By Bill Pollock, Strategies for Growth
The field service management (FSM) “story” is a long and continually changing one that bridges many generations of complex human interactions, evolving user needs and requirements, and shifting technology paradigms. It has weathered repeated generational changes in terms of who the key players serving the industry are (i.e., on both the supply and demand sides); what the prevailing usage patterns, technology deployments, and trends are; and what FSM functionality is preferred today vs. what will likely be preferred tomorrow – and beyond.
It has survived all of the various iterations of “alphabet soup” and acronyms that have been used to define the current and emerging state of services management (i.e., FSMS, SMS, CIS, FSM, et. al.); and it continually deals with the onslaught of new solution providers, users, and functionalities that are redefining the industry on an almost daily basis. But, most importantly, it continues to support a growing base of global field services organizations (FSOs) and their customers, who are continually raising the bar with respect to expectations for an optimal customer experience.
The impact of the cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) on field service is a now pervasive theme, as is the industry’s evolution from simply delivering satisfactory levels of customer service, to providing an optimal customer experience along the entire customer journey.
The individuals who support field service today are also significantly more empowered than their predecessors. Continuing advances in technology, primarily emanating from the proliferation of the IoT and the introduction of augmented reality (AR), have resulted in the most qualified, best trained, and best managed field technicians that the industry has ever seen. Perhaps the most obvious example is how the IoT has facilitated the ability of field technicians to collect, receive, and transmit data in real time; generate invoices and capture signatures at the customer site; and benefit from the use of new, innovative, IoT-based technologies powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, etc.
While most services organizations may still, in fact, categorize their field force with the historical titles of dispatcher, scheduler, and field technician, the responsibilities of these roles have also started to blur as the services workforce becomes more collaborative. This phenomenon is largely attributed to the steps taken by a majority of services organizations to let their customers enter into the mix through the use of customer portals or other Internet-based points of self-service entry, thereby performing some of the service call-related tasks that the field technicians had previously managed.
As a result of these trends, in combination with the proliferation of Internet-powered resources developed in support of field technicians, today’s service techs are much more “cool, calm, and connected” than ever before. For example, data from Strategies For GrowthSM’s (SFGSM) 2019 Field Service Management (FSM) Benchmark Tracking Survey reveals that a majority of FSOs currently provide their field technicians with the following “basic” set of six essential online capabilities:
- 73% Ability to initiate service work orders
- 73% Ability to track and update current status of work orders
- 73% Access to customer and asset service history
- 67% Access to product schematics and documentation
- 59% Ability to schedule people and/or equipment
- 51% Access to product schematics/documentation
- 51% Availability of required parts in van, or en route
Two additional key capabilities fall just under the 50% line, but are routinely offered at FSOs following best practices:
- 47% Ability to provide customers with an estimated time of arrival (ETA)
- 45% Ability to match skills required to complete a job with available resources
In the foreseeable future, FSOs will continue to benefit from the growing list of online capabilities that will be made available to them, allowing them to deliver an enhanced customer experience to their users.
In addition, on the organization’s part, over the past decade, most FSOs have completed an evolution and are now successfully running as profit centers. Only five years ago, 66 percent of FSOs were managing service as a profit center; today, this percentage has increased to 71 percent – the highest level we have recorded in five years of tracking this particular metric.
The preferred types of FSM solutions used by FSOs have also changed over the years, although roughly half of the market presently deploys an off-the-shelf solution, mostly with some minor customization.
Still, one out of six companies (17 percent) are running their services operations through a series of manual processes (i.e., typically piggy-backing onto a CRM or sales management application, augmented by the use of Excel spreadsheets and Post-It Notes, etc.). While this number is down somewhat from earlier years, it still suggests that there is a relatively large base of potential FSM users that have either not yet recognized nor implemented a formal FSM solution to run their services operations.
The FSM is clearly evolving – however, the question remains, “Is your services organization keeping pace?”