By Bill Pollock, Strategies for Growth
Technology isn’t new – it’s what makes things new. It’s like that old BASF television commercial – “We don’t make the products you buy; we make the products you buy better.” Well, for field service management (FSM) in general, and the services industry in particular, technology is the primary thing that makes the services you sell better – and more profitable, too. But there’s more to FSM than merely applying the right technology.
One of the greatest opportunities we have in the services sector is the ability to use technology as an enabler to make our offerings better. However, one of the greatest fallacies in the services business is that if you simply embed technology, you’ll be in a better position just for having done so; you’ll automatically be able to make your customers happier, and you’ll make more money. But that isn’t always true. If all you’ve got is an old, archaic services management model, and you apply the newest technology to it, you’ll just end up with a quicker, more automated, archaic system and not necessarily a better one.
Technology is not the only thing that a services organization needs for its FSM program to succeed and thrive. The organization certainly needs people because, without people, it has no “face” to show its customers. However, in recent years, an organization’s “face” may no longer be merely visual. In fact, what has historically been the service provider’s “face” is increasingly being transformed into a “voice” – and that voice doesn’t have to be only human anymore (i.e., chatbots).
Services organizations also need customers. However, the days are long since gone when manufacturers would only support those customers that had purchased their products. Today, not only do most services providers support multi-vendor products, but they also find themselves selling services to completely different types of customers, such as consortiums, group purchasing organizations, and other new types of buyers. The traditional B2B way of doing business has since been transformed into a B2C sales and service delivery model.
Services organizations also need infrastructure, both in terms of organization and operations, in order to ensure that the transactions between their people and their customers are executed and managed effectively. To run their operations efficiently, services organizations must also have the right mix of business processes, policies, and procedures to provide the levels of support that are required and expected by customers.
At first blush, each one of these needs may look to be standalone, individual challenges that all organizations face. But there is a common thread that runs between and among all of them: technology. Technology is the great facilitator that ties everything together - the people, the customers, the infrastructure, and the processes. It is the one element that most directly impacts all the others.
Technology also enables us to do things we never dreamed we could do. Services providers can now resolve equipment problems either remotely, on-site, by phone, over the Web, or through any combination of those channels. They can wait to hear from the customer before initiating the “fix,” or they can fix the problem before the customer even knows there is a problem. They can fix the problem themselves, or they can partner with others to get the job done. Services providers now have many alternatives to accommodate their customers’ needs, and the only questions that typically remain are “How quickly do we need to fix it?” “Which service delivery model will work best?” and “How much is it going to cost – both for us and for them?”
Technology, as it existed 50 years ago, was just that: technology – plain and simple! But even last year’s technology may not cut it in today’s business environment – certainly not in a segment that is as demanding as the services industry. The technology that abounds today runs circles around yesterday’s technology. It is almost frightening to think about what tomorrow’s technology will bring to the table. But what’s even more frightening is where your organization will be if it doesn’t also evolve along with the the demands of the marketplace.
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