Mobile technology has not only become mainstream in society, but it has also become mission critical for transportation, distribution, and field service organizations. Truck drivers, delivery drivers and technicians with plumbing, electrical and HVAC companies are required to use mobile technology to navigate their day and complete their jobs. These people are essential for businesses to operate, hence why ensuring their experience on the job is exemplary. Given the fact that these very important and essential people cannot do their jobs without mobile technology, promoting a good experience with this critical technology needs to be a top priority for companies.
2) A Short History of Field Mobility and Drivers and Technicians
Remember flip phones? Or better yet, do you remember Nextel 2-way radio phones? Those are often seen as the good ole days to lots of drivers and service techs. Why do you think they feel that way? Here’s a little hint: It was before mobile technology planned, dictated their days, and was required to operate a truck or fix a leaking pipe. Back then, mobile devices were mainly used to communicate verbally along with short text messages. Back then, employers had less visibility into their drivers or techs days. Back then, daily job assignments were printed each morning and truckers’ logbooks were completed by hand.
Then it all changed. As time went on, mobile technology advancements ramped up at a huge pace and now, the workforce depends on tablets and smartphones to clock in and out, see their jobs and deliveries for the day, navigate to those jobs or delivery points, and lastly, prove that the jobs were completed or the product was delivered. Business owners will tell you that any efficiencies gained is good for business, but how do the drivers and techs feel about this newfound mobility requirement? The reality is, there isn’t much they can do about it. When mobile technology is required to do a job, there isn’t much of a choice.
3) The Problem and The Cause
The predominant problem is the fact that todays blue collar workforce has become a scarce resource with multiple companies vying to recruit drivers and techs away from their current employer. Factors like pay, culture, seniority, equipment, HR policies, work environment and finally, the use of required technology all play their role in the mind of a driver or tech that could be looking transition to another company. Since mobile technology plays a critical role in the daily lives of drivers and techs, it’s easy to see why one would get frustrated if it didn’t work properly, they weren’t adequately trained on how to use it, it constantly failed or they were consistently having to call dispatch or their supervisor for help. If all other things are equal (pay, policies, etc.) and a tech or driver is struggling daily with sub-optimal mobile technology that is required for them to do their job, then it could tip the scale and push that valuable driver or tech right out the door.
One of the main causes of this problem is that blue collar companies are notorious for making technology decisions based on price, while overlooking the bigger picture and viewing technology as an investment. This short-sided decision-making process sets off a domino effect that is not recognized at the time the decision is made. It rears its ugly head when one of their top techs or drivers puts in their notice and explains that their frustration level with the tools they were required to use, outweighed their loyalty and they just couldn’t take it anymore. A recipe for lost time and frustration is:
4) The Solution to this Problem
The solution to the problem is what we at Integrated Communications like to call the ‘Three R’s’ combined with an “In-a-Box” approach. The Three R’s represent Right mobile gear, the Right setup, and the Right management. Most transportation, distribution and field service organizations do not consider the Three R’s when acquiring mobile technology because they unknowingly tackle their mobility deployment with what they find on Google. Their expertise isn’t necessarily in mobility, their expertise lies in running a trucking, delivery or field services company. They cannot see into the future when they will receive the resignation of that top performing tech or driver.
Let us break down the Three R’s. It begins with the right mobile hardware or gear. The previously mentioned ‘flavor of the month’ promotional phone or tablet is usually the flavor of the month for a reason. These devices oftentimes lack processing power, storage capabilities or the necessary durability for the environment they eventually will be expected to highly perform in. For starters, mobile devices should always be certified and supported by the software provider that enables the driver or tech workflow that makes field automation possible. Secondly, it is recommended that mobile devices either be inherently rugged or can be ‘truly’ ruggedized to prevent unnecessary failures due to drops, dings and environmental casualties. Lastly, the powering and charging of these mobile devices must be sustainable and not fail the end user in the middle of their shift, run, job, delivery, etc.
When you combine the Three R’s with an “In-a-Box” deployment strategy, it becomes a winning combination for you, your mobile software provider, and most importantly, the drivers and techs who use the mobile devices. A quick review of the “In-a-Box” approach:
- Literally everything you need together combined into a single box labeled and ready to use when it arrives at your location.
- Mobile devices are activated, firmware updated, and settings optimized.
- Mobile applications loaded, tested, locked down, and managed by MDM software.
- Cases, mounts, and other peripherals are built and bundled.
- Driver or tech training videos are put directly on the devices to speed up end user adoption and drastically reduce redundant and time-consuming phone calls back to dispatch.
5) The Benefits
The benefits of the “Three R’s” and an “In-a-Box” deployment strategy are tremendous. From your driver or tech experience to maximum up-time in the field to time savings and headache prevention, doing it the right way from the start will set your organization up for success. The ultimate end game for any field mobility deployment is success, but how do you define success in field mobility. Let us review what we feel is success in field mobility based on years of experience and thousands of devices deployed.
- Maximum up time is the main goal in field mobility. To achieve that goal, mobile devices must be operational for drivers and techs to perform their jobs. For devices to be fully operational, they must be the right devices, paired with the right peripherals, and setup and managed the right way.
- Minimum failures are a close second goal. Failures in the field cost companies more time and money than they anticipate because the financial impact are soft costs. Soft costs are not usually factored into the initial project planning. Not only do failures cost productivity and hourly wages, but it also chips away at your customer experience and driver/tech experience, both of which can cost a company big time when customers, drivers and techs leave due to multiple incidents.
- Longevity of devices is key as well. The key failure points of mobile devices used in the field are broken screens, damaged or worn out charging ports and the overall performance of the mobile device itself. Consumer devices typically must be refreshed every 18-24 months. Making devices last far beyond the normal timeframe requires the proper protection, proper vehicle mounting, and proper vehicle charging.
- Success with mobile application updates are critical. Mobile applications, just like your computers and your personal phones, require updates, some quarterly, some monthly, some even weekly.
- These providers update their applications to fix software “bugs” and to add functionality. Most companies either do not manage their devices with MDM or they have limited knowledge on how to use the MDM system resulting in many failed mobile application updates. Putting the control of the mobile application update in the hands of the driver or tech is typically not a good strategy. Remember, these applications are mission critical and require planning to ensure they are successfully updated mitigating the possibility of failure which results in the loss of productivity, visibility and promoting driver and tech frustration.
- The drivers or techs must know how to use their devices and mobile applications. Mobility is mission critical and essential to effective field operations. Drivers and techs sometimes struggle with using the mobile applications that allow them to perform their jobs successfully. The typical training for a mobile project rollout includes a driver/tech meeting with a presentation followed by one-on-one training. But what happens once the driver or tech gets in the field and forgets how to complete a delivery or confirm a dispatched job? Most times, they stop what they are doing, pick up the phone and call someone and ask them to walk through how to do what they are struggling with. Our philosophy is to reinforce the driver and tech initial training with training content put directly on the mobile device, usually consisting of training videos and user guides supplied by the mobile application provider. This training is right at their fingertips and should serve as a first pass for any questions about how to use the mobile applications that are required to perform their jobs.
- When drivers and techs like to use their mobile devices and applications to perform their jobs, that is the ultimate sign that you have succeeded in your field mobility project. When you have the right mobile gear, setup the right way, and the right management processes to support them, you should be enjoying maximum up time and minimal driver and tech frustration.
6) Act Today
Integrated Communications has spent years perfecting the process of sourcing, simplifying, and supporting field mobility projects. Our philosophies with the three R’s and our In-a-Box approach have delivered results over for our customers and partners time and time again. We are laser sharp focused on the driver and tech experience with mobility as it is directly connected with job satisfaction. If you are tired of dealing with field mobility issues that could be prevented and you found value in this whitepaper and would like to connect with us, please contact us at [email protected] or 877-647-6288.
About Integrated Communications
Integrated Communications is the only partner you need to source, simplify, and support all the mobile technology you need for your drivers or techs. Our “in-a-box” approach to field mobility brings everything together to take your field mobility project from concept to completion. From flip phones to complex ELD and POD systems, we have the knowledge, partners, and experience to make your life and the lives of your drivers or techs easier. Examples of products and solutions we source, simplify and support are below:
-Smartphones -Ruggedizing Cases -Staging and Kitting
-Tablets -Mounts with Integrated Charging -Spares Pool Management
-Ruggedized Mobile Devices -Custom Mounts and Holsters -MDM Software
-Voice and Data Plans -Mobility Management Services -Training Content Creation