Marne Martin CEO of ServicePower explores how new challenges in field service are resulting in a delicate balance between digital innovation and industry pressures.
The field service industry is teetering on the edge of a precipice.
On one side are emerging technologies like mobile workforce management software, route optimisation, wearables, enterprise mobility software, operational analytics, IoT/M2M connected devices, and social collaboration. On the other is the shifting environment, including the changing workforce, the emergence of the millennials, legislative challenges and increasing competitive pressures.
Where the Age of Enlightenment that occurred from the 1600 to 1700’s was about cultural and intellectual change in Western Europe, based on new ideas around reasoning, analysis, and individualism, the ‘Age of Digital Enlightenment’ is very different.
It has created a digital effect on field service which requires that each organisation utilises technology, analysis and information together to enable new, better ways of delivering service, while meeting its business goals.
Emerging technologies, digital technologies, in particular can be transformational to field service. However, field service organisations must balance new technologies to meet compliance and productivity goals, and ultimately achieve the highest levels of customer satisfaction and profit for the business.
Field Service Challenges
Field service organisations are continually challenged, by not only increasing competition, declining margin and changing customer expectations, but also a myriad of other issues, including:
- Evolving business strategy – Business strategy must be continuously adapted to address changes in the competitive environment, changes in customer’s communication preferences and changes in labor supply.
- Legislation – Legislative changes absolutely impact how field service organisations operate. Legislation must be identified and business process designed or changed to accommodate them.
- Emerging technologies – Social, mobile, analytics, cloud, wearables, and IoT/M2M are transformational and absolutely should be evaluated for impact to the business.
- Emerging millennial workforce – The workforce is aging. The millennials are increasing backfilling the ranks. They grew up with mobile and social technology. They are motivated differently than their more experienced peers.
- Competitive pressure – The competitive environment changes every day, with new entrants and early technology adopters, like Uber.
Impact on the sector
Field service doesn’t stand still. Established organisations continue to be threatened by new market players.
Meanwhile, the field service industry is reinventing itself, eliminating manual processes and schedules which are costly and inefficient. Field service recognises now the value of field based resources. People are our greatest opportunity and highest costs. We must fight for talent, especially as the labour pool shifts towards millennials.
Bridging that precipice, between the digital effect and the industry challenges, requires quick and decisive action
These challenges, these impacts on the industry, are the biggest threats to field service; they are also our biggest opportunity.
Navigating the Future of Field Service
All challenges that face field service organisations today can be addressed with emerging technology that transforms operations.
- Real time optimisation improves productivity and efficiency, while also reducing costs.
- Mobilised on-site processes improve first time fix rates and the customer experience.
- Operational and business analytics improve oversight and operational performance.
- IoT/M2M connected devices facilitate the evolution from reactive repair based models to proactive, less costly and more customer friendly models.
- Social collaboration leverages the comfort of millennials workers to improve first time fix rates and reduce field based overhead.
Bridging the Divide
Bridging that precipice, between the digital effect and the industry challenges, requires quick and decisive action.
- Act strategically – Look at what technology delivers the greatest return on investment and prioritise your investment where it matters most.
- Recognise that field service (people, process, IT, parts, etc.) usually crosses multiple aspects of the organisation.
- Be sure to gain alignment and recognise that every function has a vested interest in success.
- Don’t forget to build a business case and agree the metrics for success.
- Employ creative thinking to challenge the status quo and rethink how that strategy can be delivered.
- Work with technology vendors that understand innovation and what’s possible.
Field Service is a critical part of most businesses today. Field based resources are often the only touch point with your customer post sale.
Take advantage of new technologies to build a platform for success which improves visibility and increases flexibility across the service value chain. Adapt faster and more efficiently to external change and new company strategies.
Productivity drives profits in your business! Your competitors, and even businesses you don’t know about yet, are heading that way so Cross that bridge now before it is too late.