Magazine Article | October 1, 2001

Real Solutions, Real ROI

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Contrary to what you may believe, field service does not have to be a drain on your company's bottom line. Smart companies have found a way to generate revenue by improving field support.

Integrated Solutions, October 2001

After attending any trade show or conference, I always have to take a day to decompress and gain some perspective. I have to review what I've seen and heard with somewhat of a jaundiced eye. Otherwise, there is a tendency to get caught up in the hype. It's almost unavoidable. I spend three days being inundated with the same vendor messages about the same technology. Honestly, it's like a form of mind control.

That's why Field Enterprise Solutions (FES) (held in Chicago) was such a shock to me. The atmosphere was straightforward and honest, not a litany of marketing collateral and directives to "stay on point." Instead, vendors talked realistically about their products that automate field service operations and improve customer support on the frontlines. It seemed as though the vendors were resigned to the fact that field service is not a sexy application. When done properly, field service can be done in a much less costly manner and improve customer loyalty. But, we're still talking about field technicians. When it comes to IT dollars, that hardly compares to a new Web-based initiative.

Cut Costs, Improve Customer Service
I talked with one vendor, who relayed a conversation he had with an executive at AOL Time Warner. "My field service is so screwed up, they made a movie out of it," stated the executive, referring to The Cable Guy with Jim Carey. While the quote is true, the sentiments behind the quote are even truer. Customers, in most cases, have come to expect poor field service. While using the "everyone else is doing it" excuse may let your company off the hook, it is a poor business decision.

Consider the value of offering an improved level of customer support in the field. Marketing departments led IT folks down the path of supporting every tool that would improve customer loyalty and retention. Opting for junk mail and spam, they ignored the face-to-face meetings between techs and customers.

Also, you can't overlook the fact that technicians are in your customers' houses. They are through the front doors and standing in the collective living rooms of your customers. It's a perfect time to build on your customer relationships. If the techs are late, they can use wireless printers that offer discount coupons. If they are on time, they can still upsell products and services that your company offers.

What most companies have not figured out is that field service does not have to erode revenue; instead, it can actually augment revenue. The vendors at FES know this, and so do their customers.

Your latest Web strategy or wireless initiative may draw oohs and ahs, but what is the payback on the project you're proposing? Times are tough: IT executives have to prove themselves by proposing projects that have healthy ROIs. While field service may not seem important to you, think about the guys in the trenches. You can help them, help your customers, and help your company at the same time. There's no downside.

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