The Impact of the Pandemic on Digital Transformation
In the next in our series of comparative analyses across a global study and a follow-up UK study hosted by Field Service News Research in partnership with HSO, we look at how the impact of the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation amongst field service companies.
While industry-wide digital transformation was undoubtedly a journey we were already on as a sector, the impact of the pandemic has undoubtedly been an accelerator. To measure just how significant that impact has been, and is continuing to be, on the field service sector, we asked our respondents if they had seen their digital transformation projects accelerated due to the pandemic.
In our initial report, slightly less than half (43%) of field service companies in the study stated that this was the case, and they had already begun implementing projects that were on their roadmap a lot sooner than anticipated. In the UK study, this number fell to just under a third of companies (32%) however, again it is still a significant percentage of UK field service companies that have accelerated their digital transformation programs.
Furthermore, almost a quarter of field service companies (24%) in the global study, and over a fifth (21%) in the UK study stated that the pandemic had accelerated their digital transformation projects. However, these companies were still in the process of identifying the next best steps, so that their solution is fully future-proofed.
In the global study, we then saw on the other end of the spectrum that just under a fifth of companies (17%) stated that they were already on a digital transformation path, and they have stayed on their original timeline while just over a tenth (13%) of companies stated that the pandemic had no impact on their digital transformation plans.
Amongst the UK respondents, we see slightly more companies in these brackets with 23% of companies stating they were on a digital transformation path already and we have stayed within that timeline while a fifth (20%) of UK field service companies stated the pandemic has had no impact on their digital transformation plans. Again, it is interesting to note that the UK companies while mirroring the wider global study do so in a slightly more reserved manner. (Fig 13. Below)
However, while the study data indicates that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation for many field service organisations, the impact of the pandemic has also been something of a double-edged sword.
Nearly two thirds (62%) of the field service companies within the original global response set admitted that meeting customer expectations has become more challenging since the pandemic.
Similarly, 82% of field service companies within that first study also stated that ensuring customer success has even greater importance since the pandemic.
Finally, we also saw in the original global study the same number (82%) of field service companies stating that they believe there is now greater customer expectation for service companies to offer digital solutions such as customer portals. Again, let us compare this with the UK specific study.
In terms of increasing expectations, an even greater number of UK companies, in fact over three quarters (76%) stated that they felt meeting customer demands was harder since the pandemic. However, UK companies were significantly behind the global average in terms of seeing customer success as having greater importance with slightly over half (53%) stating this to be the case. In terms of customer expectations to offer digital solutions, while the gap between UK companies and the global response group was less pronounced, it does still exist with 73% of UK companies stating this to be the case for them.
As with earlier trends, however, while the UK responses are less dramatic than those that emerged within the global data, the fundamental findings of the initial report still largely ring true. However, as we look towards what is driving digital transformation amongst field service companies, these differences do appear to indicate the companies represented in the UK-only study have differing priorities to those in the global study.
As we wrote in the first report, given these findings within that study data, it was of little wonder that we see improving customer experience as the single most crucial area of development field service companies are seeking within their digital transformation projects. Indeed, just under half of all respondents (48%) in that study stated this to be the case, although this was closely followed by operational efficiency, which 43% of companies cited. (Fig 14. below).
Only 9% of companies said that their primary area of focus was driving asset productivity.
However, as we look at the UK data, there is a clear difference in approach.
Amongst the UK respondents, 58% of field service companies within the study stated that operational efficiency was the key driver for their business compared to just 28% who cited improving customer experience. This of course aligns well with the above findings that show the significant difference in the two response groups regarding the increasing importance of customer success.
The final indicator of how the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation that we reviewed in our first report was centred around the expectations of results when implementing a new system or technology.
Out of necessity, many field service companies reduced the administration and red tape layers around the implementation of service offerings throughout the pandemic. The study’s findings would seem to indicate that this understanding of how quickly such projects can yield results has shifted as a result.
Indeed, most field service companies within the global study (42%) believe they should be able to see results from the implementation of technology within just six months. A similar amount of field service companies (41%) stated that the expected time frame was twelve months. In this regard, the UK data again fell in line with the global findings with 34% stating they expected to see results of new technology implementation within six months and 42% stating they expected to see improvements within a twelve-month period. Such time frames are considerably lower than one might expect, and this would certainly appear to be a result of the acceleration of digital transformation projects that the pandemic has introduced.
However, it should also be noted that this is not a static moment in time. Not only is our industry rapidly evolving but so too is the speed at which tools and apps that can support such transformation are able to be developed, and ROI on technology investments has been shown to be faster than ever.
As we saw earlier in this report, a quarter of field service companies in the global study and a fifth in the UK study stated that their digital transformation projects had been accelerated. However, they are still in the selection phase to identify the solutions that can serve them now and in the future.
Over two-thirds (69%) of the field service companies within the global study stated that there is a technology they will be implementing within the next twelve months that could improve the customer service they deliver, while in the UK only study over half (52%) stated this was the case.
In the next feature in this series we shall turn our attention to digital transformation trends, which may give us further insight.
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