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Last month, the sterling hit a record low against the US dollar as markets reacted negatively to the government’s tax-cutting ‘mini-budget’. We have since lost one Prime Minister and seen another appointed, one Rishi Sunak. Although our currency is showing signs of a slight recovery in recent days, the direction of travel for the pound is profoundly uncertain, and you may be researching how to weather the storm of economic uncertainty in field service.

What steps can I take to safeguard my field service operation? 

The reality for field service providers can be challenging reading:
  • Skilled labour remains illusive.
  • Consumer demand is increasingly unpredictable.
  • Inflation is sending costs higher.
  • Supply chains are inconsistent, and import costs remain high.
A currency is typically strong when risks in the domestic market are perceived to be low, leading to investment inflows and favourable import conditions. Regrettably, for the UK right now, the opposite appears to be the reality. So, what does the currency turmoil mean for UK field service providers? The falling pound undermines a provider’s purchasing power and profitability in the domestic market. Much of their cost base is skilled labour and inventory, typically priced in sterling. Both ensuring supply and retaining top talent are now even more expensive. Imports are more costly, and professional workers may feel the pinch from higher inflation and enter the job hunt.
What does this mean for Field Service providers?

Whether you are thriving or surviving, this feels like a recession, even if nobody has labelled it that (yet). The strategy during a recession seems obvious: minimise costs and maximise revenues. But accomplishing either, let alone both, is near impossible. Harsh cost-cutting measures, for example, can hurt staff morale and result in quiet (or active) quitting and a higher turnover. Cost-cutting can compromise service quality in ways loyal customers notice, and your operations are more vulnerable to costly SLA breaches. Likewise, business decisions and revenue streams that look advantageous now may prove unsustainable over time and weaken the company.

The Recession & Field Service Management

It is only natural that as costs rise and volatility increases, you instinctively tighten your belt and scale back projects once prioritised in a healthier economy. It may seem sensible for some companies, but for field service providers, belt-tightening represents a significant contraction in revenue, or it can compound existing problems further. Worse still, contraction can happen regardless of whether this recession manifests. The perception of a recession is all that matters. Economic optimism is at its lowest in 10 years, and the nose-diving pound only substantiates the trouble ahead.
Regardless of how you feel about the prospects of an economic downturn, you will feel the impacts of one. This is, at least, until people regain their enthusiasm for the economy. Rather than waiting it out, field service providers can proactively address service performance issues before they take hold with the best tool available in the industry: field service management software. By unlocking the value of a single, centralised platform to manage all operational activities, field service becomes more agile and responsive to seismic shifts in the market. Our Field Service Management article series covers the more general aspects of FSM software. For now, let’s look at the hows and the whats of field service management software and how to survive a recession in field service.

"Recessions call for greatness"...

During a recession, the objective is not to raise or lower the numbers by a certain percentage; it’s about getting service right. Nothing controls costs or keeps customers satisfied (and wanting more), like field service delivery that successfully goes ahead as planned. Every. Single. Time.
A recession calls for service greatness, and any effort to adapt service delivery to meet recession concerns must begin with synchronised and centralised frontline and back-office activities. Paper-based or disparate procedures are an obstacle during the best of times. During a recession, they become a significant limitation when operational responses must be fluid and cost-effective.

How to Survive a Recession in Field Service

Recession-proofing a field service operator may mean spending more up-front to invest in field service management software. Here are some benefits we are assisting our clients to achieve with our single platform approach.
Enhanced Mobile Technician Utilisation

Imagine increasing technician or equipment productivity by 10-15%. Field service management software can leverage real-time apps and devices to provide your technicians with the scope, order, location and urgency of a task while in the field or en route. Service history, customer-supplied information, and transparent access to data across multiple operational arms will significantly enhance technician utilisation when completing a task. In essence, technicians can achieve a higher volume of better quality and streamlined work in less time (or take less time to get the same result). The superior communication, routing and performance monitoring capabilities of FSM software make this possible. Combined, these capabilities will improve response times, ticket outcomes, and customer satisfaction. Built-in Operational Intelligence ensures the correct information is available at the right time, tracking progress from start to finish with real-time performance monitoring. Better utilisation of equipment, skilled technicians, tools, and time will significantly improve operational costs.

Improved First-Time Fix Rate

Field service teams and technicians who regularly fail to meet or exceed customer expectations will quickly drain your bottom line. Field service companies’ fundamental function is to put their clients at the heart of all operations. It is not just about delivering service or completing a job. Kris Oldland of Field Service News aptly describes the two fundamentals of field service delivery:

  • 1st Fundamental = Win a customer
  • 2nd Fundamental = Retain a customer
Getting a job done the first time is vital to keeping customers as satisfied as possible. Aside from the obvious client-side benefits, completing assignments first-time preserves the profitability of jobs by reducing multiple journeys and making the most of technician time. This is crucial when fuel costs as much as it does right now. The pump has well and truly pinched my pennies.
FSM software can have an immediate impact on first-time fix rates. It provides service management and schedulers with better insights into what a job requires before the technician has left the site. In the field, the technician can access resources, guides and real-time support to complete the job.
Elimination of Unnecessary Mistakes

Paper-based operations are a goldmine for repeated human errors, and a recession is the worst time to make easily-avoided mistakes. Paper-based or disparate data systems waste valuable time on admin, data entry and duplication. These factors cruelly conspire against agility, preventing speedy access to performance data or completion of work orders. Minor errors in data communication or departmental coordination can cause a job to fail or an SLA to be breached – not so cool. The end result is mounting fines and a roster of customers who want nothing to do with you. Field service management software prevents these unnecessary mistakes by automating many administration tasks. This is especially valuable when communicating between multiple operational arms. Ultimately, FSM software prevents easily-made human errors, yet it increases information transparency, accuracy and access in the same breath.

Better Decision Making with Greater Service Visibility
These tough economic times force providers to make challenging service mix, staffing and pricing decisions. Using FSM software, service providers can view and make decisions on operations like never before. Decisions are no longer assumptions based on outdated or irrelevant business intelligence. Instead, they are now based on the freshest real-time data streamed from across an operation. A recession makes it vital to know what’s working and what’s not objectively. FSM software brings clarity to otherwise lost or obscure service metrics.
Without field service software, the inability to monitor technicians and subcontractors effectively is critical. When management decisions rely on difficult-to-track or verify employee self-assessments, the overall operational efficiency can be called into question. Decisions are made reactively rather than proactively. FSM technology provides a trustworthy and consistent real-time view across multiple employee-centric and operational metrics. Field service platforms enable service-scheduling processes to be automated. Developers can even introduce machine learning to optimise field team routes. Advanced CRM integration can share real-time task ticket status updates with all team members and subcontracting partners, enabling transparency across different service areas.

How to Survive a Recession in Field Service Recap

These are undoubtedly turbulent times for the UK economy and, sadly, for all the wrong reasons. Most of us – investors, businesses or consumers – will be wishing the sterling well in its hopeful recovery. The cold truth may be that aggression rather than conservatism is the right approach for providers researching how to survive a recession in field service. As mentioned above, field service management software can help key decision makers enhance service delivery to put the customer first and retain top staff with a net benefit on the operational bottom line. Management can plan, execute, and manage operations in ways they simply couldn’t without FSM software. When service providers must react quickly yet creatively, predictive features and operational intelligence can provide innovative use cases, hidden performance trends and new possibilities previously unknown.

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, the economic forces at play are beyond our control. I am still without a crystal ball (despite my repeated requests to management). What I do know is that field service management software can help an entire organisation change course, grow or innovate in the moment. You might even find you are more robust than you were before.
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Edward Bell

Edward Bell, Totalmobile's Content Strategist, shapes and delivers compelling content spotlighting their unique SaaS solutions. With 6+ years in MarComs, his journey spans diverse marketing roles, driven by tech passion. Edward fuels Totalmobile's mission, educating and advocating for impactful solutions across sectors, ensuring ROI for customers.