Trimble and Aberdeen put the field service world to rights

Feb 24, 2014 • FeaturesManagementaberdeencost centre to profit centremanagementTrimble

When building, developing or establishing a service business there are numerous factors that need to be considered. However, the most fundamental strategy to ensure service excellence is delivered remains one of the simplest. The customer needs to be at the heart of all your endeavours. This fact was at the top of the agenda during a recent webinar that was hosted by the Aberdeen group and Trimble FSM.

During the session some very interesting points were made by Aberdeen Analyst Aly Pinder during a Q&A session. Indeed Pinder asserts that best-in-class businesses are united in putting the customer at the centre of their field service operations.

Whilst field service has always been an undertaking with the customer at its centre, across the industry globally we are currently seeing a renewed focus on improving the customer experience. Simultaneously field service technologies become more and more refined enabling vast improvements in managing and monitoring how service is delivered.

Furthermore communicating these improvements to the customer base is another factor in building a reputation for such service excellence.

In PInders words  “Providing better customer reporting is essential and it is important to relay the data that you’re collecting back to the customer, allowing them to effectively be an advocate and partner of your business.”

In fact Pinder provided a neat example of this highlighting those companies that are now applying predictive or preventative maintenance. Such companies have a fantastic story of delivering such advanced customer service through adopting such a proactive approach, and the customer really should be made aware of it. A satisfied customer, who feels reassured that they are in competent hands with their service organisation is fantastic ambassador with the potential to help drive higher levels of engagement between the two parties moving forward.

Another interesting point that Pinder makes is that within the mobile workforce there are different skill sets, beyond those that we would consider essential to the field engineer’s role, that are exploitable. For example some of your field engineers may be particularly effective salesmen with a natural gregarious demeanour, an obvious asset. Yet not all field engineers may be so comfortable to don a salesman’s hat. However, there are other opportunities beyond direct selling. Field technicians are in touch with the customer and those less suited to sales can add value bringing in customer data from the field.

Some companies have moved towards incentivising their field staff, although Pinder advises stepping carefully down this path.

Pinder comments: “This is not necessarily the right thing to do for every company as you need to understand the skill set of your technicians and understand which technicians could be good sellers and which aren’t…” 

However he also identifies the benefits of this route also adding:

“For those organisations that understand the skill sets of their technicians, incentivise technicians that are really good at selling and incentivise those that aren’t good at selling at bringing that data back in and passing that along to the sales and marketing team.”

Perhaps the biggest issue in the shift from cost centre to profit centre that Pinder identified was the devaluing of the service experience.

There are many different elements of a field service organisation that can deeply affect the customer experience and both sales and marketing can have a major impact. Often, sales representatives will bundle service in for free as part of the overall sale. Pinder believes this is a dangerous path to follow.

“When a sale is given away for free your ability to deliver that ‘exceptional service experience’ is greatly devalued. Therefore, ensuring your sales organisation understands the value of service internally and that they can communicate that to your end customers is important.”  Pinder commented.

One additional area that perhaps doesn’t get the credit that it deserves for its impact on the final impact on customer experience is engineering and design. Pinder also identified this as a two way street.

“Best-in-class organisations pull in data from technicians, give that back to engineering and design and have those teams create products that fulfil customer needs. The technician incorporates the insight provided by customers to create a product or new service that is tailored to customer needs.”

Whilst best-in-class companies push the boundaries of service excellence, at the other end of the scale there are three common issues that Aberdeen have identified that field service companies are not meeting which result in dissatisfied customers. These were:

The technician did not resolve the issue first time, The wait for the appointment was too long, The technician didn’t show up for the appointment at all

Companies can address these fundamental problems and improve the customer experience they deliver simply by making sure the technician to be sent to the appointment has the correct skills set and tools for the job and ensuring communication with the customer around appointment times is accurate and reliable.

Discussing this Mark Forrest, general manager of Trimble Field Service Management commented:

“Achieving customer satisfaction in today’s marketplace is tough. On-time performance is the Holy Grail – problems must be solved the first time, and solved effectively. As a result, more and more organisations are beginning to realise the value of ‘intelligent scheduling’ - incorporating technician knowledge, parts availability, and capacity into their scheduling processes to ensure that the technician arriving on site is actually the person who can resolve the customer’s issue first time.”

He continued: “Businesses can address the challenge of making better in-day decisions by utilising a work management self-learning tool. To avoid large data set-up exercises of skill sets and work areas, a self-learning tool supports the assignment of work orders to the field technicians by remembering who has the right skills and their usual work areas. The user also has the ability to enquire what has been learnt by the system and correct it.”

A full recording of the webinar can be downloaded here 

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