Identifying the biggest change in the industry for field service providers

Identifying the biggest change in the industry for field service providers

We know that our industry has changed significantly after the events of the last two years.

 
Our initial study saw that the most significant shift in service processes within the last eighteen months was the introduction of remote services added to the service portfolio. Almost two-thirds (64%) of our respondents in the original study stated that this was the case. The second-highest response, more flexible shift patterns within the service division, was cited by only a little over a tenth (12%).

Of course, both of these adaptations were likely to have been influenced by the unprecedented impact of the pandemic and the immediate need to offer more flexible solutions for both employees and customers alike. Equally, both are aspects that will remain part of our working operations for the long term as we move beyond the pandemic.

However, the adoption of remote service is set to completely change the way our industry operates at the most fundamental level.

During our series of follow-up interviews, one service leader responsible for UK service operations for a major industrial and residential supplier within the HVAC sector commented, “for us, the adoption of remote-service delivery is now a fundamental aspect of our workflow.”

Another interviewee, a service director providing financial management solutions for large box-store outlets nationwide in the US, similarly stated: “We will no longer send an engineer out to a store until one of our remote- service technicians has had ‘eyes’ on the asset so that we can provide a more detailed and effective triage.

“This is a win-win because, in most instances, we can guide the customer- operator through the maintenance remotely and get them up and running quickly – which is all they [the customer] really want at the end of the day.

“In those situations where the resolution is more complex, and we need one of our guys to visit the customer site, then our triage from that initial remote service call means that our technician is arriving on-site with a better understanding of the problem already, what has been tried, what the fault isn’t and what it is likely to be.
 
This, of course, then relates to improvements in other core KPIs such as first-time fix-rate and technician utilisation.”

While the pandemic ultimately made the need for remote service delivery far more pressing, it should be noted that for many in our follow up interviews, a lot of the work in establishing such offerings, both in terms of processes and tools used, had begun long before the pandemic, albeit often in smaller trials.

One interviewee, a senior service leader for a managed print and optical solutions provider with responsibility across Europe, commented: “We have been looking at remote service for a long-time now. We have been able to connect to all of our new assets in the field for a number of years and have slowly been edging towards moving to a remote-first-as-a-default approach to service across a period of years.

“Where the pandemic played a role, was in accelerating the acceptance of this approach from the customer side. Wheras prior to the lockdowns they would often be insistent that they wanted one of our team on-site, suddenly they wanted to know how we could offer our service without breaking their bio-security.

“Fortunately, we had been working down that path for some time already so we were able to make that transition quickly and, despite some initial logistical challenges relating to having to move faster than we had planned, relatively seamlessly.”

Indeed, as has been noted previously on the pages of fieldservicenews.com,
as an industry, we were somewhat fortunate that we already had many of the tools in place to allow us to adapt to these new challenges with a minimum of pain.

As Coen Jeukens, VP Global Customer Transformation, ServiceMax, commented during the study debrief session, “the technology for remote service has been out there for a very long time; I recall IBM with their system 390 in the 1990s where they experimented with the capability of the remote machine to communicate with the back office.

 

“However, I think the pandemic really has been a driver in the speed of adoption of the much more sophisticated technologies that are at the heart of remote-service delivery today. This is mostly because service organisations have true commitments to keep equipment up and running.

 

“Of course, even if your technicians cannot go to the site because of pandemic reasons, the service provider still has to keep that equipment up and running.

 

“This means that we need to move to plan B and make sure we have mitigating strategies to ensure that we can meet our obligations as service providers.


I think that has been a key reason for a lot of companies to finally decide to move beyond their objections around data security, which was a large barrier for many when it comes to accepting remote-service delivery.

 

“It was a case of accepting that allowing a service provider access to the firewall may put a hole in the cyber-security, but the other side of the equation was a genuine threat to business continuity if the service providers couldn’t maintain machines and assets, and granting remote access was the only way this could be overcome.

 

“I think it is the experience of a lot of companies in this period, that have now seen this [remote-service delivery] working, and while they of course will have to consider potential additional cyber-security measures, they now realise that remote-service isn’t as scary a proposition for their business as they may have perceived.

 

“If this is the case, then I can see remote service becoming dominant within the service portfolio of many organisations.”

Want to know more? This feature is an excerpt from a white paper published by Field Service News and ServiceMax. Please either log-in or subscribe for access. 

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