The shift to remote services as default is neither an operational discussion nor a technology discussion, it is a strategic business discussion

To begin the process of implementing an effective remote service approach, we must acknowledge that the move to remote service becoming the dominant means of service delivery is not a discussion simply around service operations, nor is it based around technology…

 

While both of these areas are crucial aspects of the conversation, they should not be the primary drivers.

 

The move to remote service-as-a-default has to be viewed as a significant strategic shift across the whole business. The primary reason for this is that by moving to remote service as the first means of resolving our customers’ service requirements, many of the old facets of the service contract become largely obsolete.

 

In a world of remote-service delivery, the standard Service Level Agreements (SLA) that we are all accustomed to, are in many ways are no longer required. SLA adherence was a crucial element within the service contract in the past.

 

However, as our industry has moved towards servitization, a guarantee that a field service engineer would be on-site to resolve a problem within a set time of a fault being logged makes way for guarantees of uptime. In this setting, resolving issues remotely becomes even more critical.

 

The reality is that potentially remote service allows the service provider to assist the customer almost instantly, something that, even with the most efficient service operations in the world, isn’t possible without placing a field service engineer on the customer’s site 24-7 – which is, of course, cost-prohibitive for almost all service scenarios.

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"With over 2,500 field service engineers working across 27 countries, it was no small task to undertake such a considerable shift in operational strategy..."

Ultimately, with the key trendlines of increasing servitization and the adoption of remote service solutions converging, some significant strategic changes at the business level need to be considered as we move forward.

 

“We started with a remote-by-default project to enable ourselves to have centralised specialist support for our field service engineers (FSEs),” explains Ged Cranny, Senior Consultant, Konica Minolta BEU. 

 

“This allowed field service to be more agile, rather than just direct service as a default. It also meant we could utilise our field service partners more effectively. Additionally, it has enabled our FSEs to become generalists as well.

 

“Prior to the pandemic we had set ourselves the target of getting to just 20% of our service operations being direct visits by utilising predictive maintenance, monitoring tools and the bi-directional flow of data.”

 

It is an ambitious target to have in their sights even in this post-pandemic world, yet with their direct visits already reduced to 30%, it is one that Konica Minolta appear to be well on their way towards achieving.

 

It is also an essential target, with one of the primary sectors they operate within, the print and managed document services space, having previously moved largely to a ‘pay-per-print’ model, the onus on maintaining customer uptime while keeping the service operation profitable, is vital.

 

However, with over 2,500 field service engineers working across 27 countries, it was no small task to undertake such a considerable shift in operational strategy.

 

So how did they approach it?

 

“We built out a clear understanding of what our parameters were that allowed us to develop some clear change management steps,” Cranny explains.

 

“We identified three reasons where there was a specific case for us to have an engineer visit the customer’s site. These were for installation or collection, the fitting of a part that is not replaceable by a customer, or an on-site service that the customer is willing to pay extra for.”

 

“The process has to start at the factory and go right the way through the business,” comments Laszlo Szilas-Neff, Head of Service in Cluster East Europe & Hungary, Konica Minolta Business Solutions.

"Remote-as-a-default, is all about engineering. it is about engineering the machine, and it is about engineering the processes. These two areas have to be undertaken together and to achieve that all sides of the business most be working towards a common goal..."

“By this, I mean that moving to remote service-as-a-default  isn’t just an area that impacts the service operation team. There are some fundamental pillars within the move to remote service-as-a-default, including essential process changes and technology introductions within the service organisation. However, this all needs to be supported by the product.

 

“You have to devise and then deploy the systems that will enable you to move to remote service as a default,” Szilas-Neff continues.

 

“It is, of course, crucial not to find out at the end of the process change that some of the new assets in development will not have the functionality or the connectivity to allow you to execute your remote service strategies.

 

“Remote-as-a-default, is all about engineering. It is about engineering the machine, and it is about engineering the processes. These two areas have to be undertaken together and to achieve that all sides of the business most be working towards a common goal.”

 

Of course, achieving this synergy across multiple different areas of the business is often dependent on a sponsor at the executive level – someone who can sit across the various business units and see the broader holistic picture.

 

However, the rewards for both the service provider and the customer when such an approach is well executed can be astounding.

 

“Let me give you an example,” offers Cranny.

 

“One of our customers is a major supermarket chain, and they wanted to update the firmware on all of their assets. Before we made the shift towards remote service as the primary means of completing this type of work, we calculated that this would have resulted in 1,200 incidents to our portfolio for our engineers to fix in the UK alone.

 

“We used the bi-directional tool and worked with their IT team, and within just seven days, every store and their head offices were all updated. Obviously, this delivered a cost-saving for us, but it also had a massive beneficial impact to the customer who saw us as more of a services company than simply a hardware provider.”

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