3 Keys to Unlocking IT Field Service Success

4 min read
James Droskoski
June 22, 2016
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Achieving success in a turbulent and unpredictable service world is becoming more difficult by the day. Organizations face steep competition from their peers, while enterprise manufacturers from HP and Cisco to Microsoft and IBM demand better service. The pressure is on to keep costs under control, boost profits and drive revenue, while at the same time attract and retain highly-skilled service technicians.

According to Aberdeen research’s “Field Service 2016,” the top goal of today’s service leaders, not surprisingly, is improving customer satisfaction — and an efficient field service operation is a big part of making that happen. Profitability is also a top priority — the second most referenced success metric behind customer satisfaction. According to Aberdeen’s “State of Service Management,” 9 out of 10 top-performing service companies managed service as a profit center with clear revenue targets, leadership and growth accountability. Of course, making sure field service organizations are working towards these core KPIs is essential.

Technology has become paramount to unlocking field service success in all of these areas. Here are some of the biggest tech trends driving field service success:

1. Field Mobility

Aberdeen Group found that 82% of field service organizations identified mobility as a strategic initiative for their operations in the remainder of the year. For field service techs on the road or on site with a customer, it makes perfect sense that mobile would be a key success factor. Field technicians require a host of information at their fingertips and a device that supplies them with real-time intelligence can help them act faster, smarter, and more efficiently.

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For example, technicians can check schedules, view weekly work orders, map routes, manage SLA clocks and even collaborate with others in the organization. A technician in route can check a mobile device and know, before arriving at the customer location, the history of help-desk calls and equipment issues. With the right mobile technology, field service workers are empowered to get their jobs done well (the first time) and earn the customer’s trust.

2. Internet of Things (IoT)

IDC predicts that the worldwide market for IoT solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020. And research from PTC found that 45 percent of field service management professionals believe the IoT will likely have the biggest impact on field service by 2020. It is certainly starting to transform field service organizations, which can use the connections between objects and systems, people and sensors to remotely monitor products and equipment, as well as leverage the data received from those products to transform processes. Organizations can prevent problems, auto-inspect equipment and manage inventory — increasing responsiveness, reducing downtime, and improving customer satisfaction.

A grocery chain, for example, monitored its critical refrigeration and HVAC equipment closely, but as a result had to manage thousands of alarms. IoT infrastructure was deployed with rules in place so that the most important alarms were flagged and dealt with as early as possible. In another case study, operators at a capital equipment vehicle manufacturer can track the performance, speed, status and movement of machines as well as get alerts about issues that require technical service.

3. Workforce Management Technology

The on-demand economy, which has been growing at a blistering pace and now includes nearly 30 million people, has massive implications for field service organizations looking to capitalize on this new class of independent professionals. As a matter of fact, a recent study by Oxford Economics found that 83 percent of services executives are planning to increase their use of independent workers.

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Highly-skilled independent contractors allow service organizations to expand their footprint, develop new capabilities, and quickly respond to customers. In a hyper-responsive service world, a streamlined workforce that can scale up and down depending on organizational needs is a must. Field services organizations have to find new ways to adapt in a rapidly evolving market or succumb to being left behind, especially if they need to support a large installed base of equipment, with a variety of products, distributed in multiple geographic locations.

However, finding the right skilled talent isn’t easy: A recent Service Council survey found that 71 percent of respondents expect to face a field service talent shortage in the next 10 years. In addition, field services organizations also have to juggle highly-complex workforce management requirements. The right workforce management technology platform can help organizations prepare for success in the modern field services world. These solutions can support every phase of the service life cycle and allow field services businesses to intelligently and efficiently manage every aspect of their service operations. They can consolidate everything from recruiting and onboarding to management, dispatching, payment and reporting all into a single dashboard.

Field Services, Transformed

The field services space is more competitive than ever, with companies dealing with tough-to-tackle challenges ranging from increased customer expectations and the efficient use of equipment to rising fuel costs, an evolving workforce and intensifying revenue pressures. Technology is key to helping today’s service leaders keep their customers satisfied, their workforce armed and their business thriving.