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Field service is undergoing what is in my opinion the biggest change the industry has seen in the last 25 years.
All of our customers, across a range of industries, want to talk to us about Digital Transformation, and how they can use digital technology to fundamentally transform the way they interact with their customers, and not just about the operational ‘nuts and bolts’ of delivering a service to them.
Some customers are only at the beginning, taking small steps towards transformation by, for example, moving away from traditional software ownership models towards cloud-based products and services, such as MS Office 365. Others are further along, with strategies that embrace technologies such as IoT, big data and AI.
But regardless of their progress, at the heart of all of these conversations is the recognition that Digital Transformation will bring them closer to the goal of providing exceptional field service.
The Art Of Field Service Ops
I often think that the role of a Field Service Manager is a complex mix of art and science, with a bit of magic thrown in for good luck.
Decision making needs to adjust constantly to changes in conditions – a sudden unseasonable cold snap, for example, or a contract with a new customer. Just as service delivery metrics point to success, something changes, and there is a whole new dynamic.
Without knowing what combination of factors triggered the change, it’s hard to know how best to respond.
Get the reaction to an emerging threat wrong – too great or too small a response – and the complex balance of the operational ‘ecosystem’ can be thrown out.
Recovering that balance and restoring the conditions required for ‘flawless’ field service can prove costly and time consuming.
Data doesn’t drive decisions
Most organisations capture a range of sources and types of data - workload planning, resource availability, schedule efficiency, service outcomes, customer satisfaction levels, asset profitability – and many are integrating new types, such as that offered by IoT.
However, this data is rarely delivered in the right form to support decision making, meaning that managers spend too much time aligning and manipulating data from disparate sources. Even then, many are frustrated to find that the root cause of issues is still unclear and the likely outcome of any decision is still uncertain.
AI, machine learning and predictive analytics
This is where the latest technologies, such as AI, machine learning and predictive analytics come in.
Valuable insights into the performance of an operation often lie at the intersections of these various datasets; these technologies can enable decision support applications to identify underlying patterns of performance in the Field Service operation, including long and short term trends, that were simply too complex for traditional applications to uncover. This is increasingly true as much larger data sets such as IoT have come online in recent years.
"Field service is undergoing what is in my opinion the biggest change the industry has seen in the last 25 years..."
This deep understanding of performance, combined with the power to highlight exceptions in real-time, enables the operations team to see the correct course of action to address each challenge as it arises. And beyond simple advice, these technologies make it possible for applications to automate ‘learned’ responses to common patterns of exceptions that occur.
The next generation of decision support
This next generation of applications will be used strategically to analyse, for example, which factors within a field service operation make engineers productive, and which inhibit productivity. Some of these factors will be within the control of the engineer, in which case performance can be addressed with initiatives such as better training or incentives.
Others will relate to company processes, in which case the applications will suggest tactical improvements, the impact of which can also be measured. Others still will be external factors which can’t be changed, but can be allowed for in planning and scheduling.
Such applications will be programmed with a knowledge base, but will be learning all the time, as the outcome of each decision is fed back into the performance data, effectively automating the process of continuous incremental improvement. This will take some of the challenge of blending art and science out of the hands of the Field Service Manager, leaving them free to concentrate on other activities.
Not just software suppliers
It is clear that this massive change in the industry requires those of us who supply and partner with field service companies to change too. We can’t just be technology suppliers.
We have to embrace our customers’ goals and work with them to add value; to weave their transformation strategies into the fabric of our products and services and to bring to the table our own blend of art, science and, yes, a little magic too.
Laurent Othacéhé is CEO at Cognito iQ.
According to research from IDC 30% of manufacturers will soon provide personalized dashboards for customers by 2023 which could lead to a new era of customer satisfaction: customer collaboration. Aly Pinder explores the potential of this...
According to research from IDC 30% of manufacturers will soon provide personalized dashboards for customers by 2023 which could lead to a new era of customer satisfaction: customer collaboration. Aly Pinder explores the potential of this evolution.
What role does the customer play in their own service experience? If we were to think back a few years or decades the answer would be minimal. Historically, the service organization or manufacturer held the keys to a customer’s happiness and satisfaction.
Show up, preferably on time, with the answer to resolve the issue was the main goal. If the issue were resolved the customer was happy and vice versa. But as most of the world is now accustomed to on-demand experiences and collaborative interactions with peers, manufacturers, and technology platforms this model is changing. IDC predicts that resulting from demand for hyper-customized customer experiences, 30% of manufacturers will provide personalized dashboards for customers to schedule service, learn about products, and collaborate by 2023. Customers now can create their own experiences and in turn their level of satisfaction with their expected outcomes.
This isn’t to say that the manufacturer is completely absolved of responsibility to have knowledgeable technicians, reliable products, and efficient processes to support a quality service experience, but a good service experience is evolving and has become inclusive of customers, partners, and other stakeholders. Customers can and will continue to play a bigger role in the experiences they create for themselves and the impact they will have on quality service. From their level of engagement to the access they allow manufacturers to use the data that is created customers will only become more relevant for the future of service excellence. Below are a few ways I see customers impacting the service experience in 2019 and beyond.
Customers are invested in your success but have options
Engaging customers in their own experiences with service is not only a way to balance risk and the cost of service, but ensuring customers have a reason to stay with you. Competition for service has never been higher, no longer is the manufacturer the sole provider of service for a customer. Third parties are nothing new, but they have become more viable in their ability to deliver quality, timely service on a variety of products and equipment types. Therefore, manufacturers must innovate the ways in which they build bonds with customers going beyond the suggestion that “you bought it from us, so you must sign a service contract”.
"Customers can and will continue to play a bigger role in the experiences they create for themselves..."
A personalized dashboard which integrates with suggested new services or products, creates a community of user-driven content, and boosts the customer’s performance in KPI that matter to them is one way to create longer lasting customer partnerships.
Expectations change and manufacturers need to evolve at faster pace
Not much is more frustrating than providing feedback in a survey and seemingly having that information go into a blackhole not used by the those who administered the survey. Customers are very willing to give manufacturers feedback as we have seen an influx of customer advisory forums, social interactions, and other channels of insight. But too often this is used as a marketing tool and not as a path to tailor future products, service, and experiences because of this intelligence.
As customers provide manufacturers with insight into what they value and how they want to be interacted with, it is imperative that this information leads to improvements as this is the customer taking the time to involve themselves in their own service experience.
Connected products must enable intelligence and customized experiences
The number of connected products and devices will only continue to grow, but unfortunately, we still lag well behind the promise of this future. Data from connected products too often is just stored in the cloud used by just a few when the ability for this insight to trigger new and valuable experiences is plentiful.
Customers through their usage and behaviour data have provided manufacturers and service organizations with a treasure trove of insights that must be leveraged to enhance on-going experiences.
Customers shouldn’t just be an open wallet or an email address. As much as customers of the future are a wealth of data points they also have a growing willingness to be a part of the experiences that are delivered to them. Not engaging them in a true partnership of shared experiences, shared benefits, and shared goals is a missed opportunity that won’t be sustainable in our shared futures.
Aly Pinder is Program Director at IDC.
I write this article in the second week of January. An odd time when faded Christmas trees lay abandoned in gardens, and flashes of tinsel peek through wheelie-bins. Festive memories seem a long time ago and the summer seems even further away as we return to work. We snooze the 6am alarm, reluctant to step into the cold morning.
Symbolising this grim time of year is the broken boiler. Plummeting temperatures mean faults are common and energy companies come under pressure to respond and to deliver first-time fixes. Customers, particularly on a cold January morning, want radiators hot and their showers hotter.
In Britain, central heating was introduced in the 70s. Then it was seen as something of a luxury. Today it is seen as a basic requirement, we miss it sorely when it’s not around so when the boiler flame goes out, we demand a quick response from our supplier. An expectation affirmed by the Uber and Amazon delivery service-times we operate in.
So has the utility sector adapted to the modern customer demand and if not,what does it need to do to keep up? Are they instead content to just keep their regulators at bay? And what about technology adoption? Do firms still feel uncomfortable dipping their toes in big-data lakes?
Historically, utilities have felt ring-fenced from competition. The majority of companies have a monopoly over the areas they supply. Investing in complicated and costly digital strategies has never been high on the agenda. Stephen J Callahan IBM’s VP of Global Strategy and Solutions for Energy and Utilities explained why outfits remain sceptical in an article for RDMag in 2015: “The analytics opportunity for utilities is clear,” he wrote, “but there continues to be a lack of real push and value delivery. Companies have been concerned about the high costs and complexity of data. “Technology shifts, regulatory changes and the emergence of empowered consumers all demand a new approach to customer engagement. With analytics, energy companies can make the shift to engage with customers in highly personalised ways that can increase customer satisfaction, lower the cost of service and promote new products and services,” he urged.
For UK energy companies, customers switching tariffs and regulation from the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) are the main drivers influencing its customer strategy. Transparent costs and price comparison sites have
made swapping easier for consumers and in 2016, 4.8 million frustrated households did just that. Their main reason? Poor customer service.
That said, despite the numbers, and a strong PR campaign around the ease of which it can be done, the rate of switching is perhaps not where OFGEM want it to be. “I think switching is happening but probably at a lower level than the regulators would be aiming for,” explains Laurence Cramp from Leadent, a managing consulting and technology business specialising in field service. “Mainly because people are using the supplier in their area and they’ll stay with that supplier.
“It also comes from the fact that tariffs are all in and around the same range so consumers tend to be paying about the same price for their energy. The customer service may be better or worse at some or others but that’s not necessarily linked with what billing platform they’ve just integrated. I think people probably look at the power sector and think it’s much of a muchness.”
In the UK, British Gas, SSE, EDF Energy, npower, E.ON UK and Scottish Power form the “Big Six”, the suppliers who provide the majority of energy to the UK. Smaller and more streamlined energy companies, with a strong focus on service exist, yet consumers seem content to stick with the top names.
Of those, British Gas is the UK’s largest energy supplier and can lay claim as the world’s first public utility company. Set-up in 1812 as The Gas Light and Coke Company, the firm provided customers with coal-based energy. The sector, and technology, has moved on considerably – not least with the advent of electricity – and British Gas has done its best to keep-up, adopting technology to enhance its customer service processes. It recently rolled-out its ‘On My Way’, real-time engineer tracking facility, enabling customers to see the precise location of the engineer, producing an accurate arrival time for time-starved customers.
"In 2016, 4.8 households switched energy supplier. Their main reason? Poor customer service..."
Tim Andrew is the CEO of Localz, the company behind British Gas’ location tracking technology. He says 2019 will see utility watchdogs push companies hard when it comes to customer service. “Regulators continue to increase their focus on customer experience, using both penalties and incentives to drive same-year measurable improvements,” he predicts.
“This year will show that the companies who outperform the industry, continuously focusing on providing transparency and control to consumers, rather than running a project to meet the minimum regulatory requirements.”
Consumers are hamstrung to the area they reside: Southern Water, Thames Water, Yorkshire Water for example, with customers unable to switch tariffs. With consumers locked-in to contracts, how are suppliers kept on their toes to ensure they deliver on customer service?
Here, the Water Services Regulation Authority (OFWAT) keeps economic tabs on companies. Set-up in 1989 following the privatisation of England’s 10 water authorities, it carries out a review every five years with this year (2019) being the next period of scrutiny.
This cycle will see companies adopting a Customer Measure of Experience (C-MeX) incentive approach, intended to focus firms on delivering a high-standard of customer service. C-MeX supersedes Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM), a customer satisfaction survey carried out four times a year by the regulator, and will link financial incentives to the performance level of the best performing companies.
Cramp believes the new approach will spur-on companies, through the use of technology, to be more comprehensive in their customer focus. “C-MeX is there to encourage firms to be more holistic and rounded in what they do for their customers,” he says. “This is a good time for water firms because they’re now all gearing up for the next five years and undoubtedly customer service is a really big part of that with a lot of focus on investment in technology to help
However, he suggests the water companies are some way behind their energy counterparts who, driven by their own regulator OFGEM, have already integrated such initiatives “I see the water companies playing catch-up with where the power utilities were five years ago. I think the energy regulator has been on that case a little bit ahead of the water companies than OFWAT,” he says.
The utilities sector is a broad market, however like field service, which straddles numerous verticals, there exists an opportunity to share best practice across its own verticals: water, electricity and gas. Is it possible for the energy sector to extend its five years of technology-focused customer learning to its water counterparts?
“In our daily lives we take a great experience from one industry, and get frustrated when that isn’t available in another,” says Localz’ Tim Andrew, who is adamant it can. “As a business, trying to meet, let alone exceed customer expectations by
taking input from just an internal or single industry perspective is futile. Cross-industry collaboration and product development is critical.”
As well as working together, the sector needs to invest sensibly in technology, particularly around customer service. There are murmurings that this is starting to happen, particularly in the water industry but how long this will take is even less clear. Studies suggest that worldwide firms are setting aside funds to do just that. In 2015, GTM research anticipated utility company spend on data analytics growing from the $700 million spent in 2012 to $3.8 billion by 2020, a huge leap but it need not be a leap into the unknown and at all times, the customer should be at the heart of any decision.
“Becoming a customer-centric, information driven organisation is no longer simply an option for most utility companies. It’s a business imperative,” Callahan said in his 2015 rallying call to the utilities sector. Four years’ on, will his words have had an impact?
Watch this space.
In the latest Field Service Podcast, Christian Kowalkowski, Professor of Industrial Marketing at Linköping University, discusses the challenges round transitioning to a servitization business model.
In the latest Field Service Podcast, Christian Kowalkowski, Professor of Industrial Marketing at Linköping University, discusses the challenges round transitioning to a servitization business model.
In this episode, Field Service News Deputy Editor Mark Glover, speaks to Christian Kowalkowski, author of Service Strategy in Action: A Practical Guide for Growing your B2B Service and Solution Business, about the challenges businesses can face when adapting to a servitization model having been used to the more traditional transactional framework.
You can connect with Christian on his LinkedIn profile here and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Information about the book Service Strategy in Action: A Practical Guide for Growing your B2B Service and Solution Business, including how to purchase a copy, can be found here.
There’s no escaping the fact that field service can be a lonely industry. Ask the engineer battling torrential rain to repair a wind turbine. Or the manager greeted with blank stares at dinner parties when asked to explain his job. With mobile engineering teams working in often remote locations, and a high number of lone workers, it can feel like there are limited opportunities for collaboration within field service.
But with Brexit around the corner, now is the time when field service operators must work together – not just to avoid problems, but also to get ahead. While the UK political climate remains highly uncertain, ByBox has shared practical tips with customers to help prepare for the ‘worst case scenario’ - No Deal.
A ‘Hard Brexit’ could mean that businesses which currently move parts freely within the EU, including the UK, will find themselves becoming importers and exporters between the UK and the EU.
An obvious statement perhaps, but several of the companies we have been working with will find it a shock to implement not only the existing rules, but also additional new procedures to manage No Deal.
And herein lies the real rub - under new customs rules, if one company fails to comply, it could cause delays to the stock of all businesses within the same consignment. The smartest businesses recognise that ‘one issue affects all’ within Field Service; and that by and large they do not compete supply chain against supply chain.
"Advanced businesses view Brexit as an opportunity to take stock and think about how they can add value..."
By preparing for new import and export rules now they’re protecting not only their own businesses, but the resilience of the whole field service sector. Advanced businesses also view Brexit as an opportunity to take stock and think about how they can add value after Brexit and get ahead in a new trading environment.
The most common themes are:
Use of technology
An increasing number of firms are looking to digitise processes around distribution, engineer productivity and inventory. With ever-more stringent SLAs and cost pressures, there just isn’t room for inefficiencies or delays in responding to disruptions
Increased forward stocking
In some industries where the potential consequences of delays are not acceptable, EG medical technology, we’ve seen an increase in firms using micro Forward Stock Locations (FSLs) – placing critical items in App-Lockers at the service sites where they’re needed, to protect first-time fix rates
Third party specialists
Many companies are turning to third parties to manage complexities around cross border transport and distribution. For example, our strategic partners such as Bespoke Distribution Aviation (BDA) – already have established transport channels, a customs clearance approach and brokers.
Two years on, it’s easy to experience ‘Brexit fatigue’ – but the burden can be significantly reduced if field service companies realise they’re not alone, and help each other through it.
Simon Fahie is Managing Director at ByBox.
Meiko UK Ltd, a leading European manufacturer of warewashing technology for the catering industry, has been an Asolvi customer since 2012. Nigel Walters, technical services controller for Meiko, explains why the relationship has endured and why...
Meiko UK Ltd, a leading European manufacturer of warewashing technology for the catering industry, has been an Asolvi customer since 2012. Nigel Walters, technical services controller for Meiko, explains why the relationship has endured and why Asolvi’s field service management software is a good fit for the industry.
Originally established ninety years ago in the Black Forest, Germany, Meiko is now a global brand with production facilities in Germany, China and the US. Meiko manufactures, installs and maintains dish and glass washers, washer-disinfectors and food waste disposal systems for professional kitchens in bars, hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafes and staff canteens. Its client base includes JD Wetherspoon, Marston’s Brewery and DHL.
35,000 calls a year
In the UK, Meiko’s service & maintenance operation consists of approximately 35,000 preventative and reactive calls a year, which today are all managed using Asolvi’s Tesseract solution. In 2012, Tesseract was selected to replace a piece of service management software that wasn’t fit for purpose anymore. Nigel explains: "There were a lot of things the old system couldn’t do, mainly because it wasn’t a fully functioning system. It didn’t provide engineers with the information they needed in the field, and the information they could get wasn’t live. There was no quotation system, no stock control. Engineers could only use it on PDAs. It got to the point where we needed something a lot more advanced."
It was word of mouth that brought Meiko to Asolvi and, specifically, to Tesseract. "A number of us had heard of Tesseract," says Nigel. "So we did some research and visited a number of Asolvi customers to see the Tesseract system in action. We were able to visualise how the system would work for us."
The power of automation
In addition to giving engineers more flexibility in the field, Tesseract has enabled Meiko to automate a number of routine and/or time-intensive processes in the office. This includes stock replenishment, previously an entirely manual and unintegrated process, and invoicing, which used to be done in a separate system. But what’s really changed is how Meiko undertakes preventative maintenance. Now, all preventative maintenance appointments are generated automatically according to contract and asset requirements.
This saves Meiko’s planners from having to manually check spreadsheets and paper contracts to find out when maintenance is due before going into the system to manually log the call. It also lets them schedule field engineers up to three months in advance so that they can more easily maintain service levels. "With Tesseract, everything is simpler and more streamlined," says Nigel. "Parts are attached to calls—and stay attached to calls—without engineers having to manually input quantities and parts numbers. We have complete visibility of all stock at all times. Costings for invoices are calculated automatically, reducing scope for error. We can complete the invoicing process in the Tesseract system, too. Before Tesseract, we had to export the data to a different system."
10-15 minutes saved per quote
Another big change for Meiko has been in the way it creates and logs quotes for new works. The fact that Tesseract’s quoting tool is integrated with the rest of the system makes it easy to convert a quote into a call or a call into a quote. "We never had this level of linking in the system before," says Nigel. "We had to quote using an entirely different system."
What’s even better is the fact that when a quote is raised, most of the information required is already there. Nigel explains: "We used to have to input all the information about the customer and the asset manually each time a new quote was raised. With Tesseract, 70% of the data is already there, saving our salespeople 10-15 minutes per quote. This is having a huge and welcome impact on our productivity, particularly given how many quotes we have to do."
Nigel admits that reporting was poor on the old system. Meiko had to use an external system and it took a lot of time to compile and process the data. "Tesseract comes with a lot of really good reports," says Nigel. "These are standard reports that we’re able to tweak easily to fit our needs. Now everyone has access to the reports they need on a regular basis. The fact that our data is centralised means that reports are compiled with a minimum of effort.”
Catering equipment and Tesseract: a match made in the kitchen
"Tesseract is a good fit for the catering industry for the same reasons it is a good fit for any kind of repair industry," Nigel says. "Asolvi has worked hard to make sure the fundamental elements such as service contract management, preventative maintenance management, mobility, invoicing and reporting, are really strong. Our engineers and our office staff have everything they need to make sure our customers’ machines are properly maintained."
Nigel goes on to explain that it’s Asolvi’s approach to helping customers that makes its software an even better fit for Meiko’s industry. “The way Asolvi listen to their customers is one of the big reasons our relationship with them has endured," he says. "They’re constantly investing in their software, trying to improve what it does for us and for our industry. They listen to recommendations and if we have a problem or a need, they never just say ‘no’. They want to solve our problems, not just for us, but for them. They want to progress with us.”
Ten years is a long time in field service. Trends come thick and fast with some trends thicker than others, attaching like coral onto the industry and becoming an integral part of service progress. The worldwide web and mobile technology are probably the two best examples of this; both have been essential in pushing the industry forward. Would we cope without them today?
It’s fair to label these movements as revolutions; their impact has been immense but smaller changes while not as monumental are just as significant. Today though, focus is swinging from technology enablers and back to customer service.
“Mobile was many years ago, everyone expects to have it,” says Hilla Karni, VP of Product and Customer Marketing at Click Software. Karni has just finished hosting a roundtable at Field Service Europe and we’ve managed to find a quiet dining room post-lunch to talk. I settle my dictaphone among skewed butter knives and bread crumbs. Sipping coffee, Karli continues: “In recent years, the shift has moved from a service operation that is a cost-centre, to a service operation that is an opportunity to impact customer service.”
The roundtable titled: The Science Behind Service: Metrics that Matter, centred on KPIs affecting customer service. The fact such a round table was taking place affirms how the industry is focusing on the end-user. “Before you would never hear of this,” she says. “KPIs were always around productivity, travel cost, overtime; it was always cost.”
But what about those enablers such as AI, IoT or specifically Augmented Reality (AR)? What role does AR play in the new customer focus? “Everyone talks about AR. But why are they using it?” She asks, pausing slightly. “It’s for the remote diagnostics which enables a better first-time fix. A first-time fix rate is the metric that combines efficiency, productivity with customer experience.”
In order to achieve customer focus KPIs, Karni tells me, smaller trends such as employee wellbeing are taking on a greater significance. “There is a very clear correlation between employee engagement and customer satisfaction,” she
says. “When an employer is happy with his or her job then he or she will deliver excellent service. Now we are seeing different investments around making your employees happier. There is a very clear correlation between happy and engaged employees with customer satisfaction.”
This, refreshingly, ties in with a general shift in occupational wellbeing and a positive approach to mental health in general. From a business point of view, work-related stress affects staff absenteeism; in turn affecting productivity. One thread of wellbeing, prevalent in field service is the time an engineer might spend on the road. Tools around scheduling play an important part in employee engagement and buy-in. Some firms, Karni says are handing autonomy to their engineers to create their own timetable. “Some of our
customers like their technicians to make more decisions by themselves.” The increase in wellbeing can be loosely attributed to the flexible nature of the modern workforce.
“When an employer is happy with his or her job then he or she will deliver excellent service..."
Today, freelancers choose their workdays and hours to fit their lifestyle. The typical nine-to-five day still exists but the gig
economy – so-called as each piece of work being akin to a ‘gig’ - represents another shift in efficiency and cost. Karni suggests large contractors, with their large overheads, can fail to deliver the required standard of customer service, paving the way for freelancers. “This is where the workforce trend is to have more freelancers, the uber-like model, offering a better service but it must be connected, ultimately, to a better customer service.”
So, if customer focus is the new trends in field service what technology revolution does Karni see to compliment it? Firstly, she is keen to re-label the progress. “I think the next evolution – and it is an evolution, not a revolution – is more focused around prediction,” she affirms. “Having prediction within the service delivery life cycle changes a lot of things because it makes for more
accuracy and real-time decision making.
“Previously, we still made decisions, many decisions. Then we got mobile so were able to streamline the process. Then we had more optimisation and got artificial intelligence to improve productivity and efficiency. Now we are taking it to the next level and saying, ‘Okay, how can I predict better to ensure I make faster, smarter decisions on the day of service, on the minute of service?’”
Despite the influx of new disruptive technologies – such as AR – Karni is aware that the main beneficiary has to be the end-user, the customer. “Everyone talks about the current trend in field service, which is AR. But if you ask ‘why are we using this remote technology’, it is ultimately to create a better first-time fix. A first-time fix rate is the metric that combines efficiency and productivity with customer experience. “You’re not adopting something for the sake of the technology. You need to have a very strong business case with savings. This is what is unique about field service management applications is that it needs to find the balance between time and cost savings while creating better customer service. If it was only a one-way thing it would not be such a valuable asset,” she says.
I push Karni on the role of the asset: the wind turbine, the air conditioning unit, the washing machine. When does it become more important than the engineer? “There is no replacement for the human touch,” she pauses again. “There is, however, a replacement for the process.
“If you can fix something remotely and it’s not a problem and it will smoothly recover, then I don’t see why the customer wouldn’t be happy because the washing machine is fixed. Having said that, if you fix something sophisticated and there is a break-down, I believe there is no replacement for human experience.”
Finally, as waiters circle impatiently around us to prepare the table for the next coffee break, I ask Karni, who has been with Click Software over ten years, why she enjoys working in the field service sector. “As I said, everyone talks about machine learning and AR but,” she says. “But when it comes to field service it’s real. It’s actual technology that serves a use-case and a business value.”
She finishes her cappuccino. “We make a difference I think, and this is what I like about what I do.”
The ability of Field Service Organizations (FSOs) to deliver an optimal customer experience depends in a large part to their ability to effectively schedule their Field Service Engineers (FSEs).Scheduling of Field Service Engineers if a critical success factor in optimizing customer experience. Ultimately, this requires FSO to make the highest and best use of resources to obtain the highest and best outcome for themselves and their customers. In other words, outcomes that result in high first-time fix rate, customer satisfaction ratings, and profitability for the FSO.
Smaller businesses using five or fewer technicians may be able to manage scheduling effectively enough to operate a successful business. However, an increase in the number of employees, the number of customers, or the number of service requests can quickly disrupt the flow of business. With each new addition, the complexity of scheduling grows exponentially. This is because each addition brings a host of related attributes. For example, a new technician means identifying a new skill set, adding another vehicle, identifying a different route, stocking more parts, and redistributing servicecalls. Multiply times two - or twenty and a logistical nightmare quickly ensues.
At issue, end-customers increasingly expect a high level or responsiveness example, one that provides them with visibility into their FSE’s route and schedule, and one that provides a high level of certainty of when their FSE will arrive onsite. Using manual scheduling or basic dispatch software will not result in this outcome. It is virtually impossible to remain competitive in the field services environment using manual scheduling and spreadsheets, which can cost mangers 20% of their workday. Further, incorporating even a single change, such as adjusting for a driver who calls out, can have a domino effect on the overall schedule, wasting additional time by the scheduler and downtime as other technicians wait for reassignment.
Dynamic Scheduling software offers a host of benefits and there are several factors which should be considered when evaluating scheduling software options. Some core functions include resource scheduling, dispatching, route planning, work order management, SLA compliance tracking, parts inventory management, forecasting, integration with other systems, and reporting just to name a few.
The table below shows which outcomes are typical for organizations that use dynamic scheduling applications:
|REDUCTION IN:||INCREASE IN:|
|Labor costs||Procedural consistency|
|Scheduling/re-scheduling costs||Customer satisfaction|
|Fuel costs||Availability of resource usage reports|
|Inventory costs for parts||First-time fix (FTF).
SLA Compliance/Onsite response time
While the most common reason for not replacing an existing field service management system is cost, efficiencies gained from a technology-based system often negate that argument. Further, companies using dynamic scheduling can gain a 20% - 25% improvement in operating efficiency, field service productivity, and utilization. Other reasons to consider a change are opportunities for growth, more accurate and reliable data, flexible and scalable scheduling, and positive impact on KPIs.
With a seemingly infinite choice of features, identifying a workforce and scheduling management platform that is cost-effective and offers what you need without unnecessary add-ons that don’t add value can be a challenge. Most systems offer a customizable range of features and benefits appropriate to your industry, size, and business objectives.
A benchmark survey by Blumberg Advisory Group indicates that advanced tools like Dynamic Scheduling software allows companies to perform more efficiently and effectively by optimizing scheduling and associated functions. Companies that use these tools also are more likely to have an SLA compliance rate of 90% or higher. Field service workers scheduled through an automated process are also more likely to complete five or more calls per day, at a utilization rate of 85% or higher.
"It is virtually impossible to remain competitive in the environment using manual scheduling.."
In addition, companies that utilize advanced tools are more likely to be able to manage and schedule a higher volume of service events. For example, half (49%) of the companies surveyed that use advanced receive at least 500 service request calls per day, and about half of those companies (26%) receive 1,000 service calls per day.
They are also more likely to have a higher ratio of FSEs to schedulers than companies who do not use w technology. In summary, Dynamic scheduling software offers clear advantages to field service organizations regardless of the industry, services, revenues, or number of field service workers.
Automated technologies provide enhanced functions beyond the capabilities of the most adept schedulers and other manual approaches. Being able to get the best qualified FSE to the customer site at the right time, relies not only on identifying a knowledgeable technician and the necessary parts but ensuring they get to the customer site within the timeframe promised. Using a scheduling software system can make this happen while simultaneously adjusting the calls, routes, and ETA’s of other field service workers to maintain responsiveness and avoid jeopardizing schedules.
The business intelligence collected and stored in these systems allows FSOsto make better decisions about what inventory and tools to carry, equipment to be repaired or replaced, routes that should be developed or changed, and other factors that influence the bottom line.
More and more field services organizations recognize this need and adopting dynamic scheduling platforms, leaving businesses that do not provide these increasingly expected and desired services struggling to compete.
You can download the whitepaper, Creating an Uber-like Service Experience: Benchmarks and Best Practices in Field Service Scheduling, here.
The future of field service will see location based services play a dominant role as autonomous vehicles take to the road says Chris Ruff CEO at Location-based technology firm Glympse, who is the latest guest on The Field Service Podcast.
The future of field service will see location based services play a dominant role as autonomous vehicles take to the road says Chris Ruff CEO at Location-based technology firm Glympse, who is the latest guest on The Field Service Podcast.
The future of field service will see location based services play a dominant role as autonomous vehicles take to the road...In this episode of the Field Service Podcast, fieldservicenews.com Deputy Editor Mark Glover sits down to talk with Chris Ruff, CEO at Glympse, about why he sees autonomous vehicles as playing a significant role in the future of field service delivery and how all of this needs to be underpinned by robust and efficient location based services focused technology.
In a recent blog titled You Need a New Digital Transformation Playbook, published by IDC, author Meredith Whalen reveals that based on a recent study of digital leaders, 46 percent are what IDC refers to as “digitally determined” while 54% are what IDC calls “digitally distraught.”
It doesn’t surprise me that such a large percentage of organisations fall into the “distraught” category – true digital transformation is a massive undertaking that can prove daunting and frustrating at times. In an effort to alleviate some of the headaches that can come along with such a major initiative, I’m going to share four common missteps I see organisations make related to digital transformation:
#1: Overlooking the Cultural Implications of Digital Transformation
If you think of digital transformation as strictly a technology initiative, you are starting off on the wrong foot. Digital transformation requires just as much cultural change as it does technology use, yet this piece of the puzzle is commonly overlooked for a variety of reasons – leaders assume employees will just “get it,” carving out time for cultural change management seems to slow down progress, or companies just aren’t sure how to tackle such a cultural shift.
I assure you, making an effort to get the cultural part of digital transformation right will pay dividends. I’ve heard countless tales of efforts gone wrong because the employee wasn’t bought in on the concept or properly trained on the tool introduced.
Key areas to focus on are to communicate clearly and regularly with all employees on the need and objectives for your transformation – implement a feedback loop with your employees and listen to what they have to say. Be selective about the technology you adopt as part of your effort – if the tool doesn’t meet the needs of your workforce or
is difficult to use, adoption will suffer. Investing in tools that do what they say they will and deliver an experience your employees actually value will build their trust in your digital transformation efforts. Finally, continually monitor adoption and “take the temperature” of your employees to course correct your efforts as needed.
"Making an effort to get the cultural part of digital transformation right will pay dividends..."
#2: Failing to Set a Solid Digital Transformation Foundation
It’s all too easy to become enamored by some of the ultra-cool facets of digital transformation and gloss over some of the basics. But for true digital transformation to be successful, you have to walk before you run.
You have to ensure you’ve laid a solid foundation of basics from which to build your digital repertoire. While not as sexy as AR and AI, effective and efficient communication, bulletproof scheduling and routing, and solid work order management are examples of more basic technology that simply has to be mastered before being built upon.
As you evaluate your foundation, think about the past — what do you have in place already that is working well; the present — what you want to accomplish in the near term; and the future — what you want your digital portfolio to look like five years from now. This will help you visualise the evolution of how you build on what you have to get where you want to be, or will help you to identify changes you need to make to your current systems before building upon them.
#3: Defining YOUR Desired Digital Transformation State
To achieve digital transformation success, you MUST realise that your desired end state will be unique. I’ve seen organisations get off track because they see what ABC Company is doing and make every effort to replicate their success, rather than tailoring the approach to their own business. It’s fine to look around you for inspiration but staying in your own lane is critical to your success.
Start by defining your business goals, by visualising what YOUR desired digital transformation state looks like (and of course agreeing upon this vision organisation-wide). Each businesses’ end goal is going to be individualised, as well the approach for getting there – no two companies can follow the exact same path.
Once you have your goals set and vision articulated, focus then on only the technologies that will get you there – don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by the new, shiny thing that will ultimately bring no value to your business but looks really cool. Stay focused and measure your progress to that desired state.
#4: Racing to Reach The “End Goal” of Digital Transformation
I’m here to break it to you: you’ll never reach the end of your digital transformation efforts. The “end goal” is a myth; it doesn’t exist. The reality of digital transformation in the technology age is that it will keep going, and going, and going.
This means you have to work to perfect the art of ongoing cultural adaptation, business goal setting, and technology adoption – because you’ll be adding on to and tweaking your digital transformation efforts from now until the end of time.
Don’t let this overwhelm you – the foundation you are setting will equip your entire organisation to make future adjustments and additions far more seamlessly.
While there is no true state of completion, the race is on to make progress and remain competitive.
Sarah Nicastro is Director of Service Management Business Development at IFS.