73% of workers perform more than 50 repetitive tasks every week.\nBut they don’t need to. Thanks to technology, a lot of these tasks can be automated.\n\nThis is just as true for field services as it is for traditional desk jobs. Field service automation can:\n\nStop leaking revenue\nScale more easily\nReduce human error\nCollaborate more effectively\nImprove customer satisfaction\nRetain company knowledge\nStay competitive\n\nSo, how do you do all of that? Let’s talk about it.\nWhat is field service automation?\nField service automation means that companies with field teams can use technology to help their employees get more done. By handling simple, repetitive tasks with a tech tool, field service agents can focus on more important human work.\nFor example, a field service company can automatically identify the best technician for the job, review their schedule, and assign them to the project. It happens almost instantly.\n\nThink about how long that takes for a human. They need to:\n\nReview the job requirements\nReview their technicians skills\nGo through pages of scheduling documents to find a time when all the right people are available and make substitutions if needed, which means going back to step 2\nCommunicate the new assignment to everyone involved\n\nAutomating that process saves hours of time and labor for a busy company.\nAutomation has plenty of other uses like:\n\nPredicting maintenance schedules\nFollowing up with new customers\nReminding existing customers that service is due\nHandling timesheets and payroll\nKeeping track of permit and license expirations\nTracking important data that tells you how your business is doing\n\nWhen someone says “field service automation,” it might sound like you’ll send a robot to install someone’s internet cables, but that’s not what we’re talking about.\nThe point of automation is to take care of the mindless tasks that need to get done so that your people can focus on the things that matter most.\nBenefits of field service automation\n\nThe most obvious reason to automate is the amount of time and energy you’ll save.\nBut there’s a lot more to it. Field service automation can make a big positive difference in your business.\nStop leaking revenue\nSmall leaks can sink big ships, and little revenue leaks can add up to big problems if you don’t find and fix them.\nThere are a lot of ways your field service business can leak revenue. Some of them are obvious, and others can go on for months or years before you notice.\nYou might be losing money because of:\n\nClerical mistakes\nPoor customer management\nWasting time on repetitive tasks\nPoor communication between teams and departments\nTimesheet errors or time theft\n\nLuckily, you can fix all of these leaks with some basic automation. Here’s how:\nClerical mistakes\nFortunately, clerical errors aren’t an everyday thing for most companies. But they can still be expensive when they happen.\nPeople make mistakes. Schedules might be incorrect. Job details might be transcribed incorrectly. Even a typo in a customer’s contact or billing information can cost you.\nSome of these little mistakes can be very expensive. Incorrectly entering information into your billing software can mean that you bill the wrong amount or send invoices to the wrong person. You might get paid late, or worse, bill less than it cost you to do the job.\nWhen you automate some of your administrative work, you reduce the risk of human error.\nAutomation doesn’t mean you’ll never make a mistake again, but it does mean you’ll deal with fewer typos, switched information, and other simple errors.\nPoor customer management\nCustomer service is hard for field service companies.\nYou need your technicians to be skilled at their job, but they’re also your main contact with customers. You rely heavily on your field team to handle most customer service work.\nBut who follows up with customers?\nMarketing is in charge of attracting new leads. Sales is in charge of turning leads into customers. Your agents are responsible for a great customer experience, and you’re probably responsible for any complaints or escalations.\nSomeone needs to handle retention.\nIf you ignore customers after the work is done, they are unlikely to come back.\nPoor followup can also hurt your reputation because customers who aren’t satisfied with your work may not tell you. You don’t get a chance to fix it and they tell the world that you’re a bad provider.\nAutomating your follow-up doesn’t have to be complicated. Even if you just send an automatic satisfaction survey with your contact information a few days after a job is completed, you’ll improve retention.\nWasting time on repetitive tasks\nThink about all the mindless tasks you have to do to keep your business running.\n\nFilling out timesheets\nSending and following up on invoices\nCreating expense reports\nPosting on your business social media pages\nSorting through emails\nOrganizing your team’s schedule\nKeeping track of business leads\nPaying bills\n\nThe list goes on.\nEverything mentioned above can be automated, either partially or completely. A lot of these automations are free. For example, your email service can automatically sort emails into folders so that you spend less time digging through things you don’t need to find the stuff you want.\nIf you’re doing everything manually, you’re wasting money. It’s cheaper and easier to automate simple tasks so that you can invest your time wisely.\nPoor communication\nIf you’ve ever played a game of telephone, you know how quickly information gets lost when it passes from person to person.\n\nYour field agents might show up unprepared when they get details from a booking department instead of directly from the customer. Automation can solve this problem by sharing the customer’s request with everyone who needs to see it.\nInformation silos are a problem, too. Silos happen when only some people know certain things and information isn’t shared freely.\nHere’s an example:\nWhen the back office knows the contract details but field techs don’t, that’s a recipe for conflict. If a customer pays for extra service and the technician doesn’t know that, you’re likely to receive a complaint.\nOn the other hand, if the tech says that something is included and it’s actually not, you’ll have a hard time billing for it later.\nField service companies can fight this by using tools that automatically file and share information with anyone who needs it.\nTimesheet errors and time theft\nMistakes on timesheets are little revenue leaks that can add up to a big number over time.\nTime theft is a bigger problem. If you have one or two employees who add extra hours to their timesheets every week, you’ll pay thousands of dollars for work that never happened.\nThink about this:\nLet’s assume you’re a small business with 10 employees.\nOut of those 10 employees, one is in the habit of adding a little extra time to his timesheet. On average, he increases his time by 30 minutes per day. That’s about two and a half hours each week.\nThe 9 others do their best to estimate their hours accurately. They might add an extra 15 or 20 minutes per week on average just because they don’t remember their exact start and end times.\nIn one week, you pay for an average of 5 hours of work that didn’t happen.\nThat’s not a huge number, but it adds up. If your average pay rate is $20 per hour, that means you leak $5,200 per year just because of small timesheet inaccuracies. For larger teams or specialists that get paid a higher rate, that leak gets bigger.\nAutomating your time tracking fixes both of these problems and keeps payroll fair for both you and your team. They can be confident that they’ll get paid for every minute they work, and you can feel secure that you’re not paying thousands of dollars for work that didn’t get done.\nScale more easily\nAutomation helps you grow.\nThat makes sense, doesn’t it? When you have tools that handle some of your work for you, it’s like having an extra employee at a much lower cost. Everyone has more time to focus on productive work that helps your business grow.\nWhen you have more available time, you can take on a heavier workload.\nYou can help more customers with better service and still have fewer people in the back office.\nThere’s time to pursue labor-intensive marketing and growth strategies. If you want to improve your online presence, attend more trade events, or even start a podcast, you can do it.\nWhen you start new projects, automate some of that work, too. There’s no point in delegating your tedious tasks to a tool and then replacing them with different tedious tasks.\nStay competitive\nMore and more field service businesses are adopting automation. Others are still using pen-and-paper methods and performing repetitive tasks manually.\nAutomation can give you an advantage over these competitors and help you compete with those that are already using automation.\n\nJobsite notifications let you know when your team arrives at their destination.\nIt allows your team to tend to your customers’ needs better. Among other things, automation can help you make sure your employees:\n\nArrive at the job site on time\nKnow how to repair an issue quickly\nInvoice the customer for the right amount every time\n\nHow can you use field service automation?\nThat all sounds great, but how do you actually do it?\nIt’s easy to automate some of your business functions. You may need to invest a little time up front to set up your automations, but it’s not difficult to do.\nThere’s no single tool that does everything, so start with the tasks you find most annoying to do manually.\nHere are some suggestions:\nImplement smart job scheduling\nIf you haven’t found a great scheduling tool yet, this is the perfect place to start looking at automation options.\nCustomers don’t want to wait for service. When they call for help, they expect you to get there fast.\nGetting an agent to the customer takes a lot of work. You need to know who’s available, where they are, and whether or not they have the right skills for the job. That’s hard to figure out manually.\nInstead of calling around to see who’s available, you can use an automatic scheduler to give the right jobs to the right people.\nScheduling automation tools do two main things:\n\nThey help you create work schedules with visual charts and recommendations about shifts or jobs, and\nThey assign tickets and jobs to the right technicians based on whatever criteria you set\n\nSome tools can also optimize routes to reduce travel time and help you get jobs completed faster.\nOften, tickets come in throughout the day and you need to move things around. Good schedule automation tools allow you to re-optimize your schedule in real-time, then they notify your team and customers about any changes.\nTools like FieldEZ and Skedulo are built especially for field services businesses.\nOffer predictive maintenance\nIf your business does installations, you should have a good plan for ongoing maintenance.\nDon’t wait until a customer calls you for repairs. Upkeep is important. Customers appreciate the attention and service, and you have more opportunities to earn more business.\nIf you’re still taking a reactive approach to maintenance, you’re doing both your company and your customers a disservice.\nPredictive maintenance is almost like having a regular preventative maintenance schedule, but it’s smarter.\nIt uses machine learning to predict the necessary maintenance needed at some point in the future. It enables your team to discover faults before they lead to a breakdown.\nUsing predictive maintenance helps reduce the total number of incidents and the overall maintenance costs. It also allows you to avoid unplanned failures and increase equipment lifespan.\nThis is a really valuable tool as your business grows, but the up-front investment can be costly for businesses that are still in the startup phase. Do a little more research if this sounds like something that would add a lot of value to your business.\nAuto-populate forms\nYour techs spend a lot of time filling out forms. It’s probably not their favorite part of the job.\nManually filling forms is a huge time waster. Plus, the more information you ask for, the more likely it is that they’ll make an error.\nSince a lot of the information is repetitive, automate it.\nYou can auto-populate forms with information from your database. Some solutions will even pull job details like the customer’s contact information and reference number.\nWith most of the information already there, your technicians only need to add the details.\nThis saves lots of time and your team will love it. Plus, your back office won’t run into confusion over typos and missing information.\nIf your work forms are web-based, you can find browser extensions and add-ons that will store your information securely and autofill forms. If you handle forms in a software tool, contact their sales department for advice on how to set up an autofill tool.\nProvide real-time status updates\nCustomers hate it when you don’t communicate. When the only information they have is “someone will be there between 9 AM and 7 PM,” they have to restructure their whole day for a 30-minute appointment.\nAt the same time, you need your field agents to focus on the job in front of them. They don’t have time to check in with all the customers in their queue.\nAutomate your status updates.\nHave you ever used a pizza delivery tracker? This is a similar concept. Automatic status updates will tell your customers how long they can expect to wait for a visit and will alert them if things come up, like:\n\nThe technician will be late for the appointment – Sometimes, a technician can’t avoid being late to an appointment (e.g., due to a traffic jam). In these cases, you can use an automation solution to let your customer know about the delay as soon as possible.\nYou need to reschedule the work order – If you need to reschedule a work order for whatever reason, your automation solution can help you notify the customer automatically and provide them with a new date and time for the appointment.\n\nThis automation is usually part of your customer management software. Look for a customer management system that is specifically designed for field services.\nAutomate payroll\nIf you pay hourly, that means you deal with timesheets.\nWe already discussed timesheet errors and time theft when we went over revenue leaks. Now, let’s talk about what it means to automate your payroll.\nSolutions like Hubstaff make it easy to track time and location, automate employee clock in and out, and streamline your payroll. Employees use the tracker to log their hours as they work. That automatically fills out their timesheets that you can approve and pay in one click.\nPayroll automation also makes it easier to handle things like overtime and holiday pay.\nGeofencing allows you to add another layer of automation by starting and stopping the work timer when an employee arrives at a job site. They don’t even have to think about it and they get paid accurately.\n\nIt’s very cost effective to automate payroll, even if you want to use a GPS-based solution. You can check it out for free for two weeks with a free trial of Hubstaff.\nAutomate payroll and fix revenue leaks.Check out what Hubstaff can do for free.\nWhat to look for in a field service automation solution?\nIntroducing some automation to your field service business usually means purchasing some new tools. They don’t have to be expensive or complicated to have a big impact on your business.\nOnce you decide what you want to automate, it’s time to do some homework.\nSince there are so many options, we’re not just going to give you a list of software. We could name a hundred apps and you still might not see what you need to meet your goals.\nInstead, we’ll walk you through how to evaluate a tool on your own.\nStart here:\nDoes it have all the features you need?\nThis one’s obvious.\nWhen choosing an automation solution, prioritize those that have most of the features you need in one place.\nBe careful about deciding which features you absolutely need and which are just nice to have. You can end up spending a lot more than you want for bells and whistles that don’t make that much of a difference to your business.\nThere probably won’t be a single solution that has everything you want. As far as we know, there’s no single field service automation platform that does everything you could possibly need.\nIt’s okay to combine a couple of good tools to get all the functionality you want. You can also start with a simple automation and grow from there.\nHere are some things you might want to look for:\n\nScheduling – If you want to automate your scheduling, look for a solution that allows you to plan shifts and assign jobs easily. Make sure that you can specify whatever criteria you need for automatic job assignments. It’s nice to be able to see workloads, and a drag-and-drop interface will save you a lot of time when you want to make manual changes.\n\n\nTime tracking – Choose a solution that can help you track how employees spend their work hours. Look for a tool that makes it easy to edit time, but also allows you to lock time so that employees can’t go back and make changes when you’ve already paid them for that work. Your time tracking tool should automatically create timesheets, and all data should be visible to both you and your employee.\n\n\nGPS tracking – Most field automation solutions support GPS tracking. This can help you keep track of attendance and make sure field workers are at the right location for a job. You can also use GPS tracking to track and optimize job routes. If GPS is part of your time tracking solution, you can use geofencing to automate payroll.\nInvoicing – Creating invoices manually is a waste of time. Look for a solution that can help you generate and send invoices automatically based on information like hours worked and expenses related to that project. Even if you don’t bill your expenses directly to the customer, it’s important that you can see that information so that you can track profitability.\nPayroll management – You should be able to set different hourly rates for team members and choose between weekly or monthly payments. Look for something that integrates with payment processors or has the ability to trigger a direct deposit so that you have multiple ways to pay your team.\nReporting – Any automation tool you choose should have great reporting features. Data is more valuable than ever. Make sure you can easily generate reports and do some basic analysis before you commit to a tool.\n\nHow are the reviews?\nOne of the best ways to judge an automation solution is to read what its customers say about it.\nWhen reading reviews, make sure to read comments from all the star ratings. 5-star reviews are great, but they probably won’t tell you about the challenges that other people have faced. One good strategy is to look at 3-star reviews because they’re likely to list the good and the bad.\nThe overall number of reviews matters, too.\nIf a product only has a few reviews, it probably doesn’t have a large user base. Sometimes that’s okay. It can mean that you’ll have a harder time getting support and won’t get frequent updates, though.\nKeep in mind that all companies have at least a few negative reviews — you can’t please everyone. Don’t let a couple of bad reviews deter you from choosing a solution that’s otherwise perfect for your needs.\nCan you get support when you need it?\nWhichever solution you choose, make sure you can get in touch with support. There should always be someone there to help you when you have an issue.\nYou can judge a company’s support during a free trial by asking for help with onboarding. Good support responds quickly, answers questions clearly, and offers resources to help you along the way.\nCheck out the support documentation for your product, too. Can you search by topic and find tutorials? When you read those articles, are they easy to follow?\nMost people overlook this step. You don’t think about customer support until something goes wrong. But when you need help right away, that’s a bad time to find out that the company you chose has terrible customer service.\nNext steps\nIt’s time to put what you’ve learned into action!\nHere’s what you need to do now:\nDetermine your automation needs\nThe first step to getting started with automation involves figuring out your automation needs.\nWrite down three to five paint points you’re struggling with the most that automation could solve.\nIs your scheduling process ineffective or frustrating? Do you think you’re underutilizing your technicians? Are you having to deal with issues caused by data entry errors often?\nWrite all of this down and use it when comparing solutions. Note that it’s unlikely that you’ll find a single solution capable of solving all your issues. When it comes to automation solutions, finding one that can solve 80% of your issues is more than enough.\nChoose an automation solution\nTake the list of pain points and issues you’ve created and use it when reviewing different solutions.\nFocus on those that have most of the features you need, great customer reviews, and plenty of support options.\nImplement field service automation\nYou’ve found the perfect field service automation solution for your business. Great!\nThe final step is to implement and start using it. Here’s how to do that:\n\nGet employee buy-in – Automation is worthless if your team won’t use the tool. Explain what you’re doing and why it matters. Focus on how much time and effort it will save.\nProvide training – Host a training session in person or over video. Provide employees with documentation they can refer to if they’re not sure about how to do something.\nDo a phased roll-out – It’s best to implement automation in phases. Start by automating one part of your business. Time tracking and payroll is a great place to start because it’s simple, cost effective, and has a big positive impact for the whole team.\n\nEnjoyed this blog post? Subscribe to our blog to get great content like this delivered to your inbox.