Natural disasters are an unfortunate reality for many communities – hurricanes, wildfires, tornados and more. These events are tragic, but often bring out the best in people. Watch any hurricane coverage, and there’s often a focus on the helpers – everyone from medical professionals who go into the eye of the storm to treat the injured, to everyday people who go out into dangerous conditions to help their neighbors in a time of need.
While the medical professionals, law enforcement officers, and civilians who go above and beyond deserve all the credit and attention they get for their efforts – rarely is there as much coverage on the people who fix the damage, helping families and businesses return to a sense of normality after disaster strikes. Restoration professionals, handyman companies, electricians, and more who mobilize in the wake of the storm; and focus on getting their communities up and running again.
For these professionals, the aftermath of the storm represents an opportunity for them to help their community by putting their expertise into action; as well as presenting economic opportunity – the restoration industry represents over $200 billion in revenue; a number that is expected to grow as the frequency and severity of storms increase.
However, in order to execute in the field and restore order to the lives of their customers; field service firms that work in affected areas need the right tools – including software.
For most business users, the mobile applications they use are simply an extension of their full-featured brethren – a simplified interface for a smaller screen. As we discussed in our post on franchise field service mobility; most FSM tools are designed in a mobile-first manner, since the application is primarily used by technicians out in the field.
However, many of these programs rely on their mobile application to connect to their main database – pulling information from the cloud or locally hosted server to the technician’s device. Some of these programs don’t have the capability to work offline. Most of the time, this doesn’t prove to be an issue for field service teams – today’s cellular data service is generally widespread enough that they are rarely out of range.
For companies working to repair damage after an event such as a hurricane, tornado, wildfire or flood; wireless data or even wifi connectivity may not be available. Wireless towers are often damaged by these events; and it can take days – even weeks – to get them back online. Internet service to homes and businesses may become unavailable. When service is available, it may be unreliable or slow.
Service teams working in areas that experience these events should strongly consider using a field service application that includes the ability to work offline. At ServiceBridge, our mobile application for field technicians includes an offline mode. Field technicians can still access the work orders and information cached onto their device from the last time they were online; and edit or create new documents without a connection. This allows service teams to continue working even when a network is not available.
With any application that utilizes an offline mode, not all features and functions will be available without a connection: for example, a new job created in the office will not reach an offline mobile device or notify the user. But by having the ability to create new orders in the field, caching data to the device and resyncing when the device comes back online; service technicians can execute in the field and help customers restore their homes and businesses even when they are offline.
The customer experience expected of field service companies is changing – no longer is a vocal description and notes on a paper acceptable to a consumer. Today’s customers expect full details of the work order on their invoice – photos, descriptions, videos, parts lists, itemized labor, and more. Insurance companies certainly expect it to process a claim, and home owners are sometimes wary of contractors – unfortunately, there are many illegitimate contractors who will take advantage of a customer’s bad situation.
Thorough documentation of work performed after a hurricane or other catastrophic events helps to put all parties at relative ease – during a time when some peace of mind is truly needed. Customers know the work was done correctly, insurers have the information they need to process claims, and service teams can avoid conflicts with either party.
Response Time and Effectiveness
Thousands of homes and businesses damaged means there’s a lot of work to be done, and quickly – everyone wants to get back to normal after a disastrous event, get back to business and their lives. Restoration and repairs to plumbing, electrical, flooring, and ventilation cannot be put off. Homes and businesses are rendered inhabitable until these repairs are made, and some issues such as standing water or sewage overflow can cause severe health issues.
When disaster strikes, field service teams not only need to work quickly, but with extreme efficiency. They need to complete as many jobs in a day as possible and ensure that they provide accurate estimates in terms of time and cost.
Correct Assignment: For service teams that encompass different areas of expertise; certain jobs may require certain skills. Sending a plumber to fix a broken electrical box wastes the time of the customer, the plumber at the site, and an electrician who has to go out of his schedule to service that job. At ServiceBridge, we have calendar filtering for skills and availability to help dispatchers select the right team for the job.
Parts + Procedures: Well-documented procedures and expertise allow service technicians to complete the job in the time specified. It’s also critical to ensure the technician has the right parts for the job before arriving at the customer site, so they can start work immediately on arrival.
Accurate Estimating: Even seasoned professionals can underestimate or overestimate the time it takes for a given job. At ServiceBridge, our job reports allow service managers to analyze completed work; and adjust future estimates based on real data.
As we mentioned previously, restoration and repair to homes and businesses after a natural disaster represents an industry in the hundreds of billions of dollars; with strong growth and inelastic demand.
At the same time, it represents one of the most competitive service businesses. Industry leading franchise companies in the restoration vertical have hundreds, thousands of locations. Repairing the damage after a storm is generally high-demand, high-volume work – a lucrative business to be in.