Why data is the ultimate democratizing tool that changes the paradigm in field service

We have talked at great length within our industry about the importance of embracing data and adopting data-driven approaches to defining how we deliver service in a manner that allows our field technicians, our customers and our shareholders to be consistently satisfied.

 

Yet, in a world that is hurtling through digital transformation, a process that has only been accelerated even further by the pandemic now is an excellent time to sit back and reflect just what the widespread adoption of such data-driven approaches could mean for our industry at large.

 

Perhaps the first part of this discussion should be revisiting some of the well-established aspects of excellence within field service operations. As any service manager will attest, the ability to find the delicate balance required to simultaneously resolve customer issues quickly while ensuring operational overheads are kept to a minimum is one that can be hard to establish.

 

Indeed, consistently within Field Service News Research benchmarking studies, we have seen a balance between customer service metrics and more operationally focused metrics such as meant-time-to-repair, technician utilization, and first-time-fix rates as the most consistently cited top KPIs that successful field service organizations track.

 

Of course, understanding and improving our performance against such metrics is at the very heart of achieving service excellence and achieving this balance. It is a perfect example of where a data-driven approach across the field service business unit can shine. With the advent of modern systems that can talk to each other via APIs, making data easily surfacable when and where needed, it is now possible to analyze and react to the key data we need to drive improvements in our service operations across these critical metrics in real-time.

 

This is a revolution in how we can approach field service management. A few years ago, most field service managers would have been ‘driving while looking in the rear-view mirror’ to analyze critical performance. This inherently made the task a reactive one, meaning progress would always be slower than desired. In today’s era of easy data flow, the role of field service management is a much more dynamic and forward-looking process.

 

However, perhaps the most significant aspect of this data-led digital transformation we find ourselves in currently is the democratizing impact such technological developments have had within our industry. A decade ago, Field Service Management tools that were far more rudimentary than what is available today were prohibitively expensive for almost all. Still, those organizations sat within the enterprise tier.

 

Fast-forward to today, and smaller organizations can have access to tools that allow them to have similar levels of customer, asset and engineer visibility, tools that will enable them to deliver the kind of service that previously would have only been expected of their larger counterparts, for a small and manageable outlay.

 

For example, Frontu (formerly Tasker), a field service management solution that serves organizations with a field workforce that operate within the heavy equipment, vending, facility management, utility, security, and HVAC industries, is available for as little as just €29 per user a month. What is so interesting from an industry dynamic is that as companies such as Frontu emerge to offer solutions available to the SMB sector, the opportunity for disruption within each of the markets such companies serve increases.

 

Smaller companies often tend to have two-three attributes within their DNA that make them more likely to become disruptors ultimately.

 

Firstly, the leadership in such companies is often naturally entrepreneurially minded. Secondly, they are much closer to their customers than their larger competitors by the nature of their size. Finally, smaller companies are more agile and more able to move through multiple iterations of an offering far quicker and more effectively, making them hotbeds for innovation.

 

As Arūnas Eitutis, CEO, Frontu explains, “Customers started to use their own data to make decisions. Using FSM reporting or BI tools which collects information not only from FSM, but also from Fleet management software, ERP and other systems.

 

“It’s already a big value, but we as industry focuses FSM can bring even bigger value by helping to make decisions based on industry benchmarks.”

 

With solutions providers such as Frontu now level the playing field in terms of the tools they have at their disposal, the balance of power within many industries could potentially shift away from the large multinationals that have dominated their respective sector for so many years as a new wave of smaller, yet, more innovative and ambitious competitors enter any given market with the ability to compete on an equal footing truly.

 

Ultimately, of course, this should be a good thing for the market.

 

Any disruptive influence within a sector generally drives efficiencies and customer satisfaction up across the board – as the adage goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. With disruption comes the rejection of the long-standing status quo. Things being done, just because that is how they have always been done, no longer stands up to scrutiny. Better ways are found, and then these in themselves are reiterated in an environment of continuous improvement. 

 

Indeed, the huge level of disruption we are seeing across the market as we work our way through a post-pandemic world as well in the midst of unparalleled digital transformation has been seen in some corners of the industry of having the potential to massively democratise the field service sector and allow smaller organisations to compete on an even playing field with those in enterprise.

 

As Eitutis puts it “we saw how Youtube changed music industry being a platform for unknown talents to emerge. FSM could be kind of Youtube analogy for smaller companies which helps them work on high industry standards, attract best technicians or engineers and help in sales and marketing.”

 

Indeed, one area in which our industry is in desperate need of such disruption is our field workforces’ ageing profile. Across all sectors and global sectors, the threat of an ageing workforce is looming, and its shadow has been growing for some time. This is perhaps the most significant benefit we could see in the digital transformation of field service operations – the evolution of the role of field service engineer and technician.

 

Traditionally, in many sectors, the perspective of the field engineer is far removed from reality. Often, those outside of our sector see the role of the engineer or technician as that of someone with a toolbag on their shoulder coming in through the tradesmen’s entrance. Anyone who has worked in field service will know that often the engineer’s role demands them to be as good with the customer as they are with the assert and as good with software and data as they are with mechanical and physical solutions.

 

The modern field service technician, perhaps now in this post-pandemic world of stop-start lockdowns, is often the only in-person touchpoint a company may have with their customers. We have frequently championed the field service engineer as a brand ambassador at Field Service News, and that function of the field workers role is more critical today than ever before.

 

Indeed, the acknowledgement of this importance and their focus on the importance of the technician within their FSM solution earned Frontu a place on the shortlist of leading FSM solutions in the European Field Service Awards earlier this year alongside more established solutions such as Salesforce, IFS and ServiceMax. 

 

As Eitutis explains, “We started our product to help field service companies tackle the problems caused by traditional operation management methods. Many modern organizations still heavily rely on pen and paper, increasing their risk of mistakes and errors.

 

As we dug deeper, we found out that the issue was much more significant. Unmotivated technicians, lost documents, decisions not based on data, long invoicing circle, and miscommunication between sales and service departments.

 

It became clear that the change had to start with frontline employees. After all, they work with customers and solve their issues, meaning that the product had to be designed for their needs first. That inspired us to transform our brand and become Frontu – a technician-first FSM software solution.”

 


 

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