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).]

Salesforce Goes All In on ClickSoftware

Click’s Scheduling Optimization Module was Just a Teaser! Now, Salesforce has Gone All In, and Click’s Found a Home!

On August 7, 2019, after months of speculation – and negotiations – Salesforce, the global leader in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), announced that it had signed a definitive agreement to acquire ClickSoftware, an acknowledged leader in Field Service Management (FSM) solutions.

Finally, the perennially open question of “What’s going on with ClickSoftware; Will it stay private? Will it be acquired by SAP? Will it go public again?” will officially end! This has been somewhat off-putting for many of the company’s potential customers in the past. However, as of the close of the deal, we will all know exactly what’s happened to ClickSoftware!

Read our Analysts Take paper on the acquisition of ClickSoftware by Salesforce, and see how the industry is reacting with respect to its potential impact on the FSM solution competitive landscape: Salesforce Acquisition of ClickSoftware (19-08-13).

[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!]

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!]

Matching Your Services to the Customer’s Total Service and Support Needs

The customer’s need for basic product service and support is quite simple; essentially, when their equipment is down, and they need it back up and running as soon as possible. You may typically consider this as being the customer’s “core” need for basic systems and equipment service and support.

In most cases this will involve a simple, rather than complex, repair process; typically the kind of repair that the service technician has made countless times, over and over again. For repeat customers, the service technician will already be familiar with the equipment, along with its respective service history, as well as having some insight with respect to how the customer actually uses the equipment on a day-to-day basis. He or she will probably also have all the documentation and tools they need to make the repair and, probably, all of the necessary parts as well.

For most customers, this will be all they need – plain and simple. However, there will always be the chance for exceptions, and you should be prepared to address them as quickly as possible. Some examples include cases where the customer believes that what they are asking for is “basic” equipment service and support, but it is really value-added, or “over and above the call of duty” support.

For example, once the field technician arrives on-site, some customers may ask it to perform the next scheduled preventive maintenance at the same time since it was already scheduled for later in the week. While this may seem like a reasonable request from the customer’s perspective, it could possibly wreak havoc with the day’s service call schedule and, if no additional time is available, cannot easily be done. At times like this, the service technician will typically check in with its dispatcher to see whether performing an impromptu PM call is even feasible.

However, in most cases, all that is typically required in cases such as these is to inform the customer that the exclusive goal for this particular visit is to get the equipment up and running as quickly as possible, and that their scheduled preventive maintenance can best be accomplished at its pre-designated time.

While the service technician may have a clear understanding of the difference between “basic” and “value-added” equipment service and support, it cannot always assume that the customer will share the same understanding. It all comes down, ultimately, to the basic understanding of the difference between customers’ wants and needs, and the service technician’s ability to manage them appropriately.

By understanding the difference between the customers’ various needs and wants, and handling them accordingly, the service technician will already be far along the road toward matching the company’s services to the customer’s total needs. There is generally a big difference between customers’ “basic” and “value-added” product service and support needs; however, we may define their “total” needs as essentially encompassing everything they want, need, and expect to receive from their services provider, in general – and their field technician, in particular.

For example, the customer’s total needs may be nothing more than the coupling of their basic and value-added needs, all delivered to them in a timely, skilled, courteous, and professional manner. As such, the service technician’s performance at each of these levels of customer service becomes very critical. For example, if the customer perceives that the technician is unable to satisfactorily deliver even their most “basic” equipment service and support needs, they will be even less likely to believe that it can meet their “value-added” needs. Compounding the issue would be their perception that the field technician can’t even comport itself in a professional or courteous manner.

Ultimately, customers will be depending on their field technicians to not only provide the physical repair of their installed equipment, but to also serve as a technical adviser, trainer, applications specialist, service call scheduler, customer service representative, and primary go-to person for general inquiries, new product information, parts ordering, and anything else they can think of. Again, while it is not necessarily the technician’s responsibility to serve in all of these roles, they should at least be prepared to serve as a “channel” between the customer and everyone else within the organization who actually has these individual responsibilities.

In this way, the service technician can also position itself in the minds of its customers as someone who is “personally” responsible for supporting their “total” service and support needs, even if all they are doing is supporting their equipment on-site, and acting as an intermediary between and among the other various departments within the company’s service and sales organizations.

It is important to remember that even if the service technician is doing everything it is supposed to be doing within their specific service responsibility, the customer’s needs will generally always be greater than services alone, and they will continually be counted on to point them in the right direction, make the appropriate recommendations, lead them to the right people within the sales or other services organizations, and generally support them in all of their “total” service and support needs.

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.

Bill Pollock, of PollockOnService, to Conduct Pre-Conference Workshop at 2019 WCM in Orlando

[Partial excerpt, written by Eric Arnum, publisher of Warranty Week. Reprinted from the February 22, 2019 issue.]

Warranty professionals heading to Orlando for the 15th annual Warranty Chain Management Conference could arrive a day early to attend any of six different workshops on topics such as fraud detection, claims handling, customer satisfaction, and how to launch or expand a commercial or consumer service contract program.

The Warranty Chain Management Conference, less than three weeks away, officially begins with a welcome reception the night of Tuesday, March 12. But for those who can get to town a bit earlier, there are six different pre-conference workshops on the schedule, covering an array of product warranty- and service contract-related topics.

There are three workshops in the morning and three in the afternoon. For attendees looking to strengthen their knowledge of how things work in the service contract industry, there are excellent choices in both timeslots.

Increasing Customer Satisfaction and revenue generation

In the afternoon, from 2 to 5 PM, Bill Pollock, the president of Strategies for Growth, will deliver a workshop entitled, “Transforming Warranty Management Into Improved Customer Satisfaction and Revenue Generation,” which will also be aimed at commercial products.

Pollock said that a central theme of his workshop will be the need for warranty managers, especially those in the business-to-business sector, to not only do a good job, but to also get the word out to customers that the company is doing a good job with warranty.

“A lot of organizations and a lot of managers within those organizations look at improving the processes they use to deliver services as the end-all, be-all,” he said. “But if you’re doing something really good, and you’re not letting the world know about it, then you’re missing an opportunity.”

Pollock said he sees much the same story with many companies that do a good job with fleet management or reverse logistics: they don’t tell their story well, so customers don’t know what makes them better than other companies. On the other hand, those that promote what they do, creating some market awareness about it, find that it draws some customers in who might not otherwise be engaged. And for existing customers, it results in improved customer satisfaction, which leads to better customer retention levels.

“My goal is to be a value-add for warranty managers who are immersed in their activities,” Pollock said, “to let them know there’s the marketing and the promotions that you have to get out there. And if you do that, then you’re going to improve customer satisfaction, and you’re going to generate more revenue.”

Pollock said he’s not suggesting that companies become tedious and off-putting through their constant self-promotions. “But if you’ve done something good, if you’ve upgraded your processes, if you’ve moved from a premise-based system to a cloud-based system, or some sort of hybrid, let the market know about it.”

During the decades he’s been studying companies, Pollock said he’s seen three big themes recur in the surveys and in the research studies he’s helped to produce: 1) companies improving the processes they use to deliver services, 2) companies focusing on the needs of the customer, and 3) the financial costs. When times are tough, cost-cutting takes the lead. But when times are good, and the funds are available, process improvements tend to become priorities. What he’s saying is “don’t forget the customer”.

“Right now, we’re at an interesting time,” he said. “Our 2019 Warranty Management Survey Update has shown for the first time in the last five years, that the number one focus is back squarely on the customer. The number two focus is on improving processes. And the number three focus is on financials. So it looks like, as an industry, we’ve got our act together.”

The first half of the workshop, Pollock said, will focus on ways to promote your process improvements to the market, and how to turn that into improved customer satisfaction and revenue increases. The second half will show the correlation between these suggestions and the actual results of the company surveys Pollock has performed in recent years. And he will ask attendees where they see their organizations fitting into the results.

“Toward the end of that series of charts and interactions,” Pollock said, “I’m going to show the mean averages that warranty managers have been attaining for customer satisfaction, average claims cycle time, and profitability. What I want to do is show attendees that once you start falling behind the curve, the way everything’s moving so quickly, and the way your competitors and peers are embracing new technologies, you’re going to fall even further behind the curve – unless you take the appropriate actions.”

Invitation to Register for Two Webinars Covering the U.S./Canada & UK/Europe FSM Markets

To All Field Service Management (FSM) Professionals:

We invite you to register for our two complimentary Webinars on Thursday, February 7th – less than one week from today!
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  • Webinar #1*: UK/Europe Still Lags Behind the U.S. with Respect to FSM PerformanceThursday, 7 February at 13:30 GMT (8:30 am ET)
  • Webinar #2*: “The State of Field Service Management (FSM) in 2019 – and Beyond”; Thursday, February 7, at 11:30 am ET (16:30 GMT)

Click here to register for one, or both, Webinars

Based on the results of the 2018 Strategies for Growth℠ FSM Benchmark Tracking Update Survey, here are some of the key Market Drivers that will be revealed:

  • A majority of global Field Services Organizations (FSOs) presently manage their service operations as a profit center (60% for UK/Europe, and 55% for the U.S./Canada)
  • A majority of global FSOs are currently using CRM and Contract Management apps to drive their services business
  • The average services profitability realized by U.S./Canada FSOs is 32%, compared to 36% for UK/Europe FSOsx

[BTW – If you haven’t taken it yet, the survey link for SFG℠’s  2019 Field Service Management Tracking Survey is: 

Thank you in advance for your participation. Hope to see you there!
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Bill