The Long Awaited Uberization of the Field Service’s Last Mile

Jul 10, 2019 • FeaturesCustomer ExperienceSoftware and AppsUberlocalzlastmile

The Uberization of Field Service has long a hot topic ever since the silicon valley firm disrupted the private transport sector and every other vertical at the same time. Localz, a solution provider focussing on last-mile communications might just be able to help field service companies deliver the ‘Uber’ experience. Kris Oldland reports.

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.