Guest Column | February 18, 2021

Field Service Resiliency Delivers Digitally Enhanced Service Experiences

By Aly Pinder, IDC


The field service operation played a critical role for many businesses over the past 12 months. The pandemic shut down many businesses for some time, but when they reopened the need was to stand up operations at or beyond pre-pandemic levels of production. As these organizations focused on sustaining their businesses and delivering for their customers in new ways, the ability to push equipment and assets to the maximum with limited downtime was challenging. This put the onus on the service organization to ensure assets performed at a high level under conditions that couldn’t be modeled based on historical trends from previous years or seasons. Service organizations also needed to ensure service and customer experiences could be delivered in different ways distancing requirements demanded less physical presence or symptoms checks upon arrival of a technician. The rapid pivot may seem like a lifetime ago, but organizations are still navigating a shifting landscape for the field service organization as different regions and industries move at a different pace of transformation.

In IDC's COVID-19 IMPACT ON IT SPENDING Survey (Survey conducted during 15th October to 30th October period, 2020), 59.6% of manufacturers will be prioritizing enhancing products, services, and customer experiences digitally as a top goal for 2021-2022. Digital experiences aren’t as simple as deploying mobile devices for the field team or rolling out a new application to support automated scheduling of a technician workforce. Creating new experiences for the customer and the service team demand an enterprise approach to service delivery. The ability to resolve issues, interact with customers, and ensure enhanced visibility in real-time ensures that digital transformation is not just another siloed investment but a critical part of a new strategy.

As service organizations contemplate this shift to digital a few things should be addressed and considered:

  1. Education is key both internally and with customers. Digital offerings can drastically change the way customers and technicians view data, do their jobs, and engage with the organization. The result should be improved experiences and offerings. But, if the user isn’t adequately informed as to how these experiences will be different, satisfaction will suffer even if there is more value being delivered.
  2. Value should go beyond the field service team and the customer. The digital offerings at a minimum should improve field service technician productivity, efficiency, and mean-time-to-repair. The shift must also improve the customer experience. But there is much more to offer. Other functions within the organization also can gain insight and value from having a window into the service, customer, and asset experience through digital capabilities. For example, digital services provide sales and marketing with a real-time view into the customer experience which can be leveraged to tailor future products, campaigns, or promotions. Work orders which are managed digitally by the field team give visibility to engineering and supply chain teams as to equipment performance, defects, failure modes, and resource needs to resolution ultimately improving product quality and efficiency.
  3. Not all partners and suppliers will be ready for digital transformation. Often when digital transformation is discussed the positive impact is just assumed and there is a willingness to believe there will be no or limited friction with the rollout across ecosystem partners. Unfortunately, this will be a challenge. In field service, there are dealers, third-party service organizations, and suppliers that will be at varying levels of maturity regarding their respective digital journeys. Just assuming a shift can be made to digital products, services, and offerings will be easy is not reality. Manufacturers and field service organizations need to work with their ecosystem partners to ensure transformation can be achieved at the right pace with minimal impact on the customer experience.

The shift to digital products, services, and experiences mustn't just be an evolution of non-digital experiences on a mobile device. These new offerings and experiences need to reflect the needs of the user and the value which is lacking from other methods. The field service operation is ripe for this type of transformation. The ability to deliver resolution without having a physical presence on-site can be game-changing for the service organization, especially as distancing is likely to remain. Further, customers have grown accustomed to using digital tools in eCommerce and expect manufacturers and service organizations to be able to deliver the same, if not better, experiences in a digital and self-service way. Now, this doesn’t remove the field service technician from the equation, but digital collaboration and experiences should augment the in-person service visit. When a field technician needs to get on-site, digital transformation initiatives should ensure the technician only needs to be there for a short amount of time is nearly guaranteed to have the right skills, tools, parts, and answers to solve the issue.

About The Author

As Program Director, Service Innovation & Connected Products, Aly Pinder Jr leads IDC research and analysis of the service and customer support market for the manufacturer, which includes topics such as field service, warranty operations, service parts management, and how these service areas impact the overall customer experience. Mr. Pinder Jr. is also responsible for research that aids manufacturers as they evaluate innovative technologies like 3D printing for service operations, augmented and virtual reality in field support, and the use of IoT and advanced analytics for remotely monitoring and managing assets. Mr. Pinder Jr. establishes a roadmap for the manufacturer to better understand how technology can transform service and support functions to drive exceptional customer experiences and customer value, profitable revenue growth, and improved efficiency in the field.