It’s Not Difficult Being Green!

According to Jim Henson’s Muppet character, Kermit the Frog, “It’s not easy being green” – or is it? However, for many businesses, being green may now also have an unexpected economic benefit. Let me explain.

Most of us already have incorporated various facets of environmental awareness into our day-to-day lives, including the mandatory sorting of household recyclables, and the prescribed use of the omnipresent blue or green curbside recycling containers. Many of us also are striving to drive less by working some days from a home office, and generally becoming more aware of the alternative options of telecommuting and the use of remote workspaces. Others make use of public transportation. Some of us even have switched to more mileage-friendly vehicles for both our personal and work-related travel. For example, by now, virtually all of us know at least one person who drives a hybrid vehicle.

This heightened sense of environmental awareness – and protection – is great news, regardless of our individual motives or reasons for applying ourselves. As a society, we are becoming “greener” on a daily basis, even as our pocketbooks are continually being squeezed due to the historic rises and fluctuations in gasoline prices over the past several years.

However, in reality, how much of our environmental consciousness has actually spread to the corporate world? Certainly, there are many mandates governing interaction with the environment in high-risk areas including construction, renovation, waste management, and demolition, among others. There are also the passionate corporate leaders who wish to act as good global citizens. Further, there are many organizations that make it easy for employees to ride-share, encourage turning down the thermostat a few degrees, or simply make benevolent corporate donations directly to environmental causes and foundations chartered with helping to raise environmental awareness and/or deal with specific causes.

In today’s economy, it is increasingly common to find real initiatives where being environmentally-friendly also directly benefits the corporate bottom line. For example, the question arises, “What if your field technicians could drive a million miles less per year in the aggregate?” Depending on the specific types of company vehicles (or, their own) they drive, that could result in savings of roughly 100,000 gallons of gas! Current gas prices are typically in the range of US$3.00 to US$3.50 per gallon, often reaching in excess of US$4.00 in some areas of the country. As a rule, gas prices are even more expensive in other parts of the world.

For many services providers, the reduction in their gas bill alone resulting from reduced travel requirements would be extremely impressive; however, when you factor in the savings on highway and bridge tolls, wear and tear on vehicles, and other vehicularmaintenance-related costs, the savings can be downright staggering(i.e., you can do the math!). This is exactly what some field services organizations have been able to realize through the use of state-of-the-art Service Scheduling Optimization supported with street level routing.

But this is just the tip of the proverbial melting iceberg. As service executives, we all attempt to balance the dual requirements of growth and cost containment, while also striving to meet – and exceed – our customers’ expectations. The added desire to be socially responsible has only complicated the age-old quest for balancing growth against cost-savings. However, the advent of optimized scheduling now makes it easier than ever to accomplish both – while also contributing to the greening of the environment.

Since it ultimately costs far less to solve a customer’s problem remotely, or allowing the customer to use the tools of a customer portal to perform their own “fixes”, many organizations have invested heavily in Remote Diagnostics and Remote Monitoring solutions. The use of these “new” platforms and applications has facilitated and expedited the management of field service and support, and has also served to reduce the number of historical truck rolls and on-site visits.

For many users, the initial customer call is simply the launching point for the full service event. When a customer calls – for whatever reason – no amount of talking can help fix a broken pipe, install a new cable line, or repair a failed part. In all of these cases, the service provider’s field resources must quickly spring into action, travel to the customer site, show up on-time, and assess the existing situation, sometimes generating an entire new set of challenges and – even if handled efficiently – can still lead to potentially huge internal costs.

For the services provider, the questions then arise: “What are my contractual obligations to my customer?”, Who are our best-qualified field technicians?”, and more importantly, “How can I delight the customer by meeting – and exceeding – their overall service expectations?” Through the advent and proliferation of Remote Diagnostics and Remote Monitoring, all of these questions can be accommodated while still delivering greener service.

It is also not uncommon for services organizations and their customers to spend thousands – and in some cases, hundreds of thousands – of dollars relating to the printing, copying, sorting, and mailing of their service work orders every year, ensuring that all necessary documents are sent to the field, and the appropriate work instructions are being followed. A large percentage of an organization’s overall return on investment can be attributed to the automation of these processes – not to mention the saving of thousands of trees every year!

Using handheld devices in the field to collect call data and information also eliminates the errors that can be compounded during the historically required retyping/re-entry process, while improving the company’s Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) through the quicker turnaround resulting from real-time invoicing and faster collection cycles. Implicit in these savings is the enhanced efficiency of automated data and information processing in place of the previously required human intervention.

When any of these “green-friendly” platforms, solutions and tools are embedded into an organization’s overall Field Service Management (FSM) operations, everyone benefits – the services organization, the field technicians, the customers and, oh yes, the environment! It is exciting when capitalism and environmentalism can overlap to produce mutually beneficial – and profitable – results! The move toward service optimization clearly reflects a case where “going green” can also generate more “green” for your organization.

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How to Make Your Field Service Management (FSM) Solution Rock!

[With a Little Help from My Friends in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame]

[Reprinted from Field Service News. Enjoy!]

Whenever one of your service customers hollers “Help”, you not only need to respond quickly, you also need to Get It Right the First Time – because you certainly won’t want to waste the time and expense of having one of your field technicians Truckin’ to the customer site unnecessarily – and you also won’t want to have to Do It Again later! If you’re not careful, it will all be Wasted Time!

By the way, this is why many of the leading services organisations are incorporating Augmented Reality (AR) into their Field Service Management (FSM) solutions – because Every Picture Tells a Story, don’t it? With all of this “new” technology being integrated into FSM solutions supporting the global field services community, The Times They Are a Changin’, for sure!

For a majority of users, the decision as to which type and brand of equipment to acquire is based more on the quality of service that will be provided after the purchase, rather than on the acquisition of the piece of equipment itself. Plus, it’s not only based on Money, Money, Money –  it’s more often than not based on things including Promises, Honesty and A Matter of Trust!

However, once selected, after the services provider asks the user to “Take a Chance on Me”, it will need to, first, make sure that its new customer has a Peaceful Easy Feeling, and that it hasn’t spent a whole lot of Money for Nothing (or you could end up in Dire Straights)!

Further, whether the customer’s equipment is located in Allentown, or Katmandu, the services provider must be sure that there Ain’t No Mountain High Enough to keep it away from delivering the services that have been promised. If you cannot cover all of the geographic areas where your customers’ (and prospects’) equipment is located, you may end up with an unhappy customer in Massachusetts, requiring your field techs to work weekends on Tulsa Time, finding a suitable contractor in Sweet Home Alabama, being stuck in Lodi (again), authorizing a costly flight to Kokomo, Going to California yourself – or even worse – having to deal with a Panic in Detroit! One way or the other, you’ll never want to hear one of your Colorado customers tell you to “Get Out of Denver”!

Communications is also a critical component of any services relationship – and the last thing you will ever need to experience with your customers is a Communications Breakdown! Customers will want you to be their “Nights in White Satin”, consistently being able to provide them with what they want, “Any Way You Want It”, so they will always feel Glad All Over.

Customers hate it when they call their services provider and get No Reply! There’s a Fine Line between being only casually responsive and treating your customers with a full measure of Respect – and you don’t want to cross that line the wrong way, otherwise your customer will feel like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and end up in Misery!

If you get your communications right with your customers, you’ll find that The Winner Takes It All (i.e., your services organization); but if you Try Too Hard, you might end up just Livin’ on a Prayer, waiting for another opportunity to make it up to them – and they may simply tell you, “Not a Second Time”! It’s also important to remember that even if your customers have already asked you 65 or 66 questions, you will still need to be prepared to answer Questions 67 and 68!

So, … if you consistently deliver the expected – and desired – levels of service to your customers, and your field technicians remain Cool, Calm and Collected with respect to managing their customer relationships, then you may be in it for The Long Run! If so, then Long May You Run (that is, in circles around your competitors)!

However, for every services organization that actually “gets it”, there are probably a dozen or so more that don’t! That’s why it is so important to make sure you properly train – and arm – your field techs (i.e., with mobile tools and accompany technology, etc.) with everything they need All Down the Line, so they can satisfy their customers consistently, and go home every day after their last call feeling Free as a Bird and ready to Rock and Roll All Nite!

The Need to Address Accessibility in Field Service Management (FSM) Product Software

[As a small contribution to National Disability Awareness Month (October, 2018), we are reprinting an original draft of our article in Field Service Digital published earlier this year. The Field Services segment is comprised of a highly skilled and very diverse global community of mobile and office workers, each of whom deserves to be supported by a full complement of tools, resources and support so they can, in turn, support their respective customers. Please take a few moments to read our take on the need to address accessibility in Field Service Management (FSM) product software!]

Accessibility is an important component of any business offering, and it seems to be growing in importance at a relatively fast pace. For decades now, individuals with physical disabilities have benefited from sidewalk ramps and graded building entrances and exits; the sight-impaired have benefited from audible street crossing systems; and the hearing-impaired have benefited from special telephone apps; etc.

However, accessibility considerations are not only limited to the external environment; they are increasingly being – or should also be – incorporated as an integral part of product software functionalities as well – especially in the various technical support and customer services segments. And, increasingly, accessibility also plays a role in field service!

However, when evaluating the need for accessibility in the Field Service Management (FSM) software used by an organization to run its services operations, there are a number of questions that should be addressed, including:

  • What is the current awareness, perceived importance, market adoption/likelihood to adopt, likelihood to consider as a sales/acquisition influencer, etc. of accessibility with respect to the potential acquisition of a specific software product (or line of products) (e.g., Service Management (SM) applications, IT Service Management (ITSM) applications, Project Services (PS) applications, etc.)?
  • What is the current/emerging demand for accessibility as a build-in to the software products that an organization uses; (i.e., is it merely a “nice-to-have” or a “need to have” component)?
  • What is the market’s perceived importance with respect to being simply compliant (e.g., with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and/or other similar country-specific regulations, etc.); being usable (i.e., by any and all disabled members of the organization’s user base); and being universal (i.e., to be used by all in the organization’s workforce)?
  • What is the degree to which accessibility may be used as a sales and/or marketing tool, both internally by the offering organization (e.g., to gain management buy-in from the CIO, CFO, current users, etc.) and externally among the various customer/prospect segments (e.g., to promote the fact to their respective potential user/customer base that the organization plans to support their entire workforce, including meeting the needs of the disabled individuals that will be using the software, etc.)?

Accessibility should also be defined to include both permanent (e.g., blindness, color-blindness, hearing-disabled, etc.) and temporary disabilities (e.g., broken arm, cataracts, etc.); as well as situational disabilities (e.g., working from home, “working with one arm while holding an infant in the other”; and others. For each of these cases, a set ofadditional drill-down questions will also need to be asked – and answered – as part of the organization’s due diligence in selecting an accessibility-based FSM software product, including:

  • What are the existing levels of awareness of accessibility as a purchasing influencer in the software product markets that your organization supports?
  • What are the current definitions/perceptions of accessibility in your relevant market space (e.g., is accessibility broadly defined, more specifically defined, all-inclusive, etc.)?
  • What is the perceived importance of accessibility among the various customer organizations and users that you support?
  • What is the current extent of disabled personnel/users among your customers’ respective workforces?
  • What is the current degree of compliance with regulatory mandates, etc., both internally and among your customer or user base?
  • What is the perceived demand and/or preference for accessibility within the market segments in which you offer your software products?
  • What are the perceived benefits/advantages of building accessibility into your existing (and planned) lines of software products; what are the perceived disadvantages?
  • What is the likelihood of your customer/user base considering an accessibility-based software application in the future; would they be willing to pay a premium for additional built-in accessibility functionality – and, if so, to what degree?
  • What role does accessibility play as a desired attribute in the software product evaluation/selection process; for example, will an accessibility-based software product move a vendor under consideration from the acquiring organization’s “long list” to its “short list” with respect to potential purchase/acquisition?
  • How important is accessibility with respect to serving as an internal and/or external sales or marketing tool?

Whatever the specific outcome is with respect to the degree to which your organization builds an accessibility component into its FSM (or other business) software, one thing is for certain – the needs, requirements, opinions and preferences of the marketplace will be largely different on virtually an individual customer or prospect basis, depending on the degree to which they place importance on accessibility. Accessibility is clearly not an issue where one-size-fits-all.

However, by properly addressing each of the above-listed considerations, your organization – whether on the FSM software product supply side or demand side – will at least be off to a good start in ensuring that its final strategy will be well thought out, and as all-inclusive as possible. The field service segment is a large, fast-growing and highly diverse community, and many believe that all parties should be empowered to perform at their best – some through the assistance of an accessibility-enabling software platform.