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There used to be an adage in business when it came to dealing with suppliers that jokingly went along the lines of “I only want one throat to choke.”
The idea was that if an organisation was providing you with a service, it was preferable to have just one touchpoint with them, one human at the end of the phone who understood the entirety of the relationship. One vendor who could provide the hardware, the software and of course all the services required to make that then all work.
However, today this concept seems somewhat antiquated, particularly amongst larger organisations. In a world of increasing connectivity and APIs, the prevalent thinking is more along the lines of “I want whatever you have to work with what I have.”
Best-of-breed solutions are once again returning to the fore to resolve specific challenges, often challenges that have arisen as the result of the disruptive nature of emerging technology we have witnessed in recent times and the ripple effect that disruption has on service across many varied and disparate industry verticals.
This development has led to a new wave of innovative companies rising to prominence within the field service sector. These include ‘Last Mile’ solution provider Localz who have already garnered an impressive roster of clients including DPD, Belron and UK utilities giant British Gas. The latter even having showcased their use of Localz technology as a major USP in their most recent high profile advertising campaign.
Localz is a perfect example of an organisation that has been able to identify an essential gap in the current field service management ecosystem that has been exposed by developments outside of the sector. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel and fix parts that weren’t necessarily broken in the first place, they’ve instead focused on providing a well thought out, easily implemented and effective solution for an important but somewhat overlooked part of the service cycle.
“We’re not here to change the world for field service companies; we are not going to make you change everything you already have. We are here to help you quickly get big cost savings and massively improve your customer experience by simply plugging in our location based day of service software,” comments Tim Andrew, CEO Localz.
Of course, the twenty-first century has so far been the century of data. We have seen field service companies make a concerted effort across the board to knock down the silos between divisions to allow data to flow seamlessly across an organisation to enable them to attain the once fabled, but now commonplace 360-degree view of the customer.
This trend has played well into the hands of the major platforms who could facilitate this by offering multiple functionalities within their suite of solutions. SAP, IFS, Microsoft and others have all championed the benefits of the platform approach for this reason.
As is the cyclical nature of such things, it is often outside of the restrictions of enterprise providers, that we see innovation flourish and thrive. It is a well established pattern of evolution and consolidation that those of us in the field service sector with more than a few flecks of grey in our beards will recognise.
However, the difference between today and previous years is the prevalence of APIs and the increasing ease of integration, which allows a solution like Localz to plug-in on top of a broader system and deliver the impressive level of last-mile communications and visibility that British Gas has harnessed so effectively.
“Connectivity is the big thing,” explains Andrew as we discuss how technology development has evolved in the last decade.
“It’s also important for technology providers to realise they need to switch the model on how the technology works. Smarter providers have stopped putting themselves in the centre. Customers’ don’t want to hear about a solution that is the centre of their operation; they have already invested significantly in many solutions and established efficient processes that broadly work well. Now they want to improve; they want to see how we add value to what they’ve already invested in.”
"The twenty-first century has so far been the century of data..."
The solution itself can be described in a sense as Uber for Field Service in that there is a very slick visual representation for the end customer to see the engineer arriving.
There is also, other useful technology within the solution, including scan to van stock management, which can be a game changer for the P&L of some companies struggling to cope with the constant movement of spares. However, it is in its ability to allow field service companies to deliver a service experience that has become an expectation in the age of Amazon and Uber, that Localz grabs the headlines.
This is mostly because it is addressing an issue that many service companies, whether it be a giant like British Gas is universal, or a niche SMB are facing - customer expectations and understandings of what ‘good’ service looks like are evolving rapidly.
“Something I touch on quite a lot is that customers are more informed across the board today,” explains Andrew
“Whether it be in a B2C, B2B or even a B2E environment, we’re all just universally more informed today as such customer expectations are radically increased. Also, the ability to switch providers, especially in the consumer world, is becoming easier and easier. I don’t need to speak to somebody; I literally can go on a website and choose from A, B, and C and get better service.”
The term that has risen to popularity over the last eighteen months in this regard is the ‘experience economy’ where customer satisfaction is no longer enough, we have to consider and understand the total customer experience to deliver customer delight. With this in mind, tools like Localz have become an essential part of the field service equation as they play a significant role in meeting the modern expectations of that service experience.
As Andrew touched on, this experience economy, these increasing customer expectations, have begun to break down the barriers of what we would traditionally define as business to business or business to consumer service standards.
The impact of disruptors, such as Uber and Amazon, is being felt wide and far beyond transport and e-commerce, it’s become ubiquitous across all industries.
“It’s definitely becoming that way,” Andrew agrees as we touch on how the lines across bB2C and B2B appear to be blurring.
“Service expectations especially around visibility and communication on the day of the service call are fast becoming table stakes in B2B, but I think we’re going to see it in B2B soon enough as well.”
If indeed the zeitgeist of the early twenty-first century, in the field service sector at least, is one of seamless service experience, then tools like Localz could very quickly become an essential addition to any field service organisation’s technology sector.
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.
By 2020, there will be more than seven connected devices for every person alive. Service providers must anticipate this new reality, the speed at which it’s emerging, and its impact on business models explains Joe Kenny, Vice President Global...
By 2020, there will be more than seven connected devices for every person alive. Service providers must anticipate this new reality, the speed at which it’s emerging, and its impact on business models explains Joe Kenny, Vice President Global Customer Transformation & Success for ServiceMax, a GE Digital company.
The global economy is in the middle of the most disruptive period in all of human history. Companies that have been fuel for the global economic engine that powered the late 20th century are quickly disappearing from the global stage.
According to the Olin School of Business, 40% of today’s Fortune 500 companies will be gone in the next 10 years. Much of this business transformation is due to the accelerated advancement of technology. We are, in effect, making better and cheaper things that enable us to make better and cheaper things. Organisations that do not recognise this reality, and adapt to it, are going to face incredible challenges, much faster than ever before.
While many people are amazed at the success of Uber, few consider the consequences to Uber’s competitors.
While many people are amazed at the success of Uber, few consider the consequences to Uber’s competitorsIn New York City, a taxi medallion cost $1.3m in 2014 and two years later they were selling for $250k (Business Insider – 12 October 2016). That same article noted that the total share of all taxi rides for medallion owners in New York fell from 84% in April 2014, to 65% in 2015; A 20% market share decline in 12 months. Those that invested, over generations and decades, in N.Y.C. taxi medallions, will eventually see those medallions lose all of their value.
Ray Kurzwiel, futurist and author of the book, “The Singularity is Coming”, states that based on our current rate of change that, “from a historic perspective, the 21st Century will experience 20,000 years of technology advancement in 100 years”. What is driving this “Age of Acceleration”? The information and communications revolutions of the late 20th century. So, what does all of this have to do with how we service our corporate equipment and assets? Better, cheaper, and faster technology allows for a fundamental paradigm shift in how service providers approach customers and their markets.
Leveraging the technical revolution allows for machine to machine communication, remote asset monitoring, preventive maintenance planning, and predictive analytics. This is not something that is coming, it is something that is already here.Leveraging the technical revolution allows for machine to machine communication, remote asset monitoring, preventive maintenance planning, and predictive analytics. This is not something that is coming, it is something that is already here.
Major markets that have embraced these technology advancements include aviation, transportation, and power generation. Aviation Week reports that an average twin-engine plane can produce over 850 terabytes of data over 12 hours of flight. That data informs on everything from temperature, vibration, oil pressure, basically every aspect of that asset’s performance. It informs service providers of the exact status of that asset over time, when it will need maintenance, and exactly what maintenance it will need.
That level of information will shortly be available on almost every asset in service. Currently, there are approximately 28 billion connected devices on the planet. In the next three years, that number is expected to almost double to more than 50 billion.
That is more than seven connected devices for every person alive in 2020. Service providers need to anticipate this new reality, and more importantly, the speed at which this new reality is emerging. Positioning a service organisation to leverage these capabilities, access these technologies, and drive efficiency, effectiveness, and technologically advanced service will be critical to their survival in the market. It’s one of the main factors driving the exponential rise of field service.
Utilising technology to drive predictive maintenance, guaranteed uptime, defined service windows, and the move to defined service outcomes will be the price of admission to providing service and maintenance.Utilising technology to drive predictive maintenance, guaranteed uptime, defined service windows, and the move to defined service outcomes will be the price of admission to providing service and maintenance.
By way of example, GE already has 800,000 Digital Twins in operation that provide a digital mirror on the status and performance of equipment - covering assets from jet engines to wind turbines - allowing engineers to predict when they need servicing - helping field service engineers make sure that they perform the right service, right first time. Soon there will be more than a million Digital Twins in operation. If you are not positioning and preparing for this reality now, you may already be too late.
While there is always talk of the high cost of doing nothing, in the past there was a period of time for reflection, evaluation, and a window of opportunity to changes one’s mind. That will not be the case in the future. A missed opportunity will be gone before you know it.
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Field service organisations must adapt in a rapidly changing world, says Tom Bowe, Industry Director, Enterprise Service Management, IFS.
Field service organisations must adapt in a rapidly changing world, says Tom Bowe, Industry Director, Enterprise Service Management, IFS.
Agility and adaptability were the overarching themes at the recent IFS customer conference in Boston. More than 250 service-focused attendees came to hear user case studies about implementing and using IFS’s service software, watch industry experts apply new trends to real life, and to learn about what IFS is doing to take their service solutions to the next level.
Why? Because the world is changing, rapidly. According to Erik Qualman of Socialnomics fame, 40% of the Fortune 500 will be gone within 10 years. As PJ Jakovljevic of Technology Evaluation tweeted; “You have to be prepared to destroy your own business model before a kid in a dorm room does it for you.”
[quote float="left"]Monolithic legacy systems can no longer keep up with the changing market and customer demand.
We have developed a sort of nine step program to help service organisations achieve service excellence and help them adapt to an ever-changing environment. Here are some of the things you should keep in mind when you are looking to make your service organisation more adaptable, and more successful:[ordered_list style="decimal"]
- Know your business
This may seem a bit obvious, and redundant, but in order to help your organisation streamline processes, maximise service margins, and increase customer satisfaction, you need to have a full understanding of your company’s goals, their future plans, their mission, and the vision. This will allow you to focus your efforts, systems, and processes on the right objectives
- Excellence through insight
The power of BI is never-ending. Use your collected data to drive more informed decisions, hone processes and affect change throughout your organisation. This should never be a static, one way function, BI should directly affect your future operations.
- Accelerate service achievement
A holistic view of not only your service organisation but your service value chain will accelerate service achievement. Bringing suppliers and other parties you collaborate with into the value chain adds value to them, you and ultimately your customers.
- “Uberise” your service
From the minute you order a car on Uber to when you arrive at your destination, Uber provides transparency from identifying the driver and license plate, to showing you on your route, to providing easy, secure payment options. Service businesses can use optimised, automated field service solutions (like IFS Field Service Management) to offer trust, security and reliability to their customers in a similar manner.
- Delivery that delights you and your customers
In the past, delivering superior customer service often meant accepting a reduced service margin. Now with powerful technology like M2M sensors, mobility solutions and automated processes, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Let your customers drive your initiatives and reap the benefit at the same time. Better organised internal processes often automatically improve external delivery.
- Open up to new things
New trends and technology in the service space can often be overwhelming, but don’t be closed off to what’s new and great in your space. Actively watch the market and evaluate which trends will affect your industry and your business the most. Sometimes this is customer driven. If a new trend can help meet a consumer demand, it is probably more than worthwhile to pursue.
- Optimise your world
Today, more people own a mobile device than a toothbrush (Socialnomics, 2014) and over one-third (36%) of consumers prefer using a company website or email to contact a business (2014 American Express Customer Service Barometer). Gone are the days when an excel spreadsheet, white board, or patched together legacy systems can handle customer demands and a mobile workforce effectively. Optimisation and automation allows for a seamless process from call intake to billing, reducing overhead costs, deviations, and errors.
- Manage your future
The future doesn’t have to be as unpredictable as it seems. Market research, watching trends, and utilising your business intelligence (and managing your big data effectively) will help give you a crystal ball into what’s coming and allow you to adapt faster, giving you a competitive edge.
- Agile, ready for change
If the past decade has shown the business world anything, it is that the most successful organisations are those that are two steps ahead of the game. The best way to future-proof yourself is to function as an agile, flexible operation. With the right systems and vision in place, the changing world will have nothing on you.
IFS Enterprise Service Management is continually investing in our solutions to support our goal of providing service organisations with dynamic scalability, mobile solutions, ease of deployment, and cloud and wearables flexibility.
We are future-proofing ourselves by helping you succeed at what you do best; delivering unrivaled service.