As the office technology industry adapts to changing market demand, dealers have found themselves facing the threat of flattening revenue and growth stagnation. Printing and copy equipment purchases generally happen only when existing machines become obsolete or during periods of expansion. This sporadic buying pattern leads to unpredictable revenue, particularly for those dealers that rely exclusively on a manufacturing and distribution business model.
To develop new opportunities for growth, forward-thinking dealers have added IT and technology-related repair, networking, and consulting services. By repositioning themselves and focusing on solving a wider variety of complex, technology-related business challenges, they’re able to create more value for their customers and generate recurring revenue from ongoing service contracts.
While this shift from “product only” to “product and services” opens up new avenues for expansion, incorporating location-specific field services from the ground up requires a different perspective on infrastructure, recruiting, onboarding, training, and retention. Comprehensive Service Level Agreements (SLAs) may require travel and additional overtime for a centrally-located workforce, or the establishment of satellite locations and additional staff to accommodate on-site demand. For many dealers, this up-front infrastructure investment is cost-prohibitive and risky.
Enter the Gig Economy
The world of work is shifting from traditional employment to a blended workforce of employees and independent, on-demand workers. While the term “gig worker” is often associated with Uber drivers and creative freelancers, today’s independent professionals represent nearly every specialized discipline. From lawyers and financial advisors to field service IT and equipment technicians, these sought-after experts leverage their skills to work how, when, and where they choose.
By utilizing this contingent workforce of specialized contract field service technicians, dealers are now able to provide high quality, competitively priced services across a broad range of skills and locations. This flexible alternative allows companies to fulfill customer demand in a way that would be time- and cost-prohibitive with traditional full-time employees.
Organizing Your Business Around the Modern Contingent Workforce
While the gig economy offers companies greater agility, successfully incorporating an independent field service workforce requires a shift in how dealers approach talent sourcing and management.
Attracting top talent is the key to providing outstanding service, yet finding the right field service technician for each project can be an ongoing challenge. There are two general sourcing options to consider, the right choice depends largely on a company’s existing resources and long-term objectives.
Option 1: Internal Sourcing
Companies with robust internal HR resources or limited service offerings may opt to source and manage their own independent talent. While this approach offers the greatest control over each step of the process, sourcing and scheduling field service technicians using job sites, Craigslist, LinkedIn, and vendor lists can be challenging—particularly when attempting to satisfy complex job requirements under intense deadline pressure.
Option 2: Online Marketplaces
Online marketplaces offer an efficient, scalable alternative to internal sourcing, enabling companies to quickly connect with thousands of qualified contract technicians based on specific skill set, experience, credentials, rating, location, number of work orders completed, and even recent background checks and drug tests.
Providing a high level of service using a contingent workforce requires a well-defined strategy for retaining top talent. In-demand contractors can choose when they work and who they work for, often accepting or declining projects based on a company’s reputation. To help keep these valuable contract workers happy and engaged, the most appealing field service organizations commit to providing clearly-defined project expectations, timely approval of completed work, and fast payments.
Integrating On-Demand Talent with Full-Time Workers
Effectively managing a blended workforce of both full-time employees and independent contractors requires clear communication and collaborative culture. On-demand professionals should be embraced as an essential part of the team, and recognized as a valuable source of fresh ideas and skillsets needed to succeed in the future.
Relying on disjointed systems to manage a blended workforce can lead to information gaps, making it difficult to clearly track the status of field service projects at scale.
A fully integrated Freelance Management System (FMS) allows companies of all sizes to efficiently source, manage, and deploy their entire workforce from one place, ensure fast on-site arrival and service times, and consistently deliver the outstanding customer experience required to thrive in today’s competitive environment.
Centralizing communications makes it easier for dispatchers and project managers to assign tasks, receive real-time updates from the field, and manage every aspect of a project from one screen.
Dealers of all sizes can now access the gig economy to explore a variety of new revenue streams. Growth will often depend on the amount of value delivered with every interaction, the depth of each customer relationship, and the ability to complete high-quality work that consistently meets SLAs. To accomplish this, it’s important to leverage a flexible field service workforce and provide a range of in-demand skills and location-based services.