The Konica Minolta field service operation has more than 2000 field service technicians across Europe in 30 National Operating Countries (NOCs), servicing over a million customer assets, such as office printers and commercial printing devices, as...
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The Konica Minolta field service operation has more than 2000 field service technicians across Europe in 30 National Operating Countries (NOCs), servicing over a million customer assets, such as office printers and commercial printing devices, as well as IT Hardware and Software. Cognito iQ provides mobile and analytics solutions that enable field service operations to drive efficiency and improve customer satisfaction.
Cognito iQ’s COO, Dave Webb, had an opportunity to interview Patrick Stucke Senior Manager, Service Strategy for Konica Minolta, Europe. Patrick talked about how the organisation has been working to systematically harmonize and improve field service for a number of years; their shift-left strategy focuses on the technologies and processes which enable them to reduce costs and enhance customer service.
SHIFT-LEFT IS THE FOCUS OF KONICA MINOLTA FIELD SERVICE STRATEGY
Shift left is one of those terms that means something different in different industries, or even in diverse organisations within the same industry, so Dave asked Patrick what the term means to Konica Minolta.
Patrick Stucke: Shift left is a strategy that we've been following for seven to eight years. Our approach was to look at how we serve our customers, and rank all the functions that work towards incident resolution according to the ‘cost to operate’ , and the time it takes to resolve. Then, we took the most costly and valuable resources that take the longest to fix an issue and put them all the way to the right. And we took the resources that offer the fastest fix at little-to-no cost and put it them all the way on the left. It will come as no surprise that field service technicians were very far on the right. They are precious resources: they’ve received lots of training, they are equipped with tools, they carry spare parts, and they spend a lot of time driving around in leased vehicles. By contrast, on the left, there were the systems that self-diagnose and use automatic troubleshooting and reset functions. And then between those two different poles - the service technician on the right and the automated systems on the left - there were a lot of different shades of support, such as dedicated remote support specialists and expert teams, customer care teams or end-users using self-service support.So we asked ourselves: how can we shift as much work effort from the right to the left? Doing so would enable us to reduce downtime for customers, and also operate at a more competitive price point.
Dave Webb: What sort of challenges did you face in implementing the shift-left strategy?
When we started on the process of improvement, we discovered that we had various different mobile solutions in place. In some countries, local offices would self-dispatch the technicians but in others there was a central dispatch and scheduling function. Some technicians had mobile devices, and we were getting live feedback, but at the other end of the scale, some were doing all their call processing offline, on laptops, which was quite tedious. So it was very hard to compare one operation to another, and it was also very hard for the service managers to keep up to date with what was happening in their fields.
DW: So what steps did you take to harmonize field service?
PS: When we started looking into it, we weren’t really aware what was possible, and how much having live information would improve our capabilities to serve our customers. One target we had was to give our service managers more transparency of what's happening in their field operations, and enabling them to better analyse performance. So we went looking for best practices across different countries, exploring how operations work there and what partners they were working with. The real eye opener was our UK operation, which was using Cognito iQ’s Operational Performance Analytics solution (OPA). I had not seen anything like it before. Having real-time reporting and seeing how calls move through different statuses on an easy-to-understand dashboard reinforced our conviction that we have to move to fully mobile working - mobile devices and live data. The other element that I had not seen in such intensity before was the culture of performance and thought leadership on service optimization that has been established: Cognito IQ and the Konica Minolta UK team are working in a very close relationship and mutually improving each other.
Patrick Stucke, Konica Minolta
DW: What was it about the platform and the solution that particularly appealed to you?
PS: The platform itself is unique, I have not seen anything like it. Being able to start at the top of the organisation and get a quick overview of what's happening in the field, and then being able to drill down to the individual details - that was something I've not seen in any other tool. So we can see, for example, utilization of technicians - how much time is spent in front of the customer, how much time is spent in the car, how much time is spent idle because technicians are not utilized to the best of their capacity. And that enables us to maybe shift resources from one team to another during the day to get a better resource utilization and help the more busy areas out. That’s really actionable.The second part of the answer is the very close and good collaboration with everyone at Cognito iQ. We don't just get an off-the-shelf solution; you challenge our way of thinking, you listen to the requirements that we have and implement those into your development roadmap. And I think that's really valuable when forming a partnership between two organisations.
DW: And how do you see Cognito IQ supporting you in your shift-left initiative?
PS: A lot of the metrics within OPA show us whether we have been successful in our attempt to try and shift left. So having, for example, live visibility of our first-time-fix rate. We have different teams collaborating with each other to try and achieve that: we would first try to help our customers remotely, but if we can’t achieve a remote fix, then we would send a technician out but we would pass along all the information that we have gained through the remote fix attempts. And we would at least make sure that we send the right technician, with the right training, and who has the right spare part to the customer. Just having that visibility and transparency in the field operations goes a long way in employing the shift-left strategy.
DW: And what has been the day-to-day impact on the team? The service desk, the field operation, the field engineers themselves? What has been the response to the shift-left strategy that you've introduced?
PS: This strategy has transformed our service organisations. As we were embarking on the shift-left journey, a lot of our organisations started putting remote support specialists in place. However, these were just field technicians who were on a rotating remote support duty. They would just scan through the call queues and pick prospects for a remote fix, and call customers proactively. And through that, we saw that they maybe decrease the burden on their field service colleagues a bit. But now, more and more countries are actually changing to dedicated remote support specialists who use all the great technology that we have in place to try and resolve incidents remotely as much as possible. And if they cannot fix an issue, they pass along all the information. So we see the service desk function and the field service function move a lot closer together and support each other. That's definitely a trend we're seeing throughout our business and in our growing IT service business. The clear cut between what's happening in the field and what's happening in the back office that we've had in the past - it's not really there anymore. So it’s become really important that they all look at the same set of data and intelligence. We need to all be working to the same service level agreements, from the first contact in the Customer Care Centre, through the field service operations in the countries, up to the European support organisations. We’re all working towards resolving our incidents according to our promises to the customers.
DW: How successful has your shift-left initiative been?
PS: Well, the way we have implemented that strategy has been a guiding principle for a lot of the initiatives that we have embarked on over the years. It’s also earned us some external recognition; we’ve won a BLI Pacesetter Award for Outstanding Serviceability in Western Europe twice. And it's of course, something we're proud of, because it shows the right strategy and the right guiding principle: to reduce our cost to operate and at the same time serve our customers better.
DW: Looking ahead, what other technologies are you expecting to adopt? And what do you expect those technologies to bring to your shift left strategy?
PS: One area that we have invested in already and want to grow is predictive analytics. We have systems in place already that notify us about possible downtimes, in advance. In some cases, we're able to resolve possible sources of a downtime for customers before anything happens. And we want to fine tune those algorithms even more and employ them for new use cases. We have also developed a lot of own technologies as part of the shift-left strategy implementation. One example is our AIRe Link platform, which is a remote video support system that enables us to connect to our end-users phone cameras, without them needing to install an app on their phone. That gives us a visual impression of what our end-users see when they try to operate the system, instead of just listening to the issues that they describe. And it's very easy to use due to the fact that we don't have to install applications on customer mobile phones.So that helps us a lot in our remote support attempts, especially at the moment where we are trying to avoid having to visit end customers at all, so we don’t put people in harm's way. This platform has been so successful that we're not only using it ourselves, but we're also offering it commercially. Together with Cognito iQ, we’re looking forward to the next generation platform of OPA, which will give us even better insights into operations. And because we can see trends developing throughout the day, in the dashboards that you provide to us, I think that soon you will be able to give us a glimpse into the future.
DW: As you say, the predictive aspect is very much a journey we're on together. At the moment OPA enables you to replay the operational day, but we're looking at playing it forward into predicting based on the data that we can see for tomorrow and beyond.
PS: That will certainly help us to serve our customers even better. And that's really an exciting prospect.
To find out more about any of the topics discussed in this interview please get in touch www.cognitoiq.com
- Read more about Digital Transformation @ www.fieldservicenews.com/digital-transformation
- Read more about Cognito iQ on Field Service News @ www.fieldservicenews.com/cognito-iq
- Learn more about Konica Minolta @ www.konicaminolta.co.uk
- Find out more about Cognito iQ @ www.cognitoiq.com
- Follow Cognito iQ on Twitter @ twitter.com/Cognito_iQ
- Follow Cognito iQ on LinkedIn @ www.linkedin.com/cognito-
In a follow up piece to his last article for Field Service News, Copperberg's Rohit Agarwal asks how you can make the strategy personal to the workforce.
In a follow up piece to his last article for Field Service News, Copperberg's Rohit Agarwal asks how you can make the strategy personal to the workforce.
Maximilian Schnippering, Business Specialist Recurring Revenue and Alexander Driss, Project leader VMI, of Heidelberg provide us with their deep level insight into how an organisation can harness the value of logistics services within a...
Maximilian Schnippering, Business Specialist Recurring Revenue and Alexander Driss, Project leader VMI, of Heidelberg provide us with their deep level insight into how an organisation can harness the value of logistics services within a subscription model to drive value...
Copperberg’s Rohit Agarwal suggests that it is time to get our strategies correct before looking for excuses when it comes to misfiring service delivery...
Copperberg’s Rohit Agarwal suggests that it is time to get our strategies correct before looking for excuses when it comes to misfiring service delivery...
Well-implemented ‘customer first’ strategies open the door for fresh thinking, but are our teams change-ready? Do we ourselves ‘walk the talk’ in building a professional network that connects us with the latest developments in other sectors or...
Well-implemented ‘customer first’ strategies open the door for fresh thinking, but are our teams change-ready? Do we ourselves ‘walk the talk’ in building a professional network that connects us with the latest developments in other sectors or markets? In a new strategic series, Paul Smedley looks at practical examples of successful change in all kinds of service operations.
Every service operation is challenged by digital servitisation. This includes the digital disruption of whole markets, with fierce competition and cost challenges. It requires rising to the challenges of changing customer expectations and the rapid pace of technology change. It means breaking down siloes within our organisations, between sales and operations for instance, as well as beyond, to our supply chain, distributors, outsourced services and other partnerships.
But are we too focussed on what we do and too little aware of trends or technologies that are not even on business radar? What should our priorities be in learning how to rise to these new challenges? Look at it this way: will your organisation ever be in the fast lane if you are re-inventing the wheel because your team is not connected and up-to-date?
In this new series on strategy for Field Service News, I will look at a number of practical examples of how ‘customer first’ approaches bring fresh thinking, giving a reason for everyone to look at business decision making from the outside in. We will see the importance of picking up ideas and approaches from other sectors and from an effective professional network, using these experiences to help engage our own people in making the necessary changes happen in a connected way.
The first step is putting service at the heart of our business decisions, in ways that get colleagues working together across the business. Award-wining work at British Engineering Services, for instance, has helped double sales and raise month-end service by 50 per cent.
Effective resource planning means they stand out from competitors on service reliability. What’s more, this information is used by sales and pricing; client-specific requirements can be incorporated with a clear view of costs and risks.
More broadly, many businesses now recognise the value that arises when service people become ‘trusted advisors’ and business joins together around a shared, overarching customer metric. As the Harvard Business Review reported, customers who receive the highest standards of service spend 140 per cent more than those with the poorest service. In business-to-business a 5 per cent uplift in customer retention will typically see profit increase of two to 95 per cent.
This illustrates why digital servitisation is transforming how manufacturers think and compete. An organisation that is truly focussed on service stands out from the crowd in any market. Yet, the digital dimension of service growth requires purposeful and co-ordinated effort. This starts when we invest time in understanding the winds of ‘unstoppable change’ and the factors that drive them.
What are the key trends and the latest ideas to watch out for? At a recent networking event for our members hosted by The Times in London, Chris Duncan, the media company's managing director explained that people came to visit them from every sector, because everyone is facing massive disruption and the media industry were early to experience this. In this 225-year-old newspaper, the first ‘paying customer’ came in 2010, with the ‘paywall’ for digital subscribers. How many other organisations have traditionally worked only through distributors or seen the ‘aftermarket’ as a cost function, not value adding.
Data visibility and automation
Joined-up data means we can literally see issues and change business decision-making processes. We can understand the costs of providing a certain type or level of service or ‘downstream consequences’. What if we don’t have the right skill or equipment because our data is out of date? Or if we don’t identify issues that could cause future problems?
More than that, good use of technology can now increasingly automate routine, high-volume tasks – including joining up legacy systems or tracking workflow. Award-wining work at ADT Fire & Security shows demonstrates how making data on engineers’ worktime easy to access gave instant visibility.
The busy summer period was seen to be due to supply (many people off at the same time) rather than demand. It revealed individual’s utilisation and effective performance management started to build a culture in which everyone rose to the productivity challenge. Another powerful example is the growing use of mobile video to allow specialist support for engineers on the ground at the ‘moment of truth’.
culture: this is about peopleThese examples show how much change impact people, especially a mobile workforce used to being ‘on their own’. How many approaches have failed, because we haven’t engaged ‘hearts & minds’? One factor that is common to every member’s successful service transformation is this capacity to see the human angle – to understand ‘where numbers meet people’.
People need to feel they can still make personal judgements, but equally to see when it is better to be consistent or co-ordinated and to value the support of others. Big productivity savings are common early in a transformation journey, but the real long-term win is engaging people. This translates into tangible benefits for colleagues, customers and the business: more time with customers (not on the road), turning up at a convenient time (when expected), fixing a bunch of issues (in a way that ensures the customer’s equipped stays fixed).
Invest in resource planning.
Crucially, field service companies will only stay in business if they deliver what the customer wants, when and how they want it. Well implemented mobile workforce management’ is a key step and we’ve seen that successful implementations at members like Anglian Water and OpenReach have been achieved by directly involving engineers in the change.
Surprisingly perhaps, effective planning often means fewer people allocating jobs, but better long-term planning. There are some key steps here: create a capacity plan, understand the impact on everybody. In future articles I will share some vital pointers in this area and highlight pitfalls to avoid.build a ‘playbook’ to manage the impact of changes.
A joined-up vision
This takes us back to where we started. If the customer is truly at the heart of everything you do, very soon no stone will be left unturned in the search for better solutions, technologies and operating models. More than that, our people will get it!
Twenty years ago, I founded professional networks and benchmarking for call centres, at a time of rapid transformation. Today, our members are looking at field service, branch operations and the back office, as well as the front office. They are taking learning from one area to apply in another. As people say: “there’s a whole technology or movement that is never flagged up in my business”, “we all face the same challenges” “there’s so much to learn”. I have found that success begins with the attitude we take ourselves. Do we ‘walk the talk’ and get connected personally to look from the outside in?
Paul Smedley leads a best practice network for professionals in service operations across Europe – the Professional Planning Forum, established in Mach 2000. More information about the network can be found here.
Proactive Service® is a term I use to describe the proactive efforts by field service personnel to promote their company’s products in services to help their customers achieve their business goals. It is an excellent way to differentiate your service and stand out in today’s ultra-competitive environment.
If you encourage your field service team to look for opportunities to promote your services, here are seven questions to ask yourself to help you ensure that you are getting the most from your efforts.
1. Is opportunity identification part of your service deliverable?
This is the most important question and is the biggest determinate of overall success. When the subject of field service personnel promoting services comes up, it is often viewed as a selling activity that is in addition to regular service work. This is unfortunate since when our field team take steps to uncover opportunities that they feel will benefit the customer in some way, they are providing a valuable service – a service as valuable as their ability to maintain the equipment in top running condition.
As a service, the act of finding new opportunities is not an “add-on” activity for the field team to do “while they are there”, but an integral part of the field service person’s expected service deliverable. Our field teams have an obligation to bring forward ideas that will help the customer achieve results they may not have thought possible. When we take this perspective, it becomes easier to win enthusiastic support from our team of field service professionals. From this perspective, it is also easier for us to recognize the importance of implementing specific tools and processes to formalize this “opportunity identification” role. (See Question 4 below).
How well do you integrate business development by your field team as part of your service to your customers?
2. Do your technicians recognize the valuable service they provide by making recommendations to help their customers be more successful?
Many of the service professionals that I have met do not see their role as a salesperson. They tend to leave sales activities to the people with the expense accounts and fancy cars. What these service professionals fail to see is that, with a service perspective, we are not asking them to sell at all.
By identifying and speaking with the customer about the actions that the customer can take that will help them improve operational performance, reduce costs, improve tenant satisfaction, etc. is a valuable part of the service.
This is important because, it will be difficult to get enthusiastic engagement from your team if they don’t see their proactive business development efforts as part of the service that they provide. They may give it lip service, but it is unlikely that they will put their hearts into the effort.
How about your service team? What do they think of your expectation for them to promote your services? Do they talk as if their efforts are a sale or a service?
3. Do you “talk the walk”?
Language is important. Your team will scrutinize what you say in an effort to understand what you mean. For example, if you tell everyone that their proactive efforts is a service but you talk about it as if it is a sale, then they will think that your service idea was just for show. Or if you reward individual team members for their “sales” efforts but do not put emphasis on the “service” they have provided to the customer, your words will not be consistent with your purpose.
How about you? How do you describe the proactive efforts of your field team? How well do you talk the walk?
"Many of the service professionals that I have met do not see their role as a salesperson..."
4. Do your processes support your business development strategy?
There are implications from this approach on the processes used to support business development activities by technicians in the field. Because lead handling becomes just as important as lead generation, the successful firm will have to ensure that they have a failsafe process for handling leads from the field and following up on them in a timely manner.
What processes do you have in place to help the field service professional uncover opportunities? What questions do you require them to ask when they arrive on sight that might reveal problems that you can address? What steps can they take before leaving?
Think about your processes around the proactive efforts of your team. Are they consistent in quality and scope with the processes and systems you have in place to support the other services you provide?
5. Does your field service team have the skills and knowledge to deliver on the strategy?
Skills development is an integral part of the strategy. Service technicians will have to become as good at interpersonal skills as they are with their technical ones. They will need to be comfortable in speaking with the customer about their ideas and the benefits of taking action. Service management will need to be skilled at coaching and in opportunity management. Training on these interpersonal and communication skills will drive improved learning and skills adoption.
Knowledge is also critical. How well does your team know about the various products and services you offer and how they benefit your customers? You might be surprised by the answer. In my experience, there are gaps in the field team’s knowledge about their company’s capabilities. If the field service person doesn’t know of a product or service or if they do not know enough about it to engage the customer in a high level conversation about it, they will not bring it up to the customer.
What about your team? Do you ensure they have at least a conversational knowledge about all of the ways you can help your customers?
6. Do you tell your customers what you are doing? If you were to add a new service to your portfolio, would you tell your customers about it? Of course you would. So, if your field team is providing an exceptional service by using their knowledge and expertise to identify ways to help your customers be more successful why not tell your customers?
We should tell our customers this, just like we would tell them about any other service that we offer that would benefit them. Perhaps the conversation might look like this:
“We have encouraged our field service team to use their knowledge and expertise to identify opportunities to help you achieve your business goals. If they identify an opportunity that will benefit your business, would you have any objection if they bring their ideas to your attention?”
Do your customers know what your field team is doing through their proactive efforts and how it benefits them?
7. Do you measure the effectiveness of your efforts beyond revenues? If you engage your field service team in the promotion of your products and services, chances are you measure the increase in revenues. What additional business have we won that can be attributed to the efforts of the field team? But, if these proactive efforts are a service, shouldn’t we expect more results than simply improved sales?
What about customer satisfaction and retention? If a customer sees value in the proactive efforts of our team, should we not expect to see improvements in these areas? How about the amount of unplanned emergency work as a percentage of the contract base? If we take proactive steps to help our customers avoid unexpected failures, would it be reasonable to expect to see a change in the relationship between unplanned and planned work? And what about our customers’ level of satisfaction with the proactive efforts of our field team? Are they comfortable with their proactive efforts?
When it comes to assessing the impact of the proactive efforts of your field service team, what do you measure? What do you manage?
There is a tremendous opportunity to differentiate our service from our competitors through the proactive efforts of our field service professionals but unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we may not be achieving the results we had hoped when we embarked on the initiative – either for ourselves or for our customers.
Asking questions to help us reflect on our efforts may give us some insight to improve our effectiveness and further increase the level of service we are providing our customers.
Jim Baston is President of the BBA Consulting Group Inc.
Field service is undergoing what is in my opinion the biggest change the industry has seen in the last 25 years.
All of our customers, across a range of industries, want to talk to us about Digital Transformation, and how they can use digital technology to fundamentally transform the way they interact with their customers, and not just about the operational ‘nuts and bolts’ of delivering a service to them.
Some customers are only at the beginning, taking small steps towards transformation by, for example, moving away from traditional software ownership models towards cloud-based products and services, such as MS Office 365. Others are further along, with strategies that embrace technologies such as IoT, big data and AI.
But regardless of their progress, at the heart of all of these conversations is the recognition that Digital Transformation will bring them closer to the goal of providing exceptional field service.
The Art Of Field Service Ops
I often think that the role of a Field Service Manager is a complex mix of art and science, with a bit of magic thrown in for good luck.
Decision making needs to adjust constantly to changes in conditions – a sudden unseasonable cold snap, for example, or a contract with a new customer. Just as service delivery metrics point to success, something changes, and there is a whole new dynamic.
Without knowing what combination of factors triggered the change, it’s hard to know how best to respond.
Get the reaction to an emerging threat wrong – too great or too small a response – and the complex balance of the operational ‘ecosystem’ can be thrown out.
Recovering that balance and restoring the conditions required for ‘flawless’ field service can prove costly and time consuming.
Data doesn’t drive decisions
Most organisations capture a range of sources and types of data - workload planning, resource availability, schedule efficiency, service outcomes, customer satisfaction levels, asset profitability – and many are integrating new types, such as that offered by IoT.
However, this data is rarely delivered in the right form to support decision making, meaning that managers spend too much time aligning and manipulating data from disparate sources. Even then, many are frustrated to find that the root cause of issues is still unclear and the likely outcome of any decision is still uncertain.
AI, machine learning and predictive analytics
This is where the latest technologies, such as AI, machine learning and predictive analytics come in.
Valuable insights into the performance of an operation often lie at the intersections of these various datasets; these technologies can enable decision support applications to identify underlying patterns of performance in the Field Service operation, including long and short term trends, that were simply too complex for traditional applications to uncover. This is increasingly true as much larger data sets such as IoT have come online in recent years.
"Field service is undergoing what is in my opinion the biggest change the industry has seen in the last 25 years..."
This deep understanding of performance, combined with the power to highlight exceptions in real-time, enables the operations team to see the correct course of action to address each challenge as it arises. And beyond simple advice, these technologies make it possible for applications to automate ‘learned’ responses to common patterns of exceptions that occur.
The next generation of decision support
This next generation of applications will be used strategically to analyse, for example, which factors within a field service operation make engineers productive, and which inhibit productivity. Some of these factors will be within the control of the engineer, in which case performance can be addressed with initiatives such as better training or incentives.
Others will relate to company processes, in which case the applications will suggest tactical improvements, the impact of which can also be measured. Others still will be external factors which can’t be changed, but can be allowed for in planning and scheduling.
Such applications will be programmed with a knowledge base, but will be learning all the time, as the outcome of each decision is fed back into the performance data, effectively automating the process of continuous incremental improvement. This will take some of the challenge of blending art and science out of the hands of the Field Service Manager, leaving them free to concentrate on other activities.
Not just software suppliers
It is clear that this massive change in the industry requires those of us who supply and partner with field service companies to change too. We can’t just be technology suppliers.
We have to embrace our customers’ goals and work with them to add value; to weave their transformation strategies into the fabric of our products and services and to bring to the table our own blend of art, science and, yes, a little magic too.
Laurent Othacéhé is CEO at Cognito iQ.
There’s no escaping the fact that field service can be a lonely industry. Ask the engineer battling torrential rain to repair a wind turbine. Or the manager greeted with blank stares at dinner parties when asked to explain his job. With mobile engineering teams working in often remote locations, and a high number of lone workers, it can feel like there are limited opportunities for collaboration within field service.
But with Brexit around the corner, now is the time when field service operators must work together – not just to avoid problems, but also to get ahead. While the UK political climate remains highly uncertain, ByBox has shared practical tips with customers to help prepare for the ‘worst case scenario’ - No Deal.
A ‘Hard Brexit’ could mean that businesses which currently move parts freely within the EU, including the UK, will find themselves becoming importers and exporters between the UK and the EU.
An obvious statement perhaps, but several of the companies we have been working with will find it a shock to implement not only the existing rules, but also additional new procedures to manage No Deal.
And herein lies the real rub - under new customs rules, if one company fails to comply, it could cause delays to the stock of all businesses within the same consignment. The smartest businesses recognise that ‘one issue affects all’ within Field Service; and that by and large they do not compete supply chain against supply chain.
"Advanced businesses view Brexit as an opportunity to take stock and think about how they can add value..."
By preparing for new import and export rules now they’re protecting not only their own businesses, but the resilience of the whole field service sector. Advanced businesses also view Brexit as an opportunity to take stock and think about how they can add value after Brexit and get ahead in a new trading environment.
The most common themes are:
Use of technology
An increasing number of firms are looking to digitise processes around distribution, engineer productivity and inventory. With ever-more stringent SLAs and cost pressures, there just isn’t room for inefficiencies or delays in responding to disruptions
Increased forward stocking
In some industries where the potential consequences of delays are not acceptable, EG medical technology, we’ve seen an increase in firms using micro Forward Stock Locations (FSLs) – placing critical items in App-Lockers at the service sites where they’re needed, to protect first-time fix rates
Third party specialists
Many companies are turning to third parties to manage complexities around cross border transport and distribution. For example, our strategic partners such as Bespoke Distribution Aviation (BDA) – already have established transport channels, a customs clearance approach and brokers.
Two years on, it’s easy to experience ‘Brexit fatigue’ – but the burden can be significantly reduced if field service companies realise they’re not alone, and help each other through it.
Simon Fahie is Managing Director at ByBox.
The ability of Field Service Organizations (FSOs) to deliver an optimal customer experience depends in a large part to their ability to effectively schedule their Field Service Engineers (FSEs).Scheduling of Field Service Engineers if a critical success factor in optimizing customer experience. Ultimately, this requires FSO to make the highest and best use of resources to obtain the highest and best outcome for themselves and their customers. In other words, outcomes that result in high first-time fix rate, customer satisfaction ratings, and profitability for the FSO.
Smaller businesses using five or fewer technicians may be able to manage scheduling effectively enough to operate a successful business. However, an increase in the number of employees, the number of customers, or the number of service requests can quickly disrupt the flow of business. With each new addition, the complexity of scheduling grows exponentially. This is because each addition brings a host of related attributes. For example, a new technician means identifying a new skill set, adding another vehicle, identifying a different route, stocking more parts, and redistributing servicecalls. Multiply times two - or twenty and a logistical nightmare quickly ensues.
At issue, end-customers increasingly expect a high level or responsiveness example, one that provides them with visibility into their FSE’s route and schedule, and one that provides a high level of certainty of when their FSE will arrive onsite. Using manual scheduling or basic dispatch software will not result in this outcome. It is virtually impossible to remain competitive in the field services environment using manual scheduling and spreadsheets, which can cost mangers 20% of their workday. Further, incorporating even a single change, such as adjusting for a driver who calls out, can have a domino effect on the overall schedule, wasting additional time by the scheduler and downtime as other technicians wait for reassignment.
Dynamic Scheduling software offers a host of benefits and there are several factors which should be considered when evaluating scheduling software options. Some core functions include resource scheduling, dispatching, route planning, work order management, SLA compliance tracking, parts inventory management, forecasting, integration with other systems, and reporting just to name a few.
The table below shows which outcomes are typical for organizations that use dynamic scheduling applications:
|REDUCTION IN:||INCREASE IN:|
|Labor costs||Procedural consistency|
|Scheduling/re-scheduling costs||Customer satisfaction|
|Fuel costs||Availability of resource usage reports|
|Inventory costs for parts||First-time fix (FTF).
SLA Compliance/Onsite response time
While the most common reason for not replacing an existing field service management system is cost, efficiencies gained from a technology-based system often negate that argument. Further, companies using dynamic scheduling can gain a 20% - 25% improvement in operating efficiency, field service productivity, and utilization. Other reasons to consider a change are opportunities for growth, more accurate and reliable data, flexible and scalable scheduling, and positive impact on KPIs.
With a seemingly infinite choice of features, identifying a workforce and scheduling management platform that is cost-effective and offers what you need without unnecessary add-ons that don’t add value can be a challenge. Most systems offer a customizable range of features and benefits appropriate to your industry, size, and business objectives.
A benchmark survey by Blumberg Advisory Group indicates that advanced tools like Dynamic Scheduling software allows companies to perform more efficiently and effectively by optimizing scheduling and associated functions. Companies that use these tools also are more likely to have an SLA compliance rate of 90% or higher. Field service workers scheduled through an automated process are also more likely to complete five or more calls per day, at a utilization rate of 85% or higher.
"It is virtually impossible to remain competitive in the environment using manual scheduling.."
In addition, companies that utilize advanced tools are more likely to be able to manage and schedule a higher volume of service events. For example, half (49%) of the companies surveyed that use advanced receive at least 500 service request calls per day, and about half of those companies (26%) receive 1,000 service calls per day.
They are also more likely to have a higher ratio of FSEs to schedulers than companies who do not use w technology. In summary, Dynamic scheduling software offers clear advantages to field service organizations regardless of the industry, services, revenues, or number of field service workers.
Automated technologies provide enhanced functions beyond the capabilities of the most adept schedulers and other manual approaches. Being able to get the best qualified FSE to the customer site at the right time, relies not only on identifying a knowledgeable technician and the necessary parts but ensuring they get to the customer site within the timeframe promised. Using a scheduling software system can make this happen while simultaneously adjusting the calls, routes, and ETA’s of other field service workers to maintain responsiveness and avoid jeopardizing schedules.
The business intelligence collected and stored in these systems allows FSOsto make better decisions about what inventory and tools to carry, equipment to be repaired or replaced, routes that should be developed or changed, and other factors that influence the bottom line.
More and more field services organizations recognize this need and adopting dynamic scheduling platforms, leaving businesses that do not provide these increasingly expected and desired services struggling to compete.
You can download the whitepaper, Creating an Uber-like Service Experience: Benchmarks and Best Practices in Field Service Scheduling, here.