Information and Communications Technology
What is ICT?
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) refers to technologies that provide access to information through telecommunications. It is similar to Information Technology (IT) but focuses primarily on communication technologies. This includes smartphones, the Internet, wireless networks, computers, e-mails and other communication media with which information of all kinds can be digitally converted, processed, stored and transmitted.
Impact of ICT on service companies
Service companies increasingly rely on the use of modern ICT to maximize productivity and profitability, improve communication between dispatchers, technicians, and customers, and increase efficiency. It helps dispatchers and technicians to perform their tasks competently and punctually and gives the boss or team leader more control and overview.
These are nice gimmicks, you say, but why should you bother?
Many service companies started their business before most of these new technologies even existed. And many of them like to manage and report the „old way“: with lots of paper, Outlook, and Excel. And business is still good.
However, requirements are growing as technology evolves and no company can escape them. As technologies change at virtually the speed of light, the pressure on service companies to actually use these technologies is increasing. This means modern field service software instead of Excel, Outlook, and an old (buggy) system. The reason is simple: competitiveness.
Five years ago, you were a pioneer by using cloud-based planning and reporting software on mobile devices, but today you can call it a standard. And compliance with the standard is expected from both customers and employees.
Reuse and Improve
One is often least aware of the everyday, obvious things.
To modernize your business, you don't have to renew everything. (Unless you're still using Windows 95 and fax). Wouldn't it make sense to use existing resources? Instead of starting from scratch, you could look for ways to customize and improve existing products and resources in the way of the "reuse and improvement" model.
Reuse means identifying, evaluating, and actively using available resources.
How many people do you know without a smartphone? Well, there aren't likely to be many. Probably all your employees have smartphones. Take advantage of this fact for yourself. You have a usable resource and employees who already know how to use it.
Improving means adapting existing tools, products and resources to improve their quality and impact.
You probably have some computers in your company. Improve their use. They can do more than Excel and Outlook.
Start by thinking about where your company should develop and which proven measures and tools you can use to improve your structures.
However, do not try to push outdated processes into new systems.
If you now think that such software would be good, but you don't have time to change anything, it's not just because of your good order situation, but also because your processes may not be optimal. It would be really profitable for you to take a closer look. Of course, it's time and effort, but in the long run it increases the efficiency of your employees, allows you to adapt better to fluctuations in orders, and it makes your company generally more flexible and competitive.
The „dark side“
There is always a „dark side“. New technology is undoubtedly helpful, but it also has an impact on customer expectations, whether you use it or not. Impatience and dependency increase. The expectations are that making an appointment is quick and easy and that the accessibility is excellent. They expect your service to adapt to new standards.
It is impossible to monitor every action taken by your employees. Assigning responsibility is an important part of successful corporate management. But that also means that you need responsible employees. You are probably smiling now because they are the hardest to find. But there is a trick. Don't give them a chance to do something wrong.
If someone doesn't know exactly what to do, he can't do his job very well either.
It is up to you to clarify and define the tasks and responsibilities of each employee.
Managing your company or team is not about having control over every aspect of the process. It is about achieving results through people. Leadership means delegating, fostering, coaching, letting go and still keeping the overview and leadership.
Control through technology and software is helpful, but it is not the Holy Grail. Technology can surely help to implement a good structure and to establish a good process as a basis. It is also good quality control. However, sustainable leadership means encouraging your employees to become masters of what they do every day.
Training and Supervision
Make your expectations and standards clear. Train your technicians on how to communicate with customers. Give every new employee a supervisor for questions and help.
Prevention is the keyword. With the right tools, you can establish a uniform process for your dispatcher and technicians, that prevent misunderstandings and errors.
If the technician has all the necessary information and descriptions about the customer and the job on his mobile device, if he has a checklist that precisely defines his work steps and demands clean documentation, there is not much scope left to do it wrong.
The probably most underrated position in your team is the dispatcher.
Dispatchers are the real organizers. They organize customer requests, appointments, technicians, information and much more. The scheduler in the hands of a technician or manager is never a good idea. It would be the nightmare of a smooth process.
The dispatcher's function is to choose the action plan, which is dynamic and evolves as the day unfolds. They can set up appointments, based on the location of both technician and customer with route optimization, they always have the history of the customer and service objects in sight and they have the automation they need to do a clean and efficient job. Also, they can track the technician’s vehicle live with a Google maps view via GPS tracking and see the technicians’ real-time location. That is perfect, to react fast in case of an emergency.
Your technicians in the field are the everything of your company. They are the driving force of your success. The higher the quality of their work and communication with the customers, the higher your revenue will be. They do a hard, valuable job.
So it makes sense that their energy and time is not wasted on preparation and follow-up. If they get all the information they need on their mobile device about the pending orders, warnings and a list of the preparations they need to make, as well as the equipment and materials they need, clearly structured and in good time, and only have to pick them up and carry them out, this simplifies their day-to-day work.
The easiest and safest way to do this is with the right software and app. They receive their work orders in the morning on their mobile device and can start the day perfectly prepared and convince with punctuality, knowledge, fast work and a detailed service report that can be delivered to the customer on site.
First of all, no matter whether you are a five-person SHK company or a manufacturer with 200 employees - your customers expect professional communication and high-quality service.
It is more costly to win a new customer than to retain an existing one. Attracting new customers is important, keeping them is more profitable.
If you offer your customers a highly professional service, you improve the reputation of your company and the satisfaction of your customers. And to provide good customer service, you need to understand exactly who your customers are and what they want.
Understand what they customers expect
Most customers have similar needs. Usually, they want detailed information. You can automatically keep them informed of appointments, status updates, and finished jobs. Let them know if a technician is on the way or will be late. With the Customer Notification feature, the customer receives an informative notification.
Once the technician arrives (on time), the customer expects the technician to be fully informed of the work to be performed, the device and the history of previous jobs, and t to have the right parts and equipment needed for installation or repair. New appointments because the technician has forgotten the right tools or spare parts or does not have the right skills, are annoying for everyone and not professional. This leaves a negative impression on the customer, which is easy to avoid.
The "Bully" Customer
Customers can be demanding like babies. But keep in mind, that not all of your customers are sweet like babies. Some customers consume the time, energy and resources of your team without respecting the performance of your employees, especially your technicians. Such customers can even harm your business because they are never satisfied, complain about the price, or find a way not to pay. This also costs your employees valuable time and energy, and may even cost your company money.
An essential part of a smoothly functioning process is good communication between all parties involved.
There are social rules. Business and profit should not conflict with them. It is your right to demand to be treated with respect. There is also a sensible way for sensitive "bully" customers to give them an indication of their behavior. They will respect it, because they are aware of the social rules and usually respect competent resistance.
Craftsmen and craft businesses deserve respect because, without them, the roof would literally collapse over everyone's head.
The same applies to your employees. The high standard of the services you provide begins in your company with the way your employees interact with each other.