Chad Kaltenstein, Program Manager, Vertiba Inc.
BOULDER, CO – On the morning of May 3, 2016, the Boulder County Sheriff’s office tweeted out a warning to residents – there was someone on the loose in Niwot, just north of town.
The tweet revealed a wanted poster with the last known photo of the escape artist – a llama named Ethel – with the hashtag #LlamaOnTheLoose.
An animal control officer and a sheriff’s deputy were dispatched. Ethel was initially uncooperative, so onlookers formed a human fence to corral her. After two hours, Ethel gave up the dance and was returned home to safety.
Animal control is just one of many agencies at a typical city government with a field service management problem. Agencies like the Department of Public Works, Neighborhood Inspection Services, and Solid Waste Management have a similar dispatch/field technician model. Although resident information is stored in a central database, workers in the field cannot access this information. Although new issues arise throughout the day, dispatch must schedule appointments and route workers efficiently. In the coming decade, city assets of all sizes will come online with the Internet of Things (IoT), with the ability to let these agencies know when service is needed.
Beyond city government, many private industries have this same dispatch/field service model. In Healthcare, field workers must deliver medical devices on time. In Manufacturing, equipment servicing must be expedited. In Finance, a notary’s appointment schedule must be optimized. Overall, the market for Field Service Management is huge and growing – expected to reach $2.4 billion by 2020.
These groups face the same challenges. Appointments must be scheduled, worker routing must be optimized, information must be sent to the field in real-time, and data must be collected back to a central database. However, as of 2016 many organizations are still using manual methods to manage these scenarios.
Enter Salesforce Field Service Lightning.
In early 2016, Salesforce launched the answer to these challenges with Field Service Lightning. This new feature set lives natively on the Salesforce platform, leveraging customers’ existing CRM data, providing customer service agents, dispatchers, and field service workers all access to information. Field Service Lightning is designed for mobile, so technicians in the field have easy interaction with their schedules and work orders. Dispatchers can leverage smart scheduling to make teams more efficient. And web-connected IoT devices can let everyone know when field service is needed in the first place.
Salesforce Service Cloud has always provided customer service agents with the ability to track customer requests and data. However, organizations would have to work in a separate system to manage work orders and communicate with the field.
Having agents, dispatchers and mobile employees in the field on a single, centralized platform brings a new level of transparency and efficiency to customer service. The result is a single platform to provide seamless customer experience from customer phone call to field.
Field Service Lightning features address several real-world problems:
- Intelligent Routing
When a customer calls requesting service, Field Service Lightning can look for the closest service technician, or could look for one that has the right skills to address the issue. Customer attributes such as customer service tier, location, and size can be configured into the routing algorithm.
- Smart Scheduling
Customer service can also instantly book appointments from the Lightning Console. Once an appointment is scheduled, dispatchers can view all appointments in a Gantt chart or a geographic map. Salesforce even offers text message communicating with workers, if desired.
- Mobile Access
We now live in a world of ubiquitous mobile devices, and the Salesforce1 app can direct field workers to their next assignment. Workers can review account, contact, and case data before walking into each appointment. For example, neighborhood inspectors in the field are better at their job when they have access to residents’ information. Knowing that a building permit was already requested, or that graffiti has been authorized by the owner of a house can save a lot of trouble and confusion for constituents. After the service appointment, they can update customer and case information, which is in turn available to the customer service team handling phone inquiries.
- Advanced Assets
For organizations with physical assets in the field, Salesforce provides a place to track asset history and hierarchy. As smart devices come online over the next decade, asset health and status can be tied in to alert users or create service orders when in need of replacement or repair.
- Monitoring & Analytics
By folding field service management into the Salesforce platform, organizations can centralize reporting for a single view of the customer, including their field service activity.
Details collected by field agents do not serve the greater good when they are tucked away in a private notebook or in a spreadsheet. When agents can make notes on a residence in a central database, future agents are better-prepared to serve. When a resident calls the city requesting information, having all data in a single CRM solution provides a better experience to the constituent.
Salesforce partners with Vertiba (the Salesforce consulting team at Publicis.Sapient) to make Field Service Lightning work for organizations in all industries. Vertiba was founded in 2010 with key capabilities in field service management. Vertiba has implemented many flavors of field service solutions on the Salesforce platform over the last five years:
- Managed apps
In the early days, Vertiba installed third-party managed applications for clients. In one example, Vertiba was hired by an equipment engineering firm to implement a solution that helps them manage cases, work orders, and dispatching. Although such managed packages come with a robust feature set, the configuration options to meet specific client requests are often limited.
- Custom apps
Later, Vertiba designed and delivered custom applications for customers. In one example, Vertiba built an inspection application for a a solar energy firm that needed a mobile tool for their technicians to perform field inspections. The client needed work orders to be auto-generated with required checklists displayed for the technicians. Vertiba created a custom object for Inspection Checklists, used DrawLoop to create Inspection Reports, and optimized page layout for display on an iPad. Vertiba also configured a customer portal to give customers access to their own data. Custom solutions like this provide great flexibility. However, going custom can mean additional maintenance cost, and missing out on enhancements that Salesforce releases to its core product suite.
- System integration
For a major US city government, Vertiba delivered integration to Accela (a third party work order management system). In this approach, case intake and constituent communications are tracked in Salesforce, while dispatch and service order management occur in the third party system of choice.
- Field Service Lightning
These days, Vertiba embraces the new Field Service Lightning feature set. FSL truly provides the best of both worlds – rich, configurable features supported by Salesforce itself. In October 2015, Salesforce invited Vertiba to contribute in a focus group to help validate the shape and direction of this new offering. Jim Hooton, CEO of Vertiba, says “Salesforce.com’s Field Service Lightning product changes the game for field workers. It creates an end-to-end solution built on an incredibly flexible platform. With this product, we can help any organization streamline their process from initial report of an issue by a customer/citizen to resolution out in the field.”
Vertiba sees the power in putting agents, dispatchers, and mobile employees on a single platform. Next time the Animal Control team in your city needs to corral a llama, wouldn’t it be great if they pulled up all the details on their phone after an immediate dispatch from City Hall?