What does the introduction of remote service mean in terms of our approach to service delivery?

What does the introduction of remote service mean in terms of our approach to service delivery?

In the first of four exclusive essays for service leaders authored by Field Service News, Editor-in-Chief, Kris Oldland, we explore what the wide adoption of remote service will mean for service delivery in the near future?  

 

We must accept that now that the glass wall that held back the widespread adoption of remote service delivery has been broken, remote service will become the dominant means of delivering service as a default approach.

 

This is, of course, a movement that has been a long, long time coming.

 

In 2015, speaking at Field Service Europe, I somewhat boldly told the audience in attendance that within the next decade, we would need to completely rethink how we approach maintenance and repair in our industry. My perspective at that point was based on three key criteria.

 

Firstly, we would face an ageing workforce crisis that would mean that we would no longer be able to approach service operations as we always had due to workforce shortages among field service technicians and engineers. ‘The status quo,’ I stated, ‘is broken, and we need to address this today to overcome the problems we will face tomorrow.’

 

Secondly, the technology I claimed was already emerging that would allow us to ‘completely rethink our approach to service operations.’

 

As I stated at the time, while comparisons are currently being made between the personal computing revolution and the more recent mobile and cloud revolutions, what is coming next is on an entirely different level. As the IoT and Augmented Reality technologies mature, we will see a very different set of models and approaches to service delivery.

 

‘While computing, mobile and cloud all allowed us to work more efficiently within the same parameters we had always worked within, these new technologies will simply turn everything on its head. Our industry will shift, hugely to a proactive nature as a result of these technologies and that will mean huge changes in the very fundamentals of what service operations are.’

 

The final point I made during this presentation was that the early indicators of the rise of servitization would only continue to gain more traction within the coming decade.

 

‘Servitization,’ I claimed, ‘will become increasingly prevalent, simply because it makes sense. It makes sense for the service provider who will see an increase in profit margins and it makes sense for their customers who will see risk moving from them to the service provider, which allows them in turn to focus greater efforts on their core business.’

 

Some ten years on, I must humbly say that these statements seem remarkably prescient. However, the truth is that while we were indeed on the path towards that vision for the future of field service I outlined, until the pandemic, we were making slower progress than I, and many other leading analysts in our sector, had assumed.

 

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"Now, as the dust of the pandemic settles, the most significant barrier in terms of remote service has been well and truly overcome. That barrier was the acceptance of remote service delivery from service customers..."

Before the pandemic, a small number of organisations were pioneering a way forward in the vein I had outlined back in 2015. However, the majority of our industry was yet to follow in their footsteps, and even those who were taking these bold steps forward were often only doing so in small, localised trials.

 

However, we as an industry should be hugely grateful that such trials have been undertaken. Those organisations that had pushed the boundaries of service operations meant that when the pandemic arrived, both the technology and the processes that would allow our industry to adapt on the fly were already road tested and robust enough for rapid roll-out.

 

Now, as the dust of the pandemic settles, the most significant barrier in terms of remote service has been well and truly overcome. That barrier was the acceptance of remote service delivery from service customers.

 

Perhaps, understandably in the mission-critical world of field service operations, there was a heavy reluctance towards the seismic change from on-site, SLA-based service delivery to one where remote service becomes the default first layer of service to meet guarantees of uptime.

 

The argument has always been compelling. Remote service is, of course, better for the service provider in terms of overheads. Yet, the more important aspect of the equation was that it is better for the customer regarding the speed of service delivered.

 

Thanks to the sheer disruptive force of the global lockdowns, both parties widely understand this premise.

 

Following this shift in thinking in our industry, the need and desire for remote service will only ever increase as more and more assets will be designed with remote service in mind.

 

Indeed, a glass wall of acceptance of remote service has been truly smashed within the last two years, and there is no going back to that status quo that remained intact for so long.

 

However, the challenge we now collectively face as an industry is ensuring we do not throw out the baby with the bathwater. While on-site delivery may become less frequent, there will always be use cases where it is required.

 

Perhaps, more importantly, as we move to an increasingly digitalised mode of operations, the critical importance of being able to place a genuine subject matter expert in front of our customers in a face-to-face environment is more crucial than ever.

 

Our engineers and technicians now offer a massive opportunity to engage with our customers genuinely. Ultimately, in an age of digital transformation, the value of on-site service operations is greater than ever before.

 

“The more savvy organisation is now grappling with how to align a service portfolio so on-site and remote can sit together? What does this mean in terms of technology, processes, and people?...”

The proper discussion in our industry today, and the issue that all field service leaders should focus on today, isn’t how do we replace on-site delivery with remote service delivery?

 

Instead, the more savvy organisation is now grappling with how to align a service portfolio so on-site and remote can sit together? What does this mean in terms of technology, processes, and people?

 

These are the questions you must address as an organisation as you move beyond the legacy of the pandemic and embrace a new world where our industry has remote service embedded as a fundamental part of our sector.

 

As the purpose of this series of essays is to prompt discussion and thinking across the industry, I shall leave you with a few questions for your own reflection at the end of each essay.

 

Further questions for consideration for you on this topic:

 

  • How do you think your customers perceive the different value propositions of remote service delivery and on-site service?
  • What barriers are there for you to integrate remote service and on-site service into a holistic service portfolio?
  • What are the process barriers that may prevent you from achieving this also?
  • What would be the benefits for your organisation to move to a remote-first default approach to service delivery?
  • What would be the benefits for your customers if you were to do so?
  • How would you outline these benefits to your customers

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