Starting from the year 2005 Comarch has been delivering software for Field Service Optimization. For a few years now, Cable and Satellite service providers, after their transformation in BSS, are looking more carefully at Field Service trying to improve their performance and build customer experience strategy that involves field staff. Outsourcing field operations allows to make savings in that area but costs are still a problem and quality would need much improvement. Cable operators, while implementing a new strategy for their field force, must consider several aspects of their business and the available technology opportunities.

Is Cable FS unique?
Generally, Cable field services are organized in the same way as many other service providers. Significant differences may be found in details. But those detailed differences should be addressed to preparing proper solution supporting dispatchers and techs in their daily tasks. Below are presented important aspects in building a service strategy for Cable operators:

  • Outsourced resources – Installations are executed mainly by fulfillment partners. This means that warranty and agreement execution rules have to be applied
  • Signal level – Measurement is the first element of an on-site visit, it determines what is possible on the customer’s site
  • Provisioning – pre-activated equipment doesn’t work in real life. After installation the equipment has to be activated before the order is completed
  • Damage Claims – one of the most popular registered customer support tickets – better to have tools to deal with this kind of issues
  • Service Quality- carrying out audits of outsourced companies or executed work orders is one of the ways of keeping it on the right level
  • Spare Parts – The first reason for why work orders are not in accordance to SLA parameters
  • Customer Appointments – an element in building a competitive advantage of a Cable service company on a demanding market

Who is right – automate, technician or dispatcher
In the process of implementing field service automation tools, especially when optimization is applied, specific cooperation between techs, dispatchers and automation tool has to be worked out. An optimization tool has to be tuned during the first stage of deployment. But, to do this properly, dispatchers and managers have to wait for the first result of automation usage. It depends on what goals are set in the system, but normally about after 2 weeks of using the automation tool it is required to change the old schemes in the company and see the first results. After that all dispatcher complaints have to be considered in order to tune the system. The same applies to techs. In the pilot stage they have to be very patient and try to apply new process of order fulfillment without trying to improve it on their own. There will be time for that in the next iteration of the system’s configuration. An optimal process of field service delivery and supporting tools is shown below. This process may be automated in some stages – optimization goals are the domain of strategy building and tuning during the pilot stage.

Sustainability and cost cutting goals
Just after customer satisfaction – the main reason why to implement a FFO solution is achieving goals related to savings in the field services area. Savings in mileage or vehicle utilization is also consistent with sustainability goals in the MSO strategy.

The able above presents information about main KPIs which were improved by the FSM solution and calculated ROI which is the result of applied improvements to field services is presented in the graph below the table. This kind of analysis should be an element of each process when selecting tools which may be applied to an organization. General numbers or research are very often different from the situation of a particular MSO, for example: a Cable operator was able to set the exact time of an appointment (attractive for the customer) but scheduling consumed 2 FTEs.

Tech location tracking
(Big Brother vs. optimization tool)
A FFO solution uses technician location data. There are at least 3 possibilities of gathering data about a technician’s location:

  • Car Tracking system – collecting data about a techs’ location from devices installed on technician trucks
  • BTS location system – information from a GSM operator based on data from BTSs
  • GPS data from technician mobile handsets

The first two solutions allow to track resources continuously and access data directly from a server. But they result in additional costs and run services. GPS data from mobile handsets can be implemented easier but there is a problem with obtaining information when the mobile devices of techs are switched off or when the GPS signal is too low.

Very often techs are the first to be against introducing any new tracking solutions. But in this case, FFO it is not a spying tool. Locations are used for: searching – very often automatically – for the nearest tech for an emergency work order; and for storing coordinates of site location for future routing purposes. Both purposes of location data storing are used to calculate an optimal daily route for tech’s and routes in context of general schedule and to decrease mileage or traffic issues.

Documentation and integrations
Being on customer site tech makes installation/service calls and activate equipment. The procedure which can be covered by a field service mobile solution is as follows:

  • Site check – means measuring the signal level, checking the installed services and required equipment. Often the results of site checking have impact on the next steps.
  • Installation of equipment/inside the network and activating the equipment. This means gathering the equipment’s serial number by bar code, scanning and sending an activation request to the provisioning system
  • Checking if everything works properly
  • Gathering site parameters after installation (they will be used for audit purposes)
  • Photographic documentation of work execution -important to resolve damage claim tickets
  • Customer survey and work order confirmation by capturing signature using mobile device

Smartphones, media tablets or ruggedized devices
After iPad and Android based tablets became really popular on the market, field service managers started considering them as one of the options in introducing mobile access for techs in the field. Generally there are at least 4 options for that: Smartphones, Media Tablets, Ruggedized mobile handsets and Netbooks or Laptops. There are many options because for every different purposes different devices are may be suitable. Therefore:

  • Smartphones – main advantage is price and availability on the market. Most field activities may be supported by this device. Problems occur when LAN is required or extended documentation have to be read.
  • Media Tablets – a really powerful tool in the field especially with a LAN interface so it is possible to connect with equipment or the checking service. But they can’t be used in a tough environment
  • Laptops or netbooks. They are not so comfortable as tablets are in fast access to data but are more universal.
  • Ruggedized handsets – may be used in every environment. But the price is significant and the usability is lower. Cable service providers are choosing Smartphones and Tablets more often as techs perform their job mainly at the customer’s premises.

Spare parts usage monitoring
According to statistics one of the factors which has a negative impact on First Time Fix Rate is that tech do not have the proper equipment or materials in their truck. For Cable a large part of the visits are related to equipment installation or equipment change. This is why scheduling should also consider this element of field services. The FFO solution may also track spare parts using a mobile application for tech ‘s in the field, helping MSO’s in monitoring the usage of materials and equipment.

FSO for Cables
Cable Service Providers may benefit from the deployment of Field Service Optimization tools without any loss of their specific character and competitive advantage over other TSPs. It is possible to optimize resource usage in the outsourced model and build a very close relation between NOC and Customer Services to exchange data about the planned work and installations. The important thing is to be sure that IT partners for FFO cover the Cable requirements in a way which reflects cable business.

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