Benchmarking The Changing Face of Field Service

May 02, 2019 • Featuresfuture of field serviceWBR

The world we live and work is changing fast, being pushed forward by rapid technological evolution. Becky Johnson reviews key industry data to see what trends we need to be focusing on...

Customer Service & Brand
There can be no doubt that the traditional interpretation of Field Service is changing: a fundamental shift is being made to focus on service and its incorporation and development into existing, more product-centric, business models.

Where once it was enough to rely on a stellar product, now competition is fierce and margins are being squeezed this is no longer the case. Where excellent service is being provided and taken for granted in everyday life, it makes sense that this is now being expected, if not demanded, within business transactions.

A new age is dawning and customers are continuing to ask how a product and company ‘adds value’. Engineers in the field have access to, and interactions with, potentially hundreds of contacts within a specific customer base. So it’s no surprise that those customers will come to associate a product’s ‘worth’ based on the dealings they have had with these field service representatives.

As the American poet Maya Angelou is attributed to have said ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’. By 2020 customer experience is slated to overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator. (Source: Capterra)

Women in Field Service, Diversity & Mindset
With this shift to customer centricity there must also be a shift in perception. Traditionally seen as male dominated, a career in Field Service has not attracted women. However, with service coming to the fore this situation is starting to change and the skills that women offer are becoming more vital than ever. The ‘soft skills’ required for customer service roles are often attributed to women, but it’s not a question of gender, the focus must be on what skills can be brought to the table as a whole and how these can be used to improve a company’s Field Service offering.

In order to ensure that quality talent is acquired and retained, Field Service must also diversify so that the next generation of bright minds can see themselves working in this sector. If a certain demographic is only ever highlighted and portrayed then it is no wonder that it is presumed that this is all there is.

As you would market a brand, the same must be done throughout Field Service. Why would you choose this career? What is there to offer? What is the long term career outlook? Although diversity may be a difficult and taboo subject for some, this does not make it any less important or integral to the way companies must continue to grow and exist.

The business world has long debated the effect of gender diversity on business outcomes, asking does diversity make a company more productive and in turn increase financial performance? In a Harvard Business Review a study of 1,069 leading firms across 35 countries and 24 industries found that gender diversity relates to more productive companies (as measured by market value and revenue) only in contexts where gender diversity is viewed as “normatively” accepted. In other words, beliefs about gender diversity create a self-fulfilling cycle. Countries and industries that view gender diversity as important capture benefits from it. Those that don’t, don’t. They also found that the most-diverse enterprises were also the most innovative, as measured by the freshness of
their revenue mix, proving that diversity is crucial in so many factors. 

"Service must also diversify so the next generation of bright minds can see themselves working in the sector..."

In order to keep up with rising expectations it will require a massive change in mindset, starting at board level and moving downwards, to truly transform a company ethos. For some this will mean a transformation in culture that has formed over decades but must now be changed rapidly if they are not to be left behind by the competition. This will be easier said than done; as change is happening so fast it’s fundamentally hard to move quickly enough! However, as the old adage goes, ‘just because something is difficult, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing’.

Haier, the world’s number one home appliance manufacturer, is a Chinese colossus with 70,000 employees. Since the 1980’s, Haier has reinvented itself several times, most recently breaking the company into >4,000 micro-enterprises effectively creating self-organizing micro businesses acting as separate entities (and in some cases, actually are). At the core of this idea is that employees get ownership, decision-making rights and a customer paid salary. They truly became pioneers. Such a change in mindset comes within the RenDanHeYi model. With “Ren” referring to each employee, “Dan” referring to the needs of each user, and “HeYi” referring to the connection between each employee and the needs of each user. The CEO Zhang Ruimin says: ’With the RenDanHeYi model we truly enter the network age. But the network aspect is not even the most important. 

What is more important is that we no longer try to delegate to, or ‘empower’, employees. It’s now time for every employee to be his or her own boss. So, with the RenDanHeYi model we move away from being like an empire (with a traditional, closed pyramid) to be more like a rain forest (with an open networked platform). Every empire will eventually collapse. A rain forest, on the other hand, can be sustained. 

Digital Transformation
Alongside the cultural shift needed to meet customer expectations, Field Service is also being driven by digitalization, which Gartner defines as ‘the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and valueproducing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business.’

‘Digitalisation’ and ‘digital transformation’ have become such buzz words in recent years that some have lost sight of not only what it means but what they are actually trying to do. Digitalisation is a tool by which to achieve an end goal, but is not the goal itself. Gartner predicts that by 2020 10% of emergency field service work will be both triaged and scheduled by artificial intelligence.

With AI assisting with everything from scheduling to predictive maintenance to using past data to make future plans. The human element within Field Service is still very much relied on and future technologies and solutions will be there to support these interactions - to make life easier and more efficient, not to replace humans altogether.

People still want to do business with people and until the customer becomes more Terminator than terrestrial this will probably always be the case.

Becky Johnson is Content Director at WBR, overseeing the Field Service Connect conference, which takes place on 14 and 15 May at Celtic Manor, South Wales.