By Bill Pollock, Strategies for Growth
Driving future success across the services organization is imperative. However, there are many components involved in the overall process that are of equal importance, such as management buy-in, a loyal and appreciative customer base, and a clear communications-based strategy for attaining the success-related goals.
Management buy-in for taking the necessary steps forward to attain future success in delivering a connected services capability has been somewhat problematic for many Field Service Organizations (FSOs). From Strategies For Growth℠’s 2019 Field Service Management (FSM) Benchmark Survey Update, currently, up to one-quarter (24 percent) of FSOs report that obtaining management buy-in for the acquisition of new technology is one of the top future challenges they expect to face.
However, the existing customer base may be even more difficult to convince, as nearly one-third (32 percent) are somewhat hesitant to accept the introduction of connected field services at face value (i.e., a solution that “allows companies to monitor equipment remotely, troubleshoot and self-heal distressed devices, and ensure repairs are made before downtime occurs”) – they want to “see” some “live” examples first!
Further, internal buy-in is not solely restricted to management at the senior level, but to all management and staff levels within the organization. And, in order to gain a more pervasive top-to-bottom and side-to-side internal acceptance, the organization must overcome the obstacles of a too-often siloed organization structure within the business. This can most effectively be accomplished through direct communications between and among service and all of the other departments in the organization that ultimately contribute to the total customer experience.
In addition, Human Resources planning also has become a critical part of the process. However, planning for recruiting the right hires and, then, training them, is difficult enough under normal circumstances. What makes it even more difficult today is the fact there is also a generational transformation taking place at all facets of the global business community.
In the past, the accumulated knowledge of each individual technician was generally quite extensive (i.e., both from a technical aspect, as well as from a customer relationship vantage point); also, the technician training and certification programs that were typically undertaken were generally routine in nature (if not boilerplate) and easy enough to replicate for the next generation of hires.
However, in today’s world, instead of sending new hires to the same types of training classes and certification programs as their predecessors, there is a much more fragmented set of alternative training scenarios available (e.g., on-site, distance learning, and self-administered PC training, among others). Further, with the growing use of Augmented Reality (AR) in support of field technicians, an increasing number of organizations are likely to cut back even further on training, since the IoT and/or AR could be used as impromptu “on the job”, instant training tools, wherever they believe the case may warrant.
Still, there will always be numerous geographic, skillset, personal interest and training considerations that will need to be addressed as new hires are brought into the mix. This will not likely change over time. However, a proficiency for utilizing new technology will separate the “good” new hires from the “bad”; although there will always remain the question of chemistry – both with respect to dealing with their peers, as well as with their customers. This is also pretty much a generational problem.
The organization may have thousands of employees and partnership alliance resources all over the world; however, as far as the customers are concerned, the field technicians are the principal individuals with whom they will have any contact once the initial sale has been completed. While they may speak with a Sales Associate of the company from time-to-time with regard to parts, consumables, upgrades or new equipment purchases, the field technicians are probably the only ones they will actually see on a regular basis. As such, they serve as "ambassadors" to the company’s customers for both the equipment and the services sides of the business.
The end goal for every services organization is to improve the overall customer experience, thereby making its customers rely on their services more, and enhancing the prospects not only for improved customer satisfaction but for long-term customer retention and loyalty. However, an organization cannot attain all of these goals simply through the offering of a Field Service Management (FSM) solution – there has got to be more to the equation from the perspective of the customer in order to make it all work.
That is why it becomes so critical to choose an FSM solution from a vendor that also provides high levels of consistent and comprehensive support in addition to the functionality provided by the software itself. The solution should also be built on a robust, IoT-powered platform that assists it in not only running the company’s services operations but the company’s business, as a whole.
The customer will never attain an optimal customer experience if all the solution does is manage one part of the total business (i.e., service operations). Customers looking to attain the optimal customer experience are more likely looking for a single solution that assists them in running their entire business, from sales and marketing, to manufacturing and production, to customer relationships, and everything in-between. Only an FSM solution, powered by the IoT, can effectively do the job, ultimately leading to improved customer service, increased customer satisfaction, and long-term customer retention and loyalty – all of which represent the primary components contributing to an optimal customer experience.