3 Tips for Choosing a Communication App for the Field

Field teams are relying on mobile devices more and more to get the job done each day. According to research from The Service Council on mobile trends, more than 70% of organizations indicate their field technicians are equipped with a mobile device for service work. Yet despite being one of the most inherently mobile industries, many field service organizations struggle with communication to the field and back to the office. Many teams are now looking to meet this need with mobile communication, particularly messaging apps built for the field. But how do you choose the right one for your organization?

Let’s take a look at a few considerations:

1. Understand what your field teams are using today to communicate (or are not using!)

Your organization likely has a set of communication tools in place. Email, desktop instant messaging, etc. But are field teams actually using them? If not, what are they using and why?

For many field teams, existing tools just don’t cut it. Traditional tools have been designed for desk-based teams – not teams out in the field. So field teams often turn to unsafe consumer apps like WhatsApp or texting since they are fast and easy to use. It’s important to not simply assume field teams will adopt tools used by office workers. Identify the pain points and gaps with current tools and pilot something new with a small, local group of field techs to gauge utility.

2. Understand where faster communication can impact operational efficiency

Status updates? Team meetings? Issue debrief? Tech to tech part transfer? Real-time support? Helpful to have a list of key activities that are impacted by communication, especially as you map out desired capabilities and look at potential tools.

For example, let’s say improving resolution times and fix rates is a key goal. Having streaming video capability built-in to the app helps speed up the job as techs don’t have to waste time trying to describe the issue over the phone. If the goal is increasing field staff alignment, then consider things like broadcast alerts and file sharing. Be sure to capture feedback from your field teams, ultimately you want to save them time and improve their day-to-day flow.

3. Don’t Overlook the Value of an App that is Easy to Use

Your field teams’ days are probably pretty packed. Installs, service appointments, travel, team meetings and more. Taking time to learn new technology is an investment. So look for tools that provide a simple, intuitive experience that techs can pick up and use immediately. Minimal to no training should be required.

Apps truly designed for the field teams will support one-handed workflows. It should be easy, for example, to go from a group text to a live video call with just a few taps of your thumb. Easy to use technology is critical. Not just in saving time, but de-risking your investment in new technology and reducing the time-to-value.

And for more tips, check out our free guide to help you further in your decision process!

Note: This post was originally published in February 2016 and has been updated.