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6 Minute Read

4 Things to Look for in Field Service Routing Technology


Most people and businesses who rely on uniform and linen deliveries, landscaping and pest control, cleaning and janitorial services, or other field services probably don’t appreciate the complexity that goes into making sure the right technicians get to the right job sites at the right time. And that’s exactly as it should be—as a field service provider you don’t want your customers to be anxious about whether the ETAs they’ve been provided are accurate; you just want them to feel confident that you’ve got them taken care of.

hours-of-serviceBeen one look under the hood and it’s clear to see just how complex all this can be. The ability to create and execute efficient service delivery routes might require you to account for service time, service frequency, driver skill, traffic patterns, and a host of other variables in order to ensure great customer service and adequate route density. Efficiently dividing your customers into territories and routes by hand is a non-starter in most cases, and even many software solutions simply don’t make it easy to do this kind of planning on a reasonable timescale. 

Whether you’re supplying uniforms to food facilities or scheduling carpet cleanings in office parks, you need a way to cut through the complexity and achieve real delivery efficiency at scale. How do you make that happen? By looking out for these features in your field service routing technology  

1. Fast, Accurate Route Optimization

Obviously, when you’re a route-based business, the ability to create dense, efficient routes is paramount. To make that happen, your routing engine needs to be fast and accurate. 

Let’s tackle those two criteria one at a time:

  • Speed: If your routing process takes too long—whether that’s multiple days of planning for new routes or simply multiple hours’ runtime to actually generate routes with your software—you’re disincentivized to do it as often as necessary. In fact, you might only reroute a few times a year. Conversely, when generating a new route takes a matter of minutes, you can generate new routes whenever there’s a change in your business. For that matter, you can even run what-if scenarios to test out potential alternatives to your current plan.
  • Accuracy: By accuracy, what we really mean is the ability to accurately predict transit and service times to ensure that your service technicians arrive exactly when they’re scheduled to. This enables you to avoid over- or under-scheduling your personnel and ensure dependable customer experiences across the board. Here, AI and machine learning can play a major role in predicting ETAs in spite of the many complex variables at play. 

2. Efficient Territory Planning 

If your operations involve dividing your coverage areas into sales territories, the efficiency of the way those territories are organized is going to play a huge role in your success. (If your operations don’t involve sales territories, feel free to skip to the next section). Here, many of the challenges that come with planning routes are compounded. You need to account for:

  • Customer day and time requests
  • Service frequencies
  • Technician availability
  • Technician capacity
  • Route density
  • Balance between territories

And you need to account for all of those over a period that encompasses multiple weeks. As you can imagine, it’s easy for inefficiencies to creep into territories that are planned or maintained by hand—and if you don’t optimize them, they’re likely to get less efficient over time as small adjustments mount up. 

That’s why it’s so crucial to find software that explicitly integrates territory planning over a timescale of weeks with daily route planning limitations. When you’re able to automatically generate sales territories that translate seamlessly into daily routes for your technicians, you can avoid the kinds of sales territories that look good on paper but don’t work on a day-to-day basis. Ideally, your technology should be able to show you a territory baseline for your current plans and then automatically optimize and show you the difference. 

That last part is crucial, since it enables you to easily visualize which customers need to be notified if they’re going to be on new routes going forward. 

3. Real-Time Flexibility

Of course, anyone who’s in the business of providing field services to customers knows that there’s a big difference between planning and execution. A regular pest control client might have a sudden infestation and need to be slotted into a route unexpectedly. Or a carpet cleaning might take much longer than expected for one reason or another. When this happens, your software needs to empower you to spot the problem as quickly and easily as possible and take rapid steps to keep your plans on track and make sure your customers feel like they’re getting the great service that they expect. 

From a technological perspective, this comes down to a few things:

  • Real-Time Data Flows: When your technology is able to gather massive amounts of data from out in the field and compile it instantaneously, you can track the status of each job in real-time and even track changing ETAs throughout the day. If a technician is running late, you can give the customer a heads up and offer them the chance to reschedule.
  • Driver/Technician Connectivity: Where is all the data above actually coming from? It needs to come from drivers and technicians out in the field, which requires total connectivity. Dispatchers and managers should be able to see driver locations and status updates throughout the entire process, and they should be able to communicate directly with the driver via instant messages as needed.
  • Intuitive UI: Not all data is created equal. Or, rather, not all ways of displaying data are created equal. If you have to hunt through multiple different screens—or even multiple different applications—to find the information you want, you’re much less likely to find in time to make an adjustment. Conversely, if your technology has a clean, intuitive UI that was built with this exact use case in mind, you can get the right data at the right time for all of your service runs. Naturally, you’ll also want the UI to make routing and route adjustments equally easy, in case you need to respond to any exceptions by sending an updated route to your technician. 

4. Seamless Integration

Even when your route execution is flawless, your service runs don’t unfold in a vacuum. Rather, they’re part of much larger business processes that might be supported by upselling and cross selling or follow-up from customer service or other teams. This means that service delivery information needs to be readily accessible to other teams, and data from other areas needs to be available within your route management technology. Otherwise, you end up with data and decision-making silos that can hamper your ability to provide great customer service in an efficient way. 

Here, there are two things that you might look for in your technology: SaaS native architecture and an open API. The former generally means that your system was built to scale and interoperate with other systems (route accounting, ERP, WMS, etc.), and the latter suggests that sharing data between multiple systems will be relatively easy. When you can make that happen, you can take the first steps towards a digital transformation of your service delivery management. The end result? Smarter routes, increased efficiency, and happier customers. 

 


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