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How Real-time Communication Increases Business Efficiency

Communication is the neural network of any business. Be it external or internal, communication is what runs the business. At times though, communications take a back seat – either due to human error. Whatever the reason may be, it can lead to friction among team members and result in a negative climate in the organisation.

To overcome this, there are several management solutions available in the market. These systems don’t just improve communications between teams, they add value by enabling real-time communication which contributes to improved business efficiency.

Here are three ways in which real-time communication increases efficiency

  • Improves transparency

A good management solution provides tools and functionalities that encourages collaboration among team members. Since everything from a stakeholder’s contact details to interaction history is saved in the system, employees are encouraged to stay connected and undertake all activities and tasks through the system. Employees can also post updates and comments on the tasks. Consistent updates improve transparency – team members will be able to see the status of the task and know who has to take the next steps. This streamlines the processes and reduces duplication of efforts. It also helps managers set goals, deadlines, assign owners and set reminders. This level of detail fosters a culture of transparency and results in better and real-time communication. The end result is, of course, increased productivity and efficiency.

  • Improves planning

A good management system lets you see what the team is working on and how the employees spend their day. Based on the information that is available real-time, managers can assign new tasks and schedules. Resources can also be allocated to other projects and the allocation can be planned well in advance. Since real-time communication is made possible, tracking time for an activity is easy. This feature will let users plan their tasks, enable managers to plan the workflow and ensures delivery is of the highest quality. Since all the stakeholder interaction is documented, it is easier to stay organised and find information. Real-time communication also enables managers to stay in control – every purchase order can be tracked, inventory can be seen, orders can be raised before materials go out of stock and delays can be avoided.

 

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“Since real-time communication is made possible, tracking time for an activity is easy. This feature will let users plan their tasks, enable managers to plan the workflow and ensures delivery is of the highest quality.”

  • Real-time analysis

Real-time communication allows the workflow to get updated regularly and this data can be used for analytics. Analysing the data over a period of time will let managers quickly spot problem areas. Bottlenecks can be identified easily and reasons for these problems can be recognised and solved before it becomes a crisis. Data analysis will also help to improve and optimise workflows, resulting in faster delivery times. Costs can also be seen using analysis – if there are unusual costs or pricing, it can be rectified, saving the company time and money. Costs can also be optimised across the workflow. All this analysis is possible because of real-time communication. It helps to make better business decisions, improve strategy and maintain quality all on a real-time basis. The real-time analysis also provides guidance on initiatives, execution and customer satisfaction metrics.

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What is in a Good Field Service Management App?

If you have decided to automate your business, the next logical step is to get a field service management solution. But there are so many options available in the market, it can be overwhelming to pick one that is a good fit for your business. Field service management solutions come in different mix of capabilities and functionalities. But before we dive into the key features in a good field service management app, the fundamental feature that is most often overlooked is whether the mobile interface or the app is user-friendly. A good app will have responsive mobile design and will help you access and edit the data via mobile or tablet. Cloud-based services are also extremely beneficial – you can pay on a monthly basis and you do not have to host heavy software. There are quite a few field service management companies that offer cloud-based model.

The best choice though, would be the one that caters to your requirements – be it client management or lead management. It should also handle your data securely and help you provide better service to your clients.

 

Here are the 7 key features in a good field service management app.

 

  • Time management

The most important aspect of any business is to manage the time. Time management is not just managing your time, it means setting deadline, working backwards and breaking down the job into smaller tasks, assigning those tasks to the respective team members and ensuring they complete their tasks on time. A good field service management app should have the feature of tracking every individual’s time. Everyone in the team will be required to enter the amount of time they have worked and the tasks they have worked on. Usually, this feature also comes with the option of accessing the reports as time sheets.

This feature enables you to prioritise tasks, view the task breakdown, see who is working on what, schedule daily activities and manage other field work such as inspections and site visits. Tracking time also helps to keep a track of recurring tasks and at what intervals these tasks need to be carried out. If your business uses vehicles that need to be on the road every day, tracking time can help you streamline the in and out time of vehicles, usage and schedule dispatch and delivery efficiently.

 

  • Workflow management

A good field service management app will have a set of tools that will assist you in assigning tasks, receiving updates, sending notifications, etc – essentially assisting you to manage the job end-to-end without leaving out any tasks or aspects. The workflow management feature will capture everything from preparing a quote or an estimate to a prospective client to job completion.

Workflow feature will break down a job request into multiple tasks that have to be completed in a certain order. Each of these tasks can be individually monitored. This will help you create a solid process that every member of your team can follow and adhere to – the team members will be required to send real-time job updates and status. Once your work flow has reached a certain stage, you can also automate the field management app to send notifications or alerts to different stakeholders – employees, field staff, vendors or even clients.

A strong workflow management feature will help you track delays and issues early in the job, giving you enough time to sort out the problems and ensure quality, on-time delivery. Capturing a detailed log of every aspect of the job will also prove valuable in the long run.

 

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“While customer may or may not be the king, understanding the customers is important to run the business. Only by understanding and catering to customer needs can a business become profitable.”

 

  • Client management or Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

While customer may or may not be the king, understanding the customers is important to run the business. Only by understanding and catering to customer needs can a business become profitable. Customer service is more than just completing a job. It is about building a relationship and knowing their choices and preferences. A good CRM will help you with this. From storing contact details of the customer to their communication preferences and job requests, a CRM will help you connect better with the customer. You can build a customer database using the CRM – the CRM will then track and record customer activity and history. It will also have an email marketing system to send automated emails about topics of interest.

Along with the CRM, a good field service management system might also offer a client portal – a portal through which client can login to see the progress of the job request. It is also a great tool as customers can login to leave comments, feedback and request changes if any. With this tool, you can see what your customer wants real-time and address any concerns as and when they arise.

  • Lead management

Another important feature that good field service management app will have is lead management. While existing customers are great, new customers keep the business moving forward. You might use various channels to generate leads, but once your leads enter the system or the CRM, they should be sorted and contacted in the right way to nurture them and encourage them to convert.

A good lead management tool will help you categorise the leads – eg: cold, warm or hot. Cold leads may be the ones who are ‘browsing’ for options and want to know the pricing. Warm leads are the ones who have shown interest and want to know more about what you have to offer. Hot leads are the ones who want to purchase. Knowing the stages of the leads will help you to prioritise whom to contact first, who is likely to turn into a customer, what kind of nurturing emails you should send to whom and when.

  • Centralised account management

Another key feature is the account management. This begins right from when you have to create a quote or estimate for the client based on the requirements, to tracking costs at each stage and billing the customer. A good account management system will help you keep track of your expenses, cash in hand, upcoming payments – for vendors, staff, employees, etc, overhead costs, costs of delivering the service, overdue payments, etc. This will help you understand your expenses, cut down on unwanted expenses, pay your vendors on time, raise invoices before the due date and manage your money better.

  • Integration

With so many softwares and digital channels being used by businesses to reach the customers and leads, it is important that the field service management system talks to all the sources. Integrating other software and services shouldn’t be hard. Third-party softwares should be integrated easily for a seamless workflow – otherwise, parts of work will have to be carried out manually. An important aspect is the API – Application programming interface. This allows multiple applications and programs to talk to the field service management system or the CRM, automating the process completely and improving customer relationships.

  • Customisation

A good field service management app allows high-level of customisation. This feature gives you the control – you can choose how the app should look, what should be seen in the dashboard, what reports need to be generated when, etc. For eg, the lead management system should not just have the option of classifying leads into cold, warm or hot, it should allow you to create your own categories that can be assigned to a lead when it comes in.

 

While automation is becoming the choice for many businesses and there are multiple players out in the market offering field service management apps, only a select few offer key functionalities and features that’ll make running the business easy and efficient.

 

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Tips to select the best field service management app

 

Here is a simple process you can follow to select the right field service management app for your business needs:

  • Write down your requirements: What aspects of your business you want to automate? Will automation really improve that area of the business? How many areas do you want to automate? Talk to ‘champions’ from your company who will tell you whether automation will work for their department – ultimately, they will be the ones to use the solution on a daily basis.
  • Prioritise: The next step is to understand what areas take the top spot and what areas can  do without automation for now. This will help you plan a budget, see what plans work for you, which features you can trade-off and what the must-have functionalities. Prioritising will ensure you are not overwhelmed by choices and bells and whistles.
  • Select solution providers: Read reviews, check the solution provider’s credentials, look up their expertise in your industry. Reach out to a select few.
  • Shortlist: Once you have a handful of solution providers, make a pro and con list and shortlist two or three providers whose solution will fit your need best. You can then schedule meetings with them, live demos, talk to them about the packages available, etc. Remember to look for the time needed to implement the solution and make it fully functional, after-sales support, training and crisis response time while short listing the provider.