As both customer demand and competition increase and become more complex, you must continually strive to grow service revenue and profits through innovation and improved productivity. This involves managing various (and sometimes new) service products and service level agreements – often with new and unique characteristics and requirements.
Managing all of this data requires a comprehensive reporting strategy that properly identifies and measures all key metrics. At the same time, you must set manageable targets or other comparisons for each metric. The most effective method of managing large volumes of data is to use exception reporting to identify and track the variances. By quantifying these variances you can prioritize and develop actionable items to address critical shortfalls.
None of the above is simple or easy to implement. But without a planned approached, the reporting will be disconnected and incomplete. In addition, unless standardized reports are used consistently across your entire field service business, the ability to implement and enforce best-practice procedures will be greatly compromised.
Addressing the entire breadth of service reporting can be daunting. This article discusses one segment of service operational reporting which is generally focused on efficiencies and resource management with a short-term (1-30 day) outlook. Specifically, we will look at the Standard Service Pipeline Report structure which provides a holistic approach to track each customer request as it flows through your entire service process.
Common Legacy Reporting Problems
Chances are your field service reporting has grown over time with little forethought or strategic planning. Many reports may have originated as ad hoc or special-purpose requests from multiple sources that have eventually evolved to a loosely organized set of standard reports. This will undoubtedly lead to many shortcomings:
Blind Spots. Field Service data can be complex and difficult to obtain. As a result, there is an understandable tendency to primarily measure data that is easily available, such as the number of incoming calls or the number of invoices generated. This hit-and-miss reporting structure will create blind spots that could result in bottlenecks throughout the process.
Inconsistent Data. Many of your existing reports may essentially provide the same information, but approach it from different angles or for different purposes. Similar reports will often have conflicting (or at least inconsistent) data and be difficult to cross reference.
Inconsistent use of Exceptions/Variances. You likely do not have enough resources to attack every problem or every instance of non-compliance. Therefore, you must focus on the largest exceptions that require immediate attention. Without specific targets to identify variances, the report reader will only be looking at data or, perhaps worse, left to maker their own interpretations of what is important.
Confusing and Inconsistent terminology. Another result of creating reports from multiple sources over an extended period of time is the propagation of multiple terms and codes – many of which may be vague or otherwise poorly defined.
Revenue Centric. In many companies the reporting is heavily weighed towards the final stages of the process (completion and invoicing). While important, this relegates service reporting to merely score-keeping – not as an operation management tool. Revenue is generally an end-game result. It answers the question “What has happened” not “What is happening.”
The Standard Service Pipeline Report Structure
Every field service event passes through several gates or checkpoints. Not only do these provide specific points of measurement (providing the opportunity to establish firm targets) but they also represent single points of failure or potential bottlenecks. The goal of this report is aide service managers in their efforts to forecast demand and adjust resources, address and remove obstacles (bottlenecks), and identify and watch for potential leaks (both revenue and service performance).
The Standard Service Pipeline Report structure monitors the progress of a field service event throughout the entire critical process. The report may track several checkpoints, but at a minimum should include the following:
Opened/Not Dispatched – Service request has been received and entered in to the Service Management System, but has not been assigned and/or dispatched to a field technician.
In many instances, the field technician will not have visibility to new service events until they are dispatched. Timely dispatching is critical to meeting customer and internal Response and Resolution Time requirements and to avoiding non-productive time in the field. In addition, accurate forecasting depends on a reasonable estimate of the workload and revenue potential of incoming service requests. Mishandled service requests (not dispatched or dispatched to the wrong service technician/area) can cause momentary decreases and increases in call volume distributed to the field. This causes additional stress throughout the system as calls are continually re-prioritized and rescheduled.
Dispatched/Not Started – Service requesr has been communicated to the field technician, but no technician on-site labor activity has been logged.
Service requests can be lost in the handoff from the dispatch center to the field or from various handoffs within each team. This is the first critical metric (Response Time) of many Service Level Agreements (SLA) and generally has a high correlation with customer satisfaction. In some cases, this may just be a lack of communication (e.g., the work has been started but no information has been forwarded to the back office support team). In terms of managing service events, lack of communication has the same negative impact as not actually arriving on site.
Started/Not Completed – Technician has begun at least one on-site activity, but service order has not been marked as Complete (in the SMS).
Resolution Time is the next key customer metric and in many cases the most important. It also marks the final stage of the field’s direct involvement with the service event (other than forwarding completed paperwork). Delays in completing and finalizing service requests will greatly impact the collection efforts required. In most cases you have already absorbed the costs for these service requests, so all revenue leakage has a direct negative impact on bottom line profits.
Competed/Not Invoiced – All on-site activities have been completed, but the customer invoice has not been generated.
All of your efforts up to this point have limited meaning until the service request is invoiced. This is in effect the final internal scorecard of your performance. Many bottlenecks at this checkpoint are the result of inefficiencies further up the pipeline – but they are more visible here. Potential leaks can be numerous and include keying errors, oversights, customer contract setup, pricing policies, etc.
There are of course multiple interim steps within the major categories above, but these provide a reasonable level of granularity for reporting and management purposes without over-burdening technicians and support personnel with extraneous detail. Ideally, you should have back-up detailed reports for each of these four major areas showing the drill-down to service area or individual technician
The information shown on the Standard Pipeline Report typically includes Counts of Service Requests and Average Age (from original opened date/time). It is also helpful to included percentages, standard deviation, and minimum and maximum values.
All metrics, with reasonable comparisons, must be clearly established and consistently measured. These metrics should be routinely reviewed by management and adjusted as necessary to set higher standards, meet new market demands, and support the financial and marketing goals of the company.
A properly implemented Standard Pipeline Report will greatly improve visibility to bottlenecks and potential revenue leaks within your field service process and indicate where you should focus Lean Six Sigma or other process improvement activities.