Work orders: What are they and best practices in 2023

Ann Dewar
February 27, 2023

Read this blog for 6 best practices that industry-leading field services businesses follow to improve work order management – boosting productivity and profits.

For field service businesses that log new jobs every day – whether that’s new quotes, emergency call-outs or routine services – efficient work order management is key.

There are many studies that prove productivity improves when field service businesses can easily track and manage field-based work. 

In fact, businesses that use best practices for work orders see impressive results like 92% first-time fix rates, 70% boost in productivity, and 600% growth.

Given the pressures within field service industries right now, we’re dedicating this blog to how you can quickly and effectively manage work orders in 2023, and beyond.

Let’s jump straight in.

Quick definition: What are work orders and why are they crucial?

Work orders are specific tasks or jobs that need completing for field service customers. A work order is also referred to as job management – it’s a way to allocate specific resources, prioritise, and track tasks that need completing. 

Efficient work order management helps:

✅ Meet customer expectations: Ensuring you meet client SLAs and resolve client complaints quickly.

✅ Keep costs lean: Better resource management of stock and field teams boosts performance, and therefore profits.

✅ Record whether jobs are complete: Essential for billing, invoicing and business reporting.

For example: Field service businesses see first-time fix rates go through the roof when they can ensure the right field worker attends a job, and with the right tools and stock. Not needing to revisit a job allows them to benefit from all three of these points: better customer experience, greater job profit margins and for jobs to get invoiced instantly. 

So, how do industry-leading field services maximise the speed and quality of managing work orders? Let’s look at best practices.

6 ways field services can improve management of work orders

When it comes to efficient work order management, there’s one thing all industry-leading field services businesses have.

And that’s a solid work order management system.

With the right tech, job management is much smoother. Job scheduling is optimised. And the right people, information, and stock are readily available – all making first time fixes skyrocket. 

We’ll cover exactly how the right tech helps in some of the best practices below.

#1: Leverage real-time updates ⏰

This is a big one for field service businesses and covers a multitude of benefits.

To sum up, with real-time updates on work orders, everyone in the business is on the same page.

This means field services can:

  • Reduce downtime: Identify issues quicker and dispatch the right maintenance technician to a job. Plus, fit more jobs within a day with efficient scheduling.
  • Provide better customer service: With instant work order updates, you can improve communication with customers – everyone will know the job status and be able to deal with queries and complaints. Actually, with some work order systems, you can even give customers real-time updates on when an engineer will arrive (so they don’t have to wait in).
  • Improve cash flow: Send invoices instantly once they’ve had a job signed off as complete, with easy ways to instantly pay – allowing for prompt payment.

#2: Clear communications between back-office and field teams 🔄

Ultimately, the purpose of work orders is to ensure clear and concise instructions are passed to the relevant teams to ensure jobs are completed quickly and correctly. They mark who is responsible for which tasks, what exactly needs completing, and the timeframes everyone needs to work to.

Typically, work orders will cover: a work order/job number, description of work, specific customer information – like location – equipment and stock needed to complete the job, any qualifications that an engineer will need to ensure the right engineer is scheduled.

Plus, they allow you to store key information like customer signatures on completion, costs associated for financial management, and updates for prompt billing or rescheduling.

Having one central place to store all the information on work orders is a must-have. This saves confusion and allows collaboration between departments.

For example: With instant job updates issued by an engineer, back-office teams can see if another job needs scheduling in and why the job wasn’t complete so they can order the right parts. And when an engineer returns, they’ll have an electronic record of the job's history and any notes made during a previous inspection.

The easiest way to do this? With the right tech 📴 

#3: Integration with other tech ⚙

The best work order management systems are solutions that integrate with your existing tools and processes. For example, inventory management software, CRM systems, and financial accounting tools like Xero and Sage.

This ensures all systems speak to each other, rather than needing to go into multiple systems to find gaps in information or manually updating records in other systems. Double-keying information wastes time and you can easily miss important information through human-error.

On the other hand: With an integrated solution to work orders, data is more accurate and up-to-date, everyone can access the key information, and field services businesses can make better decisions using it.

Integrations just keep things efficient and easy.

#4: Mobile-device connectivity 📴 

For work orders to be managed effectively by field workers, mobile device or tablet connectivity is a must.

It’s how field workers provide real-time updates at any time of the day. Given these workers often work outside of office hours, accessing and updating jobs electronically in the cloud, means instant job updates and no need for manually replicating job details back at the office.

It also means field workers have the information they need when they need it. So, out of hours, they can access important documents like safety certificates, job sheets, provide signatures – and even find nearby inventory providers so they can fetch parts to complete a job.

This is crucial to so many areas of operations; like customer services, finance, and reporting.

#5: Standardising job sheets and job cards 📇

To ensure consistency in service delivery and to make sure key requirements like regulatory compliance is met, a key part of work order management is leveraging standardised templates.

Accessible electronically, thanks to the mobile-device functionality mentioned above, field workers can use these templates to tick off key criteria and capture all essential information – making sure you don’t miss a thing.

It also means you can pass real-time updates back to office teams to support with financial reporting, performance monitoring, and all the other benefits we’ve already mentioned.

Plus, standardised documents look more professional when the customer is presented with them in a report.

#6: Better job tracking and performance monitoring 📌

And of course, all of this combined makes for better business reporting.

With real-time job updates, engineer tracking, vehicle maintenance tasks and more, field service businesses can better monitor every area of a business’s performance – and prepare for otherwise costly unplanned maintenance.

Ultimately, better reporting allows you to see areas to improve to ensure efficiency and quality so you can squeeze profit margins and deliver high standards of customer service.

Manage work orders more efficiently in 2023 and beyond

To sum up, field service businesses that follow these best practices see increases in productivity and profits.

When managed correctly, work orders optimise operations, reduce downtime, and ensure you deliver the very best customer experiences.

This is all made much easier with the right systems in place and that’s why leading field service providers lean on the best job management software available.

Take a look at these case studies to see the real benefits of work order software in field services.

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