Yorkshire based company Service2 show that smaller companies don’t need to wait until they grow before adopting a field service software platform...
One of the biggest changes to field service companies in recent times has been the advent of the Cloud and the Software as a Service (SaaS) model and perhaps the biggest shift that the introduction of SaaS has brought is that for the first time ever field service software is no longer the domain of large enterprise companies only.
Due to the subscription based nature of SaaS offerings smaller companies are now able to access the types of software that only a few years ago would have been cost-prohibitive to them.
As such they are able to offer their customers similar levels of service as the big boys whilst at the same time being able to reap the benefits of enhanced productivity and efficiency such systems yield. The playing field has been well and truly levelled – or at least so the theory goes.
However how does this filter down in reality?
Is there truth in such assertions or is it just a case of clever marketing spin form the software providers?
To find out how field service management software can help a small company we spoke exclusively to Kate Lovery at Service2, a Yorkshire based Gas appliance installation and maintenance provider who have implemented the ServiceMax platform.
The business originally came into being when founders James and Chris, who both have background in engineering themselves, (Chris was predominantly working with catering equipment and boilers whilst James was more focussed on heating and ventilation) found themselves being approached with promises of Directorships for a new start-up.
However, as is sadly often the case, the promises didn’t meet reality, but the seeds of a successful business had been sown between the two, so in November 2011 they decided to set up by themselves.
Having started like most young businesses do taking as much work of any form that they could to build up the business and establish contacts and clients on the way, they quickly established a successful niche for themselves as they moved away from domestic jobs and began establishing a strong reputation for contract based commercial work.
Big name clients such as NG Bailey, Norland, and the Marriott group soon came along and with them so did more engineers, more office staff and 200% year on year growth.
However, the flip side of such success is the growing logistical headache of how to manage the business.
As Lovery explains “We’ve got a really nice spread of clients but my focus over the last year has been look how can we manage this? I can’t manage ten engineers and how ever many clients on an Excel spreadsheet so what are we going to do?”
“I needed to stop and ask how can we take this forward and be more dynamic? How can we be faster, quicker, more streamlined.” She adds
With the need to find a solution Lovery began opening the conversation up to the team and in fact it was one of their engineers who suggested ServiceMax.
At the same time she also had a recommendation from one of their commercial partners for the SaaS based field service software provider. Contact details were swapped and soon they were reviewing the ServiceMax system.
“They came to see us and gave us a presentation and we looked at it and thought about it and then initially put it on the back burner.” Admits Lovery.
Something that many companies in Service2’s position will do as the day to day tasks of keeping your business growing take over your To Do list.
However, Lovery was wise enough to take a step back, to focus on the forest rather than the one tree ahead of her as it were and realised if Service2 was to continue to grow they would be better off acting sooner rather than later.
“We thought you know what we really need to do this now.” She concedes “Our plan is to be twice the size, three times the size year on year and I thought I don’t want to be implementing a system for 50 people when I can implement it now for 15.”
“Our plan is to be twice the size, three times the size year on year and I thought I don’t want to be implementing a system for 50 people when I can implement it now for 15.”
Such an approach is of course extremely forward looking and one that many companies only realise they should have taken when it’s too late. However for Lovery it was simple common sense.
“Coming from a clients service/account management background for me it is absolutely vital that we can manage our accounts properly, we just simply wouldn’t be able to grow unless we do” she explains
“With our previous system I just couldn’t see how we could manage that. It’s just too many plates spinning, For us it’s like we’ve employed the system instead of employing another person to some degree."
And it’s not just the task of managing the engineers that is proving useful to Lovery. It is also the ability to keep a much closer eye on the P&L.
“Before we didn’t have such huge visibility we didn’t really have much transparency to be honest. Not because it’s wasn’t there I just didn’t have time to go and find the information I needed.” She explains
“Unless I’ve got a system like ServiceMax how can I track every nut and bolt that is purchased against a job? I can do some costing and put some rough numbers around what our profit and loss is but without a system like this in truth “ To me that’ visibility is really, really vital. It’s about being able to see both where we can maximise profitability but also where we can make cost savings etc.”
Of course the Field Service Software market is a highly competitive one and despite the recommendations Lovery looked at some of the other providers available before opting for ServiceMax. So what was it that made them the preferred option? “I found ServiceMax to be a to be a lot more dynamic.” She starts “I also liked the fact that it was Cloud based not something that was built on our system.”
“At times you think well we’re only a small company of 15 people, how is that going to work for us - but surely principles that the business is built on, the foundations, they are the same regardless of size.”
“For me best practice isn’t what the engineers on the other side of town are doing, I look to Cannon and GE and those types of brands and ask what are they doing? So I love the fact that ServiceMax has small family owned businesses as much as multi-nationals as part of their client list.”
It is here that we perhaps begin to see why ServiceMax have gained such a glowing reputation from this particular customer.
For whilst Lovery is clearly very happy with the software, her endorsement of the software provider runs far deeper than product alone.
“I really like the networking opportunities and the different people it would bring you into contact with that other providers couldn’t offer.” She continues referring to the many client focussed seminars , workshops and conferences ServiceMax run each year.
“I’ve really enjoyed the seminars at their usergroup and for me just being able to take part in that type of event, listen to other peoples issues – what they love about the platform what they don’t, is just so helpful.”
“You don’t know what you don’t know so, just listening to others who have been with the platform longer or have experience managing bigger teams than ours, such sessions are really useful.” She adds.
It is through such activities that ServiceMax are able to encourage their customers to grow with the platform. An approach that generates more than enough brand loyalty to make these events worthwhile.
It may seem cheaper or easier at the time to have taken another platform but we really like the direction of ServiceMax as a company and it seems that they are someone we can grow with.
In addition to the networking opportunities that ServiceMax offer to their user base it is also their commitment to delivering excellent customer service that has Lovery so impressed.
“Our account manager has been really excellent I have to say” she comments “he has been really supportive, helping us make the right connections, just offering support and advice when we need it, on that level the client service is fantastic and that’s the case with the whole team so far.”
And with a dedicated project manager available Lovery is confident that she will be able to be fully adapt the software to their needs as the company continues to grow and evolve.
“Because I’m implementing it myself my project manager, who I speak to two three times a week is teaching me the tricks and tools that I might not have been aware of and that has given me a certain amount of independence to run with it.”
She explains “If in six months time I want to make a few changes I’ll be able to do that myself”
Indeed in the often ruthless world of corporate software it is refreshing to note Lovery’s enthusiasm for her provider.
Yet by giving Lovery and Service2 the freedom to make such changes, and empowering them to be able to manage their system as their business grows, supporting them with excellent service, and helping them establish a wider network of contacts, ServiceMax are likely to secure the business of this fast growing company for many years to come.