Field service data must flow across the wider business.

In the first feature from a recent white paper we published in partnership with Exel, we look at some of the critical components within such platforms and outline how the flow of data from each component is vital for modern service delivery.

 

Platforms Are Key to Meeting the Demands of Modern Field Service

 

Across the last few years, we have seen a clear trend emerge amongst field service organizations. In the past, service contracts were often seen as the additional ‘sweetener’ bundled in to help drive product sales.

 

Then within the last decade, we began to see field service no longer viewed as a necessary evil but more a critical strategic aspect in revenue generation.

 

Field service operations that had for so long been deemed as cost centers across the industry made the move en masse to become profit centers.

 

However, today, as service delivery continues to evolve into a critical strategic revenue generator for many organizations, particularly those within manufacturing verticals, the industry is moving beyond the initial concept of service as a revenue stream and into more and more detailed discussions around servitization, outcome-based service contracts and a significant focus on customer success.

 

At the heart of these ongoing developments is the realization that the silos between different business units must be broken down, particularly in terms of data flow and information exchange, if the field service operation is to be able to be a core driver in business success.

 

Indeed, regardless of whether your organization is merely seeking to maximize efficiencies across the service operation or is moving towards a fully servitized business model, the need for the effective flow of information and data across the wider business has never been more apparent.

 

In this white paper, which FSN subscribers can access in full, we shall put forward the case as to why the all-in-one platform approach can be far more productive in achieving a more seamless transfer of data and intelligence and why this is critical for effective and robust decision making.  

 

The Benefits of Data Moving Through the Platform and Beyond the Silos

 

From reducing the cash-to-service cycle to ensuring a complete overview of both the customer and asset history that can be easily accessed at every customer touchpoint, a platform approach can reduce friction within service delivery and ensure you are meeting the expectations of your customers at every turn. In this opening feature in the series, we shall look at some of the critical components within such platforms and outline how the flow of data from each component is vital for modern service delivery.

 

Customer relationship management

 

At the heart of every modern platform empowering service organizations to place the customer at the center of their business lies the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

 

Modern CRM should be capable of capturing and managing all interactions with your customers and prospective customers. However, a stand-alone application often lacks easy access to other crucial systems that provide essential, yet often nuanced information that could be the difference between retaining a customer through excellent service and losing a customer through a disjointed service experience.

 

The point of service is often when the customer needs you the most. It is when they are seeking solutions to an issue with the product you provide. Often in a business-to-business environment, the failure of one asset could quickly amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost production capacity. This is the point where the service you deliver defines your organization.

 

Customer touchpoints, be it a representative in the contact center or an engineer in the field, need to be able to access all of the pertinent information to hand quickly and efficiently. The flow of data into the CRM is vital to empower them to control the situation and keep your customer at ease, knowing the issue is being handled effectively.

 

Modern platforms, such as EFACS (an Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP system) and Eagle Field Service (a Field Service Management or FSM system) provided by Exel Computer Systems, are designed to reduce system interaction required to access such critical information by allowing interrogation of other parts of the system via drill-throughs, reducing navigation through system menus.

 

As well as being vital during initial issue resolution, this can also become exceptionally valuable with follow-up connections, allowing users to gain insight into effective marketing campaigns, customer satisfaction and identify potential up-selling/cross-selling opportunities.

 

Financial tools:

 

The biggest challenge for many service organizations, from the small to large, is often the delay in large cash-to-service cycles, currently, as we look forwards to a continuing uncertain economic outlook, cash-flow promises to be an ongoing challenge for all organizations.

 

This is another vital area where the platform can shine for service organizations.

 

Modern platforms should incorporate accounting modules that ensure accurate, real-time, cohesive financial management for your business. Such modules should be easy to use and provide high functionality and flexibility.

 

From a service delivery perspective, in-platform workflow automation can allow business procedures, such as producing invoices upon receipt of digital signature, to vastly increase operational efficiency. At the same time, automated follow-ups can ensure the prompt payment of invoices – again helping to reduce cash-flow challenges.

 

Similarly, the most significant cause of revenue leakage often relates to service provided outside of warranty not being invoiced correctly. By having a flow of data easily accessible by all users across the platform, this can be negated, ensuring out-of-contract service is charged appropriately and up-selling opportunities are realized.

 

Scheduling and Case Management:

 

When it comes to scheduling service engineers, again, having complete visibility of the various customer interactions and asset information is vital for effective management of the service cycle.

 

The ability to manage and schedule all planned maintenance requirements for the entire duration of the contract is a necessity. Having visibility into this can be crucial for the field service operations and other business units, including sales, marketing, and even research and development.

 

However, while the ideal is to move towards planned maintenance as much as possible, all service companies will still face reactive service calls. The capacity planning to allow for reactive calls is an essential element within an FSM solution. Ensuring this visibility in workforce management tools is another important aspect of the broader platform approach.

 

The connected platform allows dispatch agents to select the right engineer the first time, every time; if the platform offers an assisted scheduling tool.

 

Such tools allow users to schedule and manage calls, constantly monitor engineers’ diaries (updated by the mobile solution to reflect real-time changes), and have the ability to view optimum time slots and spare availability.

 

Similarly, Call Centre functionality is core to any business that needs to monitor and control after-sales service to their customers. Cases may be categorized and assigned a priority or service level. All correspondence and activities related to the case can be tracked, photos and records of problems can be stored, and correspondence relating to technical issues maintained.

 

Of course, each of these elements is an essential tool in its own right, in terms of ensuring efficient service delivery and driving customer satisfaction. However, the seamless data flow across these different aspects of the all-in-one solution allows a service organization to truly deliver a holistic and connected service experience for the customer.

 

These are, of course, just a small selection of the tools that make up the average field service system. Many other elements may be included within such a platform, but similarly, best-of-breed alternatives may be available as stand-alone solutions. In the next part of this paper, we shall explore why adopting multiple best-of-breed solutions can be more challenging than a single platform.

 

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