Written by 6:00 am Feature, FSN Research

The greatest disruptor in three generations?

The greatest disruptor in three generations?

In the next article from our latest Beyond the Data report based on an exclusive Field Service News Research study run in partnership Salesforce looking at the rise of remote in service in the field service sector, we reflect on the how the pandemic has become the greatest disruptor in many of our lifetimes and what that will mean for the global field service sector…

As field service companies rapidly adapted to maintaining their customers’ assets during the unprecedented challenges faced in 2020, remote service became the default way of delivering service. With the many benefits of remote service delivery now understood by service providers and their customers alike, the question is will remote service delivery become the default first approach to resolution as we move beyond the pandemic?

One of the key findings of the initial study was that undoubtedly our industry had seen a massive shift regarding the adoption of remote services due to the pandemic.

Indeed, in an earlier study by Field Service News Research conducted earlier in 2020, we had already seen clear evidence of the widespread adoption of remote services.

At that point, we had already seen that adoption of such tools had reached over three quarters (76%) of market saturation, with 67% of the companies that had such capabilities had implemented these as a direct result of the pandemic.

In the following months, when we returned to take a deeper look at the impact such widespread introduction of remote services could mean for the field service sector, we saw that the emerging trends in that earlier study remained true. We are now seeing an overwhelming majority of 87% of field service organisations stating that they have the capabilities to deliver service remotely.

“We adopted this approach primarily as a direct response to the pandemic, but it was something that we had considered before, but we felt that our customers wouldn’t see the same value in a remote technician finding resolution as they would if we sent a technician on-site. During the pandemic, this has changed quite significantly…”

However, the crucial question we must now ask is if this will be a change for good or whether it is a means to an end. For a long time, Field Service News has predicted that the future of field service delivery will increasingly involve remote service. The technology is there to enable this, and ourselves and others in the sector have championed the benefits of such an approach for at least five years.

Yet, the reality was that such a seismic change to the status quo was yet to fully emerge beyond the confines of a small group of bleeding-edge adopters, innovators and pioneers. For most of the field service sector, remote service remained a dot on the horizon – something to aim for perhaps, but still a long way from where they were today. However, rather than a ‘great reset’, the field service sector has taken more of a ‘great leap forward’ due to the pandemic.

The fact is that many field service companies have now arrived at a point where they have adopted remote services. However, many came to this point out of necessity rather than strategy. Many have implemented remote service capabilities hastily, and as a result, many established these new processes in a slightly cumbersome manner.

Of course, this was to be expected. These companies were desperately seeking a way of supporting their customers in the most unprecedented of times.

However, as the dust settles and we begin to look towards the future rather than firefighting in the present, the question is will these companies now seize the opportunity to radically rethink the fundamentals of how they solve their customers’ problems.

The question is, will remote service delivery become the default in the new normal?

“I cannot really see us going back to anything other than remote service as the first layer of service response,” commented one survey respondent, a Service Director for a UK based company working in the Manufacturing sector.

“Yes, we adopted this approach primarily as a direct response to the pandemic, but it was something that we had considered before. However, we felt that our customers wouldn’t see the same value in a remote technician finding resolution as they would if we sent a technician on-site. During the pandemic, this has changed quite significantly.

“There was something of an ‘in-the-trenches’ mentality, particularly in the early weeks and months of the pandemic, our customers were just grateful that we were able to help them at all when some of their other service providers apparently couldn’t. This actually gave us a little bit of leeway to get our processes refined, and while we are still finalising those processes and looking at dedicated solutions designed for purpose, we have made huge strides forwards in our ability to help customers from a distance.

“We’ve already had a lot of meaningful conversations with pretty much all of our key service accounts about continuing to use remote service as the first response to resolving their issues even once the pandemic has ended and the consensus from our customer base is that this is what they would like to see as well.

“They can see how many problems can be resolved a lot quicker, while for those issues that can’t be resolved remotely, the service isn’t delayed too significantly as we can run an initial triage remotely and then, if the fault can’t be resolved remotely, schedule an on-site service appointment as a priority.”

Interestingly, this respondent highlighted how the pandemic had disrupted both their approach to working but also their customers. In many ways this has generated a collegiate approach when finding a way to keep things working.

Indeed, the severity of the pandemic as a disruptive force that can be harnessed for positive change is a theme that came through in both the debrief session we held reviewing the initial findings of this study and also many of the follow-up interviews we will be reflecting on throughout this report.

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Salesforce-Service-Cloud-REPLACED WITH NEW LOGOThis Field Service News Research project was run in partnership with Salesforce, one of a select group of official Strategic Partners for Field Service News