Across the last couple of years there have been a number of recurring themes coming out of varying research projects looking at the field service industry.
One fact that is highly apparent is that whilst the global economy has steadied herself somewhat following the worldwide downturn in 2008, the field service industry, like most other industries is still feeling the effects of the decline. One poll conducted by the Aberdeen Group highlighted the two biggest market pressures were reduced customer spending alongside increasing resource costs.
These factors sitting alongside each other are major drivers for the need for companies to rethink how they structure their profit and loss sheets and shifting the service division from a cost centre to a profit centre is in some cases a sensible move to make, in others it is absolutely essential to secure a long term stable future.
Another recurring theme is that in general service standards appear to be falling. One report run by TomTom and TNS highlighted that 87% of Europeans suffered field service operatives turning up late to an appointment. Another report, this time based on research conducted by Cognito identified that 67% of UK consumers believe service has deteriorated within the last three years.
Is this decline in standards the result of strained resources due to lack of financial support? Or is it the result of the ‘connected consumer’, where through social media and the vast array of communication tools readily available via the internet the consumer is not only fully empowered to voice there dissatisfaction, but also have expectation levels raised beyond any previous standards? Likelihood is it is a combination of both, however if monetising service is a target, then a field service organisation delivering anything less than excellent service is likely to struggle to make the transition smoothly.
Yet at the same time the tools to improve field service standards, raising efficiency, lowering costs and improving productivity are not only becoming more sophisticated than ever before. Due to the impact of Cloud computing and the Software as a Service model they are also more easily available for even the smallest companies. The days of service management systems being available only to those organisations that could afford the initial capital expenditure are no more. Today, technology that can enable and empower the mobile workforce is accessible on even the most modest budgets.
With this in mind it would seem fool hardy for any company to not explore investing in the technology available that can facilitate the move from cost centre to profit centre (although whilst technology is a key factor, there are of course other more strategic and cultural considerations to be implemented too of course.)
However, as with anything in life it is not always feasible (or even sensible) to try to undertake a huge redevelopment of your service department in one go. It is important that you understand where you are today, where you want to be and then plot a sensible and achievable roadmap of how you are to get from one to the other.
There are a number of stages between your field service solution evolving from out-dated manual processes that eat up your companies time and money, to a fully automated, efficient and streamlined field service solution, that allows you to position your staff resources into the most optimal positions to allow you to harness and secure new and on-going revenue streams.
Broadly these evolutionary stages are as follows:
- Stage One: Basic Automation
- Stage Two: Extended Automation
- Stage Three: Integration
- Stage Four: Optimisation
- Stage Five: Decision support and effectiveness.
Whilst each companies path will be unique to them, it is good to have an understanding of each of these stages, so you can use them as sign posts on your own road map.
To give you further insight into these stages, Field Service News has compiled the white paper “The 5 Stages of Field Service Evolution”. This white paper, which is sponsored by Solarvista details each of these key stages, what they entail and what the benefits you will see at each level are, as well as further analysis of the state of the field service industry today, and the importance of moving from cost centre to profit centre.