Whilst some were heading out to the desert to watch the likes of Radiohead and Lady Gaga at Coachella 2017 early this year, others were in Palm Springs for perhaps the lesser known but equally fantastic Field Service USA.
Field Service News sent Michael Blumberg along to talk to the USAs largest collection of Field Service professionals in one place, find to out what were the biggest challenges being faced by the industry at large and how we can overcome them…
In April this year I attended WBR’s Field Service 2017 in Palm Springs, California. While I was at the conference, I spoke to several Field Service leaders about their biggest challenges and the strategies they will pursing to overcome them.
Business executives often think their problems and challenges are unique to their specific situation. However, I was surprised to learn of the common thread that ran through my conversations with field service leaders.
Basically, four different themes emerged from my conversations. Rather than keep you in further suspense, let me share what I learned from my discussions:
Key challenge #1 – Keeping up with advances in technology:
Field Service leaders understand that their customers expect the same experience they do with using consumer electronic products. In other words, they expect an always on, always connected, always available service experience.
Strategy to overcome challenge – Develop & Implement an IoT Strategy:
Field Service leaders recognise that that IoT improves the customer experience in very much the same way it does with consumer electronics.
While field service leaders I spoke to agree that conceptually IoT is the right technology to achieve this outcome, they also admit that the real challenges lie in competing for capital resources to implement service led, IoT solutions and prioritizing where these investments should be made.
Key Challenge #2 – Determining which technologies enable an improved service experience:
Field Service leaders are faced with a myriad of choices when it comes to selecting and implementing technology to improve the customer experience.
For example, there’s various categories (e.g., AR, IoT, mobility, etc.) of technology to choose from as well several different vendors in each category segment.
It can be an overwhelming and taunting task to learn about every technology on the market.
Strategy to overcome challenge – Due Diligence and Planning:
Field Service leaders understand that they must adopt an objective approach to identifying, evaluating, and prioritising investments in technologies as well as vetting and selecting vendors. This means they must find the intellectual bandwidth and manpower to complete this strategic work of their organisation.
Key Challenge #3 – Keeping up with the skills gaps
Let’s face it, millennials are not lining up in droves to accept field service positions. In addition, the baby boomer generation in retiring from the workforce as a rapid rate.
As a result, Field Service leaders are under pressure to implement creative strategies to overcome the current and growing shortage of skilled technicians.
Strategy to overcome challenge – Implement Augment Reality (AR)
Many Field Service leaders perceive that AR solutions provide an effective solution for dealing with the shortage of skilled labor. By utilising this technology, field service organisations can do more with less. Basically, they can leverage the expertise of a limited number of skilled Field Engineers and distribute this knowledge remotely to a broad number of people.
Key Challenge #4 – Becoming a customer centric organisation:
Field Service leaders understand that if service business is going to thrive and grow then their organisations must become more customer centric. Unfortunately, some companies still have a product focused orientation.
Field Service leaders understand that if service business is going to thrive and grow then their organisations must become more customer centric
As a result, they are not making the necessary investments or resource allocations for the field service organisation to remain profitable and competitive.
Strategy to overcome challenge – Influence senior management on the value of service
Basically, Field Service leaders realise they must exert greater effort in influencing senior management on the benefits of becoming a customer centric organisation.
This means they need to build a strong business case as to why their companies should invest in technologies that make their companies more customer centric such as IoT, AR, FSM software, mobility, etc.
The business case must consider the impact of technology investments and process improvements on customer satisfaction, product sales, and the overall financial performance of the company.
Interestingly, the comments that I received were very consistent with the overall themes of the conference. Obviously, WBR has a good pulse on the industry.
Nevertheless, it is always great to speak to people one on one at industry conferences. I find these conversations provide so much more insight and context then sitting through a “canned” presentation.
The common thread between all these issues is that they involve the use of technology to optimise and improve field service delivery. This makes perfect sense as field service is a technology intensive business.
However, it is important that field service leaders do not fall into the trap of viewing technology as panacea for all aliments facing their organisation. The best technology is of little value without solid management, effective planning, and strong leadership behind it.