The Future Field Service Enterprise Depends on Getting Change Management Right

Mar 03, 2021 • FeaturesAly PinderIDCDigital TransformationTechnologyCovid-19

In this new article for Field Service News, IDC's Aly Pinder discusses why the future of field service enterprises depends on getting the change in management right.

With a new year comes new beginnings and new changes. Often our business lives resemble our personal lives, especially in this current moment where the lines between the two are quite blurred. But for the field service organization, where work from home options are not an easy pivot, change isn't always a welcomed concept. Decades of expertise from front-line technicians can often breed a tried-and-true mindset around best practices and ways of getting the job done.

However, even the field team is finding that they have had to become more nimble, agile, and open to a next normal. In IDC's COVID-19 IMPACT ON IT SPENDING survey, 36.8% of manufacturers stated product and service installation would be converted to a contact-less experience. The ability to service assets, equipment, and products remotely or at least with limited time physically on site is a major shift for many service organizations and field service teams where getting hands on the machine for as long as it takes to fix the issue has been the norm.

As customer expectations evolve to expect contact-less experiences while also receiving quality service, the field service organization will need to transform. However, in an IDC research survey of manufacturers, only 34.0% of sampled organizations stated a strategic approach to change management with senior leadership having invested resources to ensure transformation was successful. The rest of manufacturers had some resources in place for change management but nothing strategic or at an enterprise-wide level. This comes at a time of accelerated digital transformation for many organizations while disruption is impacting the way service is delivered, how customers interact with organizations, and where employees work. These divergent factors, of rapid change with limited strategic communication, can lead to field service teams feeling left out of the future of the business. The field service team, front-line technicians, dispatchers, schedulers, third-party contractors, and partners must be a part of any change from the beginning to ensure expedient success and minimal negative impact to customers. To achieve accelerated digital transformation in field service without the discord, manufacturers and service organizations should consider the following:

  • Solicit insight directly from your technicians with regard to gaps in the technology solutions currently used and relation to their productivity. Digital investments for many organizations are implemented from the top down or from the IT team. Not many organizations have the front-line team spearhead technological initiatives. It shouldn’t be a surprise, field technicians by in large are remote and must be primarily focused on completing work orders. Time to test or pilot new technologies isn’t in their job description. However, this fact mustn't lead to the field team being bypassed all together. Field technicians know what tools they need, what knowledge would help them be more productive, and what types of capabilities would enhance their interactions with customers. If field service technicians believe changes in technology or processes area being made with them in mind and with their input, the transformation will result in less friction.
  • Educate the field team on the value of digital transformation. Too often, technicians are the last to know about technology hardware and software changes. They are expected to just blindly go along with the latest tools and its inherent value to increased productivity. But this approach can lead to resentment as these technicians have gotten the job done prior to any changes in technology. Also, some enhancements can seem like digital automation just to track technicians more closely to be punitive or restrict creativity in work. Communicating the value of technology changes to productivity, the customer experience, and business goals will provide the field team with buy-in to support initiatives.
  • Understand field service team member's desired working environment and interest in digital technology. Not all technicians are the same. Some enjoy going out and dealing directly with customers, and others just want to fix an equipment failure but not have to interact with others. Both profiles are valuable to the field support team. In a constrained talent market, manufacturers and service organizations can’t afford to turn anyone away. By identifying which technicians are willing to work in direct contact with customers and which don’t, service leadership can create dedicated teams that build on individual strengths. Furthermore, with the emergence of a profit- or customer-centric view of field service, many service organizations look to transform the field service job to be less about completing as many jobs in a given day to instead empower technicians to become advisors. This change also is not for all technicians. Assessing which technicians want to work directly with customers to drive value-add experiences and which just want to just solve problems, service leaders can segment the workforce for specific jobs.

Change management is not easy even in the best environments where teams are in constant contact with direct communication with leadership and each other. Field service organizations have an even tougher time as technicians are removed from direct lines of communication with those making decisions, and inherent to their job is a feeling of isolation. As a result, service leadership must approach new digital initiatives and change differently for the field team taking a strategic approach to education, communication, and deployment. Failure to take change management as a serious challenge can result in delayed rollouts, attrition, or degraded service quality.

Further Reading: