In his role co-ordinating Field Service Conferences on both sides of the Atlantic Jonathan Massoud , Divisional Director , WBR is quite uniquely placed to see the differences between how things are done differently on both sides of the pond. Here he gives us his view on why things , fundamentally aren’t actually too different at all….
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2016 has proven to be a groundbreaking year for Field Service.
Manufacturers have continued to implement features from industry 4.0 on their business activities as services like cloud computing, and the internet of things (IoT) have revolutionized how companies manage their workforce in the field. In making certain service processes easier, like troubleshooting or diagnosing a repair – service teams have gotten closer to the customer than ever before.
The success of these programs also play a huge part in managing customer satisfaction and retention which are key revenue drivers for many companies. Especially since customers often choose a product based on the level of service they receive instead of less distinguishable aspects of the products themselves.
In response to a vocal, growing consumer base, manufacturers have started to design innovative product and service solutions that address customer needs. With that said, it’s hard to address specific customer concerns as the level and degree of service has to be of a high, consistent quality across the board. European executives are focusing on many of the same initiatives as their North American counterparts – starting the create service oriented, customer facing products and services that augment revenue.
However, their challenges can be a bit different as they work with logistical and cultural issues.
In Europe, it’s already difficult to move parts, people and services across countries quickly and efficiently, it’s even harder to do so while understanding nuanced cultural differences. Even so, there is tremendous opportunity for revenue growth within companies that take the time to prioritise service.
Over the past several years, we’ve actually seen success with the positive relationship between customer satisfaction profitability. The more your customers enjoy and trust the service your provide – the more willing they are to continually buy your products in the future (and also share their positive experience with their peers).
Can smarter service drive revenue and customer satisfaction?
Going beyond 2016, proactive and predictive service will have a large impact on increasing customer satisfaction.
With benefits like an increased first time fix rate, fewer technician visits & truck rolls customers will have higher satisfaction (which results in lower general operating costs for the manufacturer). These will ultimately come to head with the introduction of an enhanced remote monitoring platform.
However, larger challenges like customer push-back and huge start-up costs serve as a red flag for manufacturers. With the general adaptation of industry 4.0 and the IoT – European government will use their high tech strategies to incentivise innovation to create smarter services, smarter factories and smarter products which lead to happier customers.
How do you monitor quality control across European boarders? To ensure a consistent level of service in Europe, many companies have started to provide tiered levels of service based on the specific needs and expectation of their customers. This gives manufacturers the ability to have flexible service on an as needed basis.
However, this presents an interesting problem for European companies as customer expectations drastically differ from country to country.
An Italian customer might be willing to wait five days for a part, while a Finnish customer would be ready to fill out a complaint form after five hours.
Ensuring that service remains consistently great in each country is an important focus point for service executives.
Who is the technician of the future?
Technicians are the public face of your brand, the person who has the most face time with customers and therefore the biggest opportunity to make a difference. A common term used for field technicians is “trusted advisor” and because of this status, they’re often a big driver in customer satisfaction.
So how can service companies make their technicians more effective? What does the ideal technician of the future look like?
Tomorrow’s technician needs to be customer-ready.
Often-times, the technical skills that make someone a superior engineer don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with customer-facing soft skills (handling a distraught customer for example).
Lastly, tomorrow’s technician needs to be ready for next generation technology. They must be armed with tools containing the latest communication-ready advanced diagnostic capabilities, open to the idea of wearables and augmented reality, and ready to work on machines equipped with IoT technology.
What are the services that customers really value?
Managing the shift to on-demand service solutions Significant changes in customer behaviour have affected the makeup of the service industry over the past few years.
Rather than buying a particular product or piece of equipment, customers are looking for business outcomes and solutions. There’s been a significant shift towards value proposition in service: how do you create value from the things you’ve done in the past?
What do customers truly value and are they willing to pay for it? With the increased usage of on-demand solutions – customer expectations have grown to a new level.
However, for those pro-active companies that are actively seeking to meet these demands by embracing not only the latest technology to help drive their service efficiency and customer engagement levels, but are also embracing the notion of service as a fundamental business driver, there is a wealth of profitable and loyal business to be won out there in this new enterprise landscape of the early twenty first century.
The big question is are you as an organisation ready to take such a service oriented approach.
Having been part of our field service conferences both in the US and in Europe I’ve spoken with a lot of service directors from both sides of the fence – those who are running at full steam towards a more advanced services model and those who are perhaps lingering towards the back a bit more waiting to see how things pan out for those early adopters.
Whilst there is no shame in a cautious approach it is also important not to be the last company to adapt in your sector – no matter how large you are as you might find yourself facing your very own ‘Kodak moment’.
Getting ideas and insight from your peers is a great way of benchmarking what is actually happening in the industry compared to the hyperbole that can surround any given technology or business trend and I guess it’s that one on one peer interaction, that sense of community that has been a fundamental part of why our conferences continue to grow on both sides of the Atlantic.