Field Service panel debate: All change please? Ian Mapp

Mar 24, 2014 • FeaturesManagementcost centre to profit centreFuture of FIeld Servicefuture of field serviceIan Mapp

The field service industry continues to evolve at pace. New technologies are constantly emerging which have the potential to change the industry as we know it.

At the same time we are seeing a huge cultural shift with many seeking to realign their service division from cost centre to profit centre. To help us keep up with these changes Field Service News has put together a panel of five field service industry experts and asked them each to share their insight on the industry today. First up is Ian Mapp, Director with Wyser Stewart...

What is the biggest driver for change in field service today?

Field service has always coped with constrained resources – in terms of manpower and investment in spare parts inventory - and the recent harsh economic times have been very tough for many, both OEMs and independent maintainers. Those now poised to grow have continued to invest through the downturn, particularly in skills development, and that will now enable them to out-compete others.

With no money to waste themselves, customers are more demanding in the standards they expect and less tolerant of poor performance. This has accelerated a trend already entrenched for a number of years. Plus, bad news travels further and faster than ever via social media. Equivalent stories about exceptionally good service (they do exist!) do not travel as far or as fast. Service organisations will have to learn to live in this unbalanced environment, obsess about quality and focus on protecting and communicating hard-won reputations. It as a discriminator when customers choose suppliers.

Which technology has had the biggest impact on the field service industry in the last 5 years?

In my opinion, it is all about the mobility revolution. Specifically, the intersection of two trends. The higher adoption of mobile devices by service organisations, and the explosive growth of smartphone usage amongst customers – 72% of the UK population according to a 2013 Deloitte survey, up 14% in just 10 months. The result of near ubiquitous use means more enthusiastic acceptance by technicians and engineers of a mobile device as an integral part of their everyday work. Maybe “grudging acceptance” is still more prevalent than “enthusiastic acceptance” in some organisations and industries!

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, mobile devices – typically ruggedised – were seen as the sign of a tech-savvy, forward-thinking service provider. Today, that has been turned on its head and organisations that do not deploy mobiles – more commonly consumer-grade or BYOD – are seen as laggards.

What is the most important consideration when moving from cost centre to profit centre? 

That’s simple. Independent maintainers are, by definition, driven by profitable service provision. For OEMs, the profits on after-sales services are frequently higher than products sales, and servitization has become an obvious strategy to maintain financial performance. For some it is a matter of survival and so it is a “no brainer”. The question becomes ‘how-to’ and not ‘whether-to’. Particularly as more product categories become commoditised, and manufacturers are unable to compete simply on product quality.

This is not the same as engineers being transformed into salespeople, as is often imagined. Many OEMs do not properly credit their service departments with revenue for their work. A notional accounting transfer is made, one that does not reflect the true commercial value. This gives a misleading impression of the service operation’s financial viability. Resolving this anomaly - to give an accurate baseline – and training service managers in financial disciplines are critical transformational steps.

Who is Ian Mapp...

ian mapp headshotIan is a veteran of customer service - both in the provision of software applications and consultancy, and in actual service delivery. He has worked with companies large and small, both in the UK and internationally over 25 years. Presently, he is providing specialised customer service and customer experience consulting services to “people-powered” organisations through his company Wyser Stewart.