Transforming Field Service Operations: A Global Insight

Jun 09, 2014 • FeaturesManagementCustomer ServicemanagementOperational EfficiencyTrimble

In recent years, the battle to improve operational efficiency in field service has been hard fought with businesses constantly looking for new ways to do more with fewer resources. As a result, business leaders are being forced to critically examine the way their organisation works and look for new ways to deliver the competitive edge required to thrive in today’s marketplace.

Customer Service vs. Cost

71% of field service organisations use customer satisfaction as the main metric to measure the performance of their business. However with an increased focus on service excellence, yet reduced customer spending and a squeeze on profit margins, companies must find ways to balance service delivery with the cost.

One way organisations can look to achieve this balance is through ‘getting it right first time’. The most common customer complaint is when a technician does not resolve the issue first time. This may be due to not having the right part or tools, not having the right skills or not enough time to complete the job .

Issues like this can be avoided if companies focus on their productivity by taking a bird’s eye view of the end-to-end process. They need to know what the problem is, who is qualified to solve it, notify them of the task, know where they are, when they will arrive and when the job is done. Taking these necessary steps to avoid a return visit will maintain productivity and ensure customer satisfaction.
“Customer Service is a strategic issue,” says Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service. “If organisations do not include it in the boardroom then some of those organisations won’t be around in the longer term.”

Managing Mobile Resources in Field Service Delivery

Managing a large field service operation today is filled with complexity, from managing the people to the assets, vehicles and jobs. Research shows that workforce management is one of the biggest areas of concern in field service and with much field-based work becoming increasingly complex and critical in terms of timing, skills and consequence, more importantly than ever companies need to ensure that their field service is not derailed by unpredictable dynamics of the working day.

The biggest and most repetitive challenge facing organisations managing a mobile workforce is cost and this is closely related to the following secondary challenges:

  • The role of the technician in the business - with a proven link between customer satisfaction, retention and profitability, how the technician interacts with the customer can be significant in the customer experience.
  • Measuring service performance - ultimately you need to understand what has happened and you want to know that ‘now’ to use that data to enable real-time decision-making.
  • Managing change and embedding best practice - organisations often wrestle with change whether it is new technology, new people, new policy or new assets. Finding a way to embed change and making sure that best practice is shared across the workforce is a key success factor.[/unordered_list] 

The importance of Measuring Field Service Performance

As the business adage goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” and this has never been truer when it comes to the performance of field service organisations.
A field service operation is extremely dynamic and often unpredictable. Each day, managers are faced with complex issues which require fast action. However lack of real-time visibility into what is happening in the field can result in managers making poor decisions; directly impacting the performance level of their workforce. Indeed, performance management and visibility were cited as being key areas of concern for field service organisations .

In order to improve operational decision-making, field service managers must begin to utilise instant and accurate information about key trends occurring in the field. Real-time data about why a service window wasn’t met, how many planned jobs were left incomplete, duration of tasks and which technicians are performing well, can all be used to drive service performance levels and transform the way work is planned, allocated, managed, reported and evaluated.

Turning data into information

In recent years, field service organisations have been overwhelmed by the flow of information coming in from multiple sources, in various formats and through an array of tools. The major challenge they face is how to make sense of the massive amounts of data in order to extract valuable insights to help hone day-to-day operations and make long-term strategic decisions.

In a recent Trimble survey, the main concern with using data from the field was the reliability of the information. Performance Management Analytics (PMA) has come to the fore as a solution able to tackle this challenge by giving managers the ability to review a day’s work and measure performance results against specific metrics. For example, they can identify the most productive performers, determine which schedules and routes produce the best results and compare results from one vehicle or worker against the entire workforce.

Implementing successful change to better engage workers

When a company is implementing any change to the way it works, whether it is rolling out new technology or processes or ways of working, engaging the workforce is the key for success.
“Board engagement is absolutely essential,” says Will Sambrook, Managing Director of The Akenham Partnership. “But it is important that Boards do not believe they have to be all-seeing, all-doing, all-acting. Their role is much more about creating the line of sight, from the Board strategy to what’s happening in the organisation; the processes, the people, their engagement with the customer – everything is aligned.”

Using Technology & Tools

It widely acknowledged that technology is a key enabler to being able to deliver service excellence. Indeed, 70% of field service companies believe the key to achieving strategic business goals is having the latest field service technology in place.

Some of the future technology trends set to make an impact on field service organisations include:

  • Increased integration of M2M
  •  Profit-Driven Analytics
  • Knowledge Management shaping strategy
  • Leverage of Mobile Apps
  • Cloud-Driven Transformations
  • Data-Driven Productivity
  • Growth of rugged mobility

For further insight into how to transform your field service operations, catch Trimble’s Caroline Pennington, Market & Analyst Manager and editor of Trimble’s recently-launched publication, Transforming Service Delivery: An Insight Report, at this months’ Service Management Expo. Caroline will be exclusively presenting some of the key trends and issues highlighted in the publication at 12pm on 17th June. Complimentary copies of the report will also be on offer at Trimble’s stand O1470.