Remote service is now firmly established as part of our industry

While the tools for remote service were being leveraged by some forward-looking organisations and championed by many analysts in the industry as a game change long before 2020, the pandemic brought the whole field service sector onto the same page…

 

Before the pandemic, only a small handful of bleeding-edge cases had been using remote service delivery tools for long enough to have mastered the approach and truly woven it into their service operations.

 

Those that had managed to do so, invariably, were the great disruptors of their sector. Companies such as Rail Cargo Italia, for example, who Field Service News covered in a previous white paper that showcased how the company had revolutionised not just their workflows but their entire industry.

 

FSN PRO members can watch an in-depth interview with RailCargo’s Alesandro Borzacchi that outlines this case study here.

 

Indeed, it is organisations such as RailCargo and others that have led the way in terms of the adoption of remote services that blazed such a critical path.

 

Still, until relatively recently, such organisations were in the minority. Then the pandemic arrived, and all field service companies simply had to adopt some level of remote service.

 

Whether it was a clumsy and unsophisticated introduction of rudimentary tools such as video calling, or the rushed but more effective roll-out of one of the many Augmented Reality solutions available in our market, during the lockdowns, we saw in effect an industry-wide trial phase of whether remote service delivery as a concept could work.

 

While the levels of effectiveness of remote service varied as widely as the tools and processes used, in the main, we as an industry realised that resolving our customers’ problems remotely was entirely possible. Indeed, in many ways, it was a more optimal solution that cost the service provider less and gave the customer what they really wanted (i.e. issue resolution) much faster.

 

With that realisation coming both from the service providers and our customers alike, the adoption of remote services post-pandemic has been on a path to become a significant part of our service operations moving forward.

 

We are now seeing remote service positioned to become a default mechanism for at least delivering the first tier of issue resolution, with many organisations shifting to a remote-first default.

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"Field service has always been a complex beast regarding the number of moving parts required to make service operations move smoothly. We potentially add additional complexity as we introduce remote service delivery into this mix..."

Such an approach makes complete sense, particularly when we consider that our industry is rapidly moving away from the Service Level Agreement approach that has been a lynchpin of service agreements in the past to become more centred around guarantees of uptime.

 

The ability to diagnose an issue remotely in real-time and, where possible, provide a resolution is as critical in such models as it is appealing.

 

Additionally, even in those situations where a resolution is not possible remotely, the improved triage undertaken by utilising the tools and processes of remote service will inevitably lead to quicker solutions when the field engineer does have to travel to the customer’s site.

 

However, while so much is changing regarding our approach to service delivery, many of the core tenets of service and, indeed, broader business relations with our customers remain firm. Service levels and standards across the last decade have widely become acknowledged as key differentiators amongst competing organisations. In this regard, we should view remote service in the same terms we have viewed on-site service delivery.

 

The delivery of service needs to be effortless and seamless for the customer. When an asset is down, the customer needs quick resolution, and customer expectations should be that the service engineer will be knowledgeable, effective and professional. The technology implemented should be intuitive for any end-user, whether a customer or an on-site engineer. The processes from acknowledging the service request to job completion should be well structured and effective.

 

Ultimately, suppose your service is to be a key differentiator. In that case, you need the customer to come away from the service engagement, satisfied that the job is completed and wowed by the speed and professionalism in which it was undertaken.

 

Yet, field service has always been a complex beast regarding the number of moving parts required to make service operations move smoothly. We potentially add additional complexity as we introduce remote service delivery into this mix.

 

This is not necessarily something we should shy away from as service providers, but this additional complexity mustn’t become a burden on the customer. Indeed, introducing remote service into a service portfolio has to be seen by the customer as a more straightforward and faster path to issue resolution.

 

To achieve this, we need our internal teams to fully embrace the new remote service delivery workflow.

 

From our contact centres to our engineers in the field and, of course, our remote service engineers, we need the processes they are to follow to be clear and the systems they are using to be intuitive. It needs to be a simple process to move from initial triage to engaging a remote engineer, and similarly, when remote resolution isn’t possible, to schedule an on-site engineer visit.

"From a customer’s point of reference, if they are passed from a contact centre agent for triage to a remote service technician, and then if on-site intervention is required, being passed on once more onto a scheduling agent to arrange an on-site follow-up - is not going to be a positive service experience..."

From a customer’s point of reference, if they are passed from a contact centre agent for triage to a remote service technician, and then if on-site intervention is required, being passed on once more onto a scheduling agent to arrange an on-site follow-up – is not going to be a positive service experience.

 

That same customer may wish to bypass the remote service element next time as they would now see it as a waste of their time and a delay in getting an engineer on-site to fix their problem.

 

If we look at this same scenario from an internal perspective, we could easily see how this issue could arise. The contact centre agent may be using a CRM tool and is one layer of the team. They are likely relatively low-skilled with limited subject matter knowledge. Their primary role was to broadly identify a problem and create a work order which would subsequently be handled by a scheduling or dispatch team.

 

In our example scenario, however, they are tasked with doing the same job but allocating a remote service technician to the job directly. So far, so good.

 

The remote technician will then engage with the client, almost certainly utilising another system, and if the job can be resolved remotely, then they would need to update the job details potentially on yet another system – whether that is a dedicated Field Service Management (FSM) application, back on the CRM, or potentially an ERP or PAM etc.

 

If, however, the issue is not resolved remotely and has to be escalated to an on-site engineer visit, then the remote service technician will likely have to pass the customer onto yet another touchpoint in the organisation – this time, a scheduling agent who will possibly have yet another system, perhaps a dedicated, dynamic scheduling solution that allows for planning and scheduling of engineer resources where they can log the work order.

 

While this is, of course, a potential worst-case scenario, with multiple disparate systems and ill-thought-out processes, it is certainly one that likely exists in many field service organisations. It also serves to illustrate well that it is entirely feasible that the additional complexity of remote service delivery could reduce both customer satisfaction and service provider efficiency – and this is especially true if we are to utilise the existing technology stack in place.

 

Of course, with modern APIs and looking slightly further forward at multi-tenant data solutions, it is possible to have all of these disparate systems talking to each other to improve the flow of data and make the transitions from one department to another less painful.

 

However, one does have to step back and ask if we have reached a point where we are now continuing to shoehorn in legacy systems and processes by throwing even more technology at the issue and assess if this is becoming something of a fool’s errand – particularly when the next-gen solutions, such as OverIT are available and proven to overcome such issues.

 

Such systems include many of the advanced technology requirements for remote service delivery, such as Augmented Reality natively and are designed with such workflow considerations in place.

 

As such, they have simplified implementation programmes that can massively reduce the time it takes to deliver the platform while allowing service providers to unlock the full potential of the advanced technologies that are driving this seismic shift in how we approach service delivery.

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