Written by 12:54 pm Feature, FSN Research, Service Strategy

Will the new normal see a sustained focus on service as a key differentiator?

Will the new normal see a sustained focus on service as a key differentiator?

For a long time the field service sector has understood the importance of service being a core differentiator amongst competing companies. However, the pandemic has in many areas had something of a democratising effect as all service companies have had to find new ways of doing things.

As the dust settles will we see service continue to be a differentiator in the new normal?

Having undertaken an extensive research project with FieldAware in the latter months of 2020 we released a ground-breaking report that identified the emerging trends of the new normal. Having assessed the sectors opinions at the time we then returned to interview a selection of the respondents to go Beyond the Data and leverage deeper insight.

The following article is an excerpt from a report based upon those interviews as well as our exclusive debrief session. 

One critical insight we were able to take from the study is a clear emerging shift in field service delivery mechanisms. Indeed, many questions will emerge as to what the future of field service will look like as the widespread acceptance of remote service as a legitimate and effective means of service delivery continues to grow. Yet, at the same time, the important role field service plays in broader business strategy appear to remain in place. .

Indeed, the importance of service excellence as a critical factor in retaining and winning business and driving revenues seems to have been reinforced by the events of 2020.

In the initial study, a dual set of trends were revealed that would support this evolving concept of the value proposition of field service.

Firstly, service excellence has historically always been a key differentiator for winning and retaining business. The study findings revealed the vital role that service delivery plays within core revenue generation strategies has not been impacted by the pandemic. Over two thirds (70%) of the respondents stated that they felt that service would remain a key differentiator amongst competing companies.

We also looked into where field service companies felt their customers saw the most significant value in their services; we again see service excellence as the critical battleground for competing organizations. Given the challenges of the pandemic, one may have predicted that new factors such as the ability to deliver service in a zero-touch environment could become key, or reducing costs may be pivotal given the shortage of cash within the economy.

“Many of our customers were classed essential businesses and we had to work closer than ever with them to understand a rapidly evolving situation. In that way the pandemic brought us closer than ever to our customers…”

Yet, these factors and others all scored significantly lower than exceptional customer service which was the single most prominent response to the question ‘where do you see the value of your service in the eyes of your customer?’

As one respondent, a US-based regional service manager for a company working in the facilities management sector explained; “Our company is built on a foundation of delivering great service to our customers. During the pandemic that need only increased as we had to be there to support our customers through very, challenging situations.

“Many of our customers are classed as essential businesses and we had to work closer than ever with them to understand a rapidly evolving situation. In that way the pandemic brought us closer than ever to our customers and we are planning to continue to build upon those relationships further as we all pull through together.”

For Tatarsky, this trend is absolutely in line with the direction the field service sector was already heading in, and the pandemic merely emphasized that this was the right path to be heading down.

“I think what we are seeing here is not a shift, it’s the maturity of what’s been happening for quite some time,” he explains.

“When we look at this from a FieldAware perspective, as well as from a maturity model perspective, what the study has highlighted is the operational maturity of our sector.

“When we enter an unanticipated crisis like this, one of the positive outcomes is that it helps galvanize both customer and service provider into a partnership model. The focus then becomes centred on the outcomes delivered, rather than the transactional aspects of how those outcomes are delivered. It becomes a true partnership-based relationship. The reciprocal side of the equation is being able to create a delivery model that works for both partners in a mutual and symbiotic way.”

Indeed, the theme of true partnership came across in many of the follow-up interviews we undertook. One French Service Leader working in the med-tech space for a global organization commented “we see our customers as partners and we like them to see us in that way also. The pandemic has made this even bigger than before.”

Meanwhile, another respondent working in the energy generation sector in the UAE stated “for us it is all about partnership and delivering outcomes. If our assets are not working our customers are losing money. Our job is to make sure they face no unplanned downtime and we needed to do that regardless of the pandemic.”