Invitation to Register for a Complimentary Webcast on “The Case for Remote Expertise”, Hosted by Help Lightning, and Featuring Bill Pollock

To All Field and Remote Services Professionals,
 
I would like to extend you an invitation to join me on Thursday, January 30th, from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EST for a complimentary webcast on the topic of The Case for Remote Expertise. The Webcast will be hosted by Help Lightning, the leading Augmented Reality provider of Virtual Interactive Presence, and will feature me, Bill Pollock, President of Strategies For Growth, as the guest speaker.
 
Simply click on the following link to complete your complimentary registration (and please feel free to forward this invitation to any of your business colleagues): http://tiny.cc/sfg-webcast
 
Webcast Overview:
The findings from Strategies For Growth℠2020 Remote Expertise Benchmark Survey clearly identify the following as the primary reasons influencing a services organization’s drive to incorporate Remote Expertise capabilities into their field service operations:
  • 65%  To improve upon current levels of Customer Satisfaction
  • 64%  Ability to meet (or exceed) our customers’ services expectations
  • 62%  To diagnose problems faster, and with greater accuracy 
As a result of an ongoing technology explosion, increased competition and reduced margins, meeting the desired goals of customer satisfaction and services profitability remains a major challenge for many organizations. What is your organization doing to run its field service operations more effectively – and cost-effectively?
 
Please join me, and Webcast host, Help Lightning, for our complimentary Webcast, on Thursday, January 30th from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm EST to learn:
  • What the leading global Services Organizations are doing with respect to embracing – and incorporating – new technologies into their services operations
  • What the real benefits are associated with moving to a Remote Expertise service delivery model
  • What obstacles and potential pratfalls you might experience along the way
  • How to emulate the strategic and tactical actions presently being taken and/or planned by the leading Services Organizations
I hope you and your team will be able to join us then! In the meantime, please be sure to visit our blogsite at www.PollockOnService.com for more trending thoughts and commentary on the global services market.
 
To register for this complimentary Webcast, please go to: http://tiny.cc/sfg-webcast.
 
I hope to see you there!
Best regards,
Bill

Bill Pollock’s Responses to Field Service Digital’s Predictions for Field Service 2020

[Note: If you’ve just completed taking SFG℠‘s 2020 Remote Expertise Benchmark Survey and would like to download a complimentary copy of our 2019 Servitization Journey Benchmark Survey results, please click here: Servitization Journey.]

The remainder of this Blog represents the companion piece to Field Service Digital‘s “Ringing in 2020” predictions, as published in the December 20, 2019 edition of its digital magazine. However, this Blog contains the full text of my responses to FSD‘s eight questions. Please feel free to visit the FSD Website to view my edited responses, along with those of four other services industry experts, at: FSD – Ringing in 2020.]

Q1. There’s been a shift away from manufacturing toward the Servitization model—will this trend carry on into the next year? How will it evolve?

Pollock: Quite frankly, there’s been a shift away from manufacturing toward the Servitization model for decades already. However, while the manufacturing model is a well-entrenched, deeply-rooted model that everybody understands; the Servitization model is still not anywhere near being as widely understood – even within the services sector.

The transition from break/fix, to network services, to self-help, to remote diagnostics/support has been steady, and has followed a logical evolution over the years. However, the move toward Servitization requires more of a “leap of faith” as well as and a whole new mode of operating (and pricing) for which many services managers are still not familiar – or comfortable.

This trend has carried on for decades – and the services sector is just about ready to “rock and roll” with it moving forward; however, even some of the key (and more savvy) players are not yet 100% certain that they have it right with respect to re-engineering their overall service delivery structure; services support organization; KPIs and metrics; services support policies, procedures and processes; pricing, accountability – and the list goes on. As such, this trend will positively carry on throughout the next year – and well beyond – as each major group of services organizations (i.e., leaders, followers, “wait-and-see’ers”, skeptics, and all others) begin their respective transitions.

The evolutionary prospects for Servitization are quite simple: the market, as a whole, will need to see some prime examples of success in their respective vertical and/or horizontal services segments before making the plunge. They’ll need to move beyond all of the “failure” and pratfall stories before feeling more confident. They’ll need to hear some success stories – and, in their own segment. Bank/financial organizations will need to see how others in their field have succeeded, and what the positive results have been. The same will go for the medical/healthcare segment, manufacturing/industrial segment, and so on.

Most organizations will also need help with how to price “power by the hour”, “airplanes in the air” and other “new” ways for pricing their services. I suspect there will be an uptick in the number of case studies, Webcasts and conference sessions focusing on these and other related areas. Servitization is – and will continue to be – a big deal for years to come.

Q2. Organizations are transitioning from providing corrective maintenance to predictive maintenance—how will this continue to shape the industry moving forward?

Pollock: Corrective maintenance has worked for many years because, basically, that’s all the industry had to offer. From the break/fix, call the manufacturer’s hotline, days; through the current remote diagnostics and repair days, there has been a common thread running through our industry: Some piece of equipment fails, a call is made (i.e., either by phone, in the past; or, today, remotely from the equipment itself) and a corrective action is taken.

However, these are examples of the soon-to-be -bygone OTR (i.e., On-Time-Response), MTBF (i.e., Mean-Time-Between-Failure), MTTR (i.e., Mean-Time-To-Repair), FTFR (i.e., First-Time-Fix-Rate) and PM (i.e., Preventive Maintenance) days. Through Predictive Diagnostics and Predictive Maintenance the need for any On-Time Response will be highly diminished, as will the need for MTBF, MTTR and FTFR KPIs/metrics, etc. Over the coming years, there will be the need for “new” metrics, such as MTBPF (i.e., Mean-Time-Between-Prevented-Failures); MTTR will be measured in minutes or seconds, rather than in hours or days; FTFRs will be normalized as everything will get fixed in a single attempt, whether it requires a single “try”, or multiple “tries”; and PMs will virtually disappear (or at least be replaced by another PM = Predictive Maintenance).

There will be a whole “new” way of delivering service, as well as measuring the success of the organization through an entirely “new” set of KPIs, or metrics. [By the way – I have already written many times about the need for “new” KPIs/metrics and, respectfully claim the rights to MTBPF!]

Q3. Customer expectations for uptime have grown—how have service providers responded? What more can they do? What will move the needle in 2020?

Pollock: Customers no longer will be pleased simply with equipment that is working, sensors that are communicating, and devices that are operating – they are now beginning to look more closely at how their systems, equipment, sensors and devices are working together, in their behalf to get the job done. A services organization that merely keeps individual systems or equipment up and running (i.e., maintaining high levels of uptime), but does not ensure that they are all working together to effectively and efficiently execute the company’s business, will ultimately find themselves being replaced by other services organizations that do. The clear winners will be those organizations that “get” Servitization, and not those that do not.

Again, what will move the needle in 2020, is clearly communicating to the marketplace what failures to avoid (and how to avoid them), and what successes can be had (and how to achieve them). There will need to be an industry-wide educational “push” as to what Servitization really is, what it can do for the organization (and what will happen if they don’t embrace it), what the ultimate value propositions are for transitioning to this “new” model, and what some of the best success stories have been.

Q4. Field service automation software continues to mature, but are companies leveraging the full potential of existing capabilities? What’s standing in  their way?

Pollock: Most services organizations are not currently using their respective Field Service Management (FSM) solutions to their full capabilities. The most successful organizations may come close, but there are few that eke out all of the capabilities that may otherwise be offered to them. Some may augment their FSM solution with a home-grown Excel spreadsheet “patch”; others may be using their Sales & Marketing Management (SMM) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions for activities that their FSM could (or should) be able to support; and still others may not even be aware of the full spectrum of capabilities they may have right at their fingertips. Again, it becomes an educational process that should be driven by the FSM solution providers themselves through the offering of strengthened professional services, such as customer portals, training, train-the-trainers, etc.

As some FSM solution providers may be focusing more on developing Augmented Reality (AR), Merged Reality (MR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML) based applications to bolster their offerings, they may be relatively deficient in focusing on the basic, or “core”, components of their solutions and, thereby, miss the opportunity to help their customers/users get the most out of their offerings.

Q5. How much more heavily are organizations relying on apps and mobile devices for service? How will this change in 2020?

Pollock: Society, as a whole, is relying more and more on apps and mobile devices for communications and, in many cases, the services sector is leading the way. Most FSM solution providers are providing their customers/users with more apps and customer portals to facilitate their use of the solution, as well as for communications with their remote support providers. Every year, a higher percent of business is being conducted remotely, and the need for more functional mobile communications is increasing commensurately. The IoT stands for the Internet of Things; and in this regard, humans may also be considered as one category of “things” that the IoT helps to connect. 2020 will see the proliferation of all types of “things” connected to one another through the IoT: systems, equipment, devices – and people. In fact, the numbers of connected things will likely to continue to grow at an accelerated rate in 2020 – and beyond. The more connectivity there is, the better the delivery of service can be.

Q6. How will companies continue to expand their use of AI-powered field service technology?

Pollock: Basically, companies that are already using AI technology in support of their services operations are much more likely to expand its use over time – and, probably, very quickly. However, companies that do not yet employ the use of AI in their services operations typically lie on either side of the fence: either, “we need to do it now”, or “let’s wait and see how this all works out.” The pressure to embed AI in their services operations will be so intense, however, that there is likely to be a surge in usage throughout 2020 and successive years.

Primary uses of AI include the powering of a chatbot capability; the ability to identify key target markets for selling/upselling/cross-selling products and services; and the ability to make their overall services operations work much more productively and efficiently.

Q7. How will AR and VR technologies continue to empower service techs? How rapidly are these implementations happening?

Pollock: Just as Virtual Reality (VR) has made watching American football games easier for the layman (or woman) to understand, it is also making it much easier for field technicians to repair equipment in the field. No more bulky documents or manuals are required, and training programs can be short-cut (to a certain degree) as AR and VR, merged together into MR, can lead the technician to a “perfect” fix, first time, and every time.

The move toward AR and VR is beginning to grow even faster as more installations have been deployed, and more success stories are making the rounds (at trade shows and Webinars, etc.). In fact, the merging of AR and VR has sent out a signal to the “Wait and see’ers” that they may be missing the boat on AR as it is already merging with VR – all while many of their competitors are beginning to implement AI and Machine Learning platforms in support of their services operations. The time to move is now – before it’s too late in terms of having your competitors ending up being better equipped to support (and market to) their targeted customer base.

Q8. With the rise of IoT-connected devices and smart homes, what challenges lie ahead for the field service industry? 

Pollock: The rise of IoT connected devices and smart homes provides a major value proposition to customers, as well as to the FSM solution providers. However, what also comes along with the benefits are a number of potentially serious consequences. For example, once virtually everything is connected, smart systems will likely become more susceptible to power outages, hacking and various types of breaches in security. The analogy is: before watches, people used sundials to tell time. Then watches could help them tell time – until they either wound down, or the batteries went dead. Today, if the global satellite network goes down (e.g., as a result of space debris, solar flares, etc.), many things we all take for granted will stop working, including a partial/temporary halt to our ability to tell time, make change, or communicate to one another via our mobile devices.

As an example, I have written my responses to Field Service Digital’s questions for this interview with a pink post-it note covering the camera on my iMac. At the same time, Alexa is probably listening to anything I say without me even thinking about it. Somewhere across the globe, there is probably someone standing outside the front window of a home and yelling at Alexa, Googol or Siri to “remind me what my password is for the front door security code.” What the “expert” hackers can do to outsmart smart homes or businesses will only get more invasive – and potentially dangerous – over time (i.e., the invasions of privacy tend to happen first, with the “patch” or “fix” coming later).

The need to provide continual connectivity PLUS protect the privacy of the customer/user will be paramount as more and more smart implementations go into play.

Lessons Learned from WBR’s 2019 Field Service Amelia Island Conference – Advancing Service Together through Innovation, Cross-Industry Best Practices & Transformation

[WBR’s annual Field Service Amelia Island conference is one of the premier Field Services event of the year – and this year was, once again, no exception! More than 350 field service professionals attended the conference from August 18 – 21, 2019.

The following is a brief excerpt from SFG℠‘s “Lessons Learned …Analysts Take report, written and distributed under the auspices of WBR. Our suggestion? Don’t read the following excerpt – go to the bottom of the page and download a complementary copy of the full report, and read up on what the key players in the field services community had to say with respect to “Advancing Service Together!“]

Since 2003, WBR has been bringing together the world’s leading services organizations to “benchmark, establish best practices, embrace new technologies and build a strong network to enhance its attendees’ services businesses and field operations.” Each successive conference over the past 16 years has provided participants with “future-facing content and a mix of interactive session formats that ensure [they can] learn and network most effectively.” As such, these annual (and mid-year) Field Service events are designed to set up its attendees “for maximum profitability and competitiveness in [their] service business.”

And this year’s Amelia Island event did not disappoint, as the nearly 400 onsite attendees would most likely attest!

“At Field Service Amelia Island I learned that Field Service professionals love to learn new ways to improve service delivery since that is often the first (and only) personal contact a customer has with their brand. They are especially eager to explore what technology can do to optimize their field service fleets to get them to job sites efficiently and safely.”

– Carol Roden, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Lytx

The main theme for WBR’s 2019 Field Service Palm Springs conference was billed as “Advancing Service Together”, similar to the Palm Springs event held earlier in the year – and the succession of speakers, presenters, moderators, panel participants and practitioners all supported that theme throughout the conference by sharing examples (i.e., mostly success stories) about how it takes a strong commitment to teamwork to have any chance of meeting, let alone exceeding, management goals for improving employee and customer satisfaction – while at the same time, driving increased services revenue streams and making a profit by doing so.

“After attending the Field Service Conference on Amelia Island, the importance of disruptive service, and understanding that what got our businesses to their current level of success will not take them to the next level of success is evident. In an XAAS world, those organizations that embrace these transformations with technology and culture will win!”

– Mary Flake, General Manager – Coastal Southeast Service, Comfort Systems USA

The ”Lessons Learned” at the conference were many, and we have attempted to summarize the main sessions (and lessons learned) in the text that follows. Please note that not all of the sessions are highlighted and summarized in this document; however, there are many others that are available through WBR directly. Also, if you missed the chance to have one of your “lesson learned” quotes included in this paper, … well, there’s always next year in Palm Springs or, again, at Amelia Island!

Each of the three Main Days of the conference had a particular focus, beginning with Day One setting its sights on “Technology and Process Innovation for Efficiency”; Day Two focusing on “Disruptive Service & Customer Value; and Day Three focusing on “Leadership & Service Revenue Generation.”

Overall, WBR’s 2019 Field Service Amelia Island conference gave every attendee the opportunity to learn, question, network, buy/sell and interact with vendors, practitioners, editors, writers, industry experts, consultants, research analysts, peers and competitors and every other important person or company in the field services business.

The temperature was not as hot as in Palm Springs, earlier in the year – but the topics covered at the conference were still “red hot”. One of the key learnings from this year’s event is that “the main benefit of this conference is that it represents a middle ground between what we all learned last year, and what we will expect to learn next year.” As such, this year’s conference represented another key milestone in the Journey that we, as an industry, are taking along with our customers.

At the risk of repeating myself from the “Lessons Learned …” Analyst Take paper distributed following this year’s Palm Springs conference, I believe the following quote still stands true:

“As Bob Dylan once wrote and sang, ‘The times, they are a’changin’.    He must have been singing about the field services industry!”

– Bill Pollock, President & Principal Consulting Analyst
Strategies For Growth℠

Here’s looking forward to seeing you all at Palm Springs and Amelia Island again next year!

[To download a complementary copy of the full “Lessons Learned …” report, simply click here: @@@ 2019 Field Service Amelia Island Analysts Take Report (Final Draft – 19-09-17).]

Global Field Service Management (FSM) Trends for 2019/2020 – and Beyond!

The results of Strategies For GrowthSM‘s (SFGSM) 2019 Field Service Management (FSM) Tracking Survey reveal a healthy – and expanding – global services market that appears to have clearly rebounded from the economic downturns and upheavals experienced over the previous 10 years or so (i.e., since the 2008 economic bust). In fact, the global FSM market is now poised to make significant strides forward in terms of growth, technology adoption and the integration of those technologies into existing (and improved) services operating plans and processes.

However, there are still many obstacles along the way, and those Field Services Organizations (FSOs) that are not prepared to adapt to the “new” way of running a services operation will be ill-prepared to compete on a head-to-head basis with those that are. For example, the top future challenges cited by survey respondents as likely having the greatest impact on their ability to acquire and/or integrate new technologies into their existing field service operations may be summarized as follows:

  • 43%  Return-on-Investment (ROI) on the acquisition of new technology
  • 34%  Identifying all of the required functionality for the organization
  • 30%  Cost of new technology
  • 28%  Potential disruption from new technology implementation and burn-in
  • 27%  Obtaining management “buy-in” for new technology acquisition

Other challenges, such as selecting the most effective FSM solution (19%) and integrating new technologies into existing FSM solution platforms (16%) are also cited as rounding out the top challenges facing the global FSO base.

The good news is that there are also significant and distinct opportunities, or benefits, that can be realized by FSOs, regardless of type, size or coverage, through the acquisition and integration of these new technologies. For many FSOs, these may include:

  • 39%  Ability to run a more efficient field service operation by eliminating silos, etc.
  • 37%  Improving customer satisfaction
  • 36%  Ability to provide customers with an end-to-end engagement relationship
  • 27%  Establishing (or strengthening) a competitive advantage
  • 27%  Improving field technician utilization and productivity
  • 25%  Reducing Total Cost of Operations (TCO)

But these opportunities and benefits do not automatically produce themselves – there needs to be a formal plan for attaining these goals, and many of the leading FSOs already seem to know how to go about making it happen.

The 2019 survey results also reveal that more than two-thirds (71%) of global FSOs currently run their services operations as profit centers, rather than as cost centers. This percent represents an increase from roughly 66% only three years earlier, but more than 10 percentage points above roughly a decade ago. In fact, the percent increases to 74% for those FSOs attaining 90% or greater customer satisfaction, and up to 81% for Best Practices FSOs that also achieve 30% or greater services profitability.

As we move through the uncharted waters of 2019, 2020 and beyond, the future state of the global Field Service Management (FSM) market will depend largely on which strategic actions FSOs plan to take in the ensuing 12 months or so. Since these actions will be directly linked to the multitude of drivers that are most likely to influence decision making within the global services community, this would be an excellent place to start!

The 2019 survey results reveal that the top drivers cited as being most influential on the future success of FSOs may be categorized into three main areas:

  1. Need to improve service workforce utilization, productivity and process efficiencies
  2. Meeting (or exceeding) customer demand for quicker response and improved asset availability
  3. Internal mandate to drive increased service profitability and revenues

However, once the key market drivers are firmly identified, FSOs need to create – and implement – the most effective strategic planning actions to address them head-on. As identified in SFGSM‘s 2019 survey, the most commonly implemented strategic actions, currently, are:

  • 47%  Develop and/or improve KPIs used to measure field service performance
  • 43%  Invest in mobile tools to support field technicians
  • 38%  Automate existing manual field service processes and activities
  • 34%  Integrate new technologies into existing field service operations

The question then arises: What can your FSO realize from aggressively addressing each of these challenges and opportunities head-on, recognizing the key market drivers, and taking the strategic (and tactical) actions to take the organization to the next level?

The answer is simple! The average FSO is currently attaining 37% services profitability and 84% customer satisfaction (although 26% are not even attaining 20% profitability, and 20% are not attaining 80% satisfaction). Therefore, while the opportunity is there, not all FSOs have their operations in order to aspire to the next levels of Best Practices.

So, … if your organization is not currently attaining desired levels of profitability and satisfaction – or even worse, finds itself among those not even attaining lower levels of performance – now would be the perfect time to consider acquiring a Field Service Management (FSM) (or a Connected Field Service, or CFS) solution that can help it to attain these loftier levels, without losing any more ground to the industry leaders who have already taken the appropriate actions.

[BTW – Have you already taken SFG℠‘s 2019 Servitization Journey Benchmark Survey? If yes, then, thank you! If no, please accept our invitation to take the survey by clicking on the following Weblink: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SFGServ19. Thanks!]

Maintaining Satisfactory Customer Service in an Outsourced Environment

[This article was originally published in Field Service News on January 22, 2019]

As customers become more sophisticated, the market more complicated, the economy more volatile, and the services community more demanding, it is also becoming more difficult to manage all customer service-related activities in-house. As a result, many businesses have turned to outsourcing in order to ensure that they have the required staffing and resources to get the total job done.

While some businesses may outsource only in non-core competency areas such as accounting and payroll, secretarial and clerical, or even telesales, others may outsource entire blocks of their core business activities to firms specialising in distinct areas such as field service, technical support, customer service, sales management, manufacturing and production, human resources, quality control, etc.

However, whether the organisation’s customer service functions are staffed by full-time company employees, part-time support personnel, outsourced agencies or personnel, or any combination thereof, one thing remains certain; the company’s customers and prospects must receive consistently high levels of customer service and support, regardless of whose personnel they happen to be dealing with at any given moment.

Most managers agree that the key ingredient for success in running a services business, whether it is run exclusively by an organisation’s own full-time employees, or supplemented in part by outside personnel, outsource agencies or other third parties, is to have all of the workers that represent the business in the marketplace put on a cohesive and consistent front when they deal with customers and prospects. It is important to remember that customers will not care what type of employee representing your company was rude to them on the telephone, or did not provide them with the desired level of customer service – all they will remember is that your business failed to get the job done.

There are many good reasons for why a services organisation might consider outsourcing; but before entering into any specific outsourcing agreement, you should first prepare yourself, and your employees, for the most effective way to manage this complementary workforce. We suggest six basic recommended guidelines:

  1. Train your outsourced personnel as if they were your own employees. Make sure they understand the products and services you sell, the markets you sell to, and the way you normally conduct business. If your business involves dealing with highly demanding customers such as hospitals, banks or aerospace, etc., make sure they share the same “sense of urgency” that your own employees have when they deal with these types of customers.
  2. Take any outsourced customer contact workers on a short “field trip” to show them how your customer support center works and, if direct customer contacts will eventually be made in the field, take them along on a few customer calls first to show them the way you normally treat your customers.
  3. Provide the manager of the outsourced operation with a fail-safe “back door” to a full-time manager at your company, even at the C-level, if necessary. Let the manager know that he/she is not in it alone when help is needed.
  4. Get daily reports in a standard reporting format (e.g., problem or exception reports) every morning to ensure that everything is in order, and that no special problems are developing.
  5. Give your outsourced employees samples of your company’s products or other items, product pictures or services marketing brochures. You may also want to give them some small gifts with your company’s logo or name on them, such as T-shirts, mugs, pens, desk calendars, a picture frame, etc. This might be especially helpful in dealing with an outsourced night crew or other off-shift workers who would otherwise have no real contact with your full-time company personnel. Some businesses arrange for an Open House lunch or reception for their outsourced personnel for the purpose of having them meet the full-time staff.
  6. Problems should be confronted immediately, head on, with the outsource manager. When your own managers are faced with a problem, they typically know exactly what to do – they have been there before. However, the same problems may be new to your outsource managers, and they may need some immediate help from your own management.

Outsourcing is basically a “partnership” designed to deliver quality equal to or greater than that which you yourself would provide. We have found that too often these agreements are handled more as a “’vendor” relationship, rather than as a partnership, even to the point where the in-house person responsible is often referred to as the “Vendor Manager.” Sometimes, simple things like this set the wrong tone right from the start – and things can easily go downhill from there. It is crucially important to create an atmosphere whereby your partners feel they are part of your company’s service delivery infrastructure, and not just an add-on.

Treating outsource vendors and their employees in the manner described through these six suggestions is the first step to creating a win/win alliance. However, it is typically the attitude of the key people that often makes the difference between success and failure in any relationship. By following these six suggestions, a services organisation can maximise its chances for cultivating an environment that would allow for the attainment of desired levels of customer service and satisfaction.

Lessons Learned from WBR’s 2019 Field Service Palm Springs Conference – How FSM Solution Vendors & FSOs Are Advancing Service Together

[WBR’s annual Field Service Palm Springs conference is the premier Field Services event of the year – and this year was no exception! More than 850 field service professionals attended the conference during the last week of April, 2019.

The following is a brief excerpt from SFG℠‘s “Lessons Learned …Analysts Take report, written and distributed under the auspices of WBR. Our suggestion? Don’t read the following excerpt – go to the bottom of the page and download a complementary copy of the full report, and read up on what the key players in the field services community had to say with respect to “Advancing Service Together!“]

Since 2003, WBR has been bringing together the world’s leading services organizations to “benchmark, establish best practices, embrace new technologies and build a strong network to enhance its attendees’ services businesses and field operations.” Each successive conference over the past 16 years has provided participants with “future-facing content and a mix of interactive session formats that ensure [they can] learn and network most effectively.” As such, these annual (and mid-year) Field Service events are designed to set up its attendees “for maximum profitability and competitiveness in [their] service business.”

The main theme for WBR’s 2019 Field Service Palm Springs conference was billed as “Advancing Service Together” – and the succession of speakers, presenters, moderators, panel participants and practitioners all supported that theme throughout the conference by sharing examples (i.e., mostly success stories) about how it takes a strong commitment to teamwork to have any chance of meeting, let alone exceeding, management goals for improving employee and customer satisfaction – while at the same time, driving increased services revenue streams and making a profit by doing so.

In fact, there appeared to be more focus on the importance of attaining high levels of employee satisfaction and retention (and their linkages to customer satisfaction and retention) in the 2019 Palm Springs conference than in any of the past WBR Field Service events in recent memory.

“What struck me most about this year’s Field Service Palm Springs event is the overall progress of the industry – it was far more conversational this year among service executives. Rather than a few innovative leaders speaking up and the majority of attendees listening and learning, there was far more collaboration. It was clear to me that we’ve moved beyond an advanced few tackling the service evolution to now everyone being somewhere along the journey. This made for a far more engaging dialogue among attendees, presenters, and the vendor community.”

– Sarah Nicastro, Field Service Evangelist
Future of Field Service

Each of the two Main Days of the conference had a particular focus, beginning with Day One setting its sights on “Leveraging IoT, Big Data, and AI To Move Towards Preemptive Service And Achieve Customer Business Outcomes”; and Day Two focusing on “Increasing Revenue With New Service Offerings And Knowing What Your Customer Wants.”

Overall, WBR’s 2019 Field Service Palm Springs conference gave every attendee the opportunity to learn, question, network, buy/sell and interact with vendors, practitioners, editors, writers, industry experts, consultants, research analysts, peers and competitors and every other important person or company in the field services business.

The temperature was hot – but so were the topics that were covered at the conference. One of the key points that I made as part of my Track A opening remarks was that “the main benefit of this conference is that it represents a middle ground between what we all learned last year, and what we will expect to learn next year.” As such, this year’s conference represented another key milestone in the Journey that we, as an industry, are taking along with our customers.

“As Bob Dylan once wrote and sang, ‘The times, they are a’changin’.    He must have been singing about the field services industry!”

– Bill Pollock, President & Principal Consulting Analyst
Strategies For Growth℠

Here’s looking forward to seeing you all at Amelia Island later this year, and in Palm Springs again next year!

[To download a complementary copy of the full “Lessons Learned …” report, simply click here: @@@ 2019 Field Service Palm Springs Analysts Take Report.]

Bill Pollock’s Responses to Field Service News’ 2019 Big Discussion Questions

[This is the companion piece to Field Service News’ 2019 “Big Discussion”, published in four parts in its digital magazine. This Blog contains the full text of my responses to Associate Editor, Mark Glover’s four questions. Please visit the FSN Website to view my edited responses, along with those of other services industry experts, at: https://www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/the-big-discussion-what-challenges-opportunities-and-trends-should-we-expect-in-2019-part-1.]

FSN – Across the last twelve months what do you think has been the biggest shift in how we approach field service delivery? 

Pollock – The last 12 months have been quite a bit more active among global Field Services Organisations (FSOs) with respect to their acquisition and implementation of new technologies. For example, after having spent a number of years more as a perennial line item on an organisation’s “wish list”, Augmented Reality (AR) has gained a much wider acceptance, and is presently in use by more than twice as many FSOs as just a year earlier. In fact, the trend lines for AR adoption are have begun to increase at an accelerating rate. We are now also seeing the further incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning into existing FSM systems. As a result, many FSOs have already begun the transformation from the traditional break/fix model to the use of predictive diagnostics and AI-powered chatbots to facilitate and expedite service delivery.

FSN – IoT has become an increasingly key discussion amongst field service companies in recent years – do you think it will soon be essential for field service companies to embrace IoT?

Pollock – I believe it is already essential for field service companies to embrace the IoT. That ship has already sailed – and those FSOs that run their services operations on an IoT platform are already beginning to see the return on their investment. The enormous amount – and wealth – of data that is now being generated through the use of an IoT platform is turning many of the traditional ways of thinking upside-down. For example, it has created an environment where the “old” (i.e., last year’s) way of measuring performance is becoming almost instantly outdated. For example, last year, an FSO might have been assessing its service delivery performance on the basis of asset uptime or SLA compliance, etc. However, this year, they may need to gauge their performance viaan entirely “new” set of KPIs! Measuring your performance in providing “power by the hour” or “airplanes in the air” is quite a bit different than measuring on the basis of the number of monthly site visits, PM calls and asset uptime.

FSN – What do you think should be the key areas of focus for field service managers across the next twelve months?

Pollock – The next most important areas of focus for field service managers in the coming 12 months will likely be among the following three items: (1) embracing the “new” technologies to support an expanded and enhanced capability to deliver their respective service offerings. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning have been around for more than 50 years, but are still relatively new to the services segment – but, it’s time to build them into your service operations! (2) Changing the way in which you deliver – and price – your service offerings. Traditional break/fix service is essentially “dead”. Long live predictive diagnostics and predictive maintenance! Have you spoken to any chat bots lately? Well, you will! (3) Re-engineering the way you measure performance metrics, or KPIs. Mean-Time Between Failures (MTBF) and Mean-Time-to-Repair (MTTR) will not mean anything in an environment where services are being performed remotely on an ongoing basis. It will be time to replace some of the old “tried and true” KPIs with new ones that can measure systemic productivity, rather than merely individual field technician productivity. It’s time to rethink the entire service delivery process – and adjust to it!

FSN – What is the biggest area of concern that field service companies should address in the next 12 months?

Pollock – The biggest area of concern for field service companies in the next 12 months will be, if they’re already somewhat behind the technology curve (or with respect to the competitive landscape), what do they need to do todayto ensure that they will not fall further behind? And, it’s not just a matter of technology either; many FSOs will need to alter their corporate philosophy and mentality as well. Technology goes hand-in-hand with the personnel that use it, so attention must also be given to how the organisation goes about replacing, and/or supplementing, its existing field force with new hires or the use of outside, third-party “feet on the street” support. The services world is evolving so quickly, that any missteps along the way can be devastating – so every step, every move counts. There will also be no time for any intra-mural infighting – only for collaboration and inter-departmental cooperation. Equipment will keep on breaking, and end-of-lifecycles are getting increasingly shorter. As such, there will always be the need for services organisations to deliver their support! However, only those that have the technological and corporate wherewithal to continually improve the way in which they deliver their services will rise to the top of the competitive order – and stay there!