Are you ready for Field Service 4.0?

Ankan Ghosh • March 26, 2020
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Beyond CRM lies the big-stakes universe of field services. This is an exciting space because the moment a product or a service is sold, it is the quality of the field service that determines customer satisfaction, customer retention, referrals and the volume of additional revenue generated through services. By implementing automation and eliminating manual intervention, organizations can improve field services, moving what has traditionally been a cost center towards becoming a profit center.

Field service is a high-touch, high-cost game. It involves the installation, configuration, calibration, commissioning, management, maintenance, repair, enhancement and replacement of products, assets and resources deployed at a customer’s site. As examples, a telecom company provisions connectivity infrastructure. A utility provides a power grid. A hospital provides medical care. A retailer could provide vending machines to its buyers. It is estimated that when a field service resource is dispatched to a telecom customer’s location – called a truck roll in the industry – it can cost anywhere between $150 and $500. Some years ago, it cost $100 per truck roll in the utility industry. With fuel and labor costs growing over the years, field services can eat into profits. 

Complex problems, mounting costs

The cost of field service doubles if the resource doesn’t get the solution First Time Right (FTR). Studies have shown that on average, field technicians have to do at least one follow-up visit for about 23% of all service calls. These can easily send costs out of control.

The growing follow ups and service costs can be attributed to a variety of frustrating reasons: 

  • Incomplete/ Improper work order creation resulting from error-prone manual processes
  • Lack of clear or complete interpretation of work order leading to re-work and/ or added costs
  • Lack of effective collaboration between the field resource and the field team manager resulting in the resource arriving at the customer’s location without the right spares
  • Lack of on-time access to tools/spares to service work orders
  • Lack of assistance/remote expertise for field service resource toresolve complex issues
  • Field resource lacks the skills to address the customer problem
  • Customer being unavailable as the field resource arrived late (lack of real time communication)
  • Team manager not being able to find a resource with the requisite skills in time to match service request
  • Field resource not using an optimized route to the customer’s location adding to fuel costs and idle time (of the field resource)
  • Inability to manage preventive maintenance in a timely manner resulting in multiple site visits by the field team

The list of failure points is depressingly large. A number of these problems can be traced back to the fact that companies continue to use manual methods (read: slow, error prone, opaque, non-intelligent worksheets) for field service management. One study has shown that 52% of companies rely on manual methods. 

The problems related to manual processes are about to become worse as the Internet of Things (IoT) grows. The IoT will spell the end of an era when a service call was triggered by a break in device or service delivery. IoT will result in more service calls as devices, sensors and networks become intelligent and capable of identifying and forecasting downtime and flagging maintenance issues before they affect operations and SLAs. The coming IoT systems will auto-generate service requests, putting additional pressure on field services to keep pace.

Studies have shown that as many as 89% of customers want to use technology to solve the mounting problems of field service. Not surprisingly, the field services market, comprising solution like Salesforce and Dynamics, is forecasted to boom. Experts estimate that the coming demand will drive growth in the field service management market from the $2.8 billion of 2019 to $5.9 billion by 2024, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 16.2%.

Simplifying field services using experts

Organizations are likely to rush into buying solutions that sport bling and a range of shiny knobs. Therefore, before taking hasty decisions, they must engage with experts like Brillio to determine a business-focused approach to field services solutions and their implementation. 

Brillio brings with it a deep understanding of the field service domain and strong Salesforce, Dynamics Service and field service experience. We also have a team of domain certified and experienced professionals across field service technologies. Advanced data conversion methodology ensuring reliable data for business further adds to the expertise. A partnership with an expert like Brillio could spell the difference between failure and extracting immediate ROI from investments. Expertise must be applied to:

  • Identifying pain points for differing field services persons — from full-time employees to part-time employees, contractors and managers through workshops and one-on-one sessions
  • Aligning with business goals — so that customer challenges are prioritized and solutions created 
  • Using key performance indicators (KPIs) from the customer — to evaluate past performance, analyze and assess areas for improvement; this assessment will be mapped later to automated solutions, eventually improving the adoption of automation
  • Mapping user journeys — by creating process maps across stakeholders and identifying best-fit solutions
  • Benchmarking solutions — using competition analysis and adopting solutions, processes and practices used by industry leaders in field service management
  • Implementing industry best practices — based on knowledge and experience acquired from delivering and managing field services for adjacent industries

Broadly, any solution should begin with delivering a mobile-first experience. Field service resources and executives should be provided access to applications that match the problem with solutions and with spares in the inventory. Importantly, the solution should provide real time communication and data sharing capabilities between field service managers, customers, field service resources and remote experts. The only way to do this effectively is to leverage automation that aids in accurately and intuitively completing administrative tasks and providing technical assistance. 

Making the right purchase decision

There are critical questions that field service technology buyers must ask before making a purchase decision. These are questions that experienced field service managers have been trying to answer (unsuccessfully) for years. For example, does the solution:

  • Have access to adequate data to accurately identify the customer’s problem? 
  • Use intelligence to match the skills of available field service resources with customer issues? 
  • Integrate CRM with inventory management? 
  • Use automation and Machine Learning to deliver smart scheduling of resources based on business rules, inventory, ticket queue, calendar, territory, problem severity and customer urgency? 
  • Match customer problems with spares/ knowledge base in the inventory to improve FTR? 
  • Select the most proximal field service resource to the customer and automatically assign tasks for workforce optimization?
  • Integrate with Google maps to provide optimal travel routes to bring down costs, ensure better utilization of time and alert managers to field service performance? 
  • Automatically capture the location of the customer and the field service resource to complete time sheets, reduce manual work and drive workforce utilization? 
  • Have chat tools that allow real time collaboration between experts, colleagues and the customer? 
  • Take snapshots of the problem and share it with remote experts, allowing them to guide the on-site resource with their experience in real time? 
  • Take customer feedback/ rating and acknowledgement instantly on the mobile device? 

In other words, the solution must deliver a complete real time connected experience that brings together stakeholders, experts, skills, knowledge base, CRM intelligence and inventory management into tomorrow’s field service management. 

These challenges that field service teams have faced are no longer unsolvable. Mobile technologies, automation, Machine Learning, Image Recognition, Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and real-time data analytics can create simple and dependable solutions for work order management, field force utilization and contract adherence.

Without doubt, the tools for field service management need an urgent overhaul. With the availability of new technology, the field service function can be easily transformed to an intelligent 4.0 phase, creating a deep and lasting impact on business.

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