The Field Service Space in a Snapshot

Jeff Oskin, President/CEO, Jolt Consulting Group
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Jeff Oskin, President/CEO, Jolt Consulting Group

Jeff Oskin, President/CEO, Jolt Consulting Group

Exiting Trends in the Field Service Space

Current market trends we see at service organizations today include:

a. Strong desire on the part of service organizations to include the customer/proactively inform the customer of the progress of their service request – think the Uber model for service

b. Larger enterprises are beginning to dabble in the Internet of Things (IoT) space that will serve to collapse the service life cycle – still in its infancy, especially for mainstrain service organizations, but early adopters are starting to set the pace

c. Solving the labor/knowledge shortage – many service organizations are faced with an aging workforce and are struggling to transfer all of their acquired knowledge to new workers, while still performing their daily jobs. As a result, wearable/remote diagnostics/triage technologies are emerging that allow more skilled workers to support multiple, less experienced technicians from a central office/location.

“Technologies that enrich the customer experience will always find long-term success in the service space”

Technology leads the way for many of these trends, but it is important that service organizations consider their ability to manage change within their organization. Any new technology solutions should be evaluated in full before they are implemented; preparing a well thought out and thorough implementation plan can make or break an organization’s successful change.

Combating the Challenges Existing in Field Service Domain

Despite big changes in customer expecations and available technologies for service organizations, common business challengs haven’t changed much over the years. However, there are a few challenges we see as having big impacts for many service orgnaizations, including:

a. Getting the right technician to the customer with the right information at the right time – the first time.  Customer demands are changing.  Customers expect faster and faster response times.  They expect tigher appointment windows – gone are the days of “we will be there between 8am-5pm on Monday”. Customers demand more information at the time of service – “What did you do?”  “Is my problem fixed?” And so on.  They need to know that their time, which is always under tremendous pressure in today’s fast paced society, isn’t being wasted.

b. Migrating from a reactive to a proactive model. Too many service organizations are still living in the time and materials, reactive, break-fix world.  This creates a costly, inefficient service model and often disappoints customers.  Service executives need to lead the charge to establish a more proactive model, including more preventative maintenance and service contract based work.

c. Continuing to embrace modern field service management platforms that provide, at a minimum, scheduling assistance and, ideally, scheduling automation.  Those platforms also include mobility that provides real-time views into technician locations, an ability to change work assignments on the fly, as well as better connectivity with the end customers (again think Uber). In addition, service organizations continue to seek and identify technologies that reduce dependenace on the knowledge of individual technicians (e.g. knowledge bases, wearables devices).

Again, although the challenges haven’t changed much over the years, technology has. However, that does not mean technology is a quick fix option for service organizations. Planned, deliberate implementation of a technology solution requires time and evaluation. Some service organizations simply choose the service technology solution they believe is best for them, but are remiss at getting everyone on board with the change, and the implementation falls short of expectations, or fails entirely. A technology solution is only as good as its implementation, which means if it is implemented quickly with little to no training, your organization isn’t going to know how to best utilize the new technology, resulting declining efficiency and missed opportunities.     

Key to Run Field Service Operations: Analytics and Service Data 

Analytics and service data can be scary for some service organizaitons, but it is as simple as selecting a couple of metrics to keep track of and building from there. At Jolt, we believe a greater emphasis on process metrics vs. results metrics is key.  Results metrics are often desired by senior executives (e.g. service profitability, gross margin, etc.) and, as a result, dominate the landscape. We feel process metrics (e.g. travel time per job; first visit fix rates, ratio of total billable hours to total hours worked, etc.) are leading indicators to results metrics and if organizations improve their process metrics, the results metrics will follow.  

Effective Customer Experirence, Integral for the Service Space

1. Technologies that enrich the customer experience will always find long-term success in the service space. Service organizations are striving to bring mainstream technologies and experiences (e.g., Uber social media) to the service industry as they can help keep the customer informed. The long term outlook will include the widespread adoption of connected devices. We are seeing more and more consumer oriented products that allow consumers to control aspects of their home from their mobile devices (e.g. lights, thermostat, garage doors). The next evolution will involve service organizations getting plugged into that infrastructure so that they can better monitor and serve their customers.  

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