Magazine Article | January 28, 2013

Field Service Organizations Are Investing For The Long Run

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Bill Pollock, president and chief research officer, The Service Council,

What steps toward continuous improvement are top-performing service organizations taking?

For many field service organizations, the tools and processes used to support assets in the field have remained fairly constant for far too long, while customer needs and expectations have only increased. While technologies may have evolved significantly in recent years, what has not changed is the continuing reliance on the basic tools and processes that service organizations require to support their customers and assets in the field. Things like KPIs (key performance indicators), planning and forecasting, training, automation, and increased customer involvement are all elements of service that, if grown effectively, can provide service organizations with everything needed to get the job done — while reducing internal costs, generating higher levels of service revenue, and keeping customers satisfied.

Strategic Actions Of Field Service Organizations
The results of The Service Council’s Field Service Benchmark Survey confirm the importance and application of these elements by identifying the following as the top current and planned strategic actions being undertaken by a majority of field service organizations with respect to improving their service performance:

  • l 82% Improving the KPIs used to measure performance
  • 72% Investing in mobile tools to provide real-time access to required data and information in the field
  • 67% Integrating new technologies into existing field service operations
  • 62% Improving planning- and forecasting-related activities with respect to field service activity
  • 61% Providing additional training to field service technicians and/or dispatchers
  • 56% Automating existing manual processes
  • 52% Increasing customer involvement in the field service process via web-enabled self-help (e.g., call initiation and scheduling, visibility into call status, etc.).

It appears clear that the global field service community recognizes that, despite the proliferation of new supporting technologies and devices, it is still pretty much back to the basics with respect to running a profitable organization. For example, the need to improve workforce utilization and productivity is cited by roughly half (i.e., 49%) of respondents as the top driver with respect to optimizing field service. “Field technician utilization” is defined as the percent of time spent performing repairs, divided by available hours; “field technician productivity” is defined as the number of service calls completed per day.

However, there are other key drivers that impact the market, including the need to improve service process efficiencies (42%), customer demand for quicker response time (39%), an internal mandate to drive increased service revenues (36%), and customer demand for improved asset availability (35%). By making the customer part of the service delivery team, organizations can benefit from reduced time and costs. Customer access to online service order data and information is a win-win for both parties.

The common threads that tie each of these drivers together may be categorized into three groupings encompassing utilization, productivity and efficiency improvement; customer demand for quicker response and improved asset availability; and an internal mandate to drive service revenue. Our findings confirm the relationship among these three groupings by linking process and productivity improvements to support customer demand, ultimately leading to reduced costs, increased revenues, and a healthier bottom line.

The field service community recognizes the need to take strategic actions to improve existing service operations. In addition, organizations recognize the need to invest in the right technologies and mobile tools to enable their employees to improve existing processes, meet the growing needs of customers, and make greater contributions to the bottom line.

Leading organizations appear to be taking more steps to improve their service operational efficiencies than their competitors. However, for those aspiring to best practice status, the key to their success will depend on KPI monitoring, adoption and implementation of new technologies and mobile tools, and the ability to support both field technicians and customers with real-time access to key services-related data and information. The big question is, of course, what is your organization doing in each of these areas to improve its field service performance?