By Bill Pollock, president & principal consulting analyst, Strategies For Growth
As we near the end of calendar year 2017, many field service managers have begun to wrestle with the question, “What lies ahead for us in the next 12 months and beyond?” Of course, there is no quick and easy answer — and everything can change in a heartbeat due to unforeseen internal and/or external factors.
As such, it becomes increasingly important for field service organizations (FSOs) to understand the specific impact that the next 12 months (and beyond) will have on the quality and performance of their field service operations. In fact, the future state of field service management (FSM) will depend largely on what strategic actions FSOs plan to take in the next 12 months or so. Since these actions will be directly linked to the multitude of drivers that are most likely to influence decision making within the global services community, this would be a good place to start.
The results of Strategies For GrowthSM‘s (SFGSM) 2017 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey reveal that the top drivers cited as influencing FSOs today may be categorized into three main areas:
1. Customer demand and/or preferences
2. Need to improve service workforce utilization, productivity and efficiencies
3. Internal mandate to drive increased service revenues
When asked to cite the top three drivers currently influencing their ability to effectively manage field services operations, 56 percent of respondents cite customer demand for quicker response time, and nearly one-third (32 percent) cite customer demand for improved asset availability.
However, the need to improve workforce utilization and productivity is also cited by a majority (51 percent) of respondents as a top driver, followed by the need to improve service process efficiencies (39 percent). An internal mandate to drive increased service revenues is then cited by 31 percent of respondents as one of their top three drivers.
Once the key market drivers are clearly identified, FSOs need to create — and implement — the most effective strategic planning actions to address them head-on. As revealed in the SFGSM survey, the most commonly implemented strategic actions, currently, are:
- 48 percent: Develop and/or improve KPIs used to measure field service performance
- 40 percent: Invest in mobile tools to support field technicians
- 36 percent: Automate existing manual field service processes and activities
- 31 percent: Integrate new technologies into existing field service operations
- 30 percent: Provide additional training to field service technicians and dispatchers
- 26 percent: Improve planning and forecasting with respect to field operations
- 25 percent: Increase customer involvement in Web-based service process
- 24 percent: Provide enterprise-wide access to important field-collected data
These data strongly suggest that there is a pattern of synergy among the top four cited strategic actions that builds a foundation for all of the other actions that will ultimately be taken by the organization; that is, that nearly half of the FSOs comprising the global services community already recognize the need to build and/or improve their KPI measurement program — this is essential! This is the first step.
However, along with the development and/or improvement of a KPI program, nearly as many organizations also recognize the need to invest in state-of-the-art mobile tools to support their technicians in the field, while concurrently, automating their existing manual field service processes and activities to provide an enterprise-wide foundation for collecting data and information, and disseminating this process to field technicians (and, in many cases, to their customers) on an as-needed basis. Further, about one-third of FSOs recognize the need to integrate new technologies into existing field service operations to make it all come together.
This synergy is built on, first, ensuring that there is an effective KPI measurement program in place, and using that program to establish a benchmark, or baseline, for measuring the organization’s current field service performance. Second, there needs to be a comprehensive internal effort to bring the technical aspects of services operations into the current (and future) timeframe — this can be done mainly by investing in an effective package of mobile tools to support the field force.
Finally, it will be the integration of these new technologies (e.g., mobility applications, the IoT, wearables, 3D printing, Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), etc.) into the overall mix of resources and tools deployed by FSOs that will empower the field force do their jobs more productively and efficiently. The desired results, of course, would be the improvement of service delivery performance and the resultant improvements in the levels of customer satisfaction (and retention).
The data make it clear that there is no mistake — that is, if your services organization already finds itself behind the curve with respect to:
- The automation of its existing field service management processes (or lack thereof);
- Its ability to meet (if not exceed) its customers’ demands or requirements;
- Its ability to support its field technicians and customers with real-time data and information; or
- Dealing with escalating costs associated with running its services operations; this gap will likely only get larger over time – unless it considers implementing a new, more state-of-the-art, field service management solution;
… SFG℠’s 2017 FSM survey results clearly show the impact that doing so will have on the organization — as well as on its customers and its bottom line.