Guest Column | May 6, 2021

Time To Transform The Value Delivered In Field Service

By Aly Pinder, IDC


The coming 6-12 months will be quite a journey for service organizations and field service teams, not to say the last 12 months were easy. But as organizations return to work and an increased capacity level, the equipment, machines, assets, and products used in operations will begin to see the wear and tear of production. Some organizations plan to delay new equipment purchases as they assess what will be their next normal. This will put an outsized strain on the service organization as legacy and aging equipment gets pushed to its limits. The challenge will be, how can field service organizations deliver increased levels of support and quality experiences with finite resources.

In IDC’s Manufacturing Insights Product and Service Innovation 2019 Survey, only 10.0% of organizations had a prescriptive service model in place whereby products had autonomic capabilities to report problems/issues and request repair. At this point in the digital age, many of us may have expected a majority of organizations to have closed the chasm between reactive and predictive or prescriptive field support. But we still have a long way to go. What will be interesting to follow is in this time of accelerated transformation and disruption, will service organizations make the IT investments necessary to take this leap or will they revert to the status quo of pre-pandemic digital strategies where incremental improvements were good enough?

I believe there will be a digital divide that remains and some manufacturers and service organizations will miss this opportunity to transform. In IDC’s COVID-19 IMPACT ON IT SPENDING Survey (Survey conducted during 3rd December to 15th December period), manufacturers noted the biggest challenge their organizations faced in developing innovative new products/services or business models was the risk of failure was too high and not tolerated (31.0%). Field service organizations aren’t often known as first movers making big bets on technology as compared to other industries like retail or financial services which embrace digital technologies to transform the customer experience. That being said, I think many field service organizations will take this leap. For those companies thinking about transforming the field service organization through new digital products, services, and offerings I recommend a few areas to consider along this journey:

  • Build an ecosystem of partners that can de-risk the service transformation journey. Technology won’t solve all problems, and organizations are at different stages of digital and service maturity. Working with seasoned partners that have industry- and service- expertise can help ensure the right tools and capabilities are chosen which can accelerate transformation. There isn’t a right number of partners, but field service organizations need to assess their own needs and work within those bounds.
  • Business model transformation in service is here. Even pre-pandemic, service organizations were being threatened by competitors to deliver enhanced value to customers. As most of the world has become accustomed to real-time visibility into the products we buy, field service customers expect nothing less than real-time insights into service and resolution timelines. This raises the bar about what is good service. Just meeting a delivery window will fail to rise to an enhanced customer standard. Field service organizations will need to be able to tap into real-time equipment data, be able to remotely collaborate to better diagnose issues in advance of a service event being scheduled and connect technicians to on-demand intelligence to solve issues efficiently on the first interaction. Static periodic service visits or reactive service experiences will be transformed as service organizations embrace digital tools.
  • On-site service will need to be dynamic. Service will only become more important post-crisis whereby customers will expect (and demand) service can be delivered regardless of increased restrictions on physical presence. Can service be delivered without a technician having hands on the equipment? Will service quality suffer if a remote expert is relaying information to an on-site facilities manager who is not an expert engineer? Something that many of us have come to learn is that quality is a fluid concept. Keeping an operation running with an alternative solution avoiding complete shutdown will be acceptable at times. Similar to how consumers in 2020 were willing to learn a new skill via on-demand video until a technician could be scheduled. The definition of on-site service will have to incorporate more customer self-service and triage to ensure a resolution can be delivered.

Field service, like other functions of business, is changing more now than it has in the recent past. Incremental advancements have given way to accelerated transformation. More so now than ever, field service organizations will need to close the digital divide to empower technicians to deliver value and quality experiences in newer ways.

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.