Scott Ivell, UK Marketing, Senior Director, Salesforce explores the challenges and opportunities of field service delivery in an increasingly digital world and highlights that whilst the ground-breaking technology that surrounds us can enable us to reach ever greater heights in terms of service delivery, we mustn’t lose sight of the fundamentals of what good service is when we approach digitalisation…
When you are living within an industrial revolution, the likelihood is that you will not know it is going on until you have the opportunity to stop for a moment and look back to see just how widespread, profound and dramatic the impact of the changes that you are living through are actually having.
I think if we were to try to find that moment today we would see that we are indeed actually living through a genuine industrial revolution right now.
We are seeing exponential growth in connected devices and in the data that those devices create, which is causing huge changes to many of the fundamental processes that are in place when it comes to a wide array of business functions, including, of course, service delivery.
And as we all know, wherever there is change there lies opportunity.
Depending on which projection you look at, the number of connected devices could be anywhere up to the 40BN mark by 2020.
These could be anything from traditional installed assets in your home or business, but we are also increasingly seeing connected devices out on the road, whether it be in your car or your mobile phone. The Internet of Things isn’t a thing of the future anymore. It’s here and it’s everywhere.
So if we consider that what we are seeing is actually not just the number of connected devices, but also the actual types of devices that are growing exponentially as well, that makes things really interesting.
Such devices are of course able to share status updates and warnings, which can enable organisations to deliver field services and maintenance on a pre-emptive and predictive basis. Now from my perspective as a marketer, this is where I see something to get really excited about.
Being able to predict where and when an asset is likely to have an issue or is likely to need attention, will allow companies to wrap far more than just a service engagement around the conversation. It becomes a fantastic opportunity for upselling and also for potentially re-educating customers around your service offering.
Of course, where there are opportunities there are also challenges and we must also take into consideration that as customers, whether in a B2B or B2C environment, we have now become used to a world where expectations of service standards have been raised massively by companies like Amazon and Uber.
As businesses, we now have to fully understand that the reality of competition today is that we are no longer required to simply ensure we at least meet the service standards of our nearest competitors.
No, today we need to be able to meet the expectations of customer experience that have been delivered by market-leading brands well beyond our own direct competitive spheres.
This is where some of the other technologies which are complementary to the IoT such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) can really start to make a difference.
By having AI understand the vast amounts of data connected assets will produce, whilst also understanding the customer and then predicting and being proactive about what that customer’s needs are, we can really start to deliver exceptional customer experience – as well as much deeper and more ingrained customer engagement.
However, whilst the ability to achieve such stratospheric levels of customer service is absolutely enabled by the ground-breaking technological developments that we are seeing emerge around us, the concepts at the core of customer service remain decidedly unchanged.
Good service today, as it always has done, comes as a result of putting the customer and not the asset at the heart of our thinking.
There is also another maxim that I think is more important to hold onto today, in this environment of rapid technological development, than ever before that is reflected in the above – technology is and always must be seen as an enabler for strategy and not a strategy in and of itself.
For example, one of the big mega-trends that is dominating conversation within businesses of all different stripes and flavours right across the globe is digitalisation, and I fear that many companies are losing sight of this maxim and racing towards digitalising their business without considering what they need to achieve when going through this process.
Remember, doing the right thing but for the wrong reasons can often lead to disastrous results.
Therefore, my advice to any service director would be to absolutely consider digitalisation as a matter of strategy rather than one of technology.
The successful businesses of the future will be ones that take a digital agenda at a board level and then push that throughout their whole organisation. The cornerstone of that is making sure they have the customer at the heart of their technology ecosystems.
Now, I am sure there may be many of you reading this thinking that this is all fairly obvious, but actually whilst simple customer-centric sounding platitudes are easy to roll out into a mission statement (our customer is king, the customer is always right etc etc) companies actually embedding this ethos into their technology and into the processes they invest in – those that are walking the walk, rather than just talking the talk, are in fact rarer than you might think – and they are also invariably amongst the best-in-class within their respective sectors.
Historically, there has been a view that what we need to track is the asset. We’ve needed to know where they are, how they’re performing and what the status of that asset is.
The actual result of this thinking is that the customer then becomes something of a byproduct – just an address that the asset is installed in. That sort of thinking absolutely has to change, so my advice for any service professionals reading this is to go out and lobby the business to make sure that you have the customer at the centre of your technology stack.
Then from a practical point of view, you will need to establish a few building blocks, to achieve this.
Firstly, you will need to unlock your legacy systems because that is where the data for your customers often resides – whether it be in an ERP system, a financial system or in a customer ordering solution.
This is one of the things that Salesforce has done well across multiple industries.
Salesforce has the ability to create a single source of record for your customers, managing all aspects of your service chain. But even if you’re not using Salesforce for that ‘golden record’, you can still use it as your user interface for your contact agents and service engineers. Salesforce can then pull information from the other systems.
Secondly, there are a lot of moving parts within a field service operation.
You’ve got to manage your engineers and their time, your inventory, your vehicles and all of the other aspects of the service operation.
Being able to achieve all of that in a mobile-friendly field service hub will allow your businesses to not only increase your communications internally but also to engage with their customers in a very different way while having the added bonus of improving efficiency and saving time and money in the process.
So to recap, the key point here is first to acknowledge that digitalisation is itself a strategy.
Then in terms of practical steps of how to approach that strategy, the three considerations I think are vital are:
- Put the customer at the heart of your technology stack
- Establish a 360-degree view of your customers, whether it be on one platform or by utilising legacy data from multiple systems
- Put a solution in place that enables you to manage your engineers, support staff and all other aspects of the field service operations chain around that customer.
These are the fundamental steps I feel any successful field service operation needs to have in place in order to rise to the challenge of increasing customer expectations we face today.
You can find out more about the services Salesforce provide discussed in this article at our website https://www.salesforce.com/
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