Debbie Geiger, Global VP of Marketing for Astea International looks at the growing importance of outsourcing amongst field service and why connectivity is the key to maintaining service standards right across third party providers…
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For many field service organisations, outsourcing part of their service delivery operations has been a necessity of how they operate for a long time. Whether it be to help meet seasonal demand or deliver service on products sold in geographies far beyond their home market, outsourcing field service operations to a specialist third party is common practice and has been for many, many years.
In this era of digitally empowered consumers, ready to tweet, post or blog every time they have an axe to grind, you want to make pretty darn sure your third party partners are not letting you down in the CSAT stakes...
And in this era of digitally empowered consumers, ready to tweet, post or blog every time they have an axe to grind, you want to make pretty darn sure your third party partners are not letting you down in the CSAT stakes.
It is now absolutely critical for service organisations to increase their visibility into outsourced service processes. However, the good news is that extending your service chain no longer means losing track of how well your customers’ needs are being met.
The technology exists to provide your partners’ techs the ability to capture customer, product, equipment, and work order information.
And this holds true even when we factor in that field service companies now also have more options available when it comes to structuring their outsourcing relationships, from traditional agreements where third parties agree to complete a set number of work orders, to more integrated scenarios where the third-party provider becomes a true extension of the service organisation and its’ brand.
A Changing Mix of Outsourcing Partners
It likely comes as no surprise to you that the majority of service companies (over three quarters according to research by The Service Council) are already outsourcing at least some of their field service operations. In fact, the same research also shows that when engaged, third parties usually undertake about a third of assignments on average.
However, the general nature of outsourced service is currently changing as new models, often driven themselves by technology, have begun to emerge.
The rapid rise of the gig economy is beginning to challenge the existing status quo.
Independent contractors are likely to continue to expand their presence, and some third-party providers are emerging that actually pool these contractors and manage work assignments via online portals and other similar tools, which have proven to be hugely popular to date for contractors and service organisations alike.
And with many companies facing an ageing workforce crisis this trend is only set to continue, as volumes of work increase, whilst for many, just maintaining capacity could be a very real challenge.
Basically, if your company hasn’t yet thought about how to handle the use of third-party providers and independent contractors, my advice is to go start that process right now.
Connectivity is King
Of course choosing the right partner to outsource your work to is absolutely critical to your success. Remember, you are putting the strength of your brand in these folks hands. You have to be confident that they can not just meet your customer’s expectations but exceed them, and that they can do so on each and every service call.
You must demand your partners deliver the same levels of consistent, quality service you can expect form your own team – but this can be very difficult (if not impossible) to maintain if the right controls are not put into place.
Service organisations often complain about a loss of service quality when outsourcing work, so it is critical to establish ways to track processes and controls throughout the service supply chain
For both parties sake, any agreements with your third-party providers must have total accountability clearly defined and the ability to monitor and manage performance is essential for such agreements to work.
That’s why connectivity is so crucial when working with third-party providers.
You must be able to quickly communicate information electronically to your partners and receive data back in near real-time to ensure you always have the visibility needed. Of course, connectivity is also very important for providing access for the third-party provider to schedule jobs efficiently, retrieve critical customer/asset data, and effectively communicate work order information back to you.
Technology: The Key to Successful Outsourcing
The good news is that the technology is in place today from Field Service Management (FSM) solution providers like us to make the seamless transition of data from one system to another so much simpler than it would have been even just five years ago.
However, such capabilities, whilst slowly becoming more common are far from ubiquitous amongst FSM solutions and dedicated support for managing third-party maintenance teams currently remains a specialist toolset.
Therefore, it is wise to do your research to understand what solution will work best for you, and ensure that it is a stipulated part of your agreement with any third party service organisation that the tools they use to empower their engineers are in harmony with your own choices.
It’s not that hard to get working with third party service providers right in this day and age - but at the same time it is more it is critical than ever that you don’t get it wrong.