sure that the right parts are on site to complete the job quickly and accurately, first-time. 

There is also the option of asking customers to pick up necessary equipment via BOPIS or curbside pick-up and prepare it for the technician to do the work faster. 

While on site, a scanning app with built-in augmented reality can give technicians access to key information such as product service history, user manuals, and installation videos, to make sure they only need to spend the minimum time on site.

First-time to zero-time fix rates

We envisage a new concept of ‘zero-time fix rates’,  where the issue is resolved by customers themselves when it is safe to do so. Empowering customers with innovative self-service solutions is becoming a crucial revision to operational processes. 

Scandit-powered self-scanning apps, used by customers to scan appliances and equipment, gives field service dispatchers and technicians accurate information so they can identify remote fixes or diagnostics, which could negate the need for an onsite visit all together. Barcode scanning gives customers all the information they need about a product, including instructions on how to troubleshoot and fix the issue on their own.

Paperless to contactless processes

It has long been recognized that paper-based processes slow down and increase levels of physical contact between technician and customer. Equally, manual processes are no longer fit for purpose in the new world of field service management where fast and safe working practices are paramount.

An example of such a process is collecting customer signatures upon job completion. Proof of completion is an immensely important part of closing out a job satisfactorily, recording assets in the field and speeding up first-time fix rates. Field Service companies are trying to figure out how to bypass this step as signing on screen or by pen and paper poses a health risk to a customer and technician. But the manual process of sending invoices or collecting email confirmations as a workaround can pose a business risk and lack efficiency.

At Scandit, we have developed a Contactless Proof of Completion Web App that enables customers to sign and confirm the completion of a job by using their own devices, simply and safely while you maintain a captured signature attributed to correct equipment installed or fixed as a part of the job. The web app, powered with Scandit’s Barcode Scanner SDK, works in the browser of any device without the need to download anything. It’s free until the end of September 2020. Watch to learn how it works:

Scaling up to service customers after lockdown

As the world emerges from the global pandemic, the demand for field service provision is expected to surge as buildings and facilities come back on line. The challenge will be delivering high standards of customer satisfaction while coping with the increase in demand and a lack of resource. 

Digital processes on smart devices is an efficient and cost-effective way to flex up your field service resource and onboard people quickly to meet the spike in demand, without needing to provide dedicated devices. A BYOD (bring your own device) strategy, combined with Scandit’s high-performance scanning, gives every technician instant access to digital workflows. They will simply have the device in their pocket, and after downloading the right app, will be ready to start work.

Moving to the new digital norm with Scandit

Re-evaluating the use of technology in daily operations is a way field service companies can ride out this crisis and prepare their businesses to succeed in a post-pandemic world. 

We recommend three incremental steps towards the new digital norm in Field Service management; Respond – the automation of complex workflows to minimize human contact on-premise; Adapt to maintain business continuity and high-levels of service remotely like self-service, and; Scale where digital strategies, like BYOD, will support mass hire and operations to meet immediate and future service demands. 

At Scandit, we have mobile computer vision solutions that can add immediate benefit today and prepare you for tomorrow way beyond the pandemic. Our technology seamlessly integrates with your existing IT solutions or field service management platform and infrastructure. 

We’re already helping clients on their digital transformation journeys. Cincinnati Bell, for example, has replaced their cumbersome, dedicated scanning devices  with Scandit’s more flexible mobile scanning solution – making it easier and quicker for technicians to collect data on equipment during home and office service calls. Brian Golden, Vice President of Field Operations at Cincinnati Bell explains:

“Our service technicians love using Scandit’s technology. We started using it right away without needing to make any changes to our provisioning system, and Scandit continues to give us any guidance and support that we need right away. We’ve achieved improved scanning accuracy in all conditions and made our service calls shorter.”

If you’d like to find out more about how Scandit can help your field services business, access our free guide, or get in touch with our team