ARCHIVE FOR THE ‘management’ CATEGORY
Achieving a high first-time fix rate and completing service visits in a timely manner represents the Holy Grail for many Field Service Organizations (FSOs). Unfortunately, many FSOs face stumbling blocks to achieving this outcome. At issue, their technicians may lack the knowledge required to effectively resolve service issues in a timely manner.
In many cases, the information exists within the organization but it is difficult for technicians to find or access it in a timely manner. As a result, the customer may experience longer downtime while the FSO experiences higher operating costs associated with lost productivity, longer time spent on site, and increased calls to the Technical Support by the Field Service team.
This status quo may exist for several reasons. First, knowledge is maintained in disparate and disconnected databases. For example, service knowledge may exist in manuals, knowledge, articles, service bulletins, schematics, support tickets, or Knowledge Management Systems. Second, the information sources may differ in complexity, format, maturity or even language. Some of these sources may be analog (i.e., paper-based) while others might be digital/ online. Regardless, it becomes a time consuming and cumbersome task for technicians to find this information.
Another challenge to knowledge management that some FSOs face is that there is often no system of record or audit trail to capture the steps technicians followed or the knowledge sources they relied on to solve the problem. Documenting this information could save a lot of time next time a different technician encounters the same problem. FSOs have attempted to solve these problems through one or more the following technologies:
Many CRM/ERP applications include feature functionality for storing and retrieving repair documentation based on keyword search. Others include the ability to search for a possible solution to a problem based on the description of the symptoms. Unfortunately, CRM/ERP knowledge solutions are typically designed for a Telephone Technical Support environment. As a result, they are not necessarily mobile friendly.
Knowledge Management Solutions (KMS)
For example, CaseBased Reasoning (CBR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, or Neural Networks. These solutions provide a more precise diagnosis and accurate solution to the problem at hand then CRM/ERP solutions. However, they can be very costly and time consuming to implement particularly if the FSOs is supporting an extremely large install base of equipment with a long service tail.
• Augmented Reality (AR)
This technology is gaining widespread appeal as a preferred technology for facilitating an improved remote support experience between experts and field service engineers (FSEs)/ customers. It is of course much more economical to deploy than KMS solutions listed above. The consensus among industry participants is that AR is best suited for situations where the field engineer is working on something for the first time and/or has exhausted other attempts at solving the problem.
While they are many great Knowledge tools available to FSOs, each application has its limitations. Unfortunately, no single technology is a panacea for all issues. A more effective alternative is to implement a unified knowledge platform that leverages investments in legacy Knowledge assets (e.g., service bulletins, knowledge articles, etc.) while permitting the addition of advanced functionality such as AR, IoT data, AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics.
Characteristics of the optimal solution include:
• A unified platform that connects disparate systems and knowledge bases through a single sign-on;
• Ability to deliver all service content including service manuals, service bulletins, knowledge articles, parts catalogues, and training videos on any mobile device;
• Allow Google-like search against fully indexed content from all sources for faster and more accurate results;
• Filter relevant answers based on the product failed component, symptom, or failure description;
• Easily author and publish content in real-time to deliver the most up-todate and accurate information;
• Capture technician feedback to continuously improve the content and search results;
• Multilanguage support capabilities including real-time text transaction;
• Integration into enterprise systems (e..g, CRM/ERP) and other knowledge tools;
• Reporting and analytics.
Electrolux, a leading global appliance manufacturer, provides a great example of a company that was able to overcome knowledge challenges by implementing a unified knowledge management platform. The company’s legacy system was outdated, not searchable, or mobile friendly.
Service information was located inside Electrolux’s firewall and there was no offline functionality. Service Technicians spent an inordinate amount of time retrieving information. They would often contact the Electrolux Technical Support Line for help, placing an increased burden on the Support Line personnel.
By implementing a solution similar to the one described above from Mize, Inc., Electrolux is now able to provide its 3,000+ service providers with real-time mobile access to knowledge documents and videos. To date, over 2,000+ documents have been published by Electrolux, reducing the number of interface points for service providers and dealers to access information.
This enhanced capability has reduced both the number of calls to the Technical Support Line and the length of hold times that Technicians experience.
Not only that, Electrolux is able to reduce their support costs. In addition, technicians are more productive as measured by shorter repair times and higher first-time fix rates all of which have a dramatic improvement on Customer Experience.
MIchael Blumberg is Founder of Field Service Insights and CMO of Mize.
We see increasing attention for the way to manage and lead organisations and teams and to build confidence to innovate and change in a rapidly changing world. The widespread fear to fail has a paralysing effect which hinders sustainable change, innovation and improvements.
To reduce this fear to fail, the idea has emerged that it is okay to fail:
• We should ‘Fail fast, learn fast’;
• ‘Failure is an option’;
• We should organise ‘Failure celebration nights’.
However, in practice I see many people finding it difficult to really embrace these concepts wholeheartedly. In the end, failure is a failure, it doesn’t feel right and by nature is something you try to avoid. It will not feel okay fail really, whatever we say about failure and how much we celebrate failures.
In some cultures, this is stronger than others. Besides that, most industries and companies experience increasing pressure on performance. So, should we take it easy when performance is behind expectation?
I fully agree with the point that many companies suffer from the paralysing effect of the fear to fail. However, I am afraid we are missing the point and do not get the right balance between accountability on the one hand and confidence to perform, learn, explore and change on the other hand.
Learning From Young Ambitious Athletes
I have the pleasure of being involved in coaching young and ambitious judokas who have a dream of participating at the Olympics some time. My sons are pretty fanatic judokas as well. They train hard - five evenings per week - and play three tournaments per month. Losing a match often happens very intensively: you’re on your own, and within a few minutes or even seconds you are violently thrown on your back – game over! If you’re not the top of the league (yet), you lose most of the matches.
How to stay motivated? How to keep on learning and performing? How to feel proud of what you are doing and accomplishing?
I’d like to share three things around failure and success, which I have seen working very well for these youngsters as well as for the leading and dynamic manufacturers which are ahead of the game during today’s rapid transitions and change.
Focus On The Right Actions To Get Results, Not The Results Themselves
Instead of focussing on winning the match, the most talented athletes focus on their task, doing the right things to have the best chances to win the match. They evaluate how well they performed their task and how they could do better. The end-result (winning or losing the match) is hardly indicative. There are so many other factors which influence the end-result. Their best match could be the one they lost, not the one they won.
In practice, many businesses focus too much on the results alone when managing their teams. Everything is okay as long as the results are okay. However, when they miss a deal, lose a client, or when a new service-product does not sell well, there is a problem
which has to be fixed ‘yesterday’. It doesn’t matter how - only the results count!
On the other hand, successful teams and individuals focus on building strong capabilities and competencies. They feel accountable for execution and results. Whenever either results or execution are below expectations, they review, find the root causes, try other approaches and learn. This will bring the best, sustainable results.
This is success! Not doing this – on the other hand - is the failing. So, failure should not be an option!
"Many businesses focus too much on the results alone..."
Articulate The Expected Outcome Of Learning And Experiments
I have seen how much more pleasure, engagement, learning and the results judokas get when they are very targeted in their learning and experiments. The experience the effects on intermediate objectives which are leading indicators for the overall result – winning more matches. For example, they will focus an entire tournament on dominating their opponents, force them to move and then experience how much more they are in control and get more opportunities to make a throw.
Too often, we see teams trying something new without being explicit about the expected effect and about how to ‘measure’ the impact. They tend to relate this impact to the end-result only. This reduces their ability to evaluate and validate their actions properly. They abandon good ideas too quickly because of the lack of performance improvement on the short term and move on to try something else. As a result, they learn slow and sometimes even follow unproductive paths.
However, successful teams articulate the learning objective, the expected impact and outcome of their initiatives and experiments very well. Whether it is about improving performance, finding new ways of working or developing a new service or business model, they have:
• A proper root-cause analysis;
• Clarity on critical assumptions which need to be valid for success;
• Formulated the critical questions;
• Designed their experiments to validate the critical assumptions and answer their key questions;
• Defined how to measure the results and validate their hypothesis.
Our Experiment-Learning-Card can help better articulate your experiments.
As a result, they can truly say that any answer or result is a good one and brings them further. A negative outcome is not a matter of failing at all. However, not following these kind practices is the failing. Failure should not be an option!
Like Edison said: “I did not fail, I only discovery 10.000 ways that don’t work.” Focus on learning from success and progress
Many young athletes with aspirations to get to the top – and ultimately will make it – are the winners at the moment. However, they have a mindset, attitude and practice to have a steep learning curve. That motivates and is the best predictor for good results.
Many of us often forget that we learn more successes and progress towards an aspiration than from failures themselves. Failures can increase a level of threat, stress and adrenaline, which can improve performance in a typical flight-or-fight situation. The effect is often short term and limits openness, creativity and collaboration. Which is not really a good situation for innovation and learning.
Our hormone-systems (dopamine, endorphin, oxytocin and more) are built around feeling rewarded and connected when achieving something (together), making progress and getting closer to the goals and feeling connected with
Every step we get closer to the desired result will motivate us more to be persistent and find ways to make the next step.
• Learning ≠ Failing and Failing ≠ Learning;
• Focus on actions and tasks for results;
• Focus on building capabilities for results;
• Celebrate progress and (small) successes;
• Specify objectives of learning, experiments and discovery as explicit as possible;
• Use our Experiment-Learning-Card to better articulate your experiments.
Jan van Veen is Founder and Managing Director at moreMomentum.
Whether your present customer service performance is good, bad, or anything in-between, one thing is certain - it can be made better! Even the best customer service or technical support personnel will admit that they have some shortcomings in certain areas, and that there could, in most cases, be some improvement made. And if you can see it yourself, you can rest assured that your customers see it as well!
Some companies monitor their employees’ performance on an ongoing basis through the use of customer satisfaction surveys and/or field engineer skills assessments and performance evaluations. However, regardless of whether your company conducts these types of studies, it will always be your responsibility to measure your own (and your organisation’s) performance, and determine how you may be able to improve it over time.
There are some specific guidelines that you can follow, and we suggest that you use the following to conduct a self-assessment (or organisation-wide assessment) of your current customer service performance levels:
Select the areas where you believe you can attain the quickest improvement - both on the basis of your own evaluation, as well as through the eyes of your customers. Be aware that you and your customers may not always agree on which areas of your performance need to be fixed first, or which will require the greatest attention. Still, it will be helpful to look
at it from both perspectives as you prepare a “list” of the specific areas that you will need to improve.
Elect to do something about improving the areas you have identified on your list. This is not the time to go into “denial” if either your company’s performance appraisals - or your customers - are telling you otherwise. Remember, there are no “perfect” service technicians out in the marketplace; everybody makes mistakes, everybody has some problems that need to be worked out, and everybody can stand to benefit from some improvement. But, no improvement can ever be made if you do not first identify what it is, and; second, elect to do something about it.
Leave behind any of the old conventions you used in the past if they are no longer applicable. If you have been in your job position long enough, you have probably seen how some of the things that used to work every time only work some of the time today; things that used to work occasionally don’t work at all anymore; and things that only used to work “once in a blue moon”, now, don’t even make sense! For example, in the past, it was easy to tell a customer, “Sorry I didn’t get back to you any sooner - I only just got your message late this afternoon after the close of the business day.” This excuse used to work; however, with voice mails, texts, e-mails, and cell phones, this is no longer an excuse in the customer’s eyes - even when it really is! On the other hand, with new conventions that did not even exist 15 or 20 years (i.e., wireless communications, texts, etc.), you have new opportunities to improve your customer service performance - but, again, only if you use them!
Follow the guidance provided to you by company management, your Human Resources department, and any of the various training programs you have been able to participate in over the course of your career. Listen to constructive criticism from those who are in a position to provide it; and take it to heart when you conduct your own self-assessment. Remember, it will be in the best interests of both the company and its customers for your customer service capabilities to improve. However, it will be difficult to improve your performance entirely in a “vacuum”, and that is why you will need to continually follow the leads that are often provided by these key internal and external influences. Assume that everything you do can be improved. You know it; your management knows it; and your customers know it. This does not necessarily reflect a shortcoming in your performance capabilities; all it means is that whatever you are doing, you can do it better.
Sometimes this requires further education and training; sometimes it requires simply fine-tuning what you have already been doing; and sometimes it simply means doing some things better, faster, or “cleaner”. Albert Einstein always felt that if he were “smarter”, he could have gone well beyond the formulation of his theory of relativity. Nobody believes Einstein was a slacker when it came to physics - he just felt he could do better. And so should you!
Strive to make the necessary adjustments for improving your customer service performance capabilities. Some of these adjustments may be major (i.e., new training, re-training, taking additional courses or classes, etc.); some may be relatively minor (i.e., taking more notes or documenting what you do on a daily basis better, following up by telephone more often than you have historically, etc.); and some may just work themselves out as a result of your ongoing experiences with customers.
But, whatever the case, you need to understand that the way you do things today will not necessarily be the way you do things tomorrow; that some processes will change, and some will be replaced by new processes. With this in mind, you will always need to be aware of the adjustments that will be required, and equally prepared to adapt them into your daily, weekly, and ongoing service performance routines.
Spend some time doing each of these self-assessment tasks. As a general rule of thumb, people won’t tell you that you are doing something wrong until you’ve done it wrong at least two or three times - or more! Sometimes they won’t tell you you’ve been doing something wrong until you’ve done it dozens of times! You cannot always rely on others to tell you when your performance is “off”.
Therefore, by routinely giving yourself (and your organisation) a self-assessment appraisal - nothing too formal; just something that can keep you in check over time - you will not need to depend on others to tell you when you are going wrong, because you will already know it. Just as it is advisable to do prescribed medical self-checks at home so you can diagnose diseases before they can do you great harm, it is just as important to do these customer service-focused self-checks at work before poor performance harms your reputation among your company’s customers.
Ease into a comfortable process that allows you to review, evaluate, reevaluate, and adjust your customer service performance over time, as well as allow you to keep tabs on how well - or not well - you are performing at any given moment.
The reason we emphasise the word “ease” is because if the steps you take to improve your customer service performance are not “easy”, then you are not likely to do them - or at least do them well. Find a process that allows you to monitor your own performance over time, change the way you are doing some things, and introduce new ways of doing things better, thereby allowing you to “play” with the way you conduct your customer service activities until you can find a better way of doing so.
See how well the process works and adjust, re-engineer, or “tweak” it as often as necessary until it virtually runs all by itself. You will find yourself constantly changing things, adding things, or just doing things differently as you learn more and more about what your customers want and expect from you, and the two of you - your customers and yourself - will likely end up working together toward a common goal of improved customer service. From time to time, ask your customers how well you are doing, and where there may be areas that you could be doing better.
Believe me, they will tell you! Also, from time to time, tell your customers what new things you have learned, what customer service training courses you have taken, or what other ways you have learned on how to improve the levels of service and support you are able to provide to them. They will want to know, and these joint interactions may ultimately make it easier for them to see - and acknowledge - how your performance has actually improved over time. The customer service process is an interactive one, and one where you may easily obtain input and feedback from a variety of sources; however, it will be up to you to find them - and use them.
Start the process all over again. And again. And again. In fact, whenever you think that the process is completed, that will probably be a good time to start it all over again.
The self-assessment process, if done properly, will be a continuous one that keeps you (and your organisation) current with your customers’ needs, and provides you with the underlying tools to ensure that you can continually strive to improve the way in which you are able to support your customers.
The good news is that you will never have to do it all alone; your customers will always serve as a source of checks and balances to ensure that you are focusing in the right areas; and your company management will continually be able to provide you with opportunities for improving your own customer service skills - and you should always take advantage of them.
But most importantly, by dealing with your customers’ needs on a daily basis, you will never allow yourself to become “inadequate” - or even just “dusty” - in your ability to support customers, and that is why the self-assessment process you develop will work for you.
By employing the use of these types of self-assessments on an ongoing basis, you will always know where you are meeting your performance targets, where you are not, where you need improvement, and where you have problems. Then, based on the results, it will be up to you and your management team to determine exactly how to fix the things that need to be fixed, and resolve any problems that have been identified.
Is your organization’s field service management up to the mark? What if you could find a way to optimize operations so that you simultaneously improve your company’s indicators and customer satisfaction ratings?
Is your organization’s field service management up to the mark? What if you could find a way to optimize operations so that you simultaneously improve your company’s indicators and customer satisfaction ratings?
Comarch’s new e-book goes much further than that, highlighting 50 areas to be optimized in field service delivery. What’s more, it’s free to download now – one click and you can begin reading in moments.
The challenges facing companies operating on today’s field service management market demand a new approach to delivery. Environments are changing quickly, customers expect rapid issue resolution, and workforces must be increasingly agile and connected. The only realistic way to face these challenges is through automation, made possible with a comprehensive, advanced and highly customizable product.. As in every business operation, knowledge is the route to success. That’s why Comarch has produced the e-book, entitled “50 Ways to Automate Field Service Delivery”, to put the information that you need directly into your hands.
This 23-page guide prepared by field service management experts breaks down areas in which you can start to make improvements, regardless of how big or small your organization is, and no matter whether you are operating globally or on a local market. Download your copy for inspiration about the best ways to unlock the service automation potential in your company in areas such as resource management, service request management, planning and scheduling, business management, work order execution, communication and asset management.
While it may seem at first glance that 50 areas to be optimized in field service delivery is a lot to take in, the paper has made it more digestible by breaking the e-book down into the sections outlined above. The result is a handy, go-to guide that will provide food for thought about immediate and long-term strategic steps you can take; in short, you can start to maximize the benefits of your reading right away.
If you’re still not convinced that your field service management processes need automation and optimization, don’t just take our word for it. Our e-book includes data showing how one international client smashed SLA targets following FSM implementation. To find out how they did it, and even join them, download your free copy of “50 Ways to Automate Field Service Delivery” now.
Digital devices have over the years become more portable. For service technicians this improvement in usability has undoubtedly improved the way in which they work. However, the industry’s swift adoption of these devices has perhaps been too rapid, meaning health and safety guidance is yet to catch-up with the potential ergonomic risks that smartphone and tablet use carries.
I’ve written articles in these pages (and in our recent edition of The Handy Little Book) on health and safety, referencing the potential impact on a lone worker’s wellbeing, given that their work is carried out mostly in isolation. However, another area of the broad H&S spectrum that lone workers or field service engineers are vulnerable too is musculo-skeletal dis-orders (MSDs).
Defined by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as “any injury, damage or dis-order of the joints or other tissues in the upper/lower limbs or the back", MSDs, according to a study carried out by HSE for the period 2017/2018, shows 469,000 workers are suffering with cases of work-related MSDs, which includes long and short-term conditions. The knock-on result on productivity is 6.6 million working days lost as a result of the condition, the same research reveals.
The study does not uncover the extent to which lone or mobile workers suffer, although the top three industries where workers are most affected include fishing, forestry, agriculture (grouped together), construction and then transportation and storage (also grouped) will arguably include a section of field-based lone workers. The condition is also common for office-based workers who are vulnerable to neck or back issues, brought on by incorrect posture while using computer equipment at a desk.
It shouldn’t be ignored however, that while field service engineers are desk-free, incorrect ergonomic use of tablets and phones – the tool of the trade for most lone workers – carries its own ergonomic risk.
But with rugged tablet and laptop devices now a ubiquitous part of an engineer’s kit why hasn’t there been more attention on their dangers? It’s useful to look more generally at society’s relationship with smartphones and tablets, which are now commonplace in people’s lives.
It is estimated that five billion people in the world own a mobile device, of which, half of these are smartphones. Indeed, the rate at which we’ve adopted them is staggering which is primarily down to their relative ease of use and in-turn part of the reason why they have found their way into engineers and technicians hands who require rugged devices that perform but also offer a practicality. However, it’s this natural uptake both in public and the workplace that, according to one expert, is enabling risks around their ergonomic use to go unnoticed.
Ed Milnes is Founder and Director of Guildford Ergonomics a consultancy firm in the UK that specialises in ergonomics and human factors in the workplace and has contributed guidance and research into the risks of smartphone and tablet use.
“I think there’s a psychological element to it,” he tells me over Skype. “It’s as if it hasn’t come onto people’s radars because we use these devices so much in our everyday lives anyway. We accept them as something that – because they’re always around – they must be safe that there can’t be any inherent risks with them. When you use them day in and day out, almost every day, it does become more of an issue.”
"It is estimated that five billion people in the world own a mobile device..."
MSD risks are linked to exposure and how long how and how often is spent on activities. In the case of service engineers this does oscilate in line with the complexity and length of a job but as technology advances – with AR soon to play a major role – then engineers will be looking at their tablets and then moving their vision and neck towards the asset and then back to the tablet.
It will, inevitably, place stress on the back and shoulder and other areas.
However, it’s the neck region, Ed tells me, that is most vulnerable to pain when using these types of devices. “The one area that does stand out, where we’re clear that there is an issue is in the neck area and the development of neck pain,” he says. “This is the absolute number one area when it comes to these devices.”
He acknowledges though, given the nature of lone workers, it is difficult to collaborate and collect insightful data. “A lot of the data on discomfort is basically self-reported data, so it’s very subjective. For example, how long people are using the devices for and how often they’re using them. It’s based on people estimating how long they’ve spent on them and very often you get people underestimating.”
Research ambiguity can in part be attributed to the lack of guidance that exists on the topic. HSE who inform legislation around health and safety in the UK, seem to have been caught napping when it comes to specific guidance on smartphone and tablet use. Their L26 guidance document, which advises on Display Screen Equipment was published in 1992 and updated in 1998 but fails to incorporate the mobility trend. “It [the L26] did its best to anticipate the development of things,” Ed sympathises, “but there is no official formal kind of guidance. It’s a real difficulty because you not only have that lack of regulatory clout behind doing anything. But it’s also about the physical aspect. People by the very nature of the work they are doing, are out and about, so they’re not under anyone’s eye.”
Back then to those office workers who receive regular risk-assessments around their display screen equipment (computer, chair etc.). For their mobile colleagues it’s perhaps unreasonable to expect a health and safety manager to attend each engineer’s call-out to ensure they are using a tablet correctly.
Ed does suggest however that companies and management need to incorporate more of a broad-based assessment and take more of an active role in the process, particularly around training, acknowledging the type of work they conduct. “It’s also about the physical aspect,” he explains. “People by the very nature of the work they are doing, are out and about, so they’re not under anyone’s eye. There has to be an understanding on the part of the company, including the health and safety manager who can potentially envisage the workers are going to face and put controls in place; putting devices in place that they can refer to to help them use their own mobile devices more safely.”
“The big thing really is training,” he continues, “which I know is right down the bottom of the hierarchy of control, but ultimately, it’s what you’re left with when everything else doesn’t really stack up as a solution.”
As devices continue to evolve more emphasis will need to be placed on their correct handling. A solution is undoubtedly required which should be driven by concrete guidance.
For now though, employers need to recognise the ergonomic risks associated with the hardware as continued incorrect use could spell greater difficulties for workers’ health later on.
It’s been an eventful 12 months for ServiceMax. In April, Scott Berg relinquished his CEO position making way for IPC System’s Neil Barua. In December, parent company General Electric sold their majority stake (held since 2017) followed by SeviceMax’s own acquisition of real time communications outfit Zinc.
It all meant that the Maximize Bologna, an event consisting of a day of presentations from company figures and client case studies - and the first of four events in 2019 taking in London, Chicago and Tokyo - would represent something of a re-set for ServiceMax, an opportunity perhaps to usher in a new era.
With all this in mind, these are the five key threads I picked-up while in Italy:
1. Service Execution Management
Lubor Ptacek, the company’s SVP of Product and Solution Marketing, gave the first major presentation of the day, and following a brief run-through the firm’s 19-year history including their start-up origins to the role GE played in their development, he forecast where the sector is headed, aligning changes in the industry to ServiceMax’s new software category Service Execution Management, a new type of approach that includes field service and asset service management respectively.
2. Platform Is Now Managing 200 Million Assets
In the same presentation, Ptacek revealed a significant landmark in the firm’s growth, telling delegates that ServiceMax’s cloud-based platform is currently managing 200,000,000 assets. It’s an extraordinary statistic affirming the company’s core-service goals are statistically being met.
3. Real-Time Communication Will Play A Key Role
The firm’s integration of Zinc’s mobile-based app as a module into its own software platform signals their commitment to real-time communication in the service journey. Text, voice, video, handsfree, push-to-talk and broadcast features will all be possible on the mobile-first solution which encourages interaction across groups to share issues and offer knowledge. “The perfect combination of Zinc’s modern, real-time communication with ServiceMax’s cutting edge and comprehensive suite will be unparalleled in the market,” Zinc President, Stacey Epstein said at the time of the acquisition affirming the strategy.
4. Automation And Anxiety
“Competencies are by far the main obstacle according to companies undertaking a path to industry 4.0,” Nicola Saccani, Associate Professor at Brescia University told audience members during his presentation. Professor Saccani, a specialist in service and digital transformation, suggested that employers are struggling to keep up with the pace of which technology is progressing. This, along with the growing competency gap created from retiring engineers and new blood coming in, presents one of the biggest challenges to the sector.
5. An Excellent Keynote
Maximise events always draw a special keynote speaker and this year was no exception with Fausto Gressini, the world’s most successful MOTO GP and MOTO GP manager in superbike history sharing his thoughts on the evolution of his sport.
Superbikes, Gressini explained, have become data sponges.
They absorb reams of information from its tyres and engines, from its brakes and exhaust; an endless spout of data that needs to be interpreted to the team’s advantage. Furthermore, the rider, as well as navigating bends at a hair raising 140mph, is expected to understand the information coming through and relay any trends back to his mechanics.
It was an excellent keynote and entirely relevant. On the surface a field engineer and superbike rider may not have a huge amount in common but when it comes to data collecting and refining there is a definitive link. It was a fascinating session and one that delegates appreciated and could genuinely use in their own processes going forward.
A Final Thought
ServiceMax is in a transition period, albeit a positive one and the event nodded towards another interesting 12 months. We’ll be following their progress in these pages as well as fieldservicenews.com. Stay tuned!
The next ServiceMax Maximise event takes place 7 to 8 October in London. Click here for more information.
From Singapore to Sweden and from California to Coventry and everywhere in between - where there has been an opportunity to learn more about developments in field service we’ve been there. As such we’ve spoken to more field service management professionals and field service solution providers than anyone else on the planet and we think we’ve a pretty good idea of what the solutions the industry is most keen to see and the companies that have emerged to deliver the solutions that meet those needs.
So without further a do here is our list of three of the best new solution providers service the Field Service Sector who have really impressed us across the last 12 months...
You can’t go to a conference, not just in field service, but in any sector and avoid the term Uberization. Within our sector alone there has been endless articles, white papers and presentations on how to ‘Uberize’ field service. Half of these are just focused on what the hell Uberization means in the first place.
Well a good place to start is implementing Localz, which can act like a plug in to go on top of whichever flavour of FSM or scheduling tool you have and deliver a very cool end customer interface that allows them to see the ETA of your engineer on route across the last mile.
Localz is capable of a ton of other stuff all centred around ‘Last Mile Communications’ but this really is the Uberization of Field Service many have called out for and with an implementation of weeks it is little wonder the have already secured some very high profile clients like British utilities giant British Gas. Localz can be as lightweight as a plug-in and delivers exactly what the market has been asking for in a brilliant way.
When Google Glass first came around everyone in the field service sector rushed to embrace it. All the Field Service Management Software guys raced to get the first App developed for it and there were loads of reports of companies doing beta trials everywhere.
Why? Because Hands Free working in field service just makes a massive ton of sense.
However, ultimately as we know the idea was great the technology not so much. And whilst there have been some very good alternatives coming onto the market in the field service sector for a while now, nothing has dominated because the price point for entry is just so high companies are uncertain if they will see a quick ROI if any at all.
Enter Mira who have the potential to absolutely dominate in the sector through a simple, well thought out and smartly designed headset that takes advantage of the fact that pretty much every engineer has a phone in their pocket.
Their headset allows a phone to be placed into the frame, much like the gaming VR headsets such as Samsung’s Gear VR or Google’s Daydream but also gives the user visibility of the real world through a clear display.
The headset itself is exceptionally well thought out and you can see the team behind this product come from a design background - little touches like easily attaching to standardised hard hats for PPE compliance are testament to this. Similarly, as the headset is literally powered by your engineers existing smartphone there is no additional MDM concerns. A low cost, yet effective way to implement AR today.
Sticking with Augmented Reality, the last company on the list is Augmentir, who come with a very strong pedigree and a very neat approach to things.
At first glance, you may be forgiven for thinking that Augmentir are just another of the many Augmented Reality providers that have suddenly noticed the potential in the field service market. However, scratch the service and you will see that there is actually quite a lot more to them than that.
The first thing to pay attention to is who is behind this brand. It is the same team that previously developed ThingWorx, which was ultimately sold to PTC and became the backbone of their IoT solution and recognised as an industry leading solution. They were also responsible for Wonderware which statistically almost two-thirds of our readers from the manufacturing sector will already be using. So when these guys rend to turn their hands to something they have a pretty good track record of getting it right.
However, the really interesting thing about Augmentir is that they’ve gone far beyond the initial approach that many of their peers are offering when it comes to Augmented Reality (AR) and dived straight into an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered approach. In their own words they position themselves as ‘the first software platform built on Artificial Intelligence in the world of the augmented or connected worker.’
This could be a significant game changer in terms of AR being used in field service because it takes the technology beyond its initial use case and into something far, far more useful by leveraging another exciting technology in AI directly alongside it. In fact, as their VP Marketing Chris Kuntz told us they are “a 100% AI first company” who have just been smart enough to realise that AR is the interface that makes most sense for modern field service operations.
Frankie Guynes, Customer Success Manager of FieldAware outlines what field service organisations should consider before making the next move in their field service maturity planning...
Frankie Guynes, Customer Success Manager of FieldAware outlines what field service organisations should consider before making the next move in their field service maturity planning...
You might think I am biased, but I truly believe that my Customer Success team has the best job. Why? Because that job allows us to participate in our client’s growth and success. Each day, we guide our clients to overcome all types of obstacles, ensuring they are getting everything they need from their field service solution. In fact, identifying these obstacles together, and supporting the client through their own individual maturity model is what ultimately makes the difference in their organisations.
To explain better: we work with clients who are at various stages of field service maturity. We use a well-established model which outlines five stages. By identifying a client’s current stage, we can more succinctly consult with clients on process improvements and activities that will progress them through the stages of maturity.
The stages start at basic, reactive business operations moving to more transformative business operations. The obstacles faced by these businesses are different; varying from lack of standard processes, poor change management, or inadequate technology. We focus on overcoming these obstacles, and the role that can play to advance an organisation to a market leader in their industry.
Wherever an organisation is in their field service maturity, what matters most is for the organisation to: map out a quick-path-to-value in their current stage of maturity, visualise where they want to be in the maturity model, and execute on operational changes that move the organisation to that goal.
The Right Fit Software
My team is greeted by many organisations that are “getting by” with existing technologies and processes. These technologies and processes are typically born from gaps in business processes as their business continues to grow. When technologies are deployed from necessity, organisations find themselves unable to scale; hampered by these disparate processes.
Although there are many factors that are involved in an organisation’s maturity stage, it is without question that the effectiveness of their technology is highly impactful. With technology as a cornerstone to success for an organisation’s maturity, organisations need to evaluate software based on the current state and the goal state for their business.
"The effectiveness of their technology is highly impactful..."
This doesn’t mean to implement technology well beyond the organisation’s current field service maturity, making change management and success difficult to achieve. Rather, find software that stretches beyond the current maturity stage and that allows the organisation to evolve within the technology.
The Path to Success
A fundamental step to success is for field service leaders to invest time to map out the current state of their organisation, along with a clear vision of the goal state. They must ensure that the technology for which they invest can evolve and support the business through their own field service operational maturity.
Mapping out the current state of the organisation consists of three activities. First, carry out a need’s assessment with an honest evaluation of current inefficiencies in organisational processes. Then, evaluate how current technology could evolve to support organisational changes, and finally, take a critical look at the decision-making process of investing in new technology.
This exercise inevitably means greater knowledge of your business; its operations and areas that are preventing the organisation from increased growth or value. It is essential to identify,
document, and “well-circulate” the goal state of the organisation and the measurements that will be used by leaders to identify success in these metrics.
When tackling this, it can help by focusing on the business goal and work backwards from that point. For example, delivering added-value to customers is a priority for many organisations, so it is given that operational changes should support this, and technology developments should enable it. Therefore, starting with this end point will mean a greater understanding of how the business can deliver this customer value successfully and consistently and what that looks like.
Use What you Have
Mapping out your current state will also uncover if you are making the most of your current technology. An important part of my role is to ensure our team is helping clients get everything they need from the solution. This means all software releases are communicated and demonstrated through solutioning sessions. It means new users are fully trained, and advanced solutions on the platform are well implemented.
In the end, I advise organisations to seek guidance from software experts to help with the journey. Transformative technologies can be difficult to navigate and implement into an organisation’s business processes. Find a technology partner that well identifies your organisational maturity path and that will help evolve your field service maturity from concept to reality.
Managed print services (MPS) emerged to help deal with the commoditisation of the supplies business and injected new blood into a struggling industry. Years later, MPS itself has become a commodity and, once again, office print providers are...
Managed print services (MPS) emerged to help deal with the commoditisation of the supplies business and injected new blood into a struggling industry. Years later, MPS itself has become a commodity and, once again, office print providers are looking for new ways of doing things.
This article, from service management software firm Asolvi, looks at the rise of seat-based billing and how it could facilitate a new wave of innovation that will help providers transcend beyond print.
The Commoditisation Issue
These new MPS contracts were a win-win. They secured ongoing revenue for dealers while helping customers reduce their printing costs. MPS gave the office print industry a powerful boost.
Yet here we are again with a commoditised product. Only now it’s MPS itself, the one distinguishing feature between most MPS offerings being the price. Still, if there’s anything that office print providers are used to, it’s rapid change. So now they’re looking for a new way to sell. A new way to package their goods and services to create value for the customer and differentiate themselves from the competition.
In this industry, there’s always a new way. One of them is seat-based billing (SBB), an alternative to the traditional way of billing for managed print, which is cost per page (CPP). A number of our clients in this space have expressed an interest in moving from CPP to SBB. As a result, we are already looking at ways of developing our MPS field service management software to accommodate SBB contracts.
But what exactly is SBB? And how does it differ from CPP?
Cost Per Page (CPP) Versus Seat-Based Billing (SBB)
The popularity and wide adoption of the CPP model is one of the reasons it can be difficult to set your solutions apart from the competition. An even bigger problem is that it puts you and your customer at odds. You want your customer to print more. Your customer wants to print less. Indeed the whole premise of an MPS solution is to reduce unnecessary printing. And since page volumes are shrinking, basing your organisation’s revenue on a linear association with those volumes is unsustainable.
However, seat-based billing (SBB) is now emerging as a more sustainable alternative. Also known as per-user billing or cost per seat, SBB is based on staff numbers rather than pages printed. It is a flat fee billed per end user per month that covers support for all print-enabled devices each person uses.
This could include locally connected printers, desktop printers, multifunction devices (MFDs), fax machines and scanners as well as all consumables, maintenance, parts and software. It plays into the all-you-can-eat mentality that so many customers want and is already popular in other industries, e.g. TV and music subscription services like Netflix and Spotify.
SBB involves a shift in perspective, focusing on users and their needs and behaviours rather than the number of pages printed. This offers an escape from the commoditised world of CPP pricing as well as access to new and more profitable revenue streams. It also ensures perfect alignment between you and your customer. Your customer will spend less but you will make more. This makes for a stronger partnership between you.
How Can You Make More Money With SBB?
For example, you could look to add the following to each seat:
- Hardware (printers, copiers, MFDs, desktop computers, servers etc.)
- Document management software
- Workflow software
- Print governance software
- Managed IT services
- Coffee and water services
- Digital signage and displays
- Telecommunications including IP telephony and VoIP
The Challenges Of Maintaining A Profitable Seat Price
It’s important to note that with SBB comes the risk that users will abuse the system and print too much or, for instance, print everything in colour. Even though SBB feels like all-you-can-print, it cannot literally be so. That’s because toner is still the most expensive part of any MPS contract. Moreover, the whole point of MPS is to control an organisation’s print output.
So, to make SBB profitable, you first need to build a seat price that is based on a deep understanding of an organisation’s historical print behaviour. You can do this by way of a thorough user- and device-based assessment that gets rid of any assumptions and unknowns. You then need to put as many controls in place as possible to ensure that users don’t overprint.
The first of these controls is having the right language in your contracts, stipulating volume, colour and coverage ratio limits. The second is including print governance software with each seat. This enables your customers to assign user permissions, set restrictions on printing, and keep track of volume and colour usage.
The third is having a strong field service management (FSM) system that gives you full and detailed visibility and monitoring of all service costs. That FSM system needs to integrate with your customer’s machines and let you easily track toner consumption and contract/machine profitability. Your FSM system should make it immediately obvious when your customer is printing more than they should. Easy access to this data enables you to bill correctly, adjust your contract price and/or terms where necessary, and advise your customer on modifying their print behaviour.
With the right controls and software in place, print management can improve with SBB because it puts a name to behaviour. And while managing print volumes is necessary for both CPP and SBB programs, it’s easier to pinpoint misuse with SBB.
For MPS providers that haven’t yet branched into new areas, SBB makes it easier to do so. Billing in CPP doesn’t really allow you to look much past the page. With SBB you can say to a customer, “For an extra £5 per seat per month, we can take care of your desktop computers as well.” There is no additional contract, just an addendum to the existing one. Nor are there any difficult ROI discussions or a large capital budget approval process as it happens immediately and everything is under subscription.
Going forwards, the ability to continually layer the seat with new offerings is likely to be the biggest advantage of the SBB model. It means that SBB could become a powerful way for office print providers to grow.
Problem-solving is an essential skill set for all Trusted Advisors, yet many of us take it for granted. We assume our Technicians and Engineers must be great problem solvers because that is what they do. Most have developed ways to solve problems through on the job training and mentoring from experienced colleagues, but very few have been educated in this key professional competence – logical problem solving!
This lack of competence can cost companies considerable money and customer loyalty. You will have all experienced problems that don’t seem to go away, where teams of people seem to solve, resolve and resolve again the same issue. These are the type of problems that are complex, multifaceted and can costs companies thousands and sometimes millions of pounds.
They require a disciplined process and in truth most companies do not sufficiently support their staff in developing this critical skill set. As data analytics becomes increasingly influential in field service processes, so logical problem solving skills will become more important!
Increasingly the solutioning of known problem sets will be done through self-service, lower skilled technicians or even automated through remote services. Companies will want their skilled technicians to focus on the more complex technical issues as well as fixing the customer relationship.
How can you up the game of your technical teams, save your organisation costs and increase customer loyalty?
Best in class companies with a Trusted Advisor mindset where the goal is to continually create more value for their customers, embed in their culture a logical problem-solving wheel, which starts and finishes with the customer. This gives companies a common language and process to solve problems, which is critical to improving the skill levels of all their employees. When problems are complex, it develops a good discipline, especially around problem definition and data collection.
As the ability of service organisations to leverage advanced analytics to analyse unstructured data found in service reports becomes more widespread, so a common language becomes even more important in identifying and predicting fault patterns. There are also many tools for both analysis and solutioning that help break open the problemsolving process. Some examples from the problem analysis phase are the 5 W’s (Who, What, Why, Where, When) for situational fact finding, the 5 Why Method for root cause analysis and Fishbone diagrams, sometimes known as Ishikawa or FaultFinding Trees.
The importance of statistical skills in the future should not be underestimated, as data becomes an essential resource in the service resolution processes. Many of you will know these tools from your professional experiences and probably take them for granted as part of your work life. However, you will be surprised at how few of your colleagues really understand how to solve problems. Many will often jump to the first solution that fits the symptom’s they are seeing.
They will switch components in & out to see if the symptom goes away without really understanding the root cause. This leads to significantly higher costs in managing spare parts and many more “No fault Found” from returns reports from component suppliers.
Research by Cranfield University ‘A framework to estimate the cost of No-Fault-Found events’ published in 2016 showed examples from the Aerospace industry where NFF cost companies between one to 300 million dollars and in some cases account for up to 80% of failures. Indeed, not solving the root cause of problems has led to industries developing their own problem solving methods.
If you have worked in the automotive industry, no doubt you will have experienced the 8D problem solving process and will probably be familiar with 6 sigma methods. Those of you with the experience of large field organisations will know that service leaders such as Xerox or Vaillant make logical problem solving a core skill in which they train their whole organisations, not just their service technicians. For these organisations, just solving the technical problems is not enough.
They recognise that the art of creating customer loyalty comes from an ability for the organisation to fix the customer. Hence a critical element of any work in logical problem solving is to recognise the role of the problem solver in the process. For example, if a service technician perceives their role as ‘fixing equipment’, this is what they will focus on.
They will miss the fact that the root cause might be a lack of customer training or an external factor such as raw material quality or the operating environment. This wider view of the problem, and an understanding of the problem solvers role in the effectiveness of the process, can save companies huge amounts of cost, and deliver more value to customers.
We often refer to this mindset as being the Trusted Advisor, and it is the reason why excellence in Problem Solving is such a vital and often overlooked capability that needs to be developed. We are all aware that the ability of any organisation to effectively solve problems is critical to its success in terms of costs and customer loyalty. Leading global organisations recognise this and train their teams in logical problem solving, yet for many organisations it is a capability that is taken for granted. And in the context of forming deeper lasting relationships with customers, we also should recognise that problem solving is an essential skill set of being perceived as a Trusted Advisor.
If you would like to know more about developing Trusted Advisor programmes in your business, then you can contact Nick at email@example.com.