Gone are the days when customer service meant simply staffing a bank of operators to answer questions over the phone or having a field service technician living in the closest hotel to your manufacturing plant for weeks on end. Instead, industrial manufacturers are working hard to consistently exceed customer expectations by delivering service, maintenance, and repair on customers’ terms – how, when and in what format they want. By proactively delivering customized service at every customer touch point, companies are increasing satisfaction levels and elevating their successes. Case in point, according to an American Express research study, 66% of customers are willing to spend more money with firms that provide excellent service. Yet, excelling at service can be costly, especially when it comes to travel expense s for industrial service technicians.
Manufacturers need ways to manage the many costs associated with field service and implement only the activities that clearly add value. While this may sound straightforward and logical, in reality it is very difficult to maximize industrial service resources with efficient and effective processes. Fortunately, technology advancements such a cloud computing are making it easier. Visionary field service organizations willing to embrace new solutions are evolving from being cost centers to profit centers. In doing so, they are increasing service revenue, decreasing service costs and optimizing service assets.
Cloud-Based Field Service Travel
One of the most costly and complex functions within a field service organization is travel. With the increasing cost of business travel, organizations must find ways to reduce costs associated with travel, without impacting service level quality. Below are five best practice tips enabled by technology which should help your organizing gain important insights into travel processes, thereby helping to control current and future expenses for your industrial service technicians around the world:
- Use mobile devices for expense management. As a business traveler, you’ve likely been plagued with the arduous task of submitting an expense report. Armed with sheets of computer paper and a roll of tape, countless hours have been spent on scanning, emailing or submitting hard copies of expenses. On top of the time spent, there will inevitably be receipts lost, requiring further research and justification. Luckily, a better solution for travel expense management has emerged, making the process faster and easier for all parties involved.
Field service technicians can use their mobile devices to capture receipt information in real time and manage expenses while on the road. Using the device’s camera, location services and data defaults, travelers simply take a picture of the receipt as expenses are incurred and it is immediately uploaded in the company’s cloud-based data center, where it can be accessed and submitted at a later time. By accessing the cloud through mobile devices, field service technicians can spend more time solving customer problems and adding true value inside the customer’s manufacturing plant rather than scrambling around trying to find a scanner or printer.
- Integrate trip itinerary with pre-approved cost controls. Once a field service visit has been assigned and approved, it used to be headache to book flights, hotels and other expenses that fit within pre-established cost parameters. Today, standardized systems make it possible to tie cost-control measures to industrial service travel and expenses. Using information for online booking tools, cost data can be automatically transferred directly into a company’s expense report system for instant approval.
- Maintain compliance as you travel. Legal and corporate tax regulations, along with travel policies, can often make it difficult for a field service technician to follow approved processes. Another new solution available to help guide compliance as one travels to and from on-site customer visits lets you use the cloud to set up, monitor and limit travel based on corporate polices and legal requirements. Should an expense fall outside policy parameters, the traveler is immediately notified. This type of cloud-based monitoring solution is especially helpful for international travel situations. For example, a traveler can access a country’s visa policies, exchange rates, and country-specific requirements such as mileage rates and per diem amounts. Some solutions also allow organizations to define rules for approvals and audits by country. Not only is the approval process streamlined, but these cloud services maintain detailed audit trails should questions arise at a later date.
- Accelerate expense reimbursement procedures. Multiple systems sharing data with each other throughout the company is one of the greatest benefits of having a standardized network. Working from one clear source of truth ensures field service employees have access to the most updated information at the exact time they need it. On the travel side, integration between an expense management solution and an ERP system simplifies the reconciliation process and allows service technicians to be reimbursed much faster.
- Leverage captured data for better travel insight. Once the travel and expense information is captured within an organization’s database, powerful technology platforms exist to facilitate analysis of the data for better visibility of travel spending. For example, executives could look at expense by business unit, geographies, or travel suppliers. With these types of data-based insights, it is possible to understand trends and more accurately forecast future expenses.
From mobile device applications to integrated booking procedures and real-time compliance monitoring, cloud technology is making it easier for field service technicians to control costs without cutting back on the high-level of on-site service customers have come to expect. With travel costs expected to rise, taking steps to continually improve operational efficiency will go a long way toward sustainable profitability and success for your field service organization.
Senior Global Marketing Director
Industrial Machinery & Components
SAP Industry Cloud