Gamestec, the largest gaming and amusement machine operator in the UK, provides services for over 35,000 machines in 10,500 locations. With many decades’ of experience, the company prides itself on the level of service it offers its customers...
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Gamestec, the largest gaming and amusement machine operator in the UK, provides services for over 35,000 machines in 10,500 locations. With many decades’ of experience, the company prides itself on the level of service it offers its customers which include pubs, leisure venues, clubs, bars and service stations. They provide an end to end solution for the operation of the gaming system with 364 days per year customer care facility and over 1000 field based teams to ensure local experts are on hand.
Managing field workers and field service
As part of their commitment to customer care, Gamestec embarked on a project to replace their legacy Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and improve customer service levels. Having evaluated many CRM options they chose to work with mplsystems to introduce a pioneering solution, utilising mplsystems’ iMobile technology that would not only provide a CRM solution but would also offer call and email handling, manage bookings and engineering visits and provide visibility of, and communications with, field workers.
Working with mplsystems, Gamestec devised a solution that was unique in that it collapses the service desk, planning and dispatch functions into a single ‘intelligent’ agent desktop, thereby enabling the contact centre to communicate directly with engineers’ smart phones. The desktop integrates Gamestec’s asset management; ordering and stock control systems and provides a mobile workforce management tool. iMobile smart phone app allows the company’s in-house contact centre to communicate directly with engineers’ PDAs, automatically allocating jobs according to the engineers’ skill, location and current workload. Should emergency appointments come up or clients change their bookings, schedules are dynamically optimised based on field engineers’ current locations and loading and real time updates sent to the appropriate engineer.
The custom agent desktop is designed to provide a single view of everything that the agent needs to resolve Gamestec client requests. It provides the agent with a complete view of the client’s service history, specific assets, locations as well as managing service bookings and schedules. This integrated approach has allowed Gamestec to change the way customer service is managed; previously, all service requests were passed through a number of separate departments, opening up the opportunity for errors and delays. The new desktop solution brings these teams into a cross-functional role covering help desk, customer service and planning. Now, requests are dealt with by one person who dispatches the request immediately out to the field. This real time view, along with other process improvements, has enabled service response times to decrease by 28%, or 44 minutes over the 12 months.
Providing real time customer updates: when a customer calls to check the progress of, or change to, a service request, the agent can provide an immediate update from a live map on their desktop showing in real time all engineers’ locations (via GPS), their skill sets and current loading.
End-to-end service request reporting improves customer satisfaction: management is provided with real time monitoring of service requests, escalations and SLA adherence. Using hour by hour and day by day reports, aged issues can be captured quickly, escalation effectively managed and communicated to both field staff and customers advising them of completion timescales.
Prior to the iMobile deployment, Gamestec had needed separate contact centre technology, CRM and handheld devices to maintain communications with engineers. These systems required multiple licenses and were expensive to maintain and support and were proving to be inflexible. By deploying the new solution to cover all 3 functional areas, Gamestec has experienced an 88% reduction in on-going IT costs and has enabled increased efficiency across the organisation in how service and field workers are deployed.
With a fully integrated product across the two companies customers are set to benefit from one integrated contact centre solution based on Intelecom Connect and Verint Impact 360 workforce management Software. The offering is available in one...
With a fully integrated product across the two companies customers are set to benefit from one integrated contact centre solution based on Intelecom Connect and Verint Impact 360 workforce management Software. The offering is available in one flexible cloud-based deployment model.
Intelecom Group AS, a provider of cloud contact centre technology, have announced the availability of Verint Systems's Impact 360 workforce management and optimisation software as a cloud-based solution integrated into Intelecom Connect. This follows the organisations commencing their relationship earlier this year in May 2013 and is impressive in the speed at which they have ben able to collaborate as well as the depth of the proposition. Adding to Intelcom's contact solution, Verint are prominently placed in a field they define as "Actionable Intelligence" solutions and their product line already includes a suite of award-winning workforce optimisation software as well as an analytics tool Voice of Customer Analytics.
The closer alignment of service to other divisions within an organisation is one that is often cited as a critical steep in moving from cost centre to profit centre, or at the very least in increasing efficiency and reducing costs simultaneously. Of course one of the most obvious and simplest divisions for alignment to the service centre in in many cases is the contact centre as often they fulfil many similar if not overlapping functions.
An integrated, cloud-based solution will help multi-site, multichannel contact centres capture a full range of customer interactions for quality, compliance and customer intelligence that can be used to enhance operations, improve performance and heighten the customer experience. It also opens the doors wide to operational transparency which is key to the successful operation of an efficient service division.
When we then add in the more standard service management-esque elemeents to the solution which can help organisations automate workforce management, including staff forecasting and scheduling, and the ability to track agent adherence, while providing performance management we are starting to see yet another example of the more holistic platform approach to software that Sergio Barata referred to in his recent feature .
Torkel Engeness, CEO of Intelecom comments, “An increasing number of our customers using our cloud-based contact centre are placing more focus on enhancing the customer experience. There are clear benefits in using a robust and well-known workforce optimisation technology, deployed in the same flexible cloud model as our core product. Verint, with its proven portfolio of WFO and VoC Analytics solutions, makes it an ideal partner for Intelecom.”
Nick Nonini, Senior Vice President Sales, Verint Enterprise Intelligence Solutions™adds, “Verint is committed to working with select partners to deliver our portfolio of solutions in the cloud. Our customers and the industry at-large continue to recognise Verint as the market leader and innovator in deploying WFO applications in a variety of environments, from on-premises to the cloud. With this partnership, Intelecom’s customers have access to a fully-integrated, cloud-based WFO solution.”
Intelecom Connect is at the time of writing as close as any other offering to being the complete contact centre solution available in the cloud. Of course the fact that it follows the SaaS model also provides a number of other benefits including being affordable to those companies for whom such technology may previously been prohibitively expensive to obtain.
The flexibility of the Connect application programming interface and Web Services allows seamless integration into third-party software environments. This partnership not only provides Intelecom customers with advanced workforce management technology typically associated with on-premise licensing, but also makes it available on an integrated in-the-cloud, pay-as-you-use basis from a single supplier. Offering customers flexibility in deployment, it also can help them meet their business requirements as they evolve.
Verint’s Impact 360 Workforce Optimisation suite enables organisations to capture, analyse and act on customer, business and market intelligence, and gain a complete multichannel view of customer interactions and experiences. Again the type of technology at the top of a lot of field service managers wish lists currently.
Using tools like this companies can identify opportunities to refine and enhance products and services; maximise information and workflow across functions; learn about competitive and other changing market dynamics; fine-tune internal business processes; enhance staff sales/service delivery; reduce operating costs; and realise new revenue opportunities. All extremely commendable in its own right.
Brought together these options certainly make for a compelling package and it's good to see such strong collaboration yielding impressive initial results.
ALS Environmental has selected Paragon routing and scheduling software to plan collections and deliveries of water, earth and air samples for testing at its specialist laboratories. The analytical services company has installed Paragon's Multi...
ALS Environmental has selected Paragon routing and scheduling software to plan collections and deliveries of water, earth and air samples for testing at its specialist laboratories. The analytical services company has installed Paragon's Multi Depot software at its Coventry headquarters for optimising the transport of hundreds of samples a week using its fleet of 3.5 tonne temperature controlled vehicles.
Paragon's routing and scheduling software enables ALS Environmental to plan the routes for all its vehicles and drivers centrally across all the company's depots as a single planning task. The software adjusts depot boundaries dynamically to ensure calls are routed from the most suitable depot according to fleet availability and the geographic spread of orders on the day.
"Paragon enables me to plan all our collections and deliveries across the UK quickly and efficiently so it is a critical part of our operation. Without the software it would take hours to plan the routes and we wouldn't be able to provide the high level of service we offer our customers. We import all the jobs directly into Paragon and then the routes and schedules are generated automatically. We print the routes for our drivers directly from the system, so there is no further data entry to do," says Shaun Millington, Transport Controller, ALS Environmental.
ALS Environmental is part of the ALS group - one of the world's largest and most diversified analytical testing service providers operating across 55 countries. The company is one of the UK's leading providers in its field that offers an extensive range of accredited analytical services for water, land and waste monitoring. The company provides its customers with accurate, legally defensible, analytical data.
Software as a Service (SaaS) has been much heralded as a software delivery method that is set to revolutionise the way businesses operate. Often it is seen as being at the heart of business technology in the future. In the field service industry...
Software as a Service (SaaS) has been much heralded as a software delivery method that is set to revolutionise the way businesses operate. Often it is seen as being at the heart of business technology in the future. In the field service industry SaaS is already making a sizeable impression in the dynamics of the industry itself, moving the base of power away from enterprise level organisations who traditionally held the upper hand by utilising service technologies, which due to the often prohibitive costs aligned to on-premise solutions, were out of reach for their smaller competitors.
In this feature, we explore the rise of SaaS, why it is so suited to field service, the particular benefits for smaller companies and what its impact on the Field Service industry will be.
What is Software as a Service?
As a concept SaaS can actually trace it’s origins right back to the 1960’s when IBM and other mainframe providers established a service bureau business, sometimes referred to time-sharing or utility computing.
These services, which were designed for large organisations such as banks, would often include both database storage and computing power from worldwide data centres.
As we leap forward to the 1990’s when we saw the first real commercialisation and expansion of the Internet, we see the next precursor to SaaS, which was Application Service Providers (ASP’s). With the goal of reducing costs through central administration, ASPs began providing businesses with the service of hosting and managing specialised business applications.
SaaS is essentially extended from the concept of ASPs, but importantly harnesses the power of cloud infrastructure.
Indeed a common misconception is that SaaS and the Cloud are in fact one and the same however, this is not strictly correct.
SaaS is very simply, any software application that you operate which is not located on your premises. Whereas the cloud is the virtual infrastructure that the SaaS runs within, which in turn is housed on the vendor’s own data centres, or in many cases a data centre the vendor themselves ‘rents’ from an organisation such as Amazon Web Services.
Why field service is so suited to SaaS:
Whilst early applications of SaaS were predominantly either CRM or highly specific business niche products, it was only a matter of time before we saw a number of providers offering up SaaS solutions to the field service industry.
As SaaS systems are Internet based the ability to operate and access the software from various locations is a key fundamental inclusion of the system. Similarly as web protocols are becoming standardised, with the rise in device agnostic languages such as HTML 5 for example, SaaS solutions essentially allow users to access the entire application from any device - including smart phones and tablets.
It is this flexibility and mobility that SaaS solutions offer that make them such a perfect match for the field service industries and ideal for an organisation that operates a BYOD policy for it’s mobile workforce.
As such we have seen a number of vendors establish SaaS field service solutions. Including Tesseract Software, Connect2Field, Astea, ServiceMax, IFS and Click Software who all offer a variety of SaaS solutions to help field service companies improve the efficiency of their mobile workforces.
The benefits of SaaS to SMB’s
As well as the obvious benefits of having a central software solution that is accessible across numerous remote devices, that are specifically relevant to field service companies, SaaS solutions have more generic benefits also which are particularly beneficial to Smaller and Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs)
Perhaps the most obvious of these is the cost.
Whilst in the long term (i.e. across a three to five year period) a subscription model may actually prove to be more expensive, the ability to spread the costs (usually in either annual or monthly payments) is a particularly attractive route for smaller or even medium sized companies for whom cash flow remains an important factor.
Similarly the benefit of not having to have your IT team dedicate large amounts of their potentially limited resources on implementing, monitoring and maintaining a system is also particularly important for smaller sized companies.
With SaaS the software is maintained and updated by the provider reducing the burden on a companies IT significantly.
Another often cited benefit that is of particular importance to SMB’s is the lack of fixed term contract.
Often the service is provided on a rolling monthly basis or even a freemium model (where the basic functionality is provided for free and additional services are offered at a premium), which allows greater flexibility for a company to walk away.
Not being tied to a long contract for software that they may not necessarily need in a year or so’s time when their business needs change, is another attractive benefit for SMBs that SaaS offers.
What this means to the field service industry.
It has been suggested that the access to sophisticated service management solutions that were previously out of reach to non-enterprise level organisations, which SaaS delivers is potentially going to have a major impact on the dynamics of the industry.
For the first time, many smaller companies are now able to take advantage of the benefits of such systems including improving the efficiency of their mobile workforce, gaining visibility across their entire field service operation and reducing fuel costs.
Previously the cost of both implementing and maintaining an on premise field service management solution was simply too prohibitive for most smaller organisations, giving their larger competitors a clear advantage in terms of the level of service they could deliver and therefore the level of customer satisfaction they could achieve.
However, the introduction of SaaS solutions has levelled the playing field and perhaps even shifted the balance in favour of the smaller companies.
SMBs often have smaller overheads and can therefore gain greater profit margins for similar revenue levels . A result of this has led to reducing costs often being the traditional primary sales strategy adopted by SMBs when competing with larger companies , who are able to deliver superior service.
Today however, with companies of all sizes being able to offer similar levels of service through automating elements of their field service operation, smaller companies can take advantage of this ability to compete more fiercely on price whilst offering the same customer satisfaction levels as their bigger competitors. For perhaps the first time the power lies with smaller more agile companies.
The tables have turned slightly and it is largely down to the SaaS revolution.
It’s been one of the biggest buzz words in boardrooms across the globe now for a number of years and if you look across any technology website you are sure to find an article or two shouting about it’s apparent all encompassing power, but what...
It’s been one of the biggest buzz words in boardrooms across the globe now for a number of years and if you look across any technology website you are sure to find an article or two shouting about it’s apparent all encompassing power, but what exactly is Big Data, is it really set to change the world, and what does it mean to the field service industry?
Big Data 101:
Well despite what seems to be a fairly meteoric rise to prominence, Big Data can actually trace it’s origins back to the early part the millennium when Doug Laney an analyst with META group (now Gartner) defined the challenges of modern data as threefold – the increase in Volume(the amount of data), Velocity (the speed of data in and out), and Variety (range of data types and sources).
This “3 V’s model” has now become the standard staple definition of Big Data although additional V’s such as Veracity, Validity, Volatility tend be thrown into the mix at times now also.
But for now let’s just get to grips with the first three, starting with Volume which is perhaps the most obvious and arguably what lends the Big to Big Data.
As you may imagine Volume refers to the sheer amount of data that is now available to be processed. We are living in a digital world where almost every single action we take creates data. In fact in the last three years alone, more data has been created than in the entirety of history before that point.
Very simply put, we now have lots and lots and lots of data, and as any analyst will tell you the bigger the data set, the more robust the insights taken from it are.
The second of these three V’s, Velocity, is perhaps the least defined of the group.
It has been suggested that Velocity refers to the quantum leap in processing power that makes Big Data a reality. Big Data is in the main about real-time analysis and instant insight. Even the largest and most complex databases are now often processed in a matter of hours whereas it would have been days or even weeks not too long ago.
Another interpretation is the speed at which data is being received. One example is some smart meters are designed to report energy consumption data every 15 minutes; another could be the constant stream of social media commentary that a company may receive.
Both representative a rapid and ongoing growth of a particular data set.
In actuality Velocity is perhaps best understood as a combination of both of these interpretations. Crucially though, it is the real-time ability to interpret data and draw meaningful information on-the-fly, that separates Big Data from its older and less glamorous cousin Business Analytics.
And finally we have Variety.
When discussing Velocity just now we highlighted two very different types of data sets.
Firstly energy consumption, which usually would be translated into very simple numerical data, and secondly, customer sentiment data which has been collected via social media. In very simplistic terms this is exactly what Variety is all about.
Lets explore the smart meter example first. Any one utilities provider could be and likely is drawing data from a number of different types of meter, each with varying configurations, and varying data sets so even this structured data comes in various formats.
Next we look at the more complicated ‘unstructured’ data example of social media data. Whilst more complex to interpret, there is perhaps even more value locked away in these types of data sets. However, technologies such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) allow for the interpretation and exploitation of such data.
It is the combination of all these varieties of data from both the unstructured and structured realms, and then the ability to bring these together to uncover hidden insight and understanding, is perhaps the most important strength of Big Data.
Big Data and the Field Service industry…
When we look at the digitization within business today, we must consider that every single interaction a company has with their customers adds to a potential data set somewhere along the way.
Service focused companies by definition have the customer at the centre of their business and therefore have more customer touch points than any other type of company.
For Service organizations the potential for data collection is vast, from various data sets and the flow of data is rapid and constant. In fact Field Service is an industry perfectly placed to reap the benefits Big Data.
The benefits of Big Data in Field Service?
There are a number of applications of Big Data that would benefit the field service industry.
The most obvious is the further enhancement of traditional analytics, for example the ability to both access and analyse GPS vehicle data to see how certain field teams or even specific field engineers are performing and being able to constantly monitor and improve service performance (in turn giving you a significant competitive edge by ensuring that the service you give your customers remains best in class.)
In fact we are already seeing the first ‘Big Data’ based applications being introduced with both MPL Systems and Trimble Field Service Management incorporating elements of these technologies into their latest solutions.
Perhaps an even greater, if somewhat harder to achieve aim however, is to establish the fabled 360 customer view.
By bringing together the various different datasets, you have from your numerous customer touch points (e.g. numerical data, contact centre calls, social media data, GPS data, data entered at engineer visits etc etc) and then managing, amalgamating and interpreting this data you can achieve a complete and holistic understanding of your customer, their needs and the best way to service them.
Undertaking a Big Data project is neither an easy or particularly cheap process, yet it does yield the power to revolutionize the way your business operates, including your ability to fully understand your customer and tailoring the service you deliver to meet those needs both a the macro and micro level.
With such great rewards and clear competitive advantage to be gained it is surely just a matter of time before we start seeing the real-world impact of Big Data within the field service industry.