A lot of emphasis is placed on “making the sale” in manufacturing, and rightly so. Supporting your customers and your products after the initial sale, however, is a critical part of maintaining your hard-earned relationships and generating repeat business. It can also be a path to product improvements and growth.
Timely, efficient responses to field service requirements are critical to your success, but controlling and managing costs associated with field service support can be a major challenge. Parts inventory, field service reps, transportation, warranty parameters, equipment, standard service codes and more all need to be coordinated and accounted for.
Manufacturers that understand the value of providing exceptional service to their customers leverage enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to help with scheduling, planning and tracking costs associated with field service operations. Here are just a few ways ERP can improve your customer service in the field and streamline field service workflows.
When customers are located across a wide geographic region, it becomes more difficult to manage resources related to field service. Efficient scheduling and dispatching can lead to considerable savings. With an ERP solution, each service technician’s schedule and location is clearly displayed on a dashboard to make it easily manageable.
Dispatchers can see when a truck will be in a certain area and book a visit to a customer in that region to perform service work or preventative maintenance. If a cancellation occurs, it’s clearly visible along with your technicians’ availability, allowing dispatchers to fit in another appointment to maximize the issue resolution process. The graphical interface of a dashboard is much more accurate, efficient and user friendly than trying to keep everything straight on a spreadsheet.
While in the field, service reps need immediate access to various service documents, warranty information and analytics to perform needed repairs and maintenance. Cloud-based ERP systems allow for real-time mobile accessibility and are integrated with your CRM to give a big-picture view of a customer’s sales and service history.
If a technician takes a reading from a machine, they can scan it into a tablet and instantly upload it, providing access to anyone logged into the ERP system. They no longer need to turn in paperwork, reducing the likelihood of delays, errors and omissions. They can also log in time, materials and service notes in real time to help ensure accurate costs and billing, and every part used can be documented so that inventory levels are instantly updated.
Accurate Costs & Product Improvements
When you track every resource used to conduct field service work, you gain a more accurate summary of total product costs. Logging work and materials into an ERP means that costs for labor, materials, mileage and more can be analyzed over time to determine an aggregate and help determine future pricing.
Variances from standard service orders can be captured in real time in the field and submitted into the system. Are technicians repeatedly being dispatched to replace a faulty bearing in a unit within the first six months of installation? If so, you can mine the captured data to help developers and engineers discover opportunities for reviewing and improving products.
Accurate Billing & Revenue Generation
Depending on the length of a service project, you may want to bill in increments rather than wait until completion. For example, an installation process may span several weeks, or a technician may only be able to complete half the work because they are waiting for parts. In these instances, you can automate progress billing within your ERP application after field work is completed and entered into the system.
When a project or work order takes a long time to execute, organizations have the flexibility to issue real-time billing or bill monthly for any work that was completed. Accounts receivable activity can flow into a typical billing cycle without any special handling.
When a service rep or field service coordinator enters a work order into an ERP, any information linked to that customer is automatically visible and accessible to help streamline the process. The customer’s unit has a unique identifying number, and everything associated with it and the customer — previous service, part numbers, install dates, contact person, etc. — is traceable all the way back to when the sales order was process was initiated.
Because detailed information is provided in one place, service reps can create work orders, log what work needs to be done, have an informed conversation with the customer and make better decisions. Service codes for specific units remain consistent, so everyone knows what parts are needed. When service is issued, an automatic purchase order for restocking inventory can be issued, or parts can be shipped directly to the client instead of bringing them in-house and then reshipping them. Furthermore, dispatchers can instantly know if specialists are needed to address specific service issues and schedule accordingly on-the-spot.
Having a central ERP repository to hold all the information about customers and their orders helps ensure the best possible care and service. In an increasingly competitive manufacturing landscape, differentiating your company is essential, and providing the best customer experience possible can give you a competitive advantage. Contact the ERP specialists at Wipfli today to talk through your challenges and how the right technology solution paired with the right technology provider can help.