The Keys to Highly Usable Mobile Field Service Apps

field tech using mobile apps

One of the core tenets of effective app design is user testing. Put the app in the hands of an end user and see how well they’re able to perform a specific task. If the user struggles and can’t complete their intended action, the app fails. If the user succeeds, the app passes.

In the U.S., the average smartphone user has 32 apps installed, including native and non-native. What’s more, they use an average of 26 apps every month. The apps people use regularly are not one-stop shops that solve a wide range of needs. From social networking to media to banking to games to navigation and so on, consumers use a wide range of apps to accomplish specific things: watch a TV show; share a photo; make a deposit; find a coffee shop; check in for a flight. These are each singular tasks that address a specific need.

When it comes to apps that accompany the systems people use at work — large databases of contacts, projects, assets, requests, events and transactions — they present a sea of functions and are often lacking in functionality and usability.  For each back-end system an organization runs, the companion app is essentially a mobile access point, enabling people to work while on the go. These apps are not task-oriented; instead, they allow a user to consume information and data, but they don’t enable users to accomplish discrete work tasks. With consumer apps being task-oriented, you may wonder why the vast majority of enterprise apps are generalized, one-size-fits-all add-ons. Indeed, there is a serious disconnect when it comes to business-focused apps, when the primary criteria for app success is task completion. This has serious repercussions when it comes to mobile field workforce enablement.

Mobile field workers are spending their workday addressing customer needs and contributing to revenue in just about every one of their on-site tasks. If the mobile field service apps they use are generalized and ill-suited to resolving issues, their productivity and the business’ service profitability are compromised. Task-based apps for mobile field workers have a direct impact on the field service organization’s effectiveness.

There are three ways to ensure the mobile field service apps an enterprise deploys are task-based and optimized for technician productivity.

  1. Put the customer and related KPIs at the center of your mobile workflows. Research from the Aberdeen Group shows that best-in-class field service organizations focus relentlessly on improving customer satisfaction and retention.
  2. Break your mobile business processes down into their constituent parts and deploy apps that mold to them. Because field engineers typically perform recurring structured tasks, processes can often be neatly divided and managed without sacrificing efficiency, accuracy or decision-making capabilities.
  3. Conduct user tests for your apps. It’s not feasible to crowdsource users to test your business app, as many consumer app developers do. Instead, engage with field workers from the earliest stages of design. Utilizing their knowledge and experience in configuring and integrating your apps goes a long way toward adoption and technician productivity.

The final key to deploying highly usable task-based apps is customization and configurability. Your field techs need apps that are purpose-built. This doesn’t mean apps needs to be expensive. Your mobile field tech enablement provider should have the expertise to deliver solutions that address core needs while also molding to your unique environment. They will also provide business process analyses required to help navigate the intricacies of your service delivery model.

The consumerization of enterprise IT continues. Task-oriented mobile apps are leading the way for field service organizations.

Get more insight on enabling your field technicians and engineers with our mobile field service apps guide.