A CFO's view of field service profitability

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Technology is giving CFOs greater focus and the ability to extract key information faster, according to Michael O'Leary, managing director and CFO at The Cross Group.

The refrigeration, air conditioning, LED lighting and solar panel business is based in Ireland with a global reach supporting customers such as Tesco, Aldi and Lidl. The group has a contracting business, as well as service & maintenance and rental divisions. A large part of the business is Cross Refrigeration Limited, which focuses on refrigeration for the retail market. 

O’Leary said the organisation adopted cloud-based solutions four years ago when it installed Salesforce as its CRM platform and is now moving its Sage accounting system to the cloud. To manage field service operations The Cross Group had devised an in-house back system in 1998 to replaced paper-based service call forms.

When the person who had developed the bespoke field service solution left, the company was “stuck in limbo”, according to O’Leary. It was a very good system, but Cross had no capability to upgrade it.

After assessing various alternatives, the company opted for FieldAware to replace the old program. “FieldAware takes all our service calls, we push them out to our service engineers who have Android devices, they do all their service calls in through it, and all our maintenance calls through it, and then channel that information to the back office where we do the administration of those calls.” O'Leary explained.

O'Leary said the application has generated a wealth of information from service calls that can be analysed in the back office.

Using reporting features within FieldAware, his team can graph certain things and budget a lot better, which gives better oversight on metrics like revenue per employee, customer revenue, and profitability of maintenance contracts.

“Where we charge a set fee it’s very important for us to be able to track the cost of what we sold the person, so we continually have to appraise maintenance contracts to see if we’re making money from it or not,” O'Leary said.

When it comes to contract renewal they also need to know what they’re going to charge the following year, and whether any issues with the equipment have arisen where they would need to recommend replacement.

The FieldAware solution has a quotation tool within that allows them to do quick quotations for a customer following a visit.

He added: “It’s very robust and at a glance we can see where every engineer is, how long they’re taking per call, and the time we would expect them to do a certain type of call. Where there are overruns, we know quite fast and can work on exception reports rather than looking at every report.”

On how this type of technology is affecting his role as CFO, O'Leary said it was making the business very much more efficient at where they need to, what markets to target and where the best markets are.

The company is in practically every segment of the market and is using this technology in conjunction with its CRM package.

“If you’re familiar with the 80:20 rule we say 80% of our profits are coming from 20% of our customers, and this is giving us a better focus on trying to extract that information faster,” he explained.

“This is giving us more information again, in conjunction with Salesforce in trying to target where our next plan will be. We’re able to say ‘we’re busy fools in certain markets, we need to move away’. You can’t just move from one market to another, but you can plan to move from one market to another over a period of time. We’re becoming more focused,” O'Leary added.

About Robert Lovell

Business and finance journalist

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