Marina Stedman, Director of Global Field Marketing for ClickSoftware offers an overview of one of the key highlights of the recent Field Service Forum held in Amsterdam earlier this summer...
The “Delivering Global Growth with Local Operations” theme of the 3rd annual Copperberg Field Service Forum held in Amsterdam on 8th and 9th June was topical, based on the sometimes conflicting demands of meeting customers’ rising expectations of service delivery while maintaining long-term operational viability.
The event brought field service professionals, operational managers and industry experts together to network, discuss and benchmark experiences and ideas.
Round Table Discussion - How can automation and mobility optimise scheduling, dispatch and communications with mobile field workers while also enhancing the customer experience?
The ClickSoftware hosted round table session discussing the challenges and best practices for optimised scheduling and mobility provided one such opportunity.
Delegates joining this round table debate included a global FMGC manufacturer, a global engineering components manufacturer, a European agricultural dealership, a supplier of integrated food processing solutions and a regional telecommunications provider.
A number of topics were discussed with a summary of the top points below:
The five top challenges faced by field service suppliers today:
- Managing the field teams – Knowing where technicians are, what skills they have and how to optimise resources
- Best practices - Keeping up with and adopting them
- Customisation and Integration - Finding a system that can be customised to meet specific requirements
- Optimisation - How to optimise the scheduling of resources
- Customer service – How to keep customers up-to-date on the engineer’s arrival time and the status of their job plus managing overall customer satisfaction
How to best manage Field Teams:
- Can they be brand ambassadors and sales people? Field engineers are the face of the supplier to the customer so how do you encourage and train engineers to upsell more services when they are on site? One view was that people skills are more important in organisations that deal with consumers.
- Can location-based tracking be introduced in Europe? There are many regulations on how and what employee data can be tracked and used. How can the new technologies that track engineers’ whereabouts and enable better customer communication be introduced?
- Effective job completion: In industries with “Long Cycle” work that can take a week or more, scheduling the right engineers with the right skills and the right parts is more important than knowing where an engineer is.
Round table attendees were interested in the Field Service Engagement Journey which shows how mapping an organisations’ “degree of optimisation”, “field service sophistication” and “customer lifetime value” illustrates where that organisation is on its journey to field service maturity.
Attendees were initially very optimistic about where they were on this journey but then realised during the conversation that they were mostly at the first “Getting Visibility” or second “Containing Costs” stages and had a long way to go to reach the ultimate stage of “Disruption, Differentiation and Delight”.
Optimisation - Managing costs and Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Many services businesses are expensive to run because they can only meet SLAs by including redundancy or overlap within their field teams.
It was, however felt that costs could be contained/reduced in many ways (e.g.by optimising routes taken and making the best choices for allocation and scheduling of resources against SLAs).
One attendee said that failed visits (where the engineer calls and the customer is not in) were the main cause of high costs in his business, accounting for 62% of visits. Another delegate said that each no-show cost £60 due to wasted time and the cost of repeat visits.
Another attendee pointed out that mobility holds the key to optimised scheduling –the field team can be notified of any changes in real-time e.g. traffic situations, no-shows, cancellations and problem visits.
For many B2B businesses, up-time is their customers’ number one priority. They need their equipment, vehicles, machines etc. to be fixed as soon as possible or they start to incur costs. It is vital that field engineers with the right skills and the right parts get there fast.
Everyone wanted to give customers a more exact time slot of when an engineer would arrive but they could only do this if they could use technology such as predictive analytics based on historical data to analyse how long each type of job typically takes and to plan accordingly.
Everyone agreed that one of their biggest challenges was how to get an asset and an engineer with the right skills on site at the same time to fix a breakdown.
Attendees definitely felt that providing more information and more timely information to the customer made a difference to the relationship with them. Keeping the customer informed meant many fewer no-shows and higher rates of first time service delivery. While products are becoming a commodity in many industries, service is still an area of differentiation.
Key message from the round table discussion - people see field service as a way to differentiate themselves against their competitors but many are only at the beginning of the journey.