What Salesforce missed on their Field service offering?

When I was invited by Salesforce to contribute to their Voice of the Customer Research program in August 2020, I started a compilation of everything they missed in the field service arena. I consider myself a domain expert in that area. During the interview, I only got a few minutes, and I was able to convey only 25% of the deficiencies from my list. Six months later, I got the invitation again. When I researched, I found out that this Salesforce product had caught up at an amazing speed! Kudos to Team Salesforce, who truly listen to their customers and diligently improved the product! Two such features are technician geo-tracking and technician surveys.

The biggest GAP

Salesforce Field Service relies on the (client) company’s Enterprise Resource Planning system. For several organizations, this is a big hurdle to adopting Salesforce field service management, including mine -the biggest GAP is SAP. In the industries that have an in-house manufacturing division, it is critical to handle invoicing based on the changes to the parts and tasks in the inventory. There are several feature functionalities that would need to be fully devised/developed.

- Mobile App to scan bar codes that correspond to the product on the work order.

- Inventory management — incrementing/decrementing products consumed.

- Inventory forecasting

- Equipment availability and tracking (shipped/received)

- Vendor management

- Predict success rate for service order.

One approach is to build the integrations and map the fields to the native database. However, this can get complicated and cause more frustration during the implementation phase. The planning team must be experienced to understand the potential hurdles and account for the contingencies. Additional phases to be introduced in the plan that will now extend the schedule and is also build resource dependencies.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Several organizations require their field techs to take pictures. If you have ordered food or grocery or any other package during Covid, you may notice that the delivery guy takes a photo to provide evidence of delivery of the package. This image is used to analyze if the job was done right. Similarly, the tech is required to capture photos using a mobile App and the system tags them to the customer account, making them available to them automatically.

Contractor Payments

In some companies such as ours, where the technicians are not on our payroll but are self-employed, additional business rules come into the picture. Salesforce Field Service is not yet able to deal with those requirements. For this reason, Salesforce can only process timesheet-based payments and not task-based payments. Accountability for technician’s work is better on task-based estimated payments.

This also ties into staff management. In some organizations, there is a hierarchy on the service crew. Skill hierarchy is an important aspect of workforce management. A differential payment is offered for highly skilled and highly-rated contractors. Salesforce currently does not support it under their module for user management.

Scheduling calendar Agility

This requirement is universal. To me, this is still the one complaint I hear the most grief about. It’s just no longer acceptable in this day and time to give an eight-hour appointment window. We all have cell phones; the technicians all have cell phones. There’s no reason service companies can’t be more granular about scheduling.

The issue is real in many verticals, more so in high-volume transactional businesses. To find the intersection of multiple factors such as Service crew hours, current geo-conditions, distance to travel, and customer availability require complex algorithms to be built. Machine learning models could take this further and add the predictability input to this schedule.

Location profile

Field service often involves capturing physical aspects of a place or location. Traditionally, a Site Survey is conducted to measure up the height of the building, access, type of construct, and so on. The physical attributes of a construct at a given address make up the location profile. This information could as well be obtained from third-party vendors. This is a gap that if fixed, could instantly provide value. The operational cost savings would come directly by avoiding those expenses from site visits.

Thanks for reading this article so far. Feel free to add more in the comments section. This article has been posted on multiple websites and I shall consolidate the responses when I get to Salesforce Field Service VOC next time around.