Common Knowledge Management Mistakes That Can Sink a Field Service Organization

disorganized files

“Good enough” is no longer good enough

When talking to other attendees at the recent Field Service USA conference, I heard one common phrase time and time again. After telling the person about our AnswersAnywhere Knowledge-as-a-Service solution, they would reply, “Oh, our field service organization already has a knowledge base”.  This usually meant that the organization would have a document management or collaborative platform, such as SharePoint or web-based repository where they would upload PDFs of technical manuals, parts catalogs, etc… After discussing their current system at length, the attendee would frequently conclude that their system wasn’t perfect, but it was “good enough”.

Knowledge management has been a trending topic in field service, and is only becoming increasingly so. According to the Field Service USA 2018 Spend Report, 61% of field service executives are planning on investing in knowledge management tools within the next 24 months.

It’s easy to understand why. A recent study by The Service Council noted that time spent looking for information is a top concern for field service technicians, with over 30% of techs ranking it as the top pressure in their job. In addition, Aberdeen Group has found that 19% of first-time fixes are missed due to lack of technical and parts information at the point of service. As customers demand better, more efficient service when their equipment breaks, it stands to reason that the best way for organizations to do this is by providing technicians with the information they need to improve first-time fix rates.

“Knowledge Management” is not the same as “Field Service Knowledge Management”

So, what do all these stats have to do with my conversations at Field Service USA? It highlights the massive disconnect between the idea of knowledge management and what field service technicians actually need out of a knowledge base.

Field service is an industry unlike any other. Therefore, what a field service technician needs out of their knowledge base in order to do their job efficiently is also unique, and very rarely provided by most knowledge management systems.

So, what are the common mistakes that companies are making when it comes to knowledge management?

1.      Not creating a curated, accessible knowledge base

Any field service company that has been around for a few years will have an extensive amount of disparate documents, part lists, exploded diagrams, databases and product images totaling hundreds (even thousands!) of pages. Many companies attempt to remedy this issue by gathering as much of the data as they can and making it available to technicians in the form of PDFs. 

However, the technician still has to search through this information to find what they want, often resulting in wasted time on site or repeat fixes. Technicians must be able to quickly find the information they need. This includes being able to search large quantities of information, click on related hyperlinks, zoom in on exploded diagrams and locate part numbers easily. 

2.      Not making the knowledge base mobile or available offline

For the last few years, “Mobility” has been an industry term on everyone’s lips. Mobile technology is helping service centers remove paper-based process while giving management insight into field performance and resources, and providing technicians with the most up-to-date work order and job information while in the field.

However, extending mobile capabilities to field service knowledge bases is still an area that is frequently overlooked. Equally as important is the need for knowledge bases to be available offline to ensure that your techs can access the information they need at the point of service, whether or not they’re able to connect to the internet.

3.      Not updating the information often enough

Having to continuously update, optimize and remove outdated information is a herculean task. However, it’s also extremely important to technician’s job. In some industries, such as medical devices, it’s even required in order to maintain compliance and help ensure patient safety.  A knowledge management system must have the capability to be updated frequently so technicians are getting the most current and reliable information available when on site. 

Often times, this requires more time or resources than an organization can commit to. If that’s the case, then finding a knowledge management company that will offer the support necessary to accomplish this service is essential. 

Don’t Let “Good Enough” Knowledge Management Negatively Affect Service Efficiency

It’s great that organizations are recognizing the important role knowledge management plays in excellent field service. However, as more and more companies invest money and time into knowledge management and creating knowledge bases, it’s important to avoid the pitfalls mentioned above. By doing so, companies can be sure they have a truly useful and effective tool that fully supports technicians while on site, driving efficiency, lowering service costs and creating happier customers. 

Download our whitepaper to learn how to launch a knowledge management initiative and build a financial case for investing in a knowledge management solution.