Mobile devices are the heart of field service operations—each day, every hour they facilitate the processing of myriads of data throughout the organization; enabling communication, insights, and decision-making.
But what happens if it stops working for any reason and at a crucial time? The possible consequences could be:
- Loss of employee productivity
- Damaged perceived brand value
- Revenue loss for mission-critical equipment or
- Compliances may get affected
Honestly, it is difficult to achieve absolute stability in the field. Fieldwork conditions are prone to unpredictability; as even a casual drop of a phone could lead to major mishappenings, thus disrupting the operations. But with the right choice of mobile devices, situations could be controlled or minimized for a negligible impact.
FieldCircle team discussed critical factors to consider when buying tablets or mobile devices to use apps for field service technicians with field service experts and our customers, which could be boiled down to these 5 points.
Here it goes!
1. Accessibility and Geography
Location of the maintenance and service sites plays one of the biggest roles when it comes to selecting the right type of device.
At service operations sites, such as mining, oil and gas, solar, and wind power units, service and maintenance teams need a device that keeps them connected to back-office staff, CMMS app and system in all conditions, not just for the sake of collaboration but to their own safety as well.
For instance, if the maintenance sites have difficult terrain, you might want to explore rugged field service tablets with IP68 specifications, which are resistant to dust, dirt, sand, shock, and submersion in water up to a maximum depth of 1.5m for 30 minutes. Tablets with that sort of rating have the high processing power and battery life to allow quick access to data and ensure consistent communication.
Although, according to Robert Hurt, General Manager, EMEA with Janam, “Rugged on its own, is not enough in a real-world field service environment. True ruggedness is not just about IP ratings or rigorous testing to ensure it can withstand frequent drops, tumbles, and shocks across a wide temperature range.”
He says that it is about the device that “optimally performs well beyond the life expectancy of a consumer-grade device.” It is crucial to have a device that offers secure and reliable connectivity, and in line elevates your service and maintenance team performance.
2. Tasks performed
The functional capabilities of the field service tablets must allow your technicians to complete the job with ease. For instance, the routine tasks of your field service technician may include:
- Use of calendar to view schedules
- Track location through online maps
- Check job details or perform inspections or audits using the app
- Upload, download, view, add, and edit documents/files
- Manage time logs, update visit-in and visit-out
- Capture customer sign-offs, if required
The handset’s capabilities determine the effective functioning of these tasks. For instance, the camera of the device can impact the quality of images. Similarly, inadequate screen size could cause discomfort to the employees in using various applications in the device.
From this perspective, whether you choose a smartphone or tablet, Android or iOS, and cheap or premium, the mobile device must have certain properties, such as:
- Proper display size
- Camera lens
- High battery capacity
- Fast charging
- Smooth and well-guarded touch
- Decent RAM for easy and uninterrupted use
- A minimum of 16GB memory for photo and video uploads, if needed.
Download a list of smartphones, tablets, and phablets that are a great fit for field service businesses.
It is important to not let any irrelevant feature of the mobile device distract you from the ultimate goal of efficient and quality-driven service delivery and effective monitoring of tasks.
3. Ease of Handling
The last thing a field service technician would want to be worried about during service delivery is the mobile device.
When buying a mobile for your field service team, make sure that it is robust enough to withstand tough working conditions in the field and yet slim and lightweight to not add extra burden on them. Secondly, you must provide them with accessories to handle the device with ease. For example:
- A mobile holder for car to track the location
- Mobile holster to carry mobile devices with ease
- Dust protective cover
- Waterproof phone case if operations involve exposure to water
While these support stuff may seem trivial and extra cost, it adds to a great deal of convenience for field service technicians at work.
4. Cost of ownership
It is quite obvious that a lot of your buying decisions will be driven by the organization’s budget. However, while assessing the pricing, you must evaluate the current problems the product solves and its value over time in order to determine the total cost of ownership metric.
For instance, if the life expectancy of the device is short or the maintenance and repair is not easily accessible, it would ultimately increase the cost of ownership.
Besides, if the field service teams begin experiencing problems with the device in a short time due to quality issues or the low functional capability make them unable to utilize critical software applications to full potential, then also the device may prove to be a costly choice with respect to team’s efficiency and performance.
The objective here is not to instigate you to buy something expensive but to carefully review the device from a long-term perspective, covering aspects such as feasibility of training, maintenance, upgrade, and repair.
5. Perceived brand value
According to Laura Carstensen, a psychology professor at Stanford University, “we tend to notice negative more than positive.” Many studies suggest that “we are more likely to remember negative experiences over positive experiences.”
As in the slightest of problems faced by the customers could create a long-term negative impact on them. The one “negative” be it in the form of technicians struggling with the mobile device during maintenance service or device-related issues during e-sign off could become the unwanted trademark of your company.
Also, human beings in essence are visual creatures. We believe what we see. When a customer sees a field service technician working swiftly with a great device, quickly processing the information, generating reports or creating invoices on the spot, it leaves a good impression on them, which boosts their confidence in the company and increases the perceived brand value.
If you ever doubt your choice, you can review your requirements—why you made the decision and you will not be disappointed.
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