By Andrew Yeoman, managing director, Trimble Fleet Solutions, Europe

We’ve all felt the frustration of waiting in for an engineer to come and fix a faulty boiler or waiting for a delivery to arrive, and a nationwide survey has just revealed that some of Britain’s biggest brands are failing their customers by offering appointment slots that are far too long.

A survey of 2,000 consumers commissioned by Trimble and carried out by market research firm OnePoll, found that more than half of respondents (52.4%) said appointment timeslots given by firms are too long and seven out of ten people (73.2%) said that they would be put off from using or ordering from those firms that only offer day-long timeslots.

The needs of the modern consumer have changed over recent years. We all have extremely busy lives and it’s becoming increasingly difficult and inconvenient to have to take time off work to wait in for a service or delivery.

The survey also showed that many consumers even have to resort to taking sick leave from work to wait in for engineers or deliveries, causing great inconvenience not only to them but also their employers.

As we move in to an ever more connected and mobile world, the expectations for a more efficient and adaptable service rise and businesses will need to meet this challenge.

A time keeping challenge
Customers who are unhappy with the service they receive from an organisation are likely to do little for the reputation of your brand and could lead to customers looking elsewhere.

The survey clearly shows that service is key to retaining and attracting custom and in order to keep ahead of competitors, organisations need to offer flexibility in their appointment timeslots. Supermarkets have already realised this and raised the bar for other service providers and delivery companies by offering delivery timeslots that are short and convenient and most importantly are chosen by the customer themselves. It is also an interesting model as it sees the customer pay for that convenience with the most popular timeslots demanding the highest price, a trend also backed up by the survey.

Now it’s time for service providers and delivery companies to follow suit and with competition rife, quality of service is ever more essential. Unfortunately, for those that fail to listen to customers when it comes to appointment convenience, they could potentially be at a disadvantage and needlessly losing customers.

Providing top level service to customers has always been a balance between cost and customer satisfaction as meeting customers’ needs comes with a price. The evolution of better technology that allows the streamlining of service out in the field has meant that meeting expectations at an acceptable cost to the business is now possible.

Solutions available today not only offer a window on to the otherwise hidden world of field operations, which itself offers a huge benefit, but also provide the information needed to react and adapt to real-time occurrences. They also offer benchmarking and trends that give a business the insight needed to identify areas for development.

Intelligent scheduling and capacity solutions are already being utilised by many organisations that have a mobile workforce as they allow businesses to look ahead at capacity and manage upcoming work while offering flexible appointment times to customers that fit in with their lives.

Meeting appointment timeslots can be a real challenge; delays caused by traffic jams, customer appointments that overrun and members of staff calling in sick all contribute to making agreed appointment slots difficult to meet.

However, fleet and work management solutions such as telematics and intelligent scheduling can help improve efficiencies and be used by any organisation that runs a fleet of vehicles.

A recent report from research organisation the Aberdeen Group showed that nearly 50% of best in-class field service organisations look to establish better visibility into their field service resources as a way to drive more effective scheduling and boost overall service productivity.

A bird’s eye view
Intelligent fleet management and telematics solutions combine a GPS location with a multitude of other business critical information, including providing alerts if the system realises an appointment may be in jeopardy, which enables businesses to make real-time business decisions based on the location and status of a vehicle and mobile worker.

These solutions provide real-time information on a vehicle’s location, productivity and can even show driver behaviour trends that help with understanding fuel wastage or training needs. This location and diagnostic information used together is then sent back to the business to be analysed for a true 360-degree view of the fleet, its performance and where improvements can be made.

The ability to pinpoint a vehicle’s precise location at any time allows the business to effectively assign the right resource to the right job. So, for example, if an engineer is unable to reach his appointment on time, the system alerts the back office who can quickly identify another engineer with the correct skill set to pick up the job instead, still keeping the commitment.

Intelligent work management solutions can also help service organisations with the planning and management of work by enabling a real time view of the schedule and how the business is performing against it. As emergency jobs come in, cancellations happen or other complications arise such as sick drivers, route overruns or traffic congestion, managers can re-allocate work and mitigate problems on the spot, without disruption to customers.

We all know that you cannot manage what you cannot measure and fleet and field service management solutions absolutely provide that measurement and give you the knowledge to implement the necessary changes to make your business work for you and the customers that are vital to your success.

Having a bird’s eye view of what is happening in your mobile workforce, then taking steps to change it can pay dividends when it comes to keeping your customers happy. There doesn’t need to be any excuses for letting your customers down and with cost and service pressures in the service industry at an all-time high can you really afford to leave your customers disappointed?