Scheduling Optimization Got You Down? AI Is the Way to Go.
7 min read
Apr 28, 2021
Field Service Management

Scheduling Optimization Got You Down? AI for Scheduling is the Way to Go.

Technology such as artificial intelligence is rapidly changing various processes for people working in field services.

A.U.
Ashish UpadhyayContent Writer

You’re a field service manager and recently you’ve been facing a lot of challenges with managing your workforce? The assignments coming your way are just too many and too complicated to be distributed efficiently? And a distributed workforce makes communication all the more tricky?

When it comes to handling field service operations, most businesses have a manual process in place. This involves creating schedules and keeping track of every service request, equipment, team member, well… the list goes on.

As a field service manager, it can get quite frustrating to manually coordinate your business, and hope that every one of your field workers follows the schedule.

Given how complicated the whole thing is, using AI for scheduling and planning is the natural next step. In addition to improving customer experience, this level of automation with artificial intelligence can save your business considerable time and money.

How does AI for scheduling work in field services?

According to Gartner, AI applies advanced analysis and logic-based techniques, including machine learning, to interpret events, support and automate decisions, and take actions.

Applying this definition to scheduling, we can say that AI is good at processing information, identifying patterns, and coming to conclusions. But how does all of this help make scheduling easier for field service managers?

To make a schedule, a variety of information is needed, such as:

  • Service level agreements

  • Job urgency

  • Problem type

  • Employee skillset

  • Parts or equipment needed

  • Travel constraints, such as traffic, road closures, or weather

  • Customer and employee schedules

Traditionally, field service managers assess these variables and it’s quite a challenge if you manage a large team. It’s no surprise that things won’t always go as planned when you use a manual method.

Additionally, in a post-COVID world, the need for a blended workforce is crucial when field service businesses are witnessing a dip in the availability of field workers due to safety concerns. Field service managers are looking for third-party solutions to balance the workload and ensure their teams cover greater geographic areas.

When you use AI for scheduling, it considers all the variables above (and many more) and optimizes your business’s resources accordingly. The result? Fewer errors, return visits, and late arrivals, as well as faster schedule creation, distribution, and analysis.

3 ways AI for scheduling helps you improve field services

Let’s have a look at three ways AI for scheduling can help you improve field services.

1. Optimize resource management: When it comes to resources, optimizing inventory as well as workforce is a priority.

In a traditional setup, field workers are assigned work orders based mainly on their availability. This results in field workers having limited knowledge of the work orders at hand. Such a process can impact their ability to complete the work on the first visit, thus driving up costs for the customer as well as the field service company.

On the other hand, AI for scheduling takes into account the work order type, proximity to the customer, a field worker’s experience, etc. By analyzing historical data, the AI allows you to assign a job to the best-suited field worker.

As unforeseen changes occur, the tool can modify schedules accordingly and resend them to you for approval. Lastly, the tool uses all the information and experience it has gathered to improve future scheduling decisions.

Pro tip

Use AI-provided scheduling suggestions to match work orders with the best and most relevant technician available for the job. This helps achieve higher first-visit job completion rates.

2. Empower field workers: AI can also help field workers perform better on each work order they receive. AI can analyze error codes reported by customers and predict the kind of parts and services that will be required. These predictions help field workers be better prepared to finish their work orders on time.

AI for scheduling can also help field workers manage their appointments. With third-party navigation apps integrated into the field service app, workers can reach job sites efficiently. Moreover, AI-powered chatbots can help them interact with customers virtually.

Pro tip

Provide AI-based assistance to your field workers for appointment management and interacting with customers to enable higher job satisfaction rates for them.

3. Improve customer experience: In a traditional setup, when a system failure occurs the customer actively reports it to the field service company. Once the report is generated, a field worker gets assigned to the case and it may take days or even weeks before the fieldworker visits the job site.

With AI and predictive forecasting, machines and equipment can be monitored to check for potential issues. If the system finds any issue, it can schedule a technician visit before the site suffers a major breakdown.

Additionally, with the help of historical data, AI systems can provide repair recommendations to visiting field workers. This can help develop better relationships with customers and increase customer satisfaction rates.

Pro tip

Analyze customer service data and send technicians to work with customers with whom they have had a positive experience. This will greatly enhance customer satisfaction scores.

What’s the ROI?

Return on investments can’t be ignored when considering a software purchase. After all, that’s one of the main reasons businesses modernize operations.

All field service management software tools offer scheduling capabilities, but the degree of automation varies from product to product. Due to these variations, it can sometimes be difficult to perform a cost vs. benefits analysis of the software.

What you can do, however, is estimate how implementing AI for scheduling can help you reap benefits in terms of saving time and money. Below are some steps you can take to assess return on investments.

  • Calculate and compare the time saved on processes that are now AI-enabled vs. when they were conducted manually to assess efficiency gains.

  • Calculate time-saving achieved on routine tasks such as report generation and work order management and analyze how this time was utilized elsewhere to achieve greater business efficiency.

  • Analyze monetary savings from a reduction in multiple site visits. Each return service call that your technician has to make cuts into other services they could be providing and leads to direct losses.

Ready to automate your scheduling process?

The past year has brought various challenges for businesses and customers alike. With digital disruption happening across industries, it’s not surprising that field service management companies are adopting technology to stay ahead of the competition. Visit our directory to learn more about the kind of solutions you can opt for.

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