It shouldn’t take a conflict in Ukraine to make organisations realise the fragility of trade. We’ve already had a taste of it with Covid and for many industries, there is still a sizeable hangover that needs addressing. If there is a lesson to learn from all of this, it is that organisations need to be better prepared to handle crises. As the saying goes, there is always something, so the need to build-in continuity strategies becomes greater. Maintaining machines and devices, across industries is vital for modern economies and as the pandemic illustrated, it is also vital for life.
For many organisations the past couple of years have been a wake-up call. Never before has there been a need to optimise and modernise field services. Talent shortages and increased frontline complexity have only added to the challenge and the need for rapid transformation.
For many companies there is still a lot of work to do, to evolve and build pictures of customers and machines that enable more informed decision making and better service delivery. As Deloitte suggested late last year in its report Next Generation Customer Service: The Future of Field Service, to transform to next generation field service, businesses need a 360-degree view of customers and assets.
“Data from all departments and processes need to be integrated with the customer and product information,” the report says, adding that organisations need to increase knowledge about how products are used with integrated data, about customer touch points and insights from product sensors.
It is this level of connected data that enables transformation. This has to be the backbone of modern field service, that will enable, not just optimisation of service teams but also increase, human-centred customer services at the coalface. But how do you get there?
For any service team, understanding the assets, the machines or devices that need servicing is key to the job, but it can also enable efficiencies and ensure customer satisfaction. With real-time service insights using integrated data, it is possible to have a top-level view of service revenue, costs and installed base metrics. This allows leaders to analyse service operations, take corrective actions on aging product lines or pricing gaps, flag quality trends and improve strategic planning.
In addition, sales and account managers should also be able to have insights into service contracts, service consumption and SLAs. This enables companies to understand customers and their product use better, leading to opportunities for improved customer experiences, new product recommendations and contract renewals.
Field service technicians would also benefit from increased data integration and insight into customers and assets. As well as enabling techs to quickly see asset timelines and service histories, the increased visibility of assets also ensures a quicker, more accurate fix. As well as the ability to pre-order parts to reduce any repair times, service techs can actually improve first-time fix rates, limit time on customer premises and therefore reduce or even eliminate disruption to customers.
This of course, improves customer experience, a core theme for any ambitious business. Interestingly, one survey last year claimed that “94 percent of CEOs identified customer experience to be a primary or partial differentiator for their businesses.” Understanding assets and having the ability to manage and fix assets quickly has to be a key part of that and data is the key. However, as a joint Salesforce and ServiceMax study – Building a Bridge Between Sales and Service with Asset Data – found, just 22 percent of businesses trust the data they currently receive from assets.
Clearly, there is a disconnect, between the willingness to transform and the actual implementation of digital technologies and tools that enable successful transformation. For field service teams and therefore businesses as a whole to thrive under the current economic and socio-political conditions, there needs to be greater intelligence in decision making.
Data-driven assets are the catalyst for this, so the quality of data, the analytics of that data and the integration of that data with other departmental data sources, should be the bedrock on which businesses need to build their future strategies. Anything less, will lead to guesswork and in today’s volatile climate, contributing to business failure.
Sumair Dutta is senior director of customer and market insights at ServiceMax.