By Bill Pollock, President & Principal Consulting Analyst , Strategies for Growth
According to Kermit the Frog, “It’s not easy being green” – or is it? For many businesses, being “green” can have an unexpected economic benefit. Let me explain.
Most of us have already incorporated various facets of environmental awareness into our day-to-day lives, including the mandatory sorting of household recyclables and the prescribed use of the omnipresent green or red curbside recycling containers. Many of us also are striving to drive less by working some days from a home office, and generally becoming more aware of the alternative options of telecommuting and the use of remote workspaces. Others make use of public transportation. Some of us have even switched to more mileage-friendly vehicles for both our personal and work-related travel. By now, virtually all of us know at least one person who drives a hybrid vehicle.
How much of our environmental consciousness has actually spread to the corporate world? Certainly, there are many mandates governing interaction with the environment in high-risk areas including construction, renovation, waste management, and demolition, among others. There are also the passionate corporate leaders who wish to act as good global citizens. Further, there are many organizations that make it easy for employees to ride-share, encourage turning down the thermostat a few degrees, or simply make benevolent corporate donations directly to environmental causes and foundations chartered with helping to raise environmental awareness and/or deal with specific causes.
In today’s economy, it is increasingly common to find real initiatives where being environmentally friendly also directly benefits the corporate bottom line. For example, what if your field technicians could drive a million miles less per year in the aggregate? Depending on the specific types of vehicles they drive, that could result in savings of roughly 100,000 gallons of gas! Current gas prices are typically in the range of US$3.00 to US$3.50 per gallon, often reaching in excess of US$4.00 in some parts of the country. As a rule, gas prices are even more expensive in other parts of the world.
For many services providers, the reduction in their gas bill alone resulting from reduced travel requirements would be extremely impressive; however, when you factor in the savings on highway and bridge tolls, wear and tear on vehicles, and other vehicular maintenance-related costs, the savings can be downright staggering. This is exactly what some field service organizations have been able to realize through the use of state-of-the-art service scheduling optimization supported with street-level routing.
Since it ultimately costs far less to solve a customer’s problem remotely, or to allow the customer to use self-service tools in a customer portal to perform their own “fixes,” many organizations have invested heavily in remote diagnostics and remote monitoring solutions. The use of these “new” platforms and applications has facilitated and expedited the management of field service and support, and has also served to reduce the number of historical truck rolls and on-site visits.
For many users, the initial customer call is simply the launching point for the full service event. When a customer calls – for whatever reason – no amount of talking can help fix a broken pipe, install a new cable line, or repair a failed part. In all of these cases, the service provider’s field resources must quickly spring into action, travel to the customer site, show up on time, and assess the existing situation. Sometimes this generates an entire new set of challenges and – even if handled efficiently – can still lead to potentially huge internal costs.
For the services provider, the questions then arise: What are my contractual obligations to my customer? Who are our best-qualified field technicians? How can I delight the customer by meeting – and exceeding – their overall service expectations? Through the advent and proliferation of remote diagnostics and remote monitoring, all of these questions can be answered quickly while still delivering greener service.
It is also not uncommon for service organizations and their customers to spend thousands – and in some cases, hundreds of thousands – of dollars on printing, copying, sorting, and mailing their service work orders every year, ensuring that all necessary documents are sent to the field and the appropriate work instructions are being followed. A large percentage of an organization’s overall return on investment can be attributed to the automation of these processes – not to mention the saving of thousands of trees every year!
Using handheld devices in the field to collect call data and information also eliminates the errors that can be compounded during the required retyping/reentry process, while improving the company’s days sales outstanding (DSO) through the quicker turnaround thanks to real-time invoicing and faster collection cycles. Implicit in these savings is the enhanced efficiency of automated data and information processing in place of the previously required human intervention.
When any of these “green-friendly” platforms, solutions, and tools are embedded into an organization’s overall field service management (FSM) operations, everyone benefits – the services organization, the field technicians, the customers, and, oh yes, the environment! It is exciting when capitalism and environmentalism can overlap to produce mutually beneficial – and profitable – results. The move toward service optimization clearly reflects a case where “going green” can also generate more “green” for your organization.
Bill Pollock is President & Principal Consulting Analyst at Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM), the independent research analyst and consulting firm he founded in 1992. Bill is a prolific author and speaker on all things service, and a long-time contributor to the industry’s leading trade publications and conferences. For more information, Bill may be reached at (610) 399-9717, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill’s blog is accessible at www.PollockOnService.com and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/SFGOnService.