A panel debate on the best digital tools for achieving top-end service, strayed from shortlisting technologies and focused more on the end-user impact. Field Service News’ Deputy Editor Mark Glover attended the session – part of Field Service Europe 2018 – and saw discussion range from strategy to data, but always swinging back to the customer.
Among the many highlights from Field Service Europe, held in Amsterdam before Christmas, was a debate attempting to shortlist digital tools that can contribute to a world-class service process.
Panellists included Miguel Angel Hernanz, VP Head of Global Service Delivery Transformation at Phillips Healthcare; Karen Mehal, VP Field Service Lightning at Salesforce and David Nedohin, President at Scope Augmented Reality.
Chairing the debate, Field Service News’ Editor-in-Chief Kris Oldland began by defining world-class service and more specifically what it means to customers used to high-end service delivery from the likes of Uber and Amazon. “Service is no longer how we compete with our direct competitors,” he told delegates. “We’re now constantly at competition with the best service experiences customers have ever had. We’re now moving into a world where customer satisfaction is perhaps no longer the right phrase anymore.
"It has to be about customer experience and understanding what the experience is to the customer and working back from there. Only then can we really start thinking about what world class service is,” he posed.
Oldland put it to the panel that technology and digitisation in service should be perceived as “one continuous eco-system that compliments and feeds off one-another" rather than separate tools. Hernanz, who recently oversaw a large B2B and B2C contact center service transformation at Phillips Healthcare, was keen to set the focus on strategy and away from the tools. “The different tools are enablers," he said. You should first of all take a look at your strategy and secondly re-define your processes end-to-end, then use the different solutions or tools that are available in the market to make it happen.”
He continued: “The problem with digitisation and the variety of tools in the market is that you get overloaded with information; you find opportunities all over the place and you want it all and you want it now and that is a big mistake. “You should start doing a proof of concept. You try it, you learn, you correct and you scale up; if it is scalable. Or you dismiss it and you try something else” he urged.
Servicecloud’s Karen Mehal agreed: “If you don’t understand what your objective is, how do you know you’re getting there? she asked, going on to question the use of the term digitisation. “We digitised field service technicians with laptops 20 years ago, did we not? We gave them a laptop. That was digitisation."
It's a good point. The industry can be guilty of getting swept up in buzzwords without fully understanding what they mean, and more importantly how they can impact on customer service. “What’s the objective?” Mehal continued, “Is it around your customer? Is digitisation serving your customer? If it isn’t, it really should be. Or are you just taking your ERP and digitising it?
If the customer service is the end goal, then digital tools should be used to empower that process. Putting this theory to David Nedohin, the co-founder and president of an Augmented Reality company, Oldland asked how such a new and innovative technology such as Augmented Reality can cut through the excitement and intrigue to become a genuine ROI. “It’s about identifying what the problems are but to also make sure there are measurements to it,” Nehan explained. “For example, if you are currently sending out your field service team to help support your customer on a certain percentage of problems, what is that costing you right now? And if you could implement a technology that could help reduce a certain percentage of those, then what is the actual cost savings?
“If they don’t have those numbers, we work with them to find out what those numbers are so there’s a business case that can be presented to management,” he says, before adding: “It’s a strategy they need to put together to understand exactly why they’re solving that problem. You have to start with the problem, you have to start with the use-case.”
Concurring, Oldland suggested that technology should underpin a wider business plan of evolution. “Digitisation is not a one-off process,” he said. “In a sense, we’re talking about a continuous improvement journey, it’s just that the tools behind that evolve too.”
“I see a lot of people get lost in that,” offered Mehan, who by her own admission is customer-facing, “They get lost in the shiny object, such as Augmented Reality. But if your strategy is around customer support, better customer service, wouldn’t it be better to use digitisation to look at someone’s asset now and fix it now, rather than scheduling someone to go out there and fix it?
“Our world is no longer traditional. We’re not in a traditional world, we’re not in a traditional software world, we’re not in a traditional field service world. We should not be bound by EAPs or by software. We should by bound by what serves out the customer,” she argued. “My questions are: are you doing that with your digitisation. Are you really taking care of the customer when you’re doing your strategy?” She said.
Philips’ Hernanz admitted working in large organisations ,where many different stakeholders have many ideas can be difficult. However, all these opinions come second to that of the most important stakeholder: the customer. “You need to put the customer at the centre and listen to them,” he said. “This is very important. You must find out what they need and then start building solutions which are suitable for today, but also for the future because the whole process is also an evolution.”
"We're not in a traditional software world, we're not in a traditional field service world..." (Mehal)
One digital tool that has made a significant impression on this process is data and, in particular, big data. Filtering the most useful information remains the challenge, given the reams of information that smart assets churn out. “There’s no point in having data if it’s not providing the right insight,” Oldland said to the panel, all of whom agreed and acknowledged all the customer cares about is fixing what needs fixing.
Referencing a client who made industrial cooking equipment for fast food restaurants including Burger King and Macdonald’s, Mehner told the audience that when their client's equipment – such as a bun toaster – produced a fault the restaurant would call out a contract worker ill-equipped to isolate and solve the issue. “This piece of equipment,” Nedohin explained, “now has 20 or 30 tickets associated with it because the technician doesn’t know how to diagnose the problem, let alone fix it. The message is clear: we need to find a better way of fixing the assets.”
The restaurant now uses remote support tools to directly contact the manufacturer, who can identify the model, the fault, diagnose the problem and send the right technician with the correct parts and asset knowledge “There is data with this such as preventative maintenance,” Nedohin said. “But the customer doesn’t care, all they care about is getting the equipment working. That data is important to somebody and that somebody is in the manufacturer's office. “The person at the end just needs to know what to do,” he concluded, summing up a key take away from the debate.
Enlightened delegates left the session without a list of digital tools but an idea of what to do before you choose them. Data collection, Augmented reality can all complement a process, but without a strategy that also encompasses your customer’s needs, those tools may as well be blunt.