Workforce Scheduling: Automating for Results

Source: Aberdeen Group | Workforce Scheduling: Automating for Results | June, 2012

Every day, companies around the world must solve the jigsaw puzzle of scheduling – matching up availability, skills and business demand to create an efficient, effective schedule that meets the needs of various involved stakeholders. After hours spent creating schedules, many organizations still find themselves struggling with overstaffed shifts, or shorthanded rushes. Based on data from 163 organizations collected in May and June 2012, this Research Brief will look at how organizations are optimizing and automating scheduling to improve business results, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.

Scheduling Automation and Integration

If the right workers with the right skills are not in place at the right time, the organization cannot deliver a profitable, engaging and satisfying customer experience. But building a schedule to accomplish this can be a huge burden, particularly on operational managers. People in this critical role have to balance time spent on customer facing and revenue driving activities with time spent on internal processes like schedule creation and management. So it’s not surprising that organizations seek to automate this important, complex, and time-consuming task.

Best-in-Class organizations in Aberdeen’s June 2012 workforce management study were 29% more likely to indicate they used an automated scheduling solution, compared to all others. And for good reason, given the impact to revenue and customer retention illustrated in Figure 1.  And as Figure 2 shows, organizations automating this process are also reducing the administrative and time burden on operational managers by ensuring greater schedule accuracy, but are improving workforce utilization, allowing organizations to be more productive. The need to improve overall workforce productivity was the top workforce management pressure cited by 69% of respondents in the 2012 workforce management study, and investment in automated scheduling is clearly addressing this critical need.

Automated scheduling can improve the lives of scheduling many stakeholders. Operational managers who are held accountable for creating schedules must do so quickly and efficiently. Financial and business executives want to deliver performance at an acceptable cost. HR leaders need to streamline tactical activities and focus on strategic priorities. And employees want a transparent and fair scheduling process. Automated scheduling addresses all of these issues.

Improving Scheduling Performance

Not only can automated scheduling improve efficiency and performance, it also allows organizations to use scheduling data in new ways (Figure 3).

Organizations with automated scheduling solutions are more than twice as likely as organizations without automated scheduling to provide self-service access to employees – a critical element to improving employee engagement and schedule accuracy. When employees can see and correct scheduling problems in advance, and feel their voice is heard in the scheduling process, they will be happier with the overall experience.

Organizations with automated scheduling are also more than four times as likely to use dashboard tools that can share workforce management data with executives. Labor is the biggest expense in most organizations, and this expense must be balanced against business results. Workforce and labor data dashboards help executives understand how labor budget is spent, and enable better conversations between operational and financial managers about talent needs and investment. This data can also help with future labor forecasting. Understanding past patterns, and the business and financial results of various schedule scenarios, helps organizations plan better in the future. While this can be done manually, organizations that automated scheduling were more than three times as likely to use automated tools to forecast future labor needs, improving accuracy and results.

Automated solutions can also offer additional functionality to manage complex issues like variable customer demand or other factors that may require organizations to staff up or down rapidly to meet business needs. By integrating data, modeling demand, and automatically and dynamically creating and modifying schedules, this functionality can rapidly improve productivity and workforce utilization. Forty-two percent (42%) of organizations with automated scheduling tools also use scenario planning software – solutions that calculate the most effective combination of shifts or day models based on staffing needs. Only 2% of organizations with manual scheduling are taking advantage of this kind of functionality, so clearly automation is critical to optimizing schedule performance. This capability is also a critical differentiators of Best-in-Class performance. Automated solutions also save time and improve efficiency by helping managers fill open shifts. Organizations with automated scheduling in place are nearly 10 times as likely (29% vs. 3%) to enable managers to automatically send notification of open shifts to employees via text, interactive voice response or email, helping to avoid managers spending hours tracking down employees to fill in for an unexpected absence.

Key Insights

Automation is a logical choice for improving efficiency, and, when done well it can also have a significant impact on effectiveness and customer and employee engagement. When evaluating automated scheduling solutions, consider the following points:

  • Implement with all stakeholders in mind. Automated scheduling solutions can be a significant investment, but this investment can be justified easily by building a business case that focuses on all key stakeholder groups – operations, finance HR, IT, employees and customers. By creating efficiencies and using schedule data to improve effectiveness and business impact, organizations can quickly measure the impact of automated scheduling. As shown in the case study, it’s smart to know how projected performance improvements will pay for the investment in automation when building a business case.
  • Make automation the foundation for integration. Scheduling does not exist in a vacuum. Automation of scheduling alone can result in less manager time spent on manual processes, happier employees and more accurate schedules. But automating scheduling and using scheduling data along with data from other workforce management processes (such as time and attendance) can have an even greater impact. Feeding performance data into the schedule and correlating schedules with business output creates a feedback loop that helps improve not only scheduling but overall business performance.
  • Know your business drivers. In organizations that are highly schedule dependent –where the right person with the right skills to meet the customer need is critical to business results – HR and the business must be completely aligned. If HR and operations don’t come together to design a scheduling process that speaks to key business drivers, scheduling solutions will never have the desired impact. A bad process, automated, will only produce disappointing results faster. Organizations must understand the business drivers and critical inputs to their scheduling process before automation begins.

 
 
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NEW FIELD SERVICE SOFTWARE FEATURES ALERT – April 12, 2012

These field service software features were just added to Bella Solutions:

1) Include file attachments with Work Order email alerts

  • Upload and attach files to a Work Order such as photos, contracts, PDF’s, spreadsheet’s, and more.
    • Take photos with your mobile device and upload while in the field!
  • While uploading a file you have the option to include the file attachment with Work Order email alert.
  • Email Work Orders with file attachments to assigned Technicians and/or the Customer.

2) Email Estimates, Work Orders, and Invoices to Customers and Parent Customers

  • Estimates (Quotes / Proposals)
    • Email Estimates directly from Bella to your Customer.
    • Option to email the Estimate to the “Parent” Customer.
    • The “From” address is your email address.
  • Work Orders
    • Email Work Orders directly from Bella to your Customer.
    • Option to email the Work Order to the “Parent” Customer.
    • The “From” address is your email address.
  • Invoices
    • Email Invoices directly from Bella to your Customer.
    • Option to email the Invoice to the “Parent” Customer.
    • The “From” address is your email address.

Learn more at Bella’s Bella Mobile Field Service Software

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NEW FIELD SERVICE SOFTWARE FEATURES ALERT – April 4, 2012

Recently added Field Service Software features:

Job Payments / Deposit / Prepay

  • Payments may be entered directly on the Job page with the “Payment/Deposit” button.
  • Deposits or Prepays may be entered directly on the Job page with the “Payment/Deposit” button.
  • “Total Paid” and “Balance Due” display on the Job page.
  • Payments and Balance display on Work Order and Invoice forms to send to your Customer.

Color Codes Displaying in Lists

  • Customer List – “Location Zone” column displays assigned Location Zone color codes.
  • Job List – “Job Status” column displays assigned Job Status color codes.
  • Employee List – “Employee Name” column displays assigned Employee color codes.
  • Vendor List – “Vendor Name” column displays assigned Vendor color codes.

New Customer Address Default

  • A State/Province “set as default” checkbox has been added on the Customer page to select a State/Province as the default value each time you create a new Customer.

Invoice “Bill To” Options

  • The Invoice page now allows you to select either the “Parent” or “Subsidiary” Customer as the “Bill To” Customer.

Learn more at Bella Mobile Service Software

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Would I have the ability to distinguish 2 Companies within one Field Service Software Account?

Question

Sat, Sep 24, 2011 at 2:02 pm

1)  I have 2 types of service businesses under 1 corporate name, would I have the ability to distinguish the 2 entities within the same system?

2)  Is there a task filter or process that helps in suggesting workers by both availability and skills?

Answer

1) Yes,  you can use one Corporate Name with logo and profile in the system that will display on Estimates, Work Orders, and Invoices.

There would be several ways to track two entities in the system. For example, you could create a custom “Customer Type” for each entity and then assign to the appropriate Customers to keep them organized. You can filter the Customer List by Customer Type.

Also, when creating a Job you could reference the entity name in the Job Name. The Job List can be sorted by Job Name.

There are endless ways to add notes, descriptions, etc… that could help distinguish between entities.

2) Currently, you can assign two work types to a worker, sales and/or service. When scheduling a Job you can filter the work list by work type then availability.

By the end of this year we are adding the ability to create and assign more work types.

 

Details for Mobile Service Management Software

Mobile service management software enable technicians working in the field to report service call status, labor, parts, expenses, and miscellaneous charges using laptops, smartphones, tablets, and PDA’s. This information can be transferred via wired or wireless internet connections. Field technicians can manage information from any location, even while on the road, using Bella mobile app remote capability. Because all technician updates are saved whether a technician is logged into the service call management system or not, you can be assured that critical information isn’t lost or forgotten.

Data Availability

  • Customers and addresses
  • Assigned and open service calls by technician
  • Service call history for customer and/or equipment
  •  Installed equipment and serial numbers
  • Service contract information
  • Inventory items and prices

Ease of Use

  • Quick onsite arrival and completion for date/time entry
  • Seamless entry for new service calls in the field
  • Easy updates to existing service calls with parts, labor, expenses, and additional charges

Return on Investment

  • Faster communication between technicians and dispatchers, including reduced phone time
  • Improved service efficiencies that increase customer satisfaction
  • Increased efficiency and fewer transposition errors with one-time data entry

Learn more at Bella bellafsm.com

Best Practices – Deploying Mobile Field Service Software Strategies

Best-in-class companies are capitalizing on mobile technologies for field service operations to drive margin, top line revenue, and customer retention for their organizations. The process of implementing a mobile field service software does require careful evaluation to help companies optimize integration with existing ERP solutions and realize maximum return on investment.

Leverage existing and new technology to synchronize four service pillars

Businesses that are building ties between service and logistics are working towards consolidated “command centers” that overlay parts and technician planning and tracking systems and serve as a unified front end for visibility and exception handling.

In addition, leading businesses are exposing inventory management capabilities to field workers through mobile devices. In this model, field technicians can report parts usage data from the field. The system then automates the process for restocking vehicles by monitoring parts usage and adjusting stock counts.

Businesses that have already deployed Enterprise Resource Planning, order management, or CRM systems are well-positioned to add mobile field service software functionality. These internal systems house critical customer and product data that is best leveraged by field technicians. When evaluating service technology providers, businesses, in particular mid-market companies – should ensure that full integration with existing systems is possible.

Address process deficiencies before deploying technology

Without exception, businesses following their partner’s best-practices recommendations understand that changing an aftermarket service operation from a tactical cost center to a strategic profit center has as much to do with creative and efficient business processes as it does with technology selection.

The implementation and rollout of a mobile solution should be designed around proven best business practices.

Clearly define requirements and success criteria before evaluating technology solution

The adage about an ounce of prevention also holds true for planning a service transformation. To select the appropriate technology solution and continue to derive maximum benefit from it over time, businesses must take the time to document and prioritize their requirements and criteria for success.

For a business seeking a high-speed, remote service platform that provides a rapid time to benefit, the essential components include:

  • Rapid deployment with manageable costs and an expedient installation period
  • Ease of use that minimizes training requirements for service technicians
  • Few or no additional administrative requirements

Field Service Software Editable Customer ID, Job ID, Location ID

Bella Solutions Field Service Software customers can now edit the Customer ID, Job ID, and Location ID making it easier to match their current business process.

  • Customer ID, Job ID, and Location ID are now editable
  • When creating a new Customer, Job, or Location you may still enter a custom ID
  • Change ID’s at anytime
  • Only “Admin” User roles have edit rights.

Franchise Software Providing Real-time Online Visibility into Franchisees

Reston, VA (PRWEB) July 29, 2011  Bella Solutions announces web-based customizable Franchise Software. The online solution provides a low-cost and easy-to-use solution for new or established Franchisors or companies that need to manage multiple locations. Franchise software is essential for managing a successful Franchise business providing these key features:

  • Gives Franchisees the tools they need to easily manage their business improving the opportunity for increasing revenue and success.
  • Gives Franchisor complete and real-time visibility into all Franchisees.
  • Connects the Franchisor and Franchisees to improve communication and collaboration resulting in better run franchise businesses.
  • New Franchisee set up in minutes with pre-selected custom settings for consistency.
  • Immediate control to turn off Franchisee access.
  • Branded for uniformity across all Franchisees.
  • Automated Royalty Reports.
  • Mobile access from iPad, iPhone, Droid phones and tablets for the Franchisor and Franchisee.

Company officials stated, “With a web-based solution Franchisors are now able to afford enterprise level customizable software to manage their business and easily roll out to all Franchisees. We work close with our customers to provide the optimal solution maximizing Franchisee revenues resulting in increased royalties.”

For the Franchisee, Bella Solutions Franchise Software connects field resources in real-time to back office data, schedules, customer data and history. As a result, service is completed faster, more service requests are resolved on the first visit, and service tracking is improved, all of which reduce errors, enhance customer satisfaction, and increase profits. Franchisees save time and money by reducing paper work, errors, and running reports, therefore spend more time focusing on business.

About Bella Solutions:
Bella Solutions is a leading SaaS (Software as a Service) provider for the Field Service Industry. Bella provides the ability to streamline business operations by providing CRM, Service Management, Scheduling, Equipment Maintenance, Employee and Vendor Management, Inventory Tracking, Invoicing, and Accounting entirely online. Bella is customizable with complete mobile access from iPhones, iPads, Android phones and Tablets.With more companies looking to reduce costs while increasing revenues, Bella Solutions customer base is growing rapidly by providing a low cost easy-to-use SaaS solution.

Contact Center Workforce Management

Industry research touches upon the role of customer service agents in delivering service and support via the channel of the contact center, it should be noted that most organizations utilize their contact center agents for multiple roles and across multiple channels. There are minor distinctions in the workforce management allocation strategies between the Best-in-Class and all others, therefore the following results around workforce
responsibilities are fairly reflective of the entire survey population.

Service channels: Only 21% of the Best-in-Class indicate that their service agents are dedicated to voice-based service channels with 61% indicating that their agents are engaged to deliver support across multiple channels. In the next 12 months, 61% indicate the increasing focus on having agents deliver support across multiple channels.

Cross functional: 50% of the Best-in-Class indicate that contact center agents are dedicated to service with the other 50% indicating agents being used across functions such as sales and marketing. In the next 12 months, 43% of the Best-in-Class see increasing cross-functional use
for their contact center agents.

Product alignment: In this area, 43% of the Best-in-Class report having agents service all product lines with no specialty or dedication when compared to 26% of all other organizations. These other organizations prefer having agents dedicated to specific product lines.

Outsourced agents: The Best-in-Class indicate that 13% of all incoming calls are eventually handled by outsourced contact center agents and only 19% indicate that this proportion will increase in the next 12 months. Organizations that indicated that all their calls were taken by outsourced agents reported a 76% first-call resolution performance and a minimal decrease in support costs over the previous 12 months.

At-home agents: At this stage only 7% of calls are handled by at-home agents for Best-in-Class organizations, though 21% report the increasing use of these agents in the next 12 months.
 
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What to Look for in a Mobile Field Service Management Solution

Mobile Field Service Management Software Office Functions

Office Function

Description

Customer File Maintenance
  • Interfacing of data originating from CRM, contact management and/or financial systems to provide up-to-date/synchronized information flows.
Installed Base Maintenance
  • Automatic updating of installed base records for moves/adds/changes, or when parts are used during a service call.
Service Agreements Administration
  • Interfacing of installed base, billing, call handling, and parts databases to determine entitlement and billables (becoming increasingly customized).
Order Entry
  • May range from a complete manual interface to a customer-controlled
    interface where the creation of a work-order is an escalation step; heavily dependent on the complexity of the equipment and/or software.
Scheduling
  • Utilizing real-time location functionality to make the most efficient dispatch decisions usually driven by response times as delineated in service agreements.
Dispatching
  • Assigns field technicians to customer sites, and balances the workload; should also have the capability to seamlessly allocate inventory and ship parts.
Installation Planning
  • Generally driven by equipment availability and supported by an interface with the logistics function and/or purchasing module (some complicated projects that include design/site readiness, software development, etc. may require an add-on project management tool).
Help Desk
  • Customer support functionality built on a foundation of electronic documentation, decision trees, case-based reasoning techniques, and knowledge-based tools.
Reporting
  • Financial, for billing, post-calculations and cost tracking/allocation; Operational,
    for process control and management; and Analysis, to assess processes and drive process improvement, inventory investments and customer satisfaction.
Logistics
  • Principal elements are forecasting, planning, purchasing, warehousing, replenishment/auto-replenishment, emergency parts ordering, returns handling, depot repair, and inventory control (often linked to ERP and Supply Chain Management systems.).
Purchasing
  • Provides a direct link between the cost of the purchased goods and services to the billing side of the business.
Selling
  • Facilitates the real-time ability to quote/price goods and services (e.g., service agreements, parts and accessories, T&M support, etc.).
Billing
  • Generally interfaced to the organization’s financial systems so that invoices can be created in real-time, directly from the field.
Communication
  • Real-time, wireless data communications enable organizations to instantly link their office functions with the mobile/field workforce.

Mobile Field Service Management Software Field Functions

Field Function

Description

    Maintaining the Schedule
  • Interactivity between field and office functions allows for scheduling information to be updated without the need for a telephone.
Activity Tracking
  • Direct integration into a front-end application, so that information can be transferred in real-time to update office records.
Time Tracking
  • Integrated into the front-end application so that a single entry will allow information to be distributed to multiple modules.
Expenses
  • Built into the front-end application, so that a single entry can be linked to multiple parts of the office system, expediting account reconciliation.
Inventory
  • Provides for real-time trunk inventory tracking, parts ordering, and automatic replenishment.
Reporting
  • An automated, easy-to-use, virtual Field Service Report, containing the appropriate information on areas including activity tracking, time tracking, expenses, parts used, etc.
Billing
  • Real-time field billing functionality (incorporating electronic signature capture) allows for automatic invoicing for service, parts and/or consumables, and accessories; linked to the main system for billing, and synchronization of information.
Notes
  • Functionality that replicates the field technician’s ability to record notes in the field about customers, parts, equipment, calibration, etc.
Documentation
  • Instant accessibility of support documentation (e.g., instructions, drawings, etc.) delivered via field communications devices.
Communication
  • Communication interface that can handle the required channels/carriers, for both voice and data communications.
Customer Information
  • Real-time access to customer information base, allowing for instant, and easy, updating of customer information from the field.
Installed Base Information
  • Ability to make installed base and configuration information available to field technicians in real time, and facilitate automatic updates.
Service Agreement Information
  • Ability to provide field technicians with real-time access to service agreement information to determine entitlement, customer billing, etc.
Selling
  • Provides field technicians with access to catalog and pricing information so they can sell consumables and accessories to customers while they are on-site.
Knowledge-based Systems
  • Provides field technicians with access to knowledge-based systems to assist them in the diagnosis process.