By Aly Pinder, IDC
Closing out 2020, for many of us, couldn't come sooner. In many parts of the world, we are still dealing with a crisis on many fronts.
The optimist in me sees a light at the end of the tunnel to come to fruition at some point in the coming 12 months! But as we table that discussion for other forums, I think it is critical we further explore how service will evolve as we make our way to a Next Normal. In IDC's COVID-19 IMPACT ON IT SPENDING Survey (Survey conducted from 26th August to 6th September 2020), 36.8% of manufacturers stated that product or service installation currently or will in the future have a no-contact/contactless process. This is just one of several service activities that manufacturers are considering a pivot to create a contact-less experience. Other potential areas that can be targeted for no-contact support are:
- Consumer engagement with product/service
- Ordering the product/service
- Transaction receipt
- Product delivery
- Product pickup
- Customer service
- Consumer access to product information
- Customer communication
- Signature capture
Whether shifting to more contact-less support or more tightly scheduled service visits, manufacturers and service organizations need to keep a few things in mind:
- Prioritize safety for the technician and the customer – Safety of employees and customers must be the number one goal of the manufacturer and service organization. Profits and revenues should not come at the detriment of the team and the client. Every reasonable tool and effort must be taken to ensure safety to weather this and future crises. Employees and customers should not and hopefully will never be viewed as replaceable parts. As importantly when we come out of this current crisis, employees and customers will have a long memory as to how they were treated and how their health and safety were (or were not) prioritized over profits. In a fight for talent and customers, this should not be lost on leaders.
- Implement technology that can enhance scheduling capabilities for better precision – Technology has never been more of an accelerator for innovation than in this current crisis. The ability to gather data remotely, respond before a failure, notify customers/clients in real-time within minutes of technician arrival, and create contact-less experiences is integral to delivering on the service promises in a different but effective way. Artificial intelligence, mobility, cloud, internet of things, augmented reality have all been technologies and capabilities that have seemed like the next "cool" thing but in this current environment, they are a path to resilience and the Next Normal for manufacturers and service organizations.
- Create customer reporting and dashboard tools that provide improved visibility into the value being delivered – Customers have, largely, grown accustomed to physically seeing a technician arrive in a white van with a certain cadence or frequency. As more services become remote and less equipment fails as a result of predictive service, customers need to be informed of the value being delivered beyond the truck/van roll. This is critical to ensuring customers see the importance of contactless support to their safety but also the ability to maintain operations.
- Set the right expectations amongst the field team – enhanced safety precautions will require the field service team to change some of their behaviors and habits. Jobs may take longer or otherwise add a layer of complexity to the completion of the work order.
- Missed SLAs may rise but establish a partnership with customers to prioritize mission-critical service – not all assets, equipment, and machines are mission-critical to a customer's daily operations. Manufacturers and service organizations should identify with customers which SLAs can take a back seat based on mission criticality and which assets need to be a priority for maintenance.
Service is excelling in this environment, and organizations have accelerated their digital transformation initiatives to incorporate innovations and needs. In trying times, innovative companies often rise to the top. In a tough year, I am hopeful and optimistic that we will achieve a Next Normal which raises the bar for excellent service.
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.