The Initial Operational Challenges of COVID-19
The impact of Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns across the world have become the backdrop to the world, perhaps not just in 2020 but for many, many years to come. In this Think Tank Session, hosted online as a result of the pandemic, we took some time to try and digest exactly what the impact of Covid-19 has been before looking forward to how we build the new normal of tomorrow. It was a thought-provoking conversation, with each of us testing each other’s viewpoints.
As would be expected in such unprecedented times, there were disagreements and debate about many of the key issues but also a lot of common ground in our collective thinking. Similarly, when we bring together a selection of leaders with this much experience and insight in their ranks and give them the space to talk freely and openly, the conversation becomes passionate, and the discussion dives far deeper than the surface level arguments and suggestions we may see elsewhere. Indeed, this is the very reason why we devised the Think Tank format in the first place.
To tackle the big topics in-depth, and in this session, where we faced the most significant discussion of a generation, the group rose to the challenge magnificently.
The conversation was exactly what we need at the moment, honest, robust and productive.
“Suddenly, we were putting our people in areas of risk, so managing that part of the operation and ensuring safety while letting our employees feel secure, that was a big challenge to overcome…”
– Alec Pinto, Leica Biosystems
As the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the globe, we saw a series of once in a lifetime set of challenges emerge that impacted every single one of us on the planet in one-way shape or form. As the world suddenly went into lockdown field service organisations were faced with unprecedented challenges to how they approached service delivery, or even they could even continue operating at all.
As Alec Pinto, Regional Service Manager DACH & High Growth Markets, Leica Biosystems explained,
“From an operative perspective, we had to be couldn’t go out anymore. So we had to start getting used to the new regulations quickly. What was allowed in hospitals? How could we get our people into hospitals? Suddenly, we were putting our people in areas of risk, so managing that part of the operation and ensuring safety while letting our employees feel secure, that was a big challenge to overcome.”
This was an experience shared by many of the group around the table. It led to a significant challenge in maintaining a balance between customer needs and varying internal requirements.
“There were a lot of challenging conversations continually trying to keep people productive while ensuring the safety of our customers and colleagues…”
– Ged Cranny, Konica Minolta
As Ged Cranny, Konica Minolta commented, “When an incident ticket appeared, the service desk was holding a list of companies and locations that were closed or restricting access because of Covid-19 – even before the government put the country into lock-down,” Cranny explained.
“This meant that anytime one of our technicians had to undertake an incident in a hospital suddenly, we had both HR and the Service Desk saying that technician now had to go in to quarantine. To balance the need to support customers and protect everyone, there were a lot of challenging conversations continually trying to keep people productive while ensuring the safety of our customers and colleagues.”
Indeed, it was agreed universally within the group that the challenges were seen in all industries, as organisations rapidly reinvented their operations both in the field and also shifting support from offices to homes.
“We saw a massive shift in ways of businesses,” stated Rajat Kakar, Executive, IBM, Services EMEA
“As an example, companies who provided services for people to migrate from office buildings to homes were busy; they didn’t have enough people to bring the office equipment, set it up at people’s homes and set up home offices. Whereas, companies which were primarily working on standard services, IT services within the corporate environments, they saw a decline in business.”
Having worked with a number of different organisations throughout the crisis this was also something Danial Brabec, Director, Digital Transformation, ServiceMax could also testify to.
“We’ve talked with several other service leaders and talked about surveys they have done around the customer communication models that they’ve had to implement,” Brabec comments before adding.
“One of the big things that has come to the fore has been the importance of communication. Many of the organisations I’ve been speaking with have focused on how they’ve enabled their service technicians to actually be that front-line of communication for all of their customers but also on understanding how best to serve their customers so they can understand exactly when engineers can access the site to get through the work that can keep both sides running.”
“Every area has been hit slightly differently. I think the biggest challenge was the fact that this was a once in a lifetime event and not something we’ve ever planned for…”
– Tony Chapman, Siemens
However, even within single organisations the challenges were varied.
As Tony Chapman, General Manager, Customer Services, Siemens added “We have probably faced a slightly different scenario to the rest of the people here today as we support industrial manufacturing.
“I’m responsible for four different areas which are; telephone support, field service for both contracts and response, there is a training centre, providing face to face classroom training and spare parts provision. This is as well as supporting the broader business for Siemens.
“Every area has been hit slightly differently. I think the biggest challenge was the fact that this was a once in a lifetime event and not something we’ve ever planned for. We all talk about business continuity; our real challenge was to get everybody out of the office and at home on a global basis, linking into the same business systems and then making those business systems cope with that increased demand. So actually just getting people online proved quite challenging.
“What we did see was a significant drop off in inquiries from customers as our customers entrenched, so that we saw the call volume drop dramatically round about the end of March. In field service, it was a similar situation. Our field service engineers are home-based anyway, as a few of you in this Think Tank have already mentioned, actually getting people onto site was quite challenging from both sides.
“Some engineers were reluctant to travel because of family situations etc. but also customers had concerns about allowing external visitors to site.”
All members of the Field Service Think Tanks are speaking from their own personal opinions which are not necessarily reflective of the organisations they work for.
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