Mobile Technologies for Workforce Management

Cable operators are enabling mobile capabilities for their subscribers, so it makes sense to put mobile applications in the hands of their employees as well. Mobile workforce management solutions can provide field technicians the ability to access work orders and customer account details. By providing them with the type of tools available to the dispatcher, they can also access the same information that's available in the back office while at the customer premises.

"The No. 1 thing we hear (from operators) is they want to knock off phone calls from the field," said Garrick Russell, president of GLDS. "Any one of their technicians will call back in two (to) four times, depending on the work. This is two people doing the job of one. It becomes redundant in many respects."

Needing to call back to dispatch is "terrible" for customer service, Russell said. It increases the amount of time the technician is in the home and also can be seen as unprofessional. The operator is serving as a technology company, yet the technician has to rely on his phone and a person back in the office to access information.

"(A mobile solution eliminates) all the calls back to the office and puts a cool tool in the hands of the technician that looks good to the customer," Russell said, noting that anecdotal evidence from operators who have implemented a mobile workforce solution shows that as dispatchers are disappearing through attrition, they are not being replaced.

There are other efficiencies as well. All work orders and documents are imaged and transmitted electronically, which eliminates the "black hole of paperwork" and helps ensure all services will be registered to the house and billed for, Russell said.

Additionally, the operator can determine where any technician is at any given time, through the tracking technology of certain mobile workforce solutions. Assigning a new job no longer requires calling the technicians to determine who is closest, for example.  "(Operators) can get more work orders out of a single technician ... two or three work orders more per day," Russell said.

And a real-time (versus cached connectivity) solution pushes information between the handheld device and billing immediately. This is useful should a technician be performing a non-paid disconnect, for example. If the customer offers payment, service can be turned back on right away, Garrick said.

Monta Monaco Hernon is a free-lance writer. She can be reached at mcmhern@yahoo.com.

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