Video Podcast #01: Turbulent Times Require Serious Solutions – Especially in Field Services!

Hi All!

[This is our first Blog-posted video Podcast! There will be more coming on a regular basis from this point on!]

Turbulent Times Require Serious Solutions – Especially in Field Services! Analyst Bill Pollock of SFG℠ and www.PollockOnService.com talks about what FSOs should be thinking about – and doing – in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – and beyond!

To access the video, please click on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4jE3Js5y3I&t=23s

BTW – Thanks again to all of you who contributed to our first 56,000 Blogsite visits! It is greatly appreciated! Looking forward to the next 56,000+!

 

 

PollockOnService Predictions for Field Service in 2020 – and Beyond!

[Reprinted from the March, 2020 issue of Field Service News.]

[To All Field Services Professionals, I would like to extend you an invitation to download a complimentary Webcast on the topic of COVID-19 – How to React, Recover and Restore”. The Webcast is hosted by FieldAware, the leading cloud-based service management software that runs on any device – desktop or mobile – to accelerate business results, and features mealong with a panel of industry experts. Simply click on the following link to access the archived Webcast (and please feel free to forward this invitation to any of your business colleagues): https://bit.ly/covid19fieldawarewebinarondemand]

There has been a growing shift away from manufacturing toward the Servitisation model for decades already. However, while the manufacturing model is a well-entrenched, deeply-rooted model that everybody understands; the Servitisation 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 Servitisation requires more of a “leap of faith” as well as 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 organisation; 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 2020 – and well beyond – as each major group of services organisations (i.e., leaders, followers, “wait-and-see’ers”, skeptics, and all others) begin their respective transitions.

The evolutionary prospects for Servitisation 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 organisations 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 organisations 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. Servitisation is – and will continue to be – a big deal for years to come.

Organisations are also transitioning from providing corrective maintenance to predictive maintenance, and this trend continues to shape the industry moving forward. 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 normalised 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 organisation 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!]

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 organisation 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 organisations that do. The clear winners will be those organisations that “get” Servitisation, 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 Servitisation really is, what it can do for the organisation (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.

Further, most services organisations are not currently using their respective Field Service Management (FSM) solutions to their full capabilities. The most successful organisations 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.

Services organisations will also be relying much more heavily on apps and mobile devices in support of their service delivery performance in 2020. 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.

Companies will also continue to expand their use of AI-powered field service technology and tools. 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.

Just as Virtual Reality (VR) has made watching American football games (and European football games, as well) 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.

With the rise of IoT-connected devices and smart homes, many new challenges lie ahead for the field service industry. 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, as I have been writing this article for Field Service News, I have used a pink post-it note to cover the camera on my iMac. At the same time, Alexa is probably listening to anything I say without me even thinking about it. Further, 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). As such, 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.

Making projections for 2020 in the services industry is relatively easy. Basically, everything you have gotten used to is going to change!

  • The “good guys” will make everything better; and the “bad guys” will try to make everything worse
  • Every time you make a mistake, the whole world will find out about it virtually instantly
  • Service fixes will be completed faster – but you won’t always be aware that there was a fix
  • Service pricing may or may not be more expensive – but it will certainly be different
  • New start-ups will enter the market; but some old standbys will be forced to depart
  • Most of the KPIs/metrics you’ve used for decades will be replaced
  • The most successful services organisations will follow the lead of technology – not the competition
  • You think that today’s Merged Reality applications are too futuristic or too soon? Wait ‘til tomorrow, when everything is merged (i.e., connected)

[To listen to an archived copy of Bill Pollock’s companion Podcast, conducted by Field Service News in January, 2020, please click here: Podcast.]

Supporting the Customer Journey by Providing Seamless Service & Support

Just think about it! 10 to 20 years ago, if a consumer’s refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, washer or dryer stopped working, they called their product seller (e.g., Sears, or a local appliance dealer, etc.), requested service on the unit, and were told they would have to wait a week or more for a service technician to come to the home to assess the problem. Then, once the technician arrived onsite, he would advise the consumer that they would need to order a part, and reschedule the call once the part comes in. This whole episode would typically take a few weeks or more before the unit was back up and running again.

However, the introduction and proliferation of smart products has completely transformed the traditional services industry. What customers used to tolerate in terms of getting their home appliances or consumer electronics repaired just doesn’t cut it anymore. For consumers, it’s now an entirely different “journey”!

“The servicing of smart products is transforming the Customer Journey.”

Fast forward to today and, for these same types of consumer products and appliances – many of which are now smart – the entire services cycle can conceivably be collapsed from as long as a few weeks, to just a few hours. The advent of smart appliances now allows the services provider to diagnose the problem remotely, determine the appropriate fix, and execute that fix – remotely, if possible – sometimes before the consumer even knows there had been a problem.

When parts are needed, this activity can now easily be performed online directly by the services provider or, in some cases, by the consumer itself. If an onsite service call is still required, the overall cycle time from when the problem was first reported, until the service technician arrives onsite, could also be shortened significantly – again, from weeks, to days.

However, in today’s world, the customer (i.e., typically, the consumer) no longer needs to do all the talking (i.e., making the initial service call, explaining what they think the problem is, scheduling an onsite service call, etc.). It is quickly turning into a world where the appliances or devices now make the call themselves – remotely through sensor-based telematics, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), and communicated over the Web.

Samir Gulati, Chief Marketing and Product Officer at ServicePower, agrees by saying that, “Past generations were more high-touch when it came to customer service. They wanted to pick up the phone and speak to someone. Today, the consumer wants the technology right at their fingertips, and they are taking that into consideration as they start purchasing homes, appliances and consumer electronics.” He goes on to say, “Consumers want to deal with companies that are technology savvy and offer self-service portals and efficient and fast customer service experiences.”

But this scenario only works if the services provider is, itself, empowered through the right mix of Field Service Management (FSM) tools, functionalities, resources and capabilities!

“They may be different verticals – But they still share the same Customer Journey!”

Some industry segments, such as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), or Security Systems, have long been in the domain of B2B services organisations; however, the advent of smart systems and devices, powered by the IoT, has created entirely new markets for many services organisations who now find themselves also catering directly to consumers.

As a result, there are both great commonalities – and great differences – between and among each of these individual vertical market segments. In addition, each segment has its own “personality”; key industry players; market size, patterns and growth trends; customer needs and requirements; and competitive landscape.

This is where your services organisation comes in – to serve as the customer’s “tour guide” through the entire Customer Journey – and that means that the FSM solution chosen, must have the tools and functionalities required to make that Journey as seamless as possible – regardless of vertical market segment.

“Services Management has become much more complicated – Is your FSM Solution up to the job?“

As products become inherently smarter, so must the services organisations themselves in order to provide the levels of service and support that their customers demand. However, not only are customers becoming more knowledgeable about what levels of support are potentially available to them, but their expectations for seamless service and support throughout the entire Customer Journey are becoming more demanding as well.

As such, supporting the Customer Journey today involves much more than simply providing maintenance and repair services for the products that consumers buy. It also requires a comprehensive approach to providing them with seamless support throughout every facet of the product lifecycle following the sale – from product registration and warranty support; to onsite, remote and/or self-service support; to preventive maintenance – all the way through product upgrades and add-ons, and end-of-life product replacement and disposal.

According to Gulati, “Choosing the right technology and keeping the customer at the center of it is key. You want it to be not only easy to use, but a tool that helps keep the focus on great outcomes. By implementing a solution that makes the technician’s job smoother, you automatically improve the customer journey because you will have better status tracking, communications directly between the tech and customer, and more first-time fixes. A good FSM tool will not only make an organisation more efficient, but also delight the customer, which is always the end goal.”

Therefore, it is critical to be able to choose the right FSM solution moving forward by making certain that it is powered by the most current technologies, functionalities and technical support capabilities (e.g., the IoT; Artificial Intelligence, or AI; and other emerging high-tech tools and resources).

The historical service and support delivery experience has now transitioned itself into a full-on Customer Journey – one that is predicated on the establishment of a true partnership between the services provider and its customers, evoking feelings that reflect “we’re all in this together – and that we’re equal parties with shared goals”. Delighting the customer is no longer an option.

For the services providers, delivering a seamless Customer Journey is also not an option anymore – it is an imperative. With Business-to-Consumer (B2C) industry giants like Amazon, and Google already attaining close access to their customers, services organisations must also place the customer squarely in the center of their market focus – and be able to use the power and the capabilities of the IoT to deliver exactly what they need, when they need it, and without hesitation.

By leveraging the most effective FSM, Contractor Management and Warranty Management tools into their service delivery model, services organisations can ultimately realize great improvements in key areas including reduced costs, increased revenues, happier customers – as well as an improved bottom line. To be successful at doing this, however, it will be your responsibility to serve as their “tour guide” throughout the entire Customer Journey!

Download Our Complimentary Webcast on “The Case for Remote Expertise”, Hosted by Help Lightning, and Featuring Bill Pollock

[On Thursday, January 30th, from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EST, we presented a complimentary Webcast on the topic of “The Case for Remote Expertise“. The Webcast was hosted by Help Lightning, the leading Augmented Reality provider of Virtual Interactive Presence, and featured me, Bill Pollock, as the guest speaker.

If you missed the Webcast, no need to worry! Simply click on the following link to access a complimentary copy of the archived Webcast, along with a copy of our companion Analysts Take white paper: http://tiny.cc/sfg-webcast.]

Webcast Overview:

The findings from Strategies For Growth‘s 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?

By viewing the webcast, you can 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

In the meantime, for more information on this topic, or on any other aspects of Field Service Management (FSM) or Service Lifecycle Management (SLM), please be sure to visit our Blogsite at www.PollockOnService.com for trending thoughts and commentary on the global services market.

Again, to access both the complimentary Webcast and companion Analysts Take white paper, simply please go to: http://tiny.cc/sfg-webcast.

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.

SFG℠ Analysts Take Executive Summary: Has Your Services Organization Already Embarked on Its Servitization Journey?

Your Customers Have – and So Have Your Competitors! When Is Your Organization Going to Make Its Move?

[This Blog consists of a synopsis of SFG℠‘s latest Analysts Take paper on the topic of Servitization. You may either read the synopsis below, or – if you prefer – you may download a complimentary copy of the full paper, including more than a dozen charts and tables. To access the paper, simply click here: Servitization Analysts Take Paper.]

Overall, a majority (or near-majority) of survey respondents are currently using, or planning to use, the following factors to set their Outcomes-based service contracts:

  • 66%  Performance metrics (e.g., total output, time on task, utilization rate, etc.)
  • 51%  Asset uptime (i.e., uptime percentage for length of contract)
  • 49%   Time to service (i.e., guaranteed time from ticket-to-close)

Since adopting an Outcomes-based services model, the greatest benefits realized by FSOs have reflected:

  • 47%  Improved contract renewals
  • 42%  Improved technician utilization
  • 36%  Increased predictive outcomes
  • 33%  Increase in net new business
  • 16%  Increase in zero-touch service
  • 15%  Decreased time-from-ticket-to-invoice

SFG’s 2019 FSM Benchmark Survey Update (conducted in January/February, 2019) revealed that while nearly three-quarters (71%) of respondent FSOs were operating service as an independent profit center (or as a pure, third-party service company), there were still 29% that were operating as cost centers. However, it is noted that the percentage of FSOs then running as profit centers reflected a significant uptick from the 65% to 68% range reflected in SFG’s 2016 – 2018 annual FSM surveys.

However, the results from the 2019 Servitization Journey Benchmark Survey, conducted a mere six months later, reveal an even higher percentage of FSOs running their services operations as profit centers (i.e., 72%).

The percentage of services organizations running service as an independent profit center may vary – sometimes significantly – from one category or industry segment to another. For example, this percent increases to 74% for those operating as profit centers among FSOs with the highest customer satisfaction ratings (i.e., attaining at least 90% customer satisfaction). The percent is also virtually the same for FSOs that qualify for Best Practices status (i.e., attaining both 90% or higher customer satisfaction, and 30% or greater services profitability).

Currently, more than one-quarter (28%) of FSOs are using an Outcomes-based model for service delivery offered through their Service Level Agreements (SLAs). This percent is significant, as it has risen from a virtual “zero” basis in less than two years.

However, this percent is also expected to rise significantly, as nearly one-third (32%) of respondents plan to introduce Outcomes-based services into their portfolio of offerings in the next one-to-two years. If so, the percent of FSOs using an Outcomes-based services model would then represent an approximate 60% majority by 2021.

In fact, this percent may be even greater, as one-in-six respondents (17%) indicate they are “unsure” whether their respective services organization would make that move over the next couple of years. If the same percent of the “unsures” ultimately make that move as those respondents who cited either “yes” or “no” for the original question, the projected percent of FSOs employing an Outcomes-based services model would increase to a near-three-quarters majority (i.e., 72%).

A two-thirds (67%) majority of FSO respondents cite performance metrics (i.e., total output, time-on-task, utilization rate, etc.) as the principal factor they prefer using to gauge the success of their Outcomes-based service delivery model.

The only other factor cited by a majority of respondents is asset uptime (i.e., uptime percentage for length of contract) (52%), followed closely by time-to-service (i.e., guaranteed time from ticket-to-close) at just below 50% (i.e., 48% ).

More than one-third (35%) also cite fail rate (i.e., number of incidents for length of contract) as a primary factor).

Other criteria cited by respondents include:

  • Using the same metrics that customers use
  • Building remote services capabilities into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform
  • Software usage / transactions handled
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Location serviceability
  • Product as a service (PaaS) / XaaS

Among those FSO respondents that have already adopted an Outcomes-based service model, at least one-third (33%) or more have realized significant improvements in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) including:

  • 47%  Improved contract renewals
  • 42%  Improved technician performance
  • 36%  Increased predictive outcomes
  • 33%  Increase in net new business

These improvements are significant in that they do not only reflect beneficial ways in which these FSOs can support their customers, but also providing them with the ability to leverage those improvements into more of a predictive, rather than, reactive mode – all while leading to increases in net new business. As a result, the impact of moving to an Outcomes-based service delivery model not only improves the operational efficiency of the FSO – it also leads to incremental business development.

However, there are still several other improvements that may be realized, including:

  • 24%  Faster dispatch
  • 17%  Increase in zero-touch service
  • 15%  Decreased time-from-ticket-to-invoice
  • 15%  Selecting the most cost-effective pricing model
  • 12%  Others, including: increased profits, faster upgrades, etc.)

Of course, Servitization does not naturally happen in isolation – there are many factors that must be considered – and implemented – in order to create an environment within which this transformation may be realized. As may be expected, technology plays a critical role in the ability to make this transition, as reflected by the various technological tools and applications currently being utilized (and planned) by FSOs in support of their Outcomes-based services initiatives.

Overall, there are seven technology platforms and solutions that are currently being used by a majority of FSOs. Those approaching a two-thirds (i.e., 67%) majority include contract management (65%), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) service module (64%), and Spare Parts/Inventory Management  (SP/IM) system (64%).

However, those technologies cited for reflecting the highest levels of forecasted adoption (i.e., in the next 12 months) include:

  • 43%  Predictive diagnostics
  • 37%  Knowledge management application
  • 28%  Service forecasting and planning application
  • 24%  Internet of Things (IoT) platform
  • 24%  Remote monitoring / remote diagnostics
  • 23%  Contract management
  • 22%  Business intelligence / analytics

Delving a bit deeper, the technologies that are currently being deployed specifically to support an Outcomes-based services delivery model typically reflect a virtual “who’s who” of the most commonly reviewed (i.e., in trade publications and Webinars, at services conferences, etc.) “new” and “emerging” technologies that are, in large part, responsible for providing the foundation upon which Servitization can be built.

In fact, a majority of FSOs claim to currently be using the following technologies to power their respective Servitization initiatives:

  • 54%  Service management platform (i.e., FSM, or Enterprise Asset Management)
  • 51%  Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Just bubbling under the 50% mark, predictive maintenance is cited by 48% as also being one of their current Outcomes-based services technologies.

However, there are still several other technologies that are also cited by respondents, including:

  • 38%  Routing optimization
  • 27%  Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning
  • 27%  Enterprise Asset Management (EAM)
  • 11%  Augmented Reality (AR)

Field services managers are faced with multiple challenges, primarily focused in the areas of (1) management buy-in to transformation initiatives; and (2) the costs associated with acquiring, implementing and deploying new technology. As such, there are many potential roadblocks that may interfere with an FSO’s ability to successfully make the transition from a traditional Service Level Agreement (SLA) contract model to a Servitization Outcomes-based model.

The top challenge, as cited by a plurality of survey respondents at 26%, is obtaining management buy-in from the top, followed closely by the cost of introducing new technologies into existing services operations (23%).

To a somewhat lesser degree, there may still be several other potential roadblocks standing in the way, including:

  • 14%  Time it will likely take to move to a Servitization business model
  • 12%  Obtaining technician buy-in
  • 11%  Lack of existing technologies to pull it off
  •   6%  Ability to enlist our strategic service partners to join us in the Servitization Journey

It is interesting to note, however, that the following five factors receive zero responses, including lack of a corporate services mentality/philosophy; lack of a full understanding as to what exactly is the Servitization Journey; ability to convince customers that the Servitization Journey will lead to better, more cost-efficient, services delivery; and senior management unwillingness to change our existing business model which has been relatively successful so far.

When thinking about the overall Servitization Journey, the single-most commonly cited reason for moving forward on the Journey is centered around the ability to meet (or exceed) customers’ services expectations (i.e., cited by 46% as the top reason).

Most of the other cited reasons are clustered in the 10% to 18% range, including ability to improve our overall services delivery (18%), ability to price our services offerings more profitably (13%), ability to incorporate new technologies into our overall services delivery model (11%), and ability to streamline our services offerings (10%).

As was previously borne out in SFG℠’s 2019 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey Update, the primary factor driving FSOs in just about everything they do is the ability to meet and/or exceed their customers’ expectations for service. It is duly noted, however, that the 46% that cited this factor in the 2019 Servitization Journey survey (compared to only 10% to 18% for all other factors) reflects the greatest plurality attained thus far in any of SFG℠’s field service-related surveys conducted in recent years. As a result, we would suggest that the Servitization-oriented FSOs represent the most customer-focused organizations in the overall competitive landscape.

Presently, only one-quarter of respondents (25%) report that a majority of the customer equipment they support in the field is connected (i.e., via the Internet of Things/IoT). This leaves three-quarters (75%) for which less than half of the equipment they serve is presently connected.

However, these percentages are expected to flip-flop over the next five years (or sooner), as by 2024, a majority of the equipment supported in the field is projected to be connected (i.e., as cited by 57% of current survey respondents).

The most progressive FSOs today are represented by the one-in seven (i.e., 15%) that report at least 75% of the equipment they support as currently connected. However, this percent is also projected to more than double over the next five years to 31% anticipating supporting a majority-connected customer installed base.

Conversely, the number of respondents citing that less than one-quarter of their respective equipment bases are currently connected is projected to decline significantly, from 45% today, to only 18% by 2024 – a decrease of roughly 60%.

As such, the current survey results have painted a picture of a significantly transforming installed base of equipment, moving from a majority non-connected to connected within an approximate five year (or less) timeframe.

As Servitization continues to transform the field services industry, so, too, will the way in which services will likely be offered to the global services community. For example, today, 90% of service contracts are built on the basis of traditional Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that focus on such parameters as on-site response time, number of scheduled preventive maintenance service calls, guaranteed uptime (i.e., with vendor sanctions for non-compliance), and the like.

However, within the next three to five years, this percent is expected to drop by more than 60% to roughly only one-quarter (26%) of all service contracts. Conversely, the percent of FSOs offering SLAs/contracts based on Outcomes/uptime, is projected to more than double, from 26% today, to 53% by 2022 – 2024. As such, this represents a total reversal of the way SLAs/contracts will be offered in the not-too-distant future.

It is also noted, however, that these findings reflect a greater – and most likely, a faster-moving – transition from relying on standard SLAs to moving toward Outcomes/uptime-based contracts (i.e., as initially quantified in the earlier-conducted 2019 FSM survey update).

There are a multitude of factors that may influence the perceptions of an organization’s current service model among survey respondents. However, changes in the industry (40%), growing customer pressure (39%) and new technology enablers (36%) appear to be the primary ones cited.

However, other factors may also play an important influencing role, including:

  • 29%  This is how we’ve always done it
  • 20%  Internal pressures from key stakeholders

Of the two, “This is the way we’ve always done it” may represent the most “dangerous” factor, as it does  not portend well for the organization if there is a “No need to fix it, since it’s not broken” approach to service delivery in general, and Servitization, in particular.

Survey respondents appear to have a clear and distinct view of how they feel specifically about Outcomes-based services contracts (i.e., there is little middle ground), as evidenced in their responses to the following set of statements.

The highest level of agreement (and the only response cited by a majority of respondents) is reflected for a single statement, with all of the remaining statements receiving far fewer “agree” responses, as follows:

  • 84%  Outcomes-based service represents a fundamental shift in service delivery
  • 42%  Our business will make a determination about outcomes-based service when there are more   successful use cases
  • 35%  We are confident that our business, headcount, and service apparatus can support an outcomes-  based service model
  • 24%  We are confident that our technology investments are sufficient to support an outcomes-based   service model
  • 10%  Our business has no interest in outcomes-based services

Still, the net-net responses suggest that while most respondents see Outcomes-based services as a “fundamental shift” in the way they have been doing business historically, levels of confidence in their ability to adapt remain relatively high (i.e., for a concept still in its infancy), and once they can garner more information, they will be better able to make a more informed (and, most likely, transformative) decision with respect to how best to proceed down the path to Servitization.

However, merely understanding – and agreeing with – the concept of Servitization is not even half of the battle! Once an organization embarks on the Servitization Journey, it will need to know what it takes to fully make the transformation – as well as how to position and price it in its relevant marketplace.

From the survey results, it is clear that two factors stand above all others with respect to their contribution to the organization’s overall pricing model. They are:

  • 62%  Projected total cost of service for the lifetime of a contract (i.e., service and associated costs)
  • 57%  Service history for client and asset types.

However, there are still two other factors that are also cited as key considerations by just under half of respondents, including:

  • 46%  Inventory and parts pricing
  • 44%  Competitor pricing

Finally, asset data sourced from connected devices (18%) rounds out the cited responses. Still, there are one-out-of-six respondents (16%) that claim, “We set pricing without any external guidance”. [Note: Please do not try this at home!]

Based on the results of SFG℠’s 2019 Servitization Journey Benchmark Survey, the key takeaways are:

  • Presently, nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondent FSOs are operating service as an independent profit center (or as a pure, third-party service company), although there are still one-quarter (25%) that are operating as cost centers
  • Currently, more than one-quarter (28%) of FSOs are using an Outcomes-based model for service delivery and their Service Level Agreements (SLAs), compared to a virtual “zero” basis only two years earlier
  • A two-thirds (67%) majority of FSO respondents cite performance metrics (i.e., total output, time-on-task, utilization rate, etc.) as the principal factor they prefer using to gauge the success of their Outcomes-based service delivery model
  • Among those FSO respondents that have already adopted an Outcomes-based service model, at least one-third (33%) or more have realized significant improvements in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) including improved contract renewals (47%), improved technician performance (42%), increased predictive outcomes (36%) and an increase in net new business (33%)
  • Overall, there are seven technology platforms and solutions that are currently being used by a majority of FSOs, including three approaching a two-thirds (i.e., 67%) majority: contract management (65%), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) service module (64%), and Spare Parts/Inventory Management  (SP/IM) system (64%)
  • A majority of FSOs claim to currently be using a service management platform (i.e., FSM, or Enterprise Asset Management) (54%), and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) (51%) to power their respective Servitization initiatives
  • The principal roadblock, as cited by a plurality of survey respondents at 26%, is obtaining management buy-in from the top, followed closely by the cost of introducing new technologies into existing services operations (23%)
  • When thinking about the overall Servitization Journey, the single-most commonly cited reason for moving forward on the Journey is centered around the ability to meet (or exceed) customers’ services expectations (i.e., cited by 46% as the top reason)
  • Presently, only one-quarter of respondents (25%) report that a majority of the customer equipment they support in the field is connected (i.e., via the Internet of Things/IoT); however, by 2024, this percent is projected to more than double, to 57%
  • Today, 90% of service contracts are built on the basis of traditional Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that focus on such parameters as on-site response time, number of scheduled preventive maintenance service calls, guaranteed uptime (i.e., with vendor sanctions for non-compliance), and the like; however,  within the next three to five years, this percent is projected to drop by more than 60% to only 26%
  • Changes in the industry (40%), growing customer pressure (39%) and new technology enablers (36%) appear to be the primary factors influencing the perceptions of an organization’s current service model
  • Currently, 84% of FSO respondents believe that Outcomes-based service represents a fundamental shift in service delivery; and roughly half that amount (42%) have adopted a “wait and see” approach for making a determination about outcomes-based service until such time when there are more successful use cases to review and assess
  • It is clear that two factors stand above all others with respect to their contribution to the organization’s overall pricing model, including projected total cost of service for the lifetime of a contract (i.e., service and associated costs) (62%), and service history for client and asset types (57%)

Overall, the results from SFG℠’s 2019 Servitization Journey Benchmark Survey clearly reflect the great strides that the global services community has made in its move toward adopting Servitization in just the past two years alone. Most of the data collected and analyzed in the current survey appear to support the notion that the transition from a traditional services delivery model to one predicated on the concept of Servitization is apparently moving at an accelerating rate.

As a result, we strongly believe that the concept of Servitization – and the desire to move toward that business model – has built up quite a bit of momentum of late, and is likely to carry over throughout 2020 – and far beyond.

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.