Transforming Service Delivery: Exclusive interview with Mark Forrest on Trimble’s latest field service report

Mar 30, 2014 • FeaturesFleet Technologyfleet technologyresearchInterviewTrimble

Trimble Field Service Management are set to release a new report following on from a research project they have be conducting looking at how field service organisations need to transform their service delivery to remain competitive in today's market. Ahead of the release of the report Field Service News spoke exclusively with Trimble FSM Managing Director Mark Forrest. 

FSN: You report that customer service is widely regarded to be the number one priority for field service organisations. How are organisations adapting to meet this priority?

MF: The correlation between customer satisfaction, retention and profitability is proven and we know the most common customer complaint is when a technician does not resolve the problem first time. As a result, field service organisations have to strive to get it right first time to meet customer expectations. A return visit is not only significant in terms of time and cost but can also be damaging to the brand and reputation from a customer view point.

Recent studies show that over a quarter of dispatched jobs fail to be resolved first time, requiring two or more follow-up visits. Making sure you get the right people with the right skills with the right assets to the right place within a set time is therefore essential. Work management technologies can help with this. They incorporate technician knowledge, parts availability, and capacity into scheduling processes to ensure that the technician arriving on site is the person who can resolve the issue first time.

FSN: Your research found that 1 in 10 field service organisations still collect data from the field via paperwork and some collect no data at all. Is there a cost to field services of collecting data in this way? If so, what can be done to address it?

MF: To pick up on a finding like this was a real surprise considering, with the advancements in workforce management technologies, that some organisations are still relying on paperwork to manage their field service work and some are not collecting any management information at all. Not only are there immediate implications for, and restrictions on, the day-to-day management of the work in terms of efficiencies, scheduling and productivity, but if you don’t have a real-time understanding of what is happening, there is little scope to then apply this information and identify trends for longer term business planning.

With customer expectations at an all-time high, field service work has become increasingly mission-critical in terms of timing, skills and consequence. More organisations are beginning to recognise that they need to manage their work more efficiently and effectively and adopt intelligent scheduling which allocates the right technician to the right job. As a result we will see organisations move away from the traditional methods of data collection and look towards automated learning tools to accelerate this process.

FSN: The importance of measuring service performance and that you ‘cannot manage what you cannot measure’ is discussed in the report. What metrics should field service organisations use to measure service performance effectively?

MF: While some organisations aren’t collecting data at all, for those that do, time taken to complete a job, customer satisfaction and the number of jobs completed were the three main metrics used to measure field service performance. For most businesses, measuring and improving just three key metrics will offer meaningful and significant improvements so it’s fundamental that businesses chose the right three to keep an improvement project manageable and on track. The emergence of Performance Management Analytics (PMA) can help considerably in the measurement process. Such tools provide the visibility to analyse the productivity of a field service operation and showcase key metrics. These metrics can range from how often SLAs are met, total tasks completed, distance travelled and utilisation in terms of actual tasks completed against total time of the working day. This can be seen at an organisation, region, team or even individual level, allowing businesses to drill down to the areas of concern or opportunity and make the necessary changes.

FSN: The report states that the ability to make sense of ‘Big Data’ can make the difference between a business that is good enough and one that stands out from the pack. What hurdles do field service organisations face in tackling ‘Big Data’ and how can they overcome these?

MF: Due to the sheer scale of data being created in everything we do, field service organisations can be overwhelmed by the amount of information coming in from multiple sources, in various formats and through an array of tools. Our research found that around a third of field service managers believe that their organisation is ineffective at using the data they collect to make decisions and the main concern with using data from the field was the reliability of the information.

The key is to firstly use technology that you trust to provide you the data you need. The next step is cutting through the amount of data and identifying the trends and metrics that really make a difference to your operation. Starting with a benchmark is key so you can track improvements as you start to measure the impact of change. Using field service data correctly can give vital insight to field service managers in areas such as identifying the most productive performers and those which need training, determining how long job types take and predicting peaks and troughs in capacity based on previous trends.

FSN: You report that more than 90% of the change programmes rolled out by field service organisations in the last year improved their operations. What is the key to rolling out change well and how can other organisations achieve this?

MF: We’ve worked with a number of large organisations in the roll-out of very large programmes of change and organisations that implement change well, can be seen to do so because of the culture of their organisation, employee engagement and having the right processes and strategy in place. It is also of the utmost importance that change is driven by the Board of Directors and that they keep on top of it to ensure that all processes and people remained aligned with the set goals. I cannot stress enough the need to really engage the workforce in a technology roll-out. Organising workshops in order to educate them on a new technology is essential and will give them the opportunity to ask questions and understand the overall value attributed to change. Using a new technology can be daunting so providing that on-hand support after implementation is also, just as important.

FSN: What are the most important considerations when implementing new technology?

MF: Our research found that many field service managers still believe the most important factor in choosing new technology is ease of use. This was closely followed by integration into current systems. We know from the companies that we work with, that field service organisations are increasingly seeking modular, scalable and easy to integrate solutions that allow them to deliver on their business objectives and which they can easily roll out to employees, is easy to use and offers them an enhanced work experience.

Organisations that understand how to strategically leverage new and existing technologies stand to drive efficiencies, profits and improve their customer service. Some of the most important developments to look out for include integration of M2M, leveraging of mobile apps, profit-driven analytics and cloud-driven transformations.

FSN: You conclude your report with a section on ‘What the future holds for field service management’. In your opinion, what will be the most significant trend to shape the industry going forward?

MF: It is an exciting time for the field service industry as we’re seeing a different kind of field service worker emerge. Those entering the industry are more proficient with technology and tools and that is already having an impact on not only the increased adoption of mobility and apps but also the way in which we, as customers, are communicated with. Gamification is a developing step for this tech savvy workforce as it offers a more interactive, competitive environment for the mobile worker, increasing productivity. From a wider technology point of view I see M2M as having a significant effect on the industry with predictive and preventative maintenance growing to make up a significant proportion of service work; potentially with service companies taking the place of the customer as the instigator of a service visit, having been alerted to a potential issue by the machine or device they are going to fix – a huge step change for our industry.

Trimble are hosting a virtual summit on the Third of April which will be discussing this report and the industry at large and you can register for this event here