Colour-coded job sheets on clipboards. Customer details stuffed in manila folders. Rooms full of grey filing cabinets overflowing with clip-lock files. Cardboard boxes bursting with service manuals arranged in rough alphabetical order. Handwritten notes, 8am sales meetings in sweaty city offices and well-thumbed street directories in company-car gloveboxes.

It’s hard to believe that this was how many successful businesses with mobile staff operated just a decade ago. That was before the digital tsunami – the technological wave that started with the release of the iPhone and other devices that put work documents and communications in our hands any time, anywhere.

This mobile revolution certainly left its mark on a number of industries, but none more than sales and service companies. For businesses that rely on mobile staff having meaningful interactions with customers every day, field service management technology has been transformative. Out with the whiteboards, in with the tablets.

Advances in relatively cheap mobile technology and the quality (and wide availability) of internet services continue to make it easier for sales, trades and technical staff to work remotely from head office, almost all of the time. Through low-cost field service management software, they can communicate efficiently with managers and colleagues, and hold all of the work tools they need in their hands.

Software as a service (SaaS) is no longer just an awkward acronym – it’s a necessity for businesses of any size engaged in mobile workforce management.

Customers first

It’s tempting to say, however, that only the search for increased business efficiency is responsible for this shift from office-bound, paper-based systems to multiple connected mobile devices extracting information from the cloud. There is no doubt that managing costs and allowing staff to do more across the working day have been crucial factors in this digital service transformation, but the main reason is even more fundamental.

Field service management simply allows businesses to look after their customers better. Customer satisfaction is at the heart of why good businesses choose the latest and most flexible field service management software.

Modern mobile job management software, such as GeoServices and GeoSales, features GPS navigation, to allow service and sales staff to get to their clients on time. All relevant job information is available on any digital device, so lingering customer issues can be resolved quickly and effectively – possibly with the help of experts in head office. Field workers can upload job details (such as notes or photographs) immediately to ensure all customer records are on file and available for future reference.

Field service management allows recurring jobs to be scheduled, so no regular customers are ever overlooked, even when things are hectic. For smaller businesses, easy integrations with other business software (for example, cloud-based accountancy and stocktaking systems) make it easier for customers to get quotes or pay their bills.

The best modern cloud-based software is also more secure than ever. Customer information is protected with 256-bit SSL encryption and records are available at all times, on any secure device logged into the system.

Future of field service management

The next advances in field service management will continue to place clients’ customers first.

Consumers are now so familiar with disruptive digital technology, such as Uber and Airbnb, that they demand flexibility and choice in all aspects of their lives. They expect companies they do business with to have tools that offer personalisation and performance at an affordable price. This means field service management developers are working hard to provide better communication tools and more predictive methods to solve customer issues.

As it has for a decade, technology will drive future field service management advances. Cognitive computers using artificial intelligence, for instance, will make mobile job management software even smarter. Mobile staff using cognitive systems that analyse and learn from millions of simultaneous data inputs will provide customer solutions quickly – perhaps even predict issues before they exist.

Field service management will also benefit from the development of augmented and virtual reality tools. For instance, technicians wearing headsets or special glasses are already able to “see” how to service equipment by following virtual instructions. The technology also allows specialist technicians back at base to provide assistance in real time.

Field service management has come a long way since those manila folders and grey filing cabinets.