Guest Column | May 8, 2023

Field Service Light At The End Of The Tunnel

By Aly Pinder, Jr., WW Aftermarket Services Strategies, IDC


I continue to be in awe of the field service world, even after I felt like I had seen a lot over the past 15 years. But maybe that is why I continue to want to research this market and explore the future. But this passion sometimes comes with some anxiety over the future.

IDC research recently noted the greatest concern for technology strategies and budgets for 2023 was inflation driving up vendor pricing beyond budget expectations. What does this mean for field service? What could this mean for the ability of service leaders to finally transform their operations to reach a level of predictability that we have all expected for a decade? If organizations pull back budgets around technology, what happens when field workers retire and knowledge leaves the field?

All these questions would make a normal service leader pull out their hair. But if you’ve ever seen me, you would know I ran out of hair to pull out quite a while ago. So, I would like to consider the glass half full for field service and its approach to technology investments even in a turbulent marketplace. Technology isn’t a panacea for all things, but a few trends will require organizations to consider the role of technology in their long-term field service journey:

  • Customers will pay to be an active part of the service experience – The relationship between a customer and the service organization has dramatically changed in this next stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before our field service worldview of 2020, customers often reveled in having a physical technician show up and service equipment. This all changed when physical presence was not an option. The ability to resolve an issue remotely or through collaborative interaction with a service organization became the lifeblood of operations and our own lives. I can’t count how many times I fixed something in my home via a shared video over the past three years which I would have never even considered before. But this ability for customers to be a part of their own service experience must be a value-add and not a burden. Field service organizations need to consult with customers, delivering recommendations that resolve the issue at hand and ensure improved productivity.
  • Shared benefits spread the cost with the wealth – Historically, service decisions and technologies primarily impacted the service operation. A scheduling tool led to a more optimized schedule. A warranty service app enabled more claims to be processed. A spare parts planning tool ensured fewer parts needed to be stocked in a technician’s truck. But now with the advent of data platforms and integrated applications, service data can inform other business functions and, importantly, other business decisions. When a salesperson has visibility into a technician’s work notes detailing that a customer had multiple machines on-site which weren’t under contract but were down, this insight can trigger a new sale. Engineering and the design team can innovate new products and uses of older ones if they get access to in-service usage data from the field. These are just two examples of real value that is too often left in the field but could drive increased revenue opportunities for the business.
  • New service outcomes require a new mindset – Competition for service share of wallet is intense. Third-party service providers and competitors that can now service other brands have made field service a battleground for customer mindshare and differentiation. The ability of field service leaders to leverage real-time data from assets, products, and customers to offer the right service offerings to the right customers is becoming table stakes. A one-size fits all world no longer exists in service. Customers expect value not just SLAs. A better understanding of customer needs and values is paramount in this endeavor. But who better knows what the customer wants than the field service team interacting directly with them? The field service team of the future needs to be equipped with the knowledge and the automated recommendations to engage customers the way they want and deliver the right, tailored services that differentiate them from the pack.

I look forward to seeing how these trends drive decisions for field service leaders. And I can’t wait to see what the next few months hold for the field service market.

About The Author

Aly Pinder Jr. is Research Vice President - WW Aftermarket Services Strategies, IDC.