Strategies for Growth's President, and member of the Field Service News advisory panel, Bill Pollock takes a look at how he believes the industry will fare in the coming year...
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Strategies for Growth's President, and member of the Field Service News advisory panel, Bill Pollock takes a look at how he believes the industry will fare in the coming year...
All things point to 2014 as being the year when “Back to the Basics” and “Back to the Future” are finally due to collide. The collision will not be spontaneous – nor will it be particularly disruptive. In fact, it is likely to be extremely synergistic! Moreover, our research strongly suggests that these two otherwise divergent paths will begin to work together in a more harmonious manner to propel the global services community to even greater heights with respect to both revenue growth and profitability.
Granted, similar statements are made around this time each year (some, even, by myself); however, 2014 will be a markedly different year in that there has already been a steady uptick in new technology investment evidenced over the past 12 - 18 months (i.e., supporting the “future”), coupled with a renewed appreciation that customer needs and expectations must once again be placed at the top of the list of market strategies and actions that can empower services organisations to attain higher levels of service performance, customer satisfaction and profitability (i.e., the “basics”).
Let me explain how these two paths are most likely to collide …
“Back to the Basics”
Immediately following the “great” global economic meltdown of several years ago, most services organisations almost immediately went into cost-cutting mode in an attempt to reign in expenses (both capital and operating). While some employed an orchestrated approach to cost-cutting, others may have gone somewhat overboard or, even worse, may have ended up not having cut enough waste or inefficiencies in a timely enough manner. Nonetheless, over several years, most of the leading (i.e., “best practices”) services organisations were finally able to rollback costs to a point where they were able to not only survive, but thrive in a downturned global economy.
However, as it became increasingly evident that costs could not be cut any lower (i.e., nothing more to cut!), many organisations found themselves struggling to maintain – let alone bolster – their respective bottom lines. Once again, the leading organizations recognised that the bottom line was actually an equation, influenced directly by both costs and revenues (among numerous other factors). Therefore, if they could not decrease the cost side of the equation any longer, the best way to improve the bottom line would be to drive higher levels of service revenues. Thus began a brief era (i.e., two to three years or so) that transitioned the focus from cost-cutting to revenue generation.
Fast forward to 2014, and we are now seeing a global services community that has much of its costs under control, has taken proactive and interactive steps to drive increased levels of service revenues, and has allowed itself (gratefully) to re-focus its resources on the needs and expectations of the customer – a return to a more classic approach to services strategies and actions.
“Back to the Future”
However, it seems that each year, new technologies, applications, tools and “toys” are forecasted to “change the way in which we live” – or, for the services community, “the way in which we will be able to manage our operations.” Some prime examples have included such diverse technologies and tools as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and tablets, RFIDs and scanners, M2M and remote monitoring, the Segway – and the list goes on and on. Then we all take a collective deep breath, wait a few years, and – sometimes, before we even are fully aware, they quietly become integral components of both our lives and our businesses. (Well, maybe not so much with respect to the Segway!)
Fortunately (albeit mainly for those organizations that have already prepared themselves for dealing with the “basics”), the “future” is about to collide with them – but in a good way. For example, earlier this year, it was reported that a fighter jet used by the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force (RAF) flew with 3-D printed metal components for the first time. The air intake support struts, protective guards for take-off shafts and cockpit radio covers inside the Tornado jet were all made by 3-D metal printing, said defense manufacturer BAE Systems.
In October 2013, U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin said it was experimenting with 3-D printing of titanium parts for use in space flight; and NASA has plans to put a 3-D printer on the International Space Station later this year. Although 3-D printers can cost several hundred dollars or more, the question remains, how much can your organization save by 3-D printing some of its more common, fairly basic, parts?
M2M technology; big data; real-time telematics; and new mobile devices, applications and tools are being introduced to the global services landscape on a seemingly weekly basis, and – oh, yes, before you know it, many of 2013’s, 2012’s or (plug in the year) “new” technologies that may have mysteriously fallen off of our radar screens, may actually find their ways into our services organisations’ regular operating routines, thereby supporting the transition of this year’ “future” to next year’s “basics.
Enjoy the transition – and don’t forget to “mind the collision!”
This is the 3rd article in a series of case studies which examines how companies can improve their understanding of there own Value, create more effective GO-TO Marketstrategies and drive profitability through efficient Service Delivery models.
This is the 3rd article in a series of case studies which examines how companies can improve their understanding of there own Value, create more effective GO-TO Market strategies and drive profitability through efficient Service Delivery models.
‘If you want customer insight to develop new services, go ask the sales force’….uh oh …probably not completely the right idea. Sorry guys but customer’s talk to sales people in a different kind of way. So while sales input is essential, there are many factors that influence the accuracy of the feedback.
If you really want to understand what your customers value, probably its best to go direct to the customers themselves. That’s why many senior managers insist on visiting customer. But how many times have you heard the CEO call for a change of direction based on a recent visit to an unhappy customer. A more balanced approach is needed to make informed decisions, if you do not want to fall into the trap of this frequently used quote, ’8% of companies think they deliver superior experience…….only 8% of their customers agree!’
The solution to a balanced & informed analysis is often to involve impartial 3rd parties.
Take Yokogoawa, an industrial leader in automation solutions for process industries. Back in 2010 they wanted to know what services their customers thought they should offer. They had talked to the sales force who came back with a pure price, price, price argument. To the Benelux service manager Ton van den Ham, this did not add up, and he felt that perhaps they were asking the wrong questions in the wrong way. So he engaged a 3rd party to help structure a set of visits and interviews aimed at getting under underneath the skin of their customers. Why a 3rd party. Well he wanted an impartial perspective that did not carry Yokogawa baggage.
The interviews were done jointly with the 3rd party acting as a coach and sometime lead. To Yokogawa’s amazement they found that their customer’s really appreciated the technical competence of the application engineers. That the customer’s challenge, was not in fact lower prices, but to have more stable and predictable processes for their chemical plants. The customer’s wanted Yogokawa’s technical experts to be even more engaged at a much deeper level in their business to help keep their processes at the optimum performance.
Armed with this feedback Yokogawa, started to develop their services programme which has developed into what they refer to as ‘Vigiplant Services’
At a recent conference Ton described his his experience of this programme as: ‘You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s worthwhile talking to your customers to get a different perspective’
So the moral of the story is that when you are developing your services business, forensically clean customer insight is key to truly understanding the value you offer. Don’t be afraid of getting outside people that you trust involved in this process as the results may be surprising. If you would like to learn more about this case study, you can see a video of Ton’s presentation at: http://smc.noventum.nl/smc2011/service-track-video-presentations-2011
Nick Frank is a service specialist with Noventum Service Management and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read Part two of this series, Ouch! getting the profit/cost centre call wrong in your service business here
In the first part of this two part feature Glyn Dodd, Managing director of Centrex Services discussed how with the current economic business pressure, reducing costs in the service management supply chain without compromising customer...
In the first part of this two part feature Glyn Dodd, Managing director of Centrex Services discussed how with the current economic business pressure, reducing costs in the service management supply chain without compromising customer satisfaction is a challenge which must be faced head on...
Now in the concluding part of this feature Glyn outlines why Big Data isn’t the answer to solve all the service management industries issues, why failure is a good thing, and why true Business Intelligence is perhaps the key to unlocking a successful future for service management…
Big data is not the answer
The final element of deriving complete business intelligence is the data. The arrival of complex data analytics may seem to be the answer to such issues, but I believe that the data alone is not enough to improve the current state of the service supply chain.
There is a widely held belief that generating ever increasing amounts of data is the answer to all our service supply chain needs, but alone it is irrelevant if not turned into useful information. It’s the business intelligence transforming this into relevant information which is vital for the creation of an efficient, integrated service supply chain, abolishing the silos that plague the current model.
Companies such as Centrex Services source business intelligence from reason code data and apply a layer of diagnostics. The codes detail the circumstances that have caused the code to be raised and the associated completion code. Rather than just documenting each code and applying the same reasoning to each circumstance, the business identifies repetitive causes and designs a solution to resolve the issue, without it reoccurring.
This intelligence was applied when we identified a recurring problem on the point of sale system at a fast food outlet. A plastic part of the POS hardware was continuing to break, causing the same reason code in the majority of the support calls. When the business analysed the fault, they found the operators were leaning on the part of this hardware during use. The plastic was simply not robust enough. By tooling a metal replacement part, the problem was resolved permanently.
Delivering customer satisfaction is a critical part of any business and deriving intelligence plays a large part in the experience. Diagnostics of reason codes is therefore vital, yet many do not see the long term benefits which have an adverse affect on customer satisfaction within the service supply chain.
If businesses diagnose the reason codes, business intelligence can be created, which in turn can be used to offer improved SLA’s, rather than accepting a failure rate.
Why should we plan to fail?
In addition to the people, processes and data, the service supply chain is heavily reliant on service level agreements. We need to question the current ethos in place throughout the service supply chain, claiming some companies are in fact preparing for failure.
There are circumstances where SLA’s are not being met as a direct result of people and processes being deployed without applying context to the data which has been sourced. I also question why SLA agreements are being signed allowing up to a 15 per cent failure rate when the deployment of business intelligence can realistically create a network in which success is inevitable.
The need for such change was identified in a business intelligence not utilising business intelligence, which resulted in an SLA being missed.
A client of ours works closely with a very well known American diner chain and have in place an agreement which states once a call has been made to report a technical fault, there must be a field-service engineer on-site to resolve the issue within four hours.
The issue here was, these calls can come in at any time of the day and the mentality was that the SLA must be met at all costs. So, when a call reporting faulty point of sales systems was placed at 1.00pm, processes were set in motion to guarantee an engineer was on-site by 5.00pm.
However, once they arrived, they were turned away, as the restaurant was unable to accommodate the work during their busiest period as this would result in a decline in productivity which in turn can lead to a loss of custom. Ultimately, the SLA was not met.
This demonstrates just how vital it is that the service supply chain changes, as had business intelligence been utilised, there is no way an engineer would have been sent to a restaurant during such a busy time.
Business intelligence is the future
Efficient communication, processes and correct analytics provides the business intelligence needed to simplify the fragmented supply chain. Simplification leads to more efficient service delivery, guaranteed SLA’s, greater customer satisfaction and ultimately transforms the service supply chain for competitive advantage.
Now is the time for senior decision makers to challenge all elements of the chain; without constant innovation and new thinking the industry will continue to be perceived as a laggard – a disparate set of fragmented, commoditised services that fail to meet the required standard.
For field service organisations looking to augment their end-to-end service management offering, there’s a range of innovative technologies that can make a real difference. We’ve already seen technologies such as cloud, mobile, social media and...
For field service organisations looking to augment their end-to-end service management offering, there’s a range of innovative technologies that can make a real difference. We’ve already seen technologies such as cloud, mobile, social media and self-service start to extend the capabilities of field operation, however one that has had less focus until now is the increasing use of web chat.
Field service operations have traditionally struggled to unite two key elements – the technical expertise of their field-based engineers with the availability of their service desks. Not surprisingly, engineers are always busy – either travelling to a customer location or already engaged onsite.
Now with multi-way web chat, however, it is possible to bring field engineers and the service desk together. Service agents can now bring other experts from any department into their customer conversations, and – through mobiles and customer service apps – bring in field-based engineers from any location.
Web chat is one of the most rapidly growing channels – particularly among younger customers. As well as providing an additional channel for customers to check for updates and advice from the service desk, chat is now set to play an increasingly important role within field service management.
Examples of how chat can be put to work include helping field staff to exchange best practice, and also connecting customers directly to field staff to speed resolution.
Chat can enable direct communications between field staff, allowing them to use mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets to create conversation threads to share knowledge on recent issues and exchange resolution tips.
Chat can also be put to use as part of an integrated customer service approach. When clients are speaking to a service desk agent and need further assistance, the agent can quickly open up a 3-way chat session with the appropriate expert field service engineer. Often client issues can be resolved in this way without the field service professional actually needing to visit the client site.
For organisations looking to add chat to their service management portfolio, it’s important to look for solutions that can extend the value of their existing systems approach. Key functionality should include the ability for service centre agents to conduct multiple chats, chat conferencing, as well as the ability to integrate with knowledge bases and FAQs.
While chat can be deployed on a standalone basis, it delivers optimum value as part of broader multi-channel universal queue approach – ideally accessible from the service desk via a streamlined service agent desktop. Implemented correctly, chat increases choice for customers, and opens up the opportunity to link directly with service experts who can resolve client requests quickly and cost-effectively.
Managing a field service operation in today’s marketplace is not an easy feat and there are many barriers that need to be overcome and steps that need to be taken in order to execute a perfect workday. Trimble FSM's Mark Forrest explains how this...
Managing a field service operation in today’s marketplace is not an easy feat and there are many barriers that need to be overcome and steps that need to be taken in order to execute a perfect workday. Trimble FSM's Mark Forrest explains how this can be achieved.
With customer expectations at an all-time high, the pressure to deliver the best service performance has never been higher and it is a clear objective for any field service company that wants to remain competitive. However, budget constraints have led businesses having to achieve service excellence with fewer resources, resulting in meeting SLA Commitments, providing short appointment windows and ensuring the ‘first time fix’ that much harder to achieve.
When it comes to managing a field operation and achieving the perfect workday, it is often supposed that knowing each vehicle’s position would be at the heart of the solution. However, it isn’t where the vehicles are that’s important, its where the engineer or field service worker is and what they are doing that is of paramount concern, as ultimately they are the ones providing the service to the end customer.
So executing a ‘perfect’ mobile workday may be a rarity as field service workers are regularly faced with obstacles often out of their control. For example, jobs may overrun as they turn out to be more complicated than first thought, emergency work may come in which changes the day’s schedule or traffic congestion and vehicle breakdown can cause delays or failure to meet an appointment. Additionally, with workers calling in sick, starting late or getting lost; all these factors can impact adversely on the productivity of the workforce. With much field-based work becoming increasingly mission-critical in terms of timing, skills and consequence more importantly than ever companies need to ensure that their field service is not derailed by unpredictable dynamics of the working day.
Achieve your perfect work schedule
In a recent survey by The Service Council, nearly half of organisations highlighted their interest in broader investments in field service in the next 12-24 months. Developments in Work Management technologies, for field services, have come to the fore as solutions able to transform the way in which work is performed, through intelligent scheduling tools and advanced performance analytics. This capability provides the stepping stones needed to help organisations measure, manage and improve their operations through optimising resources, offering real-time visibility and monitoring and giving warning of tasks at risk or showing the impact of work allocation decisions.
Such capabilities helps to increase the profitability of service delivery as it allows the field service manager to schedule tasks to meet SLAs, produce efficient routes to reduce travel time, fuel costs and overtime and ensures work is only given to those with the right skills.
Many organisations schedule tasks based on a technician’s allocated territory, however selecting the most knowledgeable technician, or one who has the right tools or parts in their vehicle, is also crucial. More and more organisations are beginning to realise the value of ‘intelligent scheduling’ - incorporating technician knowledge, parts availability, and capacity into their scheduling processes to ensure that the technician arriving on site is actually the person who can resolve the customer’s issue first time. AberdeenGroup found that intelligence is at the heart of scheduling with over half of organisations using service performance data to evaluate the effectiveness of scheduling criteria.
Self-learner tools help with intelligent scheduling. They incorporate an algorithm that quickly learns preferences for each mobile worker and will allocate tasks accordingly. This includes geography (which mobile workers normally service particular areas) and skill (learns what skills mobile workers have and to what degree they are qualified to do particular types of work).The first step to managing productivity requires field service managers to get the right people with the right skills with the right assets to the right place within a set time and the self-learner tool significantly helps in achieving this.
Optimise productivity to achieve quality of service through greater business intelligence
It is important to remember that technology is purely an enabler and measuring the effectiveness of technology is just as important as the initial install. It is the management information and performance management analysis and how this is used that is fundamental in meeting business targets. A survey by the Service Council confirmed that performance management and visibility was a major area of concern in field service. Reassuringly, developments in workforce management technology have begun to offer a solution to these concerns.
Performance Management Analytics (PMA) provides field service managers with the visibility to analyse the productivity of their fleet operations. For example, scheduling statistics for individual workers can be recorded from the start of the day and compared with the position at the end of the day. Based on actual location data, easily digestible performance reports can be generated and customised to showcase the key metrics of a field operation. These can range from if the quality of service has been met/failed, utilisation (total time vs. time spent on tasks), efficiency (actual vs. estimated task duration), total tasks completed, total fuel usage and total distance travelled.
By adopting PMA the field service manager is provided with the visibility to identify what is preventing the company from doing more jobs and able to identify gaps in the working day where mobile workers could be utilised elsewhere.
An additional capability of the technology is that it provides the field service manager with the ability to learn from day-to-day experiences. Data can be collected about the trends in the field, the type of jobs that overrun, the number of commitments met and the performance of individual and groups of service workers. If, for example, a service worker takes 40 minutes for a particular task whereas the average for others is two hours, then is that worker cutting corners or are they simply an outstanding employee? Conversely, if taking two hours as opposed to 40 minutes then do they need additional training?
Such integration not only ensures that all relevant stakeholders across different business units have the salient information they need to manage the daily performance of the organisation, but the performance analysis also helps feed into strategic business planning on targets, budgets and resourcing.
Ultimately, the capabilities provided by Work Management technologies overcomes the business challenges field service companies have been faced with for years. How do I know what is really happening in my field service operations? How do I know that what my workers say they are doing is true? How can I get more jobs done per day? What prevents me from doing more work? How good is the quality of service? How effectively are resources being met? Taking a holistic approach across field operations and obtaining visibility into the work in its entirety is essential and the business intelligence provided by Work Management technology achieves this, suggesting that the old adage of ‘you cannot manage what you cannot measure’ certainly rings true.
To find out how to achieve your perfect workday, demonstration videos are available, featuring Aubrey Fox, Work Management Product Manager for Trimble Field Service Management:
Performance Analytics - http://www.youtube.com/embed/bIjrXqG60KE
Scheduling and Optimisation - http://www.youtube.com/embed/cFO__9_IK-g
With the current economic business pressure, reducing costs in the service management supply chain without compromising customer satisfaction is a challenge which must be faced head on. Glyn Dodd, Managing Director of Centrex Services explains...
With the current economic business pressure, reducing costs in the service management supply chain without compromising customer satisfaction is a challenge which must be faced head on. Glyn Dodd, Managing Director of Centrex Services explains why...
Facing the challenge...
Managing this balancing act requires business intelligence, which refers to the applications, tools, infrastructure and best practices which enable raw data to be transformed into significant information, and as such can be utilised to improve outdated processes in the service management arena.
Sadly, the current service supply chain model does not use business intelligence, but relies on a silo system, in which each area of the network, namely diagnostics and scheduling, parts, logistics, field service and repair, is run by a separate company.
Although the majority of companies working within the service supply chain use this silo model, there are major pitfalls to doing so which seem to be overlooked by the decision makers which strategically drive the agenda.
Quite simply, these are issues that cannot be overlooked in modern service management.
We know the service supply chain model has been working inefficiently, with separate entities running each sector of the network. Unsurprisingly, the communication between these areas is often found lacking, as an issue which the diagnostics team are unable to resolve is simply passed on to the next stage, when in reality it may not have been necessary to do so.
The current model invariably results in the deployment of field service engineers, regardless of the scale of the problem, due to a lack of business intelligence. The cost-effectiveness of such a system must therefore be scrutinised.
There are three key elements to the service supply chain which transcend each of the five silos. By studying the people, processes and data which unite to create the service supply chain, while simultaneously identifying the inefficiencies within these silos, each element can be challenged. Ultimately, this will culminate in a far more efficient network.
Correctly skilled representatives create cost-effectiveness in service management
The three key elements which are vital to the functionality of the service supply chain must be dissected to create the most effective model available. The first of these are the people who represent businesses in the service supply chain. This is the element which is easiest to directly challenge, as this can be controlled through efficient management of correctly skilled representatives.
Personally, I believe that the current silo model within the service supply chain is in fact impeding such change.
Communication is of paramount importance in all businesses, and this applies to those working in the service management, where we live and die by the level of customer service we are able to offer.
It is therefore unacceptable that the communication silos which the majority of businesses seem to rely upon result in a system where cross-silo communication is so poor. This is especially poignant when it is the customers who pay the price. It is hard to believe, when some businesses utilise an integrated service network which improves communication, that the silo structure continues.
A recent study by the Aberdeen Group shows service supply chain customers agree with this sentiment. 58 per cent of respondents state they want to see an improvement of diagnosis of triage at the initial call level. With further statistics showing there is a 24 per cent increase in first-time fix performance, from 62-86 per cent, when all calls are routed via triage, it is clear that such intelligent communication can increase service level agreements (SLA) and in turn, customer satisfaction levels.
Inefficient processes must be challenged
Customer satisfaction levels cannot be increased solely through challenging the service supply chain businesses representatives. Alongside this, processes must also be scrutinised to construct an efficient service in which business intelligence can be utilised.
With business needs evolving continuously, the processes which are currently commonplace within the network cannot be sustained in the long term.
Although this is a vital step in the evolution of the service supply chain, this message is not reaching the relevant decision makers.
Those decision-makers who strategically alter the function within the service supply chain do not necessarily have the knowledge required to alter the inefficient processes which currently plague the system.
With businesses worried about maintaining their profit margins in these difficult times, altering the processes they use can seem like an unnecessary burden, which is then wrongly linked to excess spending. If they used a leansource approach to integrate the service supply chain rather than tactically selecting separate companies, efficiency levels would increase, while spending decreases and complex issues are transformed into competitive advantage.
A study by research organisation McKinsey looking into the priorities in the global supply chain support this. 61 per cent of respondents cited reducing operating costs as a priority over the past three years, which is a task manageable through creating more efficient processes within the service supply chain. Once achieved, the percentage of SLA’s which are successfully achieved will increase without any additional pressure being applied on the deployed field service engineers.
Read the second part of this feature here where Glyn outlines why Big Data isn’t the answer to solve all the service management industries issues, why failure is a good thing, and why true Business Intelligence is perhaps the key to unlocking a successful future for service management...
A recently published study from Aberdeen Group commissioned by Trimble FSM has found that the best-performing field service organisations are extremely focused on improving service, and to achieve that, they are leveraging performance analytics...
A recently published study from Aberdeen Group commissioned by Trimble FSM has found that the best-performing field service organisations are extremely focused on improving service, and to achieve that, they are leveraging performance analytics to launch new initiatives and enhance existing ones. As a result, they are reaching higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The report, Secrets to Optimize Field Service for Better Customer Experience, written by Aberdeen analyst Aly Pinder, revealed that top performers exceed customer expectations and SLA goals in their efforts to retain valuable customers, and that customer satisfaction is a leading contributor to their success.
Streamlining service in the field and improving efficiency are key objectives of today's executives, the report stated. Customer experience is a top priority, and organisations are leveraging analytics to drive quality and enhance customer interactions. More than 50 per cent of the organisations surveyed say they use performance data to evaluate the effectiveness of their service.
The field service organisation traditionally has been evaluated based on operational metrics such as workforce utilisation and overtime costs.
This model worked best when field service pursued a break/fix strategy but is no longer the only path to service differentiation and success, the report found. Customer experience must now be at the centre of the entire service operation's strategy.
Organisations meeting 80 per cent of their customer service requirements for issue resolution times on average are able to retain 12 per cent more customers than those that meet only half of their customer requirements, the report says. With service a key factor in customer loyalty and a leading indicator of field service success, it is critical that companies deliver on what they've promised, when they've promised it. For businesses with mobile workers in the field, it becomes even more important to achieve excellence in delivering services
Big Data is a buzz word making its rounds across a variety of industries and the field service sector is no exception. Gartner defines Big Data as high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective,...
Big Data is a buzz word making its rounds across a variety of industries and the field service sector is no exception. Gartner defines Big Data as high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.
Over the last 10 years, field service organisations have become overwhelmed by the relentless flow of information coming in from multiple sources, in various formats and through an array of tools. For example, in a typical field service business data will be coming in from GPS and vehicle-tracking systems, telematics, fleet management and workforce management. Merging and organising this ‘Big Data’ is so difficult that, in most businesses, it ends up sitting unused in applications and databases. However, many are now beginning to realise its sleeping intelligence and that they need to tap in to it to help make more informed business decisions.
The major challenge they face is how to make sense of the massive amounts of data they collect daily and tame this flow in order to extract valuable insights to help hone day-to-day operations and make long-term strategic decisions.
Performance Management Analytics (PMA) has come to the fore as a solution able to tackle the Big Data challenge. PMA provides field service managers with the visibility to analyse the productivity of their field service operations. For instance, the tool can help reduce unauthorised stops, minimise excessive speeding and idling, increase the number of jobs performed daily, and improve response times.
The Big Data Opportunity for Field Service
The ability to make sense of data can make the difference between a business that is good enough and one that stands out from the pack. When a company figures out how to review historical data about itself, identify patterns, and compile metrics and statistics to determine which assets and employees are the most productive, it can use those insights for predictive analysis and better business decisions.
The reward is higher customer satisfaction and profits. In a study commissioned by Trimble, The Road Ahead: The Future of Field Service Delivery, 80% of managers surveyed cited customer satisfaction as their top priority. A 2012 Aberdeen report highlighted the importance of customer satisfaction, finding that organisations with ratings of 90% or higher successfully retained at least 90% of customers, while those with ratings of 50% or lower retained only 26%.
Big data can play a major role here. Field service organisations that have deployed GPS, fleet and workforce management technologies already have the tools that help make sense of the information and make decisions to improve customer satisfaction. To accomplish this effectively, field service organisations must set specific goals, such as reducing overtime through route optimisation and cutting fuel costs through GPS tracking and fleet management systems.
Capture and Analysis
So much information flows back into dispatch centres and offices of field services organisations that letting it go unused actually hurts the business. Distilled properly, information through GPS, telematics, fleet management and workforce management tools provide concrete, actionable details, giving managers and dispatchers real-time visibility into fleet activities.
Systems set up to capture in-day exceptions, for instance, can save a company thousands of pounds by catching bad driver habits such as fueling cars with premium instead of regular fuel, making unscheduled stops, and ignoring pre-set routes optimised for time and fuel-savings.
Fleet and workforce management systems give managers the ability to review a day’s work and measure performance results against company standards. By leveraging Performance Management Analytics (PMA) tools, managers can identify top performers, determine which schedules and routes produce the best results, and compare results from one vehicle or worker against the entire fleet.
Performance analysis can also help with job assignments, helping managers match the skills of field technicians to specific service calls. This increases the prospect of first-time case resolution. According to Aberdeen, 26% of field visits fail to resolve the problem, requiring follow-up visits, and frustrating customers.
Telematics solutions can capture a wealth of useful information, from mechanical and emissions to driver safety habits, all of which can be collected and organised into easily digestible reports. Analytics reports, for example, can leverage telematics to provide stakeholders with information in easy-to-read, relevant snapshots highlighting operational areas that need immediate attention.
The basis of telematics was originally location, but location is now merely an enabling tool for a plethora of complex business applications. Analytics now let customers see everything from the most profitable jobs to success rates in meeting appointment times. We’re moving towards an era of ‘super information’ delivered by telematics which will see the impact of the technology surge.
Immediate and Long-term Benefits
With big data, knowledge leads to action. A field service manager who knows which drivers have bad habits is better equipped to evaluate those drivers, act to correct their behaviour and schedule training for individuals who need it. Up-to-date information on the health of vehicles leads to better maintenance, which in turn leads to safer vehicles, improved fuel consumption and less wear and tear.
Likewise, the ability to collect real-time information on traffic through GPS tracking empowers dispatchers to make decisions on the fly to change routes and avoid congestion. AVL (automatic vehicle location) and real-time information on the distance between customer stops leads to routing and schedule optimisation.
Those are the immediate benefits, but understanding big data also brings long-term advantages, as companies engage in strategic planning based on historical patterns and predictive analysis. Thanks to big data, organisations can conduct predictive analysis for more accurate planning. For example, for companies focusing on repair, using historical data about when a part is most likely to fail, enable them to do better planning for the future. This is called preventative maintenance, fixing or changing a part even before it fails. Furthermore, adjusting resources, modifying schedules, planning vehicle purchases and forecasting hiring needs become less about guessing and more about precise, well-researched planning. And that’s why field organisations need to take control of their information.
Manage the unexpected out of the mobile work day
With customer expectations at an all-time high in an increasingly competitive marketplace, the pressure for field service businesses to deliver best-in-class performance has never been higher....
Manage the unexpected out of the mobile work day
With customer expectations at an all-time high in an increasingly competitive marketplace, the pressure for field service businesses to deliver best-in-class performance has never been higher. Providing excellent service delivery is a clear priority and for the mobile worker, their importance has shifted from one of operational necessity to strategic value.
With a number of obstacles to contend with out of the control of the technician, may it be traffic congestion or vehicle breakdown, there is never a ‘perfect’ mobile work day. But with work becoming increasingly mission-critical, companies need to ensure that their field service is not derailed by unpredictable dynamics of the working day. A technician is only as good as the tools he has to work with so the support of a solution to manage work efficiently and effectively is of the utmost importance to achieving service delivery excellence.
Trimble’s ‘Road Ahead’ report unveiled that customer satisfaction is ranked as the number one priority for field service businesses and 49 per cent of respondents agreed that the latest field-based technology would help them achieve their goals. Many operations directors see technology as an enabler with 41 per cent stating they will invest in workforce planning and investment and 44 per cent see planning and scheduling as the greatest opportunity for investment.
Investment in technology in the form of work management solutions provide far reaching benefits including:
- Increase productivity up to 30% with intelligent, in-day scheduling
- Improve dispatch efficiency by up to 60%
- Decrease drive time and mileage by up to20% per job
- Reduce overtime expenses by up to 70%
Take control of the unpredictable work day
Industries which run field service operations are often mission critical in what they do and require skilled staff to execute compliance focused work which is often variable and complex (location and task). The perfect mobile workday would start off with all employees reporting for work on time, there will be plenty of spare capacity for daily tasks, all vehicles will be operational, all recipients will be available and no drivers will come across any traffic delays or vehicle breakdowns. However this is rarely a reality and contending with these issues head on is the first step to maintaining a consistent and sustainable flow of productivity across field service operations.
The first step to managing productivity requires field service managers to get the right people with the right skills with the right assets to the right place within a set time. Performance management is vital and a modern work management solution can assist with this. It provides real-time job status of each mobile worker as well as alerts for proactively managing productivity. For example, if a job is in jeopardy of being missed due to such circumstances as a technician being caught in traffic, a vehicle breaks down or a customer emergency comes up, work management solutions automatically highlight this and can adjust schedules and reassign work to meet the new requirements.
Furthermore, managers must be able to look at the total number of jobs attended per day per technician as well as being able to view the utilisation of their technicians, ie: the amount of time spent on work as opposed to transit or idle time, to avoid falling into the trap of having more work than there are resources. Work management solutions provide the capabilities of comparing planned vs. actual work done per day/shift and communicate to mobile workers via a laptop or smart phone so they can view work details, provide current work status and receive work assignments without returning to the office.
Prioritise on-time performance and create a mission critical culture
The cost to businesses of missed or late appointments affect them more now than they used to, as customers increasingly expect more for less, happy to shop around for services and, with the growth of social media, are much more able and likely to share their experiences of poor customer service. This is largely down to global companies such as Amazon and Tesco having set new expectations for reliable, quick and cheap service delivery, such as providing one-hour delivery slots. This has lead many companies, especially those that need to carry out a more complex and skilled service, such as boiler installations or fixing electrical problems, struggling to seek new ways to keep up with demand whilst remaining profitable and competitive.
Achieving customer satisfaction in today’s marketplace is tough. On-time performance is the Holy Grail – problems must be solved the first time, and solved effectively. Research by Aberdeen group revealed 65% of incoming service requests require a field visit or a dispatch and nearly 26% of these dispatches fail to resolve the problem, requiring secondary or additional follow-up visits. AberdeenGroup also report that that 57 per cent of organisations say that their biggest customer complaint is that the technician does not resolve the issue first time. This may be due to not having the right part or tools, not having the right skills or not enough time to complete the job.
Issues like this can be avoided if companies focus on ‘processing productivity’ by taking a bird’s eye view of the end-to-end process. They need to know what the problem is, who is qualified to solve it, notify them of the task, know where they are, when they will arrive and when the job is done. Taking these necessary steps to avoid a return visit, by making sure a qualified technician with the right tools and parts for the job is sent, will maintain productivity and ensure customer satisfaction. Aberdeen’s research found that Best-in-Class (the top 20%) performers had mean success ratios of 92% for meeting response or project completion deadlines, 88% for first-time fixes, and 83% for workforce utilisation.
The power of work management
Work Management solutions can greatly improve first time fix rates. Not only do they allocate the right worker, with the right skills, for the right job but back-end logistics like drive-time, route-booking, expected time of visit, and allotted time for the job are all analysed for efficiency, leaving staff with the information and time they need to do their jobs.
Furthermore, businesses can address the challenge of making better in-day decisions by utilising a work management self-learning tool. To avoid large data set-up exercises of skill sets and work areas, a self-learning tool supports the assignment of work orders to the field technicians by remembering who has the right skills and their usual work areas. The user also has the ability to enquire what has been learnt by the system and correct it.
The information managers can take from the analysed data that the solution can provide is significant. For example, they can analyse the time it takes a certain technician to do a job compared to another. If the time difference varies significantly they can determine if one is cutting corners to complete a job or if he/she has found a better way to do it more efficiently. This analysis helps with the challenge all businesses face in how to balance service and cost.
 Aberdeen Field Service Workforce Management Report, 2013
There are very few people in the global field service management industry with the breadth of experience and depth of understanding of Bill Pollock.
With a career in the service industries spanning over twenty five years Bill has been commenting, advising and leading the industry as one of the most respected and highly thought of analysts working in field service.
He has worked as senior analyst for two of the worlds leading consultancies (Gartner and Aberdeen) as well as being Chief Research Officer and founder of The Service Council and is currently President and Principal Consulting Analyst with Strategies for Growth. He has also previously served as Chapter president for the Association for Service Management International, is a regular keynote speaker at leading services related events and has published more than 200 articles in numerous trade titles including Field Technologies, Reverse Logistics, and Healthcare Technology Management.
Suffice to say that Bill is in a fairly unique position to assess the current trends in the field service management industry and how these are evolving over time.
It is therefore with great pleasure that Field Service News is able to present exclusive UK access to Strategies for Growth’s 2013 Field Service Management Benchmarking report to readers of Field Service News written by Pollock himself.
This exceptional report is based on the findings of an exhaustive survey, which comprised of over 1,000 respondents and is perhaps the most comprehensive benchmarking exercise available, giving the truest indication of the mood and needs of the industry on a global scale.
With a range of respondents from right across the breadth of the service world, this research provides a true barometer of how service is moving on a multi-industry wide scale.
The sample of respondents also has true international representation with sizeable numbers from the North America, EMEA and Asia Pacific regions and with an almost even number of responses from small, medium and large companies the findings presented in this report present a clear picture of how service companies of all sizes are operating across the globe.
The headline findings of the research identify that the following three key factors are impacting on companies need to drive forward service efficiency:
- 52% Customer demand for improved asset availability
- 47% Need to improve workforce utilisation and productivity
- 43% Need to improve service process efficiencies[/unordered_list]
and the current strategic actions being required to address these issues are cited as:[unordered_list style="bullet"]
- 52% Develop / improve metrics, or KPIs, used to measure field service performance
- 44% Invest in mobile tools to provide field technicians with real-time access to required data and information in the field
- 35% Integrate new technologies into existing field service operations (i.e., iPads, Tablets or other devices, etc.)
The report then moves on to explore each of these areas in depth across 14 pages, providing insightful analysis on each, as well as exploring other related areas that may be impacting your organisation’s own drive to improve your field service management and attain service excellence.