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2018 – Have We Found the Field Service Management Unicorn?

Recap – 2018 

Once again, the calendar year comes to an end. It sure has been an action packed 2018, full of technical advances and innovations in the field service management world!  A quick recap of 2018 – the field service management industry has seen some vast improvements in how technicians are handling service delivery today. It’s a little hard to think that it was already a year ago that Internet of Things (IoT) was the talk of the service industry. While it’s still very much in the gestation stages of development and roll out, there is no denying that by the end of 2017 and the start of 2018 that IoT was a hot button topic that everyone had an opinion on, and at the very least, knew about.

Competitive Empathy 

So much to think about! You are not alone – there is solace in the fact your contemporaries are up against the same struggles and looking for the most effective way to conquer them. Most of the challenges in field service management are interdependent and connected. This makes it hard to strategize in a singular way, but it does pose the opportunity to test many variables at one against the same KPI’s that have kept this industry going and growing.

Gaining More Revenue from After Sales Service

Over the last few years, profit margins on equipment are reducing because of several factors –

  • Increasing competitiveness on production quantities
  • Enterprises vying for larger market shares by competing on factors such as price
  • Raw material and part prices steadily increasing

Strategic leaders are challenging their service organizations to transform their services into revenue generating value added operations. This is not an easy paradigm shift because of managing costs and simultaneously improving efficiency. Let’s not forget the sales aspect of it all, selling more contracts at every level. From technicians at the site selling additional services, to sales people building in after sales service into the sales price. And for these prices, customers are demanding more value and better service than ever before. Although revenue generating, and customer interaction demands are relatively newer to the area of field service, coupled with existing pressure of maximizing the efficiency of field operations, we have a genuine business concern here.

The Technician

We can’t ignore the increasing pressure of technician efficiency. It has become the business mantra on a board level on how make the most of each technician. With increasing competition, the first-time fix rate as well as the number of jobs completed has become an important KPI. A significant challenge on the technician front is also the aging workforce, the next wave of workers is shrinking. We are facing increasing costs, loss of knowledge and customer relationships over the years. The big question here is that how companies will systematically capture this veteran knowledge? How can they train, motivate new workers quickly and effectively? Apprenticeships are fading – the newer stream of workers are looking for their knowledge base virtually and online.  Arguably the technician visit could be considered the core of field service management. I would say empowering them via an integrated field service solution and mobile field service app is imperative. We live in a world where efficiency is expected and paramount.

 

Shift from Reactive to Predictive Service

It’s a slow ascent but it seems that 2019 will indeed bring us closer to AI and being able to use and interpret machine data through wearable devices. There is an increasing investment in initiatives that are promoting the predictive service model to minimize asset downtime. The challenge here is the level of investment required in research and development and the time spent in the migration. Where do we stand? Are we there yet? While we are certain that the infusion of intelligence across field service will transform the customer experience, are we ready for the technology that will help us get there? AI and IoT has tremendous potential for field service organizations to offer new, value added services. However, this will only be a possibility if your field service software is robust and capable enough to manage all this data.

Conclusion

Are We Really Looking for a Unicorn Here?

Technology and the “right” technology is vital here but there is an important prerequisite. That is the successful and optimized use of that technology. There have been numerous studies evaluating field service’s ongoing relationship with technology. The past five years have seen a steady gravitation towards field service management solutions being an asset and help versus a time where it used to be a hindrance. In the late adopters, it still can be viewed as a hindrance. There are a few questions that your company needs to ask. How innovative would you like to be? What level of back end integration works for your business model? Does a “one size fits all” pre-built solution work or will something more customized work? Where does AI or IoT fit in, when is the right time to evaluate. So, we are indeed faced with a multitude of questions here, this can be overwhelming and daunting, not to mention having to keep up with an innovative and exciting time in technology.

What Does Our Unicorn Have ?

In my opinion we need to keep a few end goals in mind while evaluating the “unicorn”

  • What initiatives will translate into positive customer impact
  • Are you one of the 42.7 % of field service organizations that consider customer satisfaction as a motivator for mobile solutions?
  • How important is data to your filed service leaders? Do you need that captured data to integrate with your ERP and field service software to develop your business strategy?
  • How important are billing cycles to your bottom line?
  • Is your enterprise ready to accommodate the shift from reactive to predictive service?

These are a whole lot of questions. Having followed the industry for some time, my choice of unicorn would be flexible, customizable yet have enough out of the box functionality to support your basic field service needs from the word go. Mobile is a must, and business intelligence a no trainer. Data is the mother of King at this point of time. It needs to be an integral part of your ongoing strategy to maintain and grow your market share with an improved bottom line and satisfied customers! The unicorn exists and is not just a fantasy anymore, the question being, are you looking in the right place?

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