Companies use field service management software to optimize their teams of field service technicians and for numerous functions that support those teams. The result is an array of benefits ranging from greater profitability to more satisfied customers. With the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating(opens in a new tab) that there were more than 1.4 million field service workers for the United States alone in 2022, it’s small wonder that the global market for field service management software reached $5.2 billion in 2021, according to one estimate(opens in a new tab), and is expected to grow 19% annually to more than $25 billion by 2030.

What Is Field Service Management?

For many companies, the installation, maintenance or repair that technicians perform at customer sites may be the only face-to-face contact they have with those customers. The outcomes of such visits, therefore, could have a direct impact on companies’ customer relationships. Field service management is the set of strategies and tactics designed to make sure these field visits yield positive results.

Field service management technology can automate and/or enhance the efficiency of nearly every facet of customer visits, from optimizing technicians’ travel routes, to ensuring that the right parts are available in inventory to complete the job, to deploying the right technician — for example, the person with the skills needed to use the particular parts anticipated and perform the required repair.

What Are Field Service Management Software Features?

The features of field service management software, such as scheduling, work-order management and employee and inventory tracking, integrate the people, processes and technologies of field service operations into efficient teams. The software features generally break down into three categories: scheduling and routing, on-site activities and back-end operations support.

Scheduling and routing features are crucial because of the potential for large chunks of a field service technician’s workday to be wasted due to idle time (such as waiting for parts), unnecessary driving and avoidable visits. Field service management software can be an effective tool to help reduce or eliminate that waste, raising the organization’s productivity and profitability. For example, with the inherent advantages that automation provides, scheduling and routing can be handled in minutes instead of hours and provide the most efficient visit schedule and routes.

When technicians arrive at a site, they need to have the right tools and skills to do the job at hand. Field service management software can provide them with instructions in real time and/or help them turn, virtually, to colleagues with more experience and expertise in a particularly complex problem. Likewise, software can enable technicians to capture data in the field, providing valuable domain knowledge that other technicians can use to perform future jobs faster.

When it comes to back-end support, field service management software captures a wide variety of data that can help an organization improve future visits. This includes metadata, such as the length of the visit, the specific notes taken by the technician, materials used and much more. Back-end reports provide invaluable information for running a field services practice.

Key Takeaways

  • Field service management software enhances the efficiency of field technician visits by optimizing travel routes, making sure technicians have the skills to do the job and ensuring the right parts are available.
  • Field service management software features generally fall into three categories: scheduling and routing, on-site activities and back-end operations support.
  • Matching a field service management software solution’s features to the unique needs of an individual field service business can significantly raise the business’s productivity and profitability.

Field Service Management Software Features Explained

The core value of field service management software comes down to one concept: get the right technician with the right skills to the right job at the right time. The software helps coordinate various functions and systems that equip field technicians to provide the best possible service to customers, naturally improving customer satisfaction while reducing the business’s costs, raising employee morale and increasing revenue.

Field service management software allows companies to more precisely schedule visits, thereby overcoming a wide range of challenges, including the distance from a technician’s previous appointment, matching the skills and certifications of individual technicians to jobs and the availability of needed parts. The scheduling capabilities of a field service management system translate directly into reduced idle time for technicians and boosted productivity.

Communications, both within the organization and with customers, is another core area in which field service management software is valuable. Internally, it provides visibility into what’s going on in the field to other employees and other systems. It was not that many years ago that the only such visibility was a technician’s daily report. But field service management software permits a company to see at, or near, real-time information about where field technicians are and what they’re doing. Perhaps more importantly, field service management software helps keep customers in the loop. A series of messages can ensure that a customer has an upcoming visit on their schedule, and day-of-appointment messaging can help them prepare for the arriving technician. The result will be a more efficient service call.

Service agreements are the governing business document of many, if not all, field technician visits. Field service management software can help make sure that appointments are covered by existing service agreements or determine whether additional authorizations are needed. Out in the field, the software keeps working by letting field technicians know what is and isn’t expected, according to the customer’s contract.

By helping companies schedule and fulfill field service appointments more efficiently and reduce the idle time between appointments, field service management software provides the means for companies to offer more appointments across larger territories. The software’s capabilities continue to rapidly evolve along with industry trends, with new features and efficiencies becoming available every year.

19 Field Service Management Software Features to Look For

In a 2022 survey of field service industry company leaders, 67% of respondents said their customers’ number one priority is faster response time. But experiences may vary. When reviewing software to help automate and manage field services operations, there are a lot of features and benefits to consider. It’s important for field service organizations to assess their own strengths and weaknesses to identify and rank the software features that could create the most business value for their operations. Here’s a rundown of 19 core features to consider.

  1. Dynamic scheduling: At the heart of field service management software is the ability for the system to create optimal schedules for field technicians. Scheduling takes into account details, such as traffic, the weather and the skillset of the assigned technicians, to ensure that an optimal number of appointments can be met each day. Depending on the system configuration, the software could also consider unplanned employee absences.

  2. Work-order management: Field service management software generally contains this function, which automatically captures service requests and converts them into work orders that include customer information, the job to be done, necessary parts and tools and other relevant details. If a system to track work orders from inception to completion is already part of an organization’s capabilities, it’s important to make sure that any field service management software under consideration for purchase can integrate with it.

  3. Employee tracking: Monitoring employee whereabouts when they are in the field ensures that appointment schedules can be met. Such monitoring is typically done through sophisticated GPS tracking, or by having technicians log on and off using mobile devices. Employee tracking reduces idle time while technicians are in the field and helps identify the nearest technician to dispatch to a job site. It can also monitor when a technician starts and finishes a job, so it can automatically — and accurately — calculate hours worked for input into billing and payroll processes.

  4. Contractor and subcontractor management: If a company’s technician workforce includes contractors and sub-contractors, these workers’ appointment schedules and performance can be tracked through this feature, which facilitates the coordination, scheduling, dispatching and monitoring of work performed by external contractors and subcontractors. It can onboard contractors, draw up schedules, distribute work orders and provide a platform for communications among the company, contractors and customers.

  5. Stock levels monitoring: This feature helps ensure that technicians have the necessary parts on hand to complete service calls efficiently. It does this, for example, by keeping track of inventory levels in warehouses, on service vehicles and at field sites and automatically re-ordering or notifying managers when stock levels fall below predefined thresholds. It also analyzes usage patterns to help maintain optimal stock levels. Perhaps most importantly, this feature can monitor the inventory at different locations to make sure that high-demand parts will be available where and when they’re needed.

  6. Order and delivery tracking: This function provides real-time updates about the location and status of service technicians and/or necessary parts. Depending on system configuration, this information could be available only internally or made visible to customers, too. Order and delivery tracking could, for example, make certain that needed parts are shipped to the address of an appointment ahead of the technician’s visit. This reduces the inventory that needs to be kept in the service truck — also known as the “trunk stock.”

  7. Return management: Whether parts are shipped to a customer or the technician brings them to a job, invariably some parts will need to be returned. The return management feature allows service technicians or customers to initiate a return, track its progress, adjust inventory (if appropriate) and process any refunds or credits. It can also inspect returned parts to see if they can be refurbished and placed back into circulation. The data it produces can be analyzed for patterns to help identify low-quality or defective parts.

  8. Accurate pricing and quotes: Since field service management software tracks the amount of time technicians spend on specific jobs, more accurate pricing and quotes can be delivered to the customer. Some field service management software uses an average time across all technicians, while other software tracks the skills of individual technicians. While an average is useful for budgeting purposes, tracking the time it takes individual technicians to do specific jobs provides a lot more accuracy in scheduling.

  9. Projects and job costing: This feature helps a field service management team manage its finances by estimating and monitoring costs associated with individual jobs or projects. It can estimate costs for labor, materials, equipment and overhead — information that is vital for pricing decisions.

  10. Customer information database: Field service management software’s customer database can provide the on-site technician with detailed information about a customer’s history and preferences, and the technician’s field notes can be fed back into the customer’s data record for future use. When field service management software is connected to other systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM), a more comprehensive view of the customer’s interactions with the business can be shared among all departments.

  11. Communication channels: By making field technicians’ work visible to the organization, field service management software can enhance collaboration. For example, an inventory manager can view upcoming appointments and make sure that the needed parts are available. Technicians can more easily identify others with expertise they may need to tap into while on a job. Communication with customers is improved because they can easily be made aware of any changes to their appointments.

  12. Customer satisfaction: Queue theory — the study of how people perceive the time they wait for something — has shown that uncertainty breeds dissatisfaction. By providing customers with active communication, field service management software helps improve customers’ perception of their wait time, thus improving customer satisfaction. Add to that the capability to seek and receive customer feedback through surveys and it’s clear why 64% of organizations(opens in a new tab) using field service management software report an increase in customer satisfaction as the software’s primary benefit.

  13. Mobile applications: For technicians in the field, even a small laptop is cumbersome. It’s critical that field service management systems work well on mobile devices, whether through a dedicated mobile application or a responsive web interface. Mobile devices and apps can enable technicians in a variety of ways, from knowing where they are going for their next appointment, to looking up availability of a particular part, to communicating with other technicians for advice, to generating customer bills. These devices can also accept a technician’s field notes.

  14. Cross-platform accessibility: A critical aspect of field service management software is that it be able to run on the various kinds of computers and mobile devices already in use at the company. Web-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions solve a lot of the compatibility issues.

  15. Real-time updates: How quickly does the system need to reflect what’s actually going on in the field? Smaller teams might only need the system to synchronize as a work-order is completed. Managers for larger teams and teams that deal with complex maintenance projects might require real-time updating.

  16. Data collection and analysis: The information that is generated by field service management software can provide an organization with a distinct competitive advantage in planning, staffing and education. For example, tracking the speed at which different technicians perform different jobs, a company can rethink the way it handles appointments. One strategy is to have more entry-level technicians out in the field who can tap into expert-level support as needed. When high-quality data is collected about all aspects of a field service team’s operations, the potential analyses that can be done to improve those operations is limited only by managers’ imaginations.

  17. Customized reports: Companies should be sure to review the standard reports that are part of the field service management software under consideration to make certain the reports can be customized to their needs. Three key reports are service performance, which should include metrics, such as first-time fix rates, mean time to repair, technician punctuality and job completion times; work-order management, which should provide insights into the volume and types of service requests, the time taken to resolve them and pending versus completed work orders; and inventory management, which should detail parts and equipment usage, stock levels, re-order times and inventory carrying costs. But the ability to customize these reports is crucial. Consider the different needs of providers of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and telecommunications equipment systems. An HVAC firm would want its service performance reports customized to show seasonal variations in demand and to track metrics, such as average time spent on maintenance checks. The telecom firm, meanwhile, would focus on tracking equipment uptime, outage response times and the different time taken to restore services in diverse geographical areas.

  18. Software integrations: Field service management software solutions generally aren’t standalone systems, so it’s critical that they integrate effectively with other systems and processes used within the organization. For example, appointments may be generated within a company’s standalone CRM system and need to be fed into the field service system. Similarly, a human resources (HR) system might be where employees record their time off — information that is indispensable to field service scheduling functions. Inventory management integration is also crucial for technicians in the field who may need to look up, in real time, the nearest warehouse or distribution center that has a part they need to complete a job.

  19. API capabilities: Application programming interfaces (APIs) play a crucial role facilitating software integrations and customizations. For that reason alone, a field service management system’s API capabilities should be rigorously evaluated. In addition, APIs assist wherever interoperability among multiple systems or devices is required. For example, because APIs can connect new systems to existing systems, they permit field service software to scale or add innovative functions that didn’t exist when the original system was deployed. APIs also connect new devices to existing databases.

Unlock Seamless Operations with NetSuite

Field service management software with a direct connection to your ERP system is a powerful pairing. Pull in additional modules that run other critical business functions and you’ve really got something special. Take a closer look at NetSuite to understand how it delivers on the promise of a unified business management system that provides invaluable insights.
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Advanced Features of Field Service Management Solutions

Three relatively new technologies are having an enormous impact on field service management software: artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

AI/ML can enhance field service management software by providing intelligent scheduling capabilities, optimizing resources and even predicting when maintenance might be needed.

  • Predictive maintenance: Using data analytics and IoT sensors, maintenance can be scheduled proactively, reducing system downtime for complex, mission-critical machinery. Recent research reported that the size of the predictive maintenance market is expected to grow by 30% per year through 2026.
  • Resource optimization: AI/ML can, for example, help make sure that the most qualified technician is assigned to an appointment, optimizing schedules based on skill sets. It can also assist with predicting demand and aligning resources with that expected demand, as well as with inventory optimization.
  • Intelligent scheduling: When an appointment is originally scheduled, a wide range of factors from appointment location to inventory need to be considered. AI/ML can help optimize routing to reduce time in transit.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT devices are often set up to improve supply chain processes, but they can also be deployed to assist with servicing products in the field.

  • Remote monitoring: IoT devices can be set up to monitor the performance of machines in the field — for example, they can continuously monitor and provide real-time data on usage, wear and tear, temperature, pressure and other critical parameters. These devices can also transmit logs showing service degradation that might require a technician’s visit.
  • Proactive maintenance: For most clients of field service companies, catastrophic failure is to be avoided at all costs. IoT devices can help flag the need for maintenance based on performance monitoring to avoid failure.
  • Asset management: When equipment is used across multiple locations, IoT can assist in tracking those assets. Also, when servicing complex machinery in the field, IoT devices can keep track of which parts have been installed where. And analyzing data from IoT devices can help organizations optimize their asset usage.

Augmented Reality

With augmented reality (AR) capabilities, junior technicians can become far more effective — for instance, by connecting with experts via remote devices, in real time, when working on a job. This helps junior staff improve faster and enables the business to make more productive use of their higher-value, higher-cost team members.

  • Remote assistance: When onsite technicians are unclear about a specific step or process, they often will reach out to a more experienced colleague. Using AR, the expert can see what the technician sees and provide guidance, annotations or instructions overlaid on the technician’s field of view.
  • Training and support: With AR, technicians can get hands-on training practicing on virtual models, which helps them learn more effectively — and without the need for physical assets that are expensive to use for training purposes.
  • Visualization tools: Information is usually easier to understand when it’s presented visually. AR can project interactive 3D models, diagrams or step-by-step instructions onto the technician’s field of view.

Choosing the Right Field Service Management Solution

Understanding and documenting the specific needs of your business is far and away the most important step when choosing a field service management software solution. But shortlisting potential vendors and conducting a thorough analysis of the costs and benefits the business expects from the solution are also vital to making the right choice.

Assessment of Business Needs

A thorough review of existing practices in the organization, combined with aspirational changes, help organizations home in on their business’s field service management software needs.

  1. Understanding organizational requirements: This is about identifying what matters most to the success of the organization. Start by surfacing those areas of the existing field service process most in need of improvement. Scheduling accuracy, technician idle time, repeat visits and inventory outages are a few areas to consider.
  2. Identifying key challenges: Thoroughly review the existing system and processes for challenges that need to be overcome when integrating a new system.
  3. Setting goals and objectives: So that an accurate return on investment (ROI) can be predicted, look for goals and objectives that tie to revenue optimization. Reducing onsite time, repeat visits (which may have been caused by inventory issues) and idle time, for example, are objectives that can translate to more technician visits per day — which should lead to higher revenue.

Evaluation of Vendors

To determine which vendors to consider, conduct a thorough review of websites, marketing content, vendor technical resources, user support communities and reviews.

  1. Reputation and reliability: Assess what multiple sources report about each vendor’s product quality, customer support and financial stability. Make sure any vendors you consider will be around to support your deployment over the long run.
  2. Feature set comparison: Take the list of features that will support your goals and objectives and have the vendor go through exactly how its solution will help your organization achieve them. Different vendors may handle things differently, so extra — sometimes creative — work is needed to do an apples-to-apples comparison.
  3. Integration: It’s also very important to consider how each vendor’s solution would fit into your organization’s larger technology ecosystem. If improved inventory control has been identified as a goal, look at how the software ties into the existing (or planned) inventory management system. Interoperability with any existing systems for HR, CRM, work-order management and others could be essential to a successful rollout.
  4. Customization and scalability: Take a hard look at how each vendor’s software can be customized to meet organizational needs. For example, forms and reports should be customizable to include company branding. Or special workflows may be required for a specific industry or company policy. Similarly, the software needs to be able to scale along with the business. Look at how many technicians it can support as well as how regions are organized to make sure the software can grow along with the business.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A cost-benefit analysis weighs the value an organization obtains from an investment, in terms of both cost savings and revenue gains, against the total cost of the investment. The goal is to come up with a number that expresses the organization’s ROI. Here are five key steps in a typical cost-benefit analysis.

  1. Initial investment: These are the startup costs of the software, including the initial licensing fee (for an on-premises installation) and professional services support to get the new system up and running.
  2. Operating costs: Ongoing operating costs include per-user subscription fees (for cloud software) and any internal technical resources required to keep the system functioning. Software can either be licensed for a full year or, more likely, paid for based on the number of users who engage with the software. The sum of these are the operating costs.
  3. Calculate total cost of ownership (TCO): Consider both the initial investment costs of the software as well as ongoing operating costs for the number of years in the system’s expected life. While this can be complicated to do well, the formula is simply TCO = Initial investment + (Operating costs x years).
  4. Calculate net benefit: Determine all the ways the new system will generate costs savings and new revenue. For example, if the system is expected to enable a 20% increase in field service calls, this should translate into a specific amount of increased revenue.
  5. Return on investment: The basic ROI formula is (Net benefit / TCO) x 100, with the result expressed as a percentage. So, if a field service management software solution was expected to increase an organization’s revenue by $65 million, save $35 million in expenses and have a TCO of $33 million over the course of a five-year period, the ROI for that system would be 303% (65 + 35 = 100; 100 / 33 = 3.03; 3.03 x 100 = 303%).

Get All the Field Service Management Features Your Teams Need With NetSuite

Companies that turn to NetSuite Field Service Management software will find a wide range of benefits that improve interactions with customers in the field, reduce operational costs, enhance internal decision-making and increase profitability. NetSuite streamlines the collection of field data and makes it automatically available to other systems, enabling improvements in field services features from scheduling and routing to inventory management, mobile applications and more. In fact, NetSuite’s Field Service Management software integrates directly with the Inventory Management module within NetSuite’s cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, so technicians in the field can access and update inventory in real-time from mobile devices. This also enables accurate tracking of truck inventory to make sure all the parts are on hand to satisfy a customer’s needs, increasing first-visit fixes. Overall, NetSuite can replace the paperwork, spreadsheets and other manual processes still in use by many field service organizations with automated processes triggered by business rules.

field services management features infographic
This screenshot of a NetSuite Field Service Management dashboard shows how productive scheduling of a large number of field technicians enables them and their managers to drill into specific appointments for more detail.

Managing field technician schedules and appointments was once a confusing mass of paperwork, spreadsheets and outdated manual processes. Field service management software replaces all of that with automated technologies that provide benefits, such as improved communications, more accurate inventory management, better scheduling and routing and improved reporting and analytics. Taken together, field service management software and its features combine to help field service organizations raise efficiency and productivity, reduce costs and increase overall profitability.

Field Service Management Features FAQs

What kind of industries can benefit the most from implementing FSM solutions?

Any industry that has service technicians traveling to client sites to perform discrete jobs can benefit from field service management software.

Can field service management software assist in compliance with industry regulations and standards?

Yes. Field service management software can assign technicians based on special licenses and certifications. Some types of field work are regulated and require technicians who hold certain credentials.

How do field service management solutions ensure the efficient management of inventory and stock levels?

Technicians on the road need to be sure their trucks are stocked with a range of parts they might need on specific jobs. Field services management software can help an inventory management system be aware of upcoming needs so all necessary stock is available when an appointed time arrives. What’s more, field services management software ensures that field technicians carry with them exactly what they need.

What are the key elements of field service management?

The key elements of field service management involve scheduling and routing appointments, the onsite activities by the technician and data collection from all service activities that can be analyzed to help business managers make better decisions.

What are the roles in field service management?

The five key roles in field service management are work-order generation, scheduling, dispatch, inventory management and contract management.

What is an example of field service management?

Field service management is the set of strategies and tactics designed to make sure field visits made by technicians yield positive results. Examples of field service fleets include electricians and plumbers, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians, appliance repairmen and network systems contractors.