Mobile Workforce Scheduling: Mutually Beneficial for Employers, Customers and Technicians

Smartphones and similar devices are everywhere. This is not news; these kinds of technology are commonplace today than ever before. If you go to any public space, you will encounter people holding their rectangular smartphones and tablets down to read from, or in the air in attempts to capture the present moment. It is pretty normal to encounter a group of people hanging out together with no verbal communication happening, each person’s nose buried in their phone, the LED lights from the screens illuminating their faces.

Today, 2.6 billion people worldwide are smartphone users, and this number is expected to just keep growing. While growth has leveled off in the North American and European markets, less mature markets such as those in the Middle East, Asia and Africa are expected to see some huge growth in the next five years. The number of smartphone users is expected to jump to 6.1 billion by 2020. With the world population expected to reach a bit shy of 8 billion people by that time, it can be expected that soon there will be more smartphone users in the world than there will be those without.

This kind of mobile technology has a reputation for being a distraction in the workplace. However, mobile technology, when used in such a way, can be harnessed in the workplace to increase productivity. In fact, some ways are so obvious, it’s a wonder some places still rely on paper and outdated desktop management systems.

ClickSoftware has worked to create a system of workplace management that operates using mobile devices, quieting this false perception that mobile devices serve no purpose in the workplace. By merging workplace schedule management with the widespread integration of smartphones into daily life, ClickSoftware has found ways to increase productivity and customer satisfaction while cutting administrative costs and smoothing out the often complicated scheduling processes.

Emphasis has been placed on giving the technicians the opportunity to update their daily schedules in real-time, on the mobile schedule. For example, a technician goes to a home for a routine cable install. He estimates the install will take 30 minutes, and logs it into his mobile schedule as such. With five minutes left, he realizes he will need another 15 minutes to finish up with this job and prepare for the next one. He updates his schedule, adding 15 minutes to the job he’s working on. The other jobs in his schedule are rearranged according to the change he just made to this job. Administrators and customers with appointments later in the day are notified of this update.

You may be thinking, okay, this sounds all fine and dandy, but how do you make sure the technician updates his schedule then and there? Shouldn’t the technician, in that moment, be more concerned with finishing the job, than updating his schedule? Wouldn’t the act of updating his schedule just take time away that could be spent finishing that job?

You would be right in thinking that. An employer would rather have his technicians focused on the work they were hired to do, not worrying about scheduling and other minutia. It would be wasteful for the technician to have to update the schedule every time some circumstance keeps him working on a job longer than expected. Let the technician focus on troubleshooting and fixing the problems at hand, right?

This is where notifications come into play. These predetermined, time or context-based messages are delivered directly to the technician’s mobile device, prompting action to be taken. Such action-driven questions as “May I change your status to en route?” and “Would you like me to extend the duration of this job by 15 minutes?” would be sent to the technician, to which they could answer yes or no. What once required a series of actions can now be done with one click.

Using the mobile scheduling and GPS coordinates, the mobile workforce management program takes care of updating the schedule so the technician can focus on working. The mobile management program makes up for natural human lapses, ensuring a smoother and more reliable scheduling process. It takes a lot of pressure off of the dispatch center as well, giving them freedom to focus on other things like safety and customer service.

Think about your last experience interacting with a field technician, as a customer. Prior to their arrival, were you in contact with the technician or a representative from the call center? Was the technician on time? More often than not, it seems like at-home sessions with technicians are more of a chore than they need to be for the customer. Lack of visibility and poor communication can make the technician’s arrival a daunting, day-long process of inevitability.

An effective mobile workforce scheduling solution attempts to make up for the lack of visibility in the field, taking the stress out of scheduling appointments with field technicians. In fact, the biggest drive for a mobile workforce solution such as this is the customer demand for improved service, speed and efficiency. With live updates the customer can access at any time, they can schedule their day around the arrival of the technician, instead of waiting at home all day hoping he will show up within the designated time window.

When workforce schedule management is disorganized and a burden on the customer, this means the burden placed on the business is that much greater. By mobilizing the management and scheduling of the workforce, administration can cut costs. Giving the customer mobile notification of technician ETA, arrival and geolocation, and the ability to contact the technician before he arrives can cut administrative costs by ensuring the technician is prepared and on time for each job, and the customer is at home and prepared for the appointment.

Increased visibility means that if the customer needed to relay some preliminary information to the technician, he or she could contact the technician directly, instead of wasting time and resources by going through the call center, who would contact the technician assigned to that customer’s job, and then relay the confirmation back to the customer. This old way of going through the call center wastes time and money and usually results in poor service via poor communication, which reduces employee satisfaction.

There are other facets of workforce management that can further be optimized through integrating mobile technology. It could be utilized to manage employees’ sick, vacation and PTO days. Letting the employee submit sick day and vacation requests via their smartphone lets them request those days as soon as possible. Direct access to this kind of information can be beneficial in planning vacation time accordingly. This also assures that employees are not asking for paid time off that they do not have. The same mobile platform could be used in the acquisition of pickup or overtime shifts as well.

Smartphones are here to stay in the field services. According to a survey by Field Technologies Magazine, 49% of companies say their primary form of communication in the field is smartphones, and 75% of that demographic say they would consider sticking with smartphones at their next refresh. Mobile workforce scheduling software contains features that are designed to increase efficiency, customer satisfaction and transparency in the field. Planned duration scheduling features allow technicians to update their schedules as circumstances come up that increase or decrease the duration of each job. Time and context-based notifications nudge the technician to allow the program to update the schedule. Customers benefit from being able to contact the technicians directly and see their schedule updating in real-time. Employers benefit from cutting wasteful costs and increasing customer satisfaction, which can increase positive word-of-mouth.  With 38% of employees claiming that the use of mobile devices at work has contributed to their increased work efficiency, and that percentage expecting to rise each coming year, it is no wonder this is the future of workplace management.

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