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December 7, 2018 | 2 Mins Read

Welcome To The Future of Field Service

December 7, 2018 | 2 Mins Read

Welcome To The Future of Field Service

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

As I approach 11 years in this industry, I can’t help but reflect back on not only my personal journey but all of the ways in which the industry has progressed. What strikes me is the realization that we’ve finally arrived in the future of field service! My early days were filled with writing articles on real-time knowledge transfer, the use of field mobility, and integration of GPS data. A few years later it was IoT’s early coverage (then referred to as M2M). The concepts and technologies we’ve been discussing for a very long time have set the stage for service organizations to truly embrace and capitalize on the future of field service by transforming service delivery, reinventing the customer experience, and creating a more strategic, profitable service organization.

Where the industry is at is exciting, and where it is headed is even more so. The foundation service organizations have laid with optimized processes and strong automation provides limitless opportunity for true innovation and transformation.

We’ve also arrived in The Future of Field Service – as in, the site you are reading right now! This site is a resource created in partnership with IFS and WorkWave to provide a platform for true thought leadership, knowledge sharing among service peers, and industry collaboration. I am honored to be at the helm and am committed to delivering quality content on the topics that matter most to you.

What can you expect from Future of Field Service? We’ll strive to feature the voice of the industry, both in the form of success stories and topical interviews. I will provide analysis of the challenges, trends, and opportunities I feel are relevant to the service community. We’ll feature insight from other industry thought leaders, including analysts, consultants, and guest experts. While you might see the occasional product-related piece of content here, that will generally be kept to the corporate sites – this will be more focused on high-level industry trends and themes.

While the name of the site has “Future” in it, it is important to note that the insight you’ll find here won’t all be forward-looking. We feel it is important to help service organizations both master the present and prepare for the future – so you’ll also fine content here that provides more tactical advice for conquering some of today’s most common challenges.

I welcome each of you to this new resource – thank you for joining me on this journey into the future! For this to be a valuable forum for the service community the way we intend it to be, I need your engagement and insight. Please reach out to me with any thoughts you have on topics you’d like to see covered, formats of content you prefer, and of course if you have a story of your own I can help you tell! You can reach me at sarah@futureoffieldservice.com.

December 7, 2018 | 6 Mins Read

Gosiger's Three-Pronged Service Transformation

December 7, 2018 | 6 Mins Read

Gosiger's Three-Pronged Service Transformation

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Gosiger’s business transformation included investment in a field service management system that, through efficiency gains, gives the company the capacity to take on an additional $2.6 million in service work each year.

Gosiger, a 90-year-old family-owned and operated machine tool distributor and manufacturing solutions provider headquartered in Dayton, OH, delivers machine tool solutions — including high-performance machines, engineering, service, support, and parts — in 13 states. The company employs 185 service technicians who install and repair the machine equipment.

Within the past couple of years, Gosiger has taken on the effort of modernizing its service operations – and continues to do so. Like most service organizations, the company has historically operated a traditional break-fix service model. In 2014, Gosiger recognized the need to make some changes. To help flush out the opportunity that existed to transform its business, the company decided to work with Jolt Consulting Group. “We know our service organization is very competent compared to the competitors in our industry. But our industry, as a whole, lags others in terms of providing world-class customer service. When we decided to embark on this journey, we felt that working with a consultant that had clients outside of the machine tool industry would broaden our perspective,” says Roger O’Connor, VP of product support at Gosiger.

Three Major Areas of Business Improvement

As Gosiger began to map out its transformation objectives, three primary areas came into play: the need to migrate its business from strictly break-fix work to more contractual service work (predictive service/ preventative maintenance), the need to develop KPIs to better track the performance of the service business and to enable the measurement of improvements, and the desire to determine the best ways to leverage technology to modernize and automate the service operation. Over the period of a year, Gosiger and Jolt Consulting Group worked together on developing service contracts, creating KPIs, and writing a technology road map.

“From a service contracts perspective, we’re looking to increase the share of preventative maintenance/predictive service visits,” says O’Connor. This shift not only enables Gosiger to better service its customers by reducing failures and downtime, but it also makes service work easier to manage and schedule because it is planned in advance. “This transition remains a work in progress. The vast majority of our service work, over 90 percent, is done on a break-fix basis and it is taking time for customers to embrace the idea of service contract for their machine tool. We continue to work on the value proposition for our customer to make progress in this migration.”

The development of KPIs was necessary so that Gosiger could set a benchmark of service from which to measure improvement. “We had KPIs before this project, we just had dozens of them and we’d focus on different ones depending on the ‘topic of the day.’ With Jolt, we streamlined and committed ourselves to getting to no more than five KPIs,” says O’Connor.

Thirdly, Gosiger knew it needed to invest in more modern technologies to manage its service operation. The company used a variety of manual systems and worked with Jolt to create a technology road map to not only determine exactly which areas of its service operation could benefit from modernization but also the right order in which to tackle these projects.

The Importance of a Technology Road Map

Major areas to address from a technology perspective coming out of its work with Jolt were Gosiger’s need for an improved scheduling system, the capability to manage the company’s new service contracts, the ability to integrate GPS data, and a better mobile solution. “Our ERP does a great job of managing our warehouse and parts business,” says O’Connor, “but its service module just didn’t work for a company of our size. It was Excel-based and we had issues with files getting lost, a major lack of visibility into the work being conducted in the field, and our laptops weren’t working well. Our techs wanted a way to be able to view and complete work orders from their cell phones,” says O’Connor.

Gosiger worked with Jolt to set the criteria for a new field service management solution. “Our service managers and schedulers were keeping whiteboards, because they didn’t like the tool that was available to them,” says O’Connor. A more user-friendly scheduling solution was imperative, as was gaining a way within the solution to capture data from incoming service calls that didn’t result in an immediate job. Gosiger wanted a solution that had an efficient method of creating and sending work orders, as well as a mobile interface that would enable technicians to use smartphones like they were asking to.

Gosiger evaluated four field service management providers before selecting IFS Field Service Management (FSM). “Our evaluation included not only the capabilities of the solution weighted against the cost, but also the financial stability of the software provider,” says O’Connor. “IFSM FSM was the leader in our evaluation. The solution provided the optimized scheduling and mobile capabilities we needed, and integrated with our ERP solution.”

Gosiger phased deployment of IFS FSM and started with dual processing so that employees could learn the new system without the risk of errors. “We wanted to run both until we were certain there wouldn’t be any major hiccups,” says O’Connor. “We did so for about a month before we were comfortable switching over completely.”

Gosiger has three different divisions based on product lines, and each had been operating on its own for scheduling and dispatch. The company started the IFS FSM rollout with the division it felt would require the least customization and integration in an effort to get up and running and further evaluate the new solution. This was considered phase one of the deployment. During phase two, the remaining divisions were brought onto IFS FSM. “This required some integration, because each division had its own complexities,” explains O’Connor. “We started with the biggest division first, to get as many techs up and running on the system as quickly as we could, and then tackled the integration of the other two groups.”

For training, Gosiger worked with Jolt to create a training team with a dedicated project manager. “The training team included representatives from each function — someone from the parts group, the call center, the field team, etc. The representative for each function that was part of the training group was responsible for creating the documentation for that function. So the scheduling team member created the training documentation for the scheduling role, and so on,” explains O’Connor. Some on-site training was done, but the bulk of the training was able to be conducted via WebEx.

Promoting Technology Acceptance and Adoption

No one expects technology deployment to be entirely seamless, and this held true for Gosiger. “Eighty percent of it went extremely well, but the other 20 percent required some handholding,” says O’Connor. He points out that many of the employees were tech savvy and picked up the use of the new solution right away, with no problems. But that can’t be expected of everyone; some others needed far more help. “We tried to have a lead or champion in every office,” O’Connor explains. “We picked leads we knew were very good with the solution, and asked them to help their colleagues locally, just by working in the system with them.”

With IFS FSM in place, the call center and scheduling roles have evolved. IFS FSM enables call center staff to far more easily input incoming calls, so data is more complete. The scheduling tool is more advanced and has a strong UI, so schedulers no longer opt for white boards over the technology.

In the field, Gosiger’s technicians are able to use IFS FSM on their smartphones. “The use of smartphones in and of itself is more efficient, because there’s no time spent firing up the laptop and connecting to Wi-Fi at each location,” notes O’Connor. With the streamlined communication IFS FSM enables, Gosiger’s technicians can operate more efficiently. This added efficiency in turn allows Gosiger the capacity to handle more work. “Through the additional work our technicians can handle in part by using IFS FSM, we are able accommodate a service revenue increase of $2.6 million from 2017 to 2018,” says O’Connor.

Looking forward, Gosiger has plans to continue the modernization of its field operations by moving to the new version of IFS FSM, layering on new technologies such as AR (augmented reality), and furthering its progress toward contract-based service.

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December 7, 2018 | 6 Mins Read

Practical Advice For Turning Customer Experience Talk Into Action

December 7, 2018 | 6 Mins Read

Practical Advice For Turning Customer Experience Talk Into Action

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

According to a report released by Field Technologies in November, improving customer experience was reported the #1 strategic initiative for 76 percent of service organizations surveyed. While some of these field service organizations are really embracing CX and implementing a true strategy, others I’ve encountered know that CX is something they should be focusing on, so they claim to have a “CX focus” without much actual strategy or action behind it.

Schindler Elevator Corporation is a great example of a company that is genuinely embracing CX in an actionable way. In fact, in August of 2018, the company brought on board Stacy Sherman as the Director of Customer Experience. Throughout Sherman’s 20-plus year career as a CX and digital marketing professional, she has gained expertise in developing and launching revenue-producing marketing campaigns, CX programs, and Voice of Customer (VOC) initiatives. Before her role at Schindler, Sherman worked at Verizon Wireless, AT&T and well-known Consumer Product (CPG) companies where she led a variety of CX initiatives, including persona development, journey mapping, concept validation, prototype and usertesting. She's also co-developed a new CX scoring platform to aggregate and prioritize customer feedback across journey touchpoints for post-launch improvements. In her spare time, Sherman co-authors a CX blog – www.doingcxright.com – that translates her experience into valuable perspective for those looking to get a better grasp on CX strategy and tactics.

Nicastro: In your words, why is it essential for service organizations to invest in CX?

Sherman: My answer is simple. Customer Excellence is NOT a fad. It is no longer a “nice to do” but rather a “have to do.” CX has become a company's competitive advantage, as brands cannot acquire and retain customers strictly on price alone. To really “walk the CX talk,” leaders need to allocate budget for hiring CX-skilled professionals and invest in the best tools and platforms to measure customer satisfaction and take action from insights obtained. If, for example, the level of effort is difficult (i.e. getting and setting up) or they can’t accomplish a goal (i.e. receiving help), people are likely to switch to another brand and even worse, tell others leading to potentially more substantial impacts. I can go on and on about this topic!

Nicastro: For a company that is in the beginning stages of a true customer-centric approach, what advice do you have for how to incorporate CX into the company culture?

Sherman: Creating a customer-centric culture does NOT occur overnight. It takes a lot of time and employee commitment. There are many ways to achieve a “customer-first” organization. My top two recommendations are to get an Executive champion (or several) in your company as it speeds up the process. Secondly, train people at all levels of the organization, especially front-line employees, on CX. In a prior job, I spearheaded a CX Training program for my team to get certified by a prestigious university. It helped everyone understand the importance of CX, learn best practices, implement CX in their roles, speak the same language and much more. I believe it was a contributing factor to achieving our department goals. If you would like to know more about the program and my personal experience, you can read the article >HERE.

Nicastro: You talk on your blog about VOC. What is VOC, why is it important, and how do companies go about getting it?

Sherman: Ah, great question as not too long ago, nobody knew what this acronym was. Now VOC is part of common-day language in the business world. VOC stands for “Voice of Customer.” Getting customer feedback is an essential part of conducting business. I’ve seen too many companies develop new products and features without asking customers directly what they want upfront, and then wonder why they do not achieve sales goals. It's the same for online websites, apps, and other customer digital experiences. Designing without VOC input and user testing often results in customer frustration and dissatisfaction, which leads me back to the first question and why investing in CX methodologies is essential. There are many ways to capture VOC feedback. Sources include but are not limited to: 1-1 interviews, focus groups, online chat, call center recordings, social media, ratings and reviews, surveys, and more. Which one to leverage depends on different factors, and there are best practices to each source. The key to CX success is aggregating all the quantitative and qualitative insights, centralizing the information, identifying key priorities and taking action (close the loop) to drive improvements.

Nicastro: How are VOC and Customer Journey Mapping different? What is the value of Customer Journey Mapping?

Sherman: There’s a lot to say about this question. First of all, a customer journey map is a simple concept: it is a diagram that shows the steps customer(s) go through when interacting with a company. The need for journey maps becomes more critical as the number of touchpoints increase and get more complex. There are many ways to create journey maps. Though they may look visually different from one organization to another, there are consistent elements regardless of design:

Personas. Journey maps need to be created for specific customer segments. Maps account for how target audiences think and feel, their expectations, perceptions and more.

Touchpoints. Journey maps identify a series of steps that customers go through as they proceed through lifecycle stages and channels.

Data. It is compiled from a variety of sources internally (i.e. website analytics) and externally (i.e. surveys). The quantitative and qualitative insights help bring the customer to life.

There are many benefits of Journey Mapping:

  1. It enables teams to understand their customers and create desired experiences in support of launches (products, services, websites, etc).
  2. It allows information to be organized in one place with the ability to identify actionable improvement opportunities.
  3. It helps cross-teams prioritize decisions together and focus resources on fixing customer pain points.
  4. It serves as a communication tool to keep everyone on the “same page.” Maps may also be useful for employee training.
  5. It helps leaders identify operational inefficiencies to ensure employees are spending time on activities that add customer value.

As for Voice of Customer, VOC serves as an input when creating a Journey Map. It’s a component of a CX practice and a significant part. We offer a free template to help journey mapping efforts >HERE.

Nicastro: How does a company measure CX as well as track the improvement/payoff of its CX investments?

Sherman: There are many metrics to gauge customer perceptions and expectations, and how well a company delivers on these. The most well-known measurement source is Net Promoter Score (NPS). In simplest terms, it is a single question asked of customers: “How Likely Would You Recommend (insert company name) To Your Friend or Business Colleague?” The answer indicates how customers view a brand and is based on a mathematical approach. There’s an informative short video that explains the history of NPS, the NPS equation and the meaning behind the score, >HERE. NPS is not the only key performance indicator. Measuring Customer Satisfaction (C-Sat), Level of Effort, Sentiments, and others are equally important because they are DRIVERS of NPS. There is no exact science to calculating ROI when it comes to CX, but you could make projections about the RISK of losing a customer when not “DoingCXRight!”

 Nicastro: What are the biggest mistakes you see companies make related to CX?

Sherman: There are many examples of Doing CX Wrong but to name a few:

-Asking people for feedback and not doing anything with what they shared. If "closing the loop" is not part of your strategy, then do not waste a customer's valuable time.

-Focusing on just one or few customer touch points rather than their whole journey. If someone is satisfied with their buying experience but has a challenge with installation and understanding their bill, chances are the customer may cancel their service and switch to a competitor.

-Relying on employee feedback aka “Voice of Employee” (VOE) in place of “Voice of Customer” (VOC). Decisions need to be made based on an “Outside In” approach, not the reverse. I’ve witnessed many teams design Journey Maps without ever validating them with actual customers. That can turn into a costly mistake!

Nicastro: How do you see CX evolving over the next year?

Sherman: I believe that emerging technology including Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is bringing CX to the next level allowing customer experiences to be more personalized.

I also believe that more universities will be including CX as part of the business curriculum, as Customer Excellence is becoming a career path with expertise in demand.

All opinions expressed are Stacy’s alone and do not reflect the views of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

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December 7, 2018 | 5 Mins Read

Konica Minolta Healthcare’s Practical Approach To Driving Value From IoT and AI

December 7, 2018 | 5 Mins Read

Konica Minolta Healthcare’s Practical Approach To Driving Value From IoT and AI

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

According to IDC’s Top 10 2019 Predictions for Digital Transformation, at least 55% of organizations will be digitally determined, transforming markets and re-imagining the future through new business models and digitally enabled products and services, by 2020. Konica Minolta Healthcare Americas, Inc. is one company that is leading the way.

Konica Minolta Healthcare Americas, Inc., headquartered in Wayne, NJ, is focused on imaging technologies including digital radiography, ultrasound, healthcare IT, and service solutions. In the Americas, Konica Minolta Healthcare employs 50 direct service technicians and 250 dealer-based technicians. Kevin Chlopecki is the VP of Service and Operations for Konica Minolta Healthcare Americas. Chlopecki’s passion for digital transformation is impressive, and the company’s journey is one that offers valuable lessons for others along their way.

Define Your Vision

Chlopecki’s mission to evolve Konica’s service delivery model from reactive to prescriptive has set the stage for many changes the company has made over the past couple years and will continue to drive further evolution in the years to come. Not only does Chlopecki desire to make Konica’s service operations more effective and efficient, but he has a genuine interest in making the lives of Konica customers easier as well as improving the care those customers provide to their patients.

Moreover, looking for ways to differentiate on service is important to Konica as a relatively small player in its industry. “We are providing tools and services to our customers that enable them to improve productivity and maximize return on their capital equipment investments. We realize that optimizing our service delivery and leveraging powerful data analytics gives us a real opportunity to ‘beat the big guys,’” says Chlopecki. If you aren’t on a level playing field with your competition from a resource and budget perspective, looking for opportunities to leverage technology and streamline processes to win at the service experience level is a brilliant approach.

Having a clear vision for what you want to do and why is important, according to Chlopecki, because you will inevitably be challenged along the way. “Digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight – it is an ongoing process,” says Chlopecki. “As such, you’ll go through a cadence of change where your strategy, methods, and choices will be challenged again and again. You have to have a strong vision, and hold tight to that.”

Lay The Proper Foundation For Digital Transformation

Chlopecki has had an “end state” in mind for Konica for quite a while but recognized long ago that you can’t rush the process. This is an area where many companies could benefit from taking notes, because all too often you get an end goal in mind and start rushing to get there. The rush results in overlooked ground work that needs done, oversight of cultural shift and change management, and often short-sighted technology selection. Taking your time and laying the proper foundation for your desired end state is crucial to success.

For Konica, this meant that Chlopecki and the company had to start with some simpler building blocks of modern mobile devices and proper service management. These elements were fundamental in being able to build upon with the use of IoT, and most recently AI. “To be able to be intentional about how you leverage data, you first have to effectively collect it,” says Chlopecki. “Our first step was to ensure we had strong systems in place for field automation, as well as strong adoption, and from there we could begin to build on the next phase of our vision.”

Konica equipped its field technicians with iPads, deployed a service management solution, and then began to take advantage of IoT data. In leveraging the IoT, Konica began to realize the potential of layering on AI to further derive value from its data. However, with limited resources, it wasn’t realistic for the company to employ a team of data scientists to realize the value of AI. Instead, Chlopecki worked to find another way.

Find Ways To Simplify Complex Technology

Small to medium size business are fortunate to have a wide range of tools at their disposal today that are incredibly sophisticated but relatively inexpensive. In order to capitalize on the potential it saw with AI, Konica has coupled its connected devices and data derived from them with a business intelligence platform provided by Domo.

“Not only can we use IoT as a way to provide greater value in our service contracts, but we also use it internally to examine failure points, failure rates, and so on,” says Chlopecki. “By layering on AI, we have been able to go back through our data and triangulate to see and anticipate problems we can fix. For instance, in examining hard drive failures, we were able to use historical data to predict – and avoid – upcoming failures. We’re taking our connected devices, failures reported over an aggregate of time, and cross-correlating to learn and then apply to all current inbound events.”

This insight is useful to Konica in many ways. First, to improve service operations – including the ability to perform remote repairs. Two, to feed data back into product development. And third, to better serve its customers – both in the form of using data as a value add on service contracts, as well as to be able to provide customers custom data that they may be willing to pay for.

“Not only are we able to provide data our customers find incredibly valuable, but we are working to do so in a way that is different and unique,” says Chlopecki. “We have released an app that displays this data in a customized, easy-to-consume way so that a technologist can see information in a way that will resonate with them instead of having to pour through charts and graphs. Again, we’re always coming at this from the perspective of how we can make the lives of our customers easier.”

Chlopecki noted during our chat that while there’s incredible potential with AI, many companies just “don’t know what to do with it yet.” Based on his experience at Konica bringing this project to life, his advice is as follows:

  • Define a clear vision. “Our vision is for service to be our primary differentiator, so every decision we make is measured against how it helps us achieve that goal,” he says.
  • Start with your service data. “You have to start with your internal systems and ensure you have optimized, automated service processes and a good flow of data from the field to the back office,” he says.
  • Incorporate IoT. “Once your service management is solid, work on connecting to the field using IoT. It is best to start small with a pilot group so that you can test, learn, and refine before broadening,” he says.
  • Enlist AI help. “Look for partners to help you develop your AI vision. There are affordable options – you don’t have to employ a team of data scientists. AI is more attainable than people think,” he says.

Passion Leads To Perseverance

In summary, Chlopecki cautions that you prepare for a bumpy ride – and when challenges arise, hold tight to your vision. Having a true passion for what you’re doing is what will enable you to be as persistent as you need to persevere until your vision comes to life. “You’ll have thousands of opportunities to give up,” says Chlopecki.

Passion for what you’re doing is what will see you through.

Kevin Chlopecki

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December 7, 2018 | 5 Mins Read

Weighing Advantages and Obstacles of the Contingent Workforce Model

December 7, 2018 | 5 Mins Read

Weighing Advantages and Obstacles of the Contingent Workforce Model

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Few of my conversations with field service leaders over the past year haven’t touched on the immense struggle of recruiting and hiring field technicians. In all service verticals, but particularly those more mechanical in nature versus technical in nature, the lack of capable and willing labor is keeping people up at night. As such, some organizations are turning to a contingent workforce model to supplement their internal teams. Other companies that are introducing new service offerings are leveraging a contracted workforce as a way to push into new service areas.

When asked to summarize the biggest value proposition of leveraging a contingent workforce, Tom Paquin, Research Analyst, Service Management at Aberdeen says, “In a sentence: Contingent labor  helps firms mitigate labor shortages and quickly enter new service markets. For that to work, of course, it needs to be coupled with the appropriate technologies and systems of oversight.”

According to Aberdeen’s latest research, there has been a substantial leap in the use of contingent workers by service organizations over the last few years. “Our most recent study put the current share of overall contracted technicians at over 25 percent,” says Paquin. “We can track a few different reasons why this is happening. One major contributor is the fact that technician turnover continues to rise. Aberdeen’s recent study has shown an average turnover rate of 32 percent, and what comes along with it is a dramatic loss of technical know-how, on-the-job experience, and understanding of the industry landscape. Many firms are struggling to ramp up new technicians quickly enough, so the logical choice is to turn to independent entities who understand the space, and the challenges, though are not necessarily experts on the product.”

Paquin notes that an area of particular interest in contracted labor is among warranty services and OEMs. “These are often firms with no previous formal service organization who are looking for ways to build one. Contingent employees, when leveraged correctly, provide a fast-track to servitization. More warranty firms and OEMs are getting to the point where they realize that they need to either break into or start having greater oversight into service,” he says. “Thirty-seven percent of firms in those two categories have indicated that they’re looking to create new as-a-service options for customers this year. Which makes sense—rather than have an independent entity servicing a customer’s boiler, for example, you manage a contractor network and can then send that same person out. They’re certified by you, and you collect a little extra revenue. You go from having zero oversight into how your products are being serviced to owning the entire experience, with minimal ramp-up. What’s not to like? The hardest part is courting the contractor network.

 While the appeal of contingent workers to organizations that don’t already manage service in-house is obvious, the use of contracted labor can be a harder sell for organizations that have traditionally managed all service in-house. Some of this hesitancy may simply be fear of change, but Paquin points out certain scenarios in which caution is suggested. “Any organization with delicate proprietary technology would do best to ramp up their team in-house, as there are naturally challenges involved while working with contractors on specific, complex technologies,” he says. “Cable companies are the most obvious example, though a small few do have contracted labor. The question there is—do you want a contractor servicing your equipment, when your equipment requires extensive back-end access to your systems and you know that their next job might be down the street, servicing equipment for your competitor? Beyond that, any industry with strict environmental, health, and safety regulations have much higher barriers to entry for deploying a contingent workforce.”

How Can Technology Ease Contingent Labor Concerns?

For organizations that have historically handled all service in-house and are uncomfortable with the idea of contracted workers, researching technologies that enable greater visibility and control is recommended. “The big question is: How can you control the quality of your service engagements with people that you don’t directly employ?” says Paquin. “Addressing that problem is part of the reason contingent employee adoption is on the rise today. That control challenge is mitigated by the slew of field service management technologies designed to ‘connect the dots’ and provide a seamless relationship between the firm, internal techs, and contracted technicians. In fact, firms with higher-than-average percentages of contingent employees see much higher rates of year-over-year improvement in time from ticket to invoice, overall technician efficiency, and service contract renewals. Businesses move slowly, especially when they’re entrenched in a traditional engagement model, but when you’re ready to make the adjustment, there are a great deal of safety nets in place, and the ROI is tangible.

 So, what technologies play the biggest role in the successful utilization of contingent labor? “There are dozens and dozens of technologies that make the transition to a contingent workforce more effective, from unified parts management to augmented reality, but really there are three that loom largest: A robust, full-featured field service management solution, strong fleet management, and integration from third-party management utilities,” says Paquin. “If you’re considering contingent employees at all, you owe it to yourself to make sure that your field service technologies have the capabilities to support them, both in terms of built-in processes, as well as the ability to integrate effectively with other tools.”

Whether you’re an organization that is ready to embrace contracted labor or one that has a laundry list of concerns, it is important to recognize the evolving landscape of labor and to consider how continued changes will have to factor in to your labor strategy. “Set aside service for a moment and realize that, in any industry, more and more young people are going to work for themselves. Couple that with fewer technical programs and apprenticeships being offered and the sad truth remains: Today’s full-time technician shortages are not going to dissipate. Organizations are going to have to be more nimble with fewer employees, and contingent labor is proving itself to be an capable utility to help them do so,” concludes Paquin.

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December 7, 2018 | 5 Mins Read

The Secret To Markem-Imaje’s Digital Transformation Success

December 7, 2018 | 5 Mins Read

The Secret To Markem-Imaje’s Digital Transformation Success

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Spoiler alert: there’s no secret. Success in digital transformation comes from a lot of hard work. Sadly, many organizations either don’t realize the legwork that goes into digital transformation or think they can cut corners without feeling the impact. As Jack Rijnenberg, director of global customer service at Markem-Imaje will attest to, the only true path to a successful digital transformation is through the hard work – you can’t cut around it. Markem-Imaje is a Dover Corporation company that specializes in printing and marking technology. The company operates in 30 countries direct, employs more than 3,000, and has a team of 700 field technicians. Markem-Imaje’s customers include Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Coca-Cola, and Pepsico. The company’s field technicians provide a combination of installation, training, break-fix, contract repair, and presales support services.

Rijnenberg recently led the company through the major undertaking of standardizing its field service processes and technologies worldwide. Markem-Imaje had the foresight to realize that to be successful in its business transformation efforts, it needed to first completely review and reshape its existing service processes to make sure they were the most effective and efficient possible (and make changes to them where needed). In talking with Rijnenberg, it is clear that the effort Markem-Imaje put into its people and processes before layering on technology was the key to its successful digital transformation. Here Rijnenberg shares his experience in what it takes to set yourself up for digital transformation success.

Nicastro: When you first determined the need to standardize and automate your service operations, where did you begin in terms of scoping the project and determining the appropriate sequence of events?

Rijnenberg: The first driver of our field automation project was the significant amount of time our field engineers spent doing administrative work following their on-site service jobs (closing service orders, replenishing their car stock, etc.) and, moreover, the delay this administrative work brought to the speed of invoicing and thus cash flow. With the need identified, we started by defining what “good” would look like to us, as well as setting KPIs to measure our progress and success. We considered questions such as what is our service value proposition, how do we want to deliver service, and what is the value in automation to our internal stakeholders. As we answered those questions, we worked to evaluate our current state and determine the gaps we needed to close to achieve our target or desired state. These gaps from current processes to targeted outcomes differed between regions and operations, so we had to develop some individual action plans and accompany all of our action plans with a tight change management strategy.

Nicastro: What were some of the steps you needed to take as a business before even beginning to evaluate technology choices?

Rijnenberg: I would say that the most important step was to get alignment and agreement among with the company’s top management on the business case.

Nicastro: Explain your process review/evaluation, and why you feel it was ultimately critical to the project’s success.

Rijnenberg: The key factor of our success has been the work we put into the harmonization/standardization of our service delivery processes worldwide (over 35 countries). The implementation, training on, and maintenance of a field service automation tool would be an impossible challenge without having done this initial “legwork.” We have spent a large amount of time in service process change management. This started first in an effort to get a worldwide agreement on what the future state of our processes would be, and was followed by individual action plans because all operations started from a different process baseline.

Nicastro: Upon completing that review and identifying areas that needed addressed, what were the next steps for standardizing and optimizing the processes?

Rijnenberg: We first created the blueprint together with the main process owners, then worked to design the FSE tool. We completed a pilot for six months and made required adjustments and modifications from the learnings during the pilot. Next we trained super users in the regions and countries, simultaneously on the new processes and automation tool. We then started a phased rollout training users in the countries on the optimized processes and technology. We now conduct user surveys every six months as part of our ongoing change management strategy.

Nicastro: You’ve talked with peers that feel as though their technology investment has failed them, when in reality they didn’t adequately prepare BEFORE layering on technology. What’s your opinion on why this happens and practical advice for someone just starting out to avoid the headaches this oversight causes? 

Rijnenberg: The key factors of success in this type of service transformation project are, first, standardize and optimize your processes before adding technology. Second, make sure your stakeholders and users fully understand what they will get (and won’t get) with the tool you’ve selected. And lastly, ensure you are providing strong support in deployment phase (between business owners, internal ICT, and your FSA partner).

Nicastro: Let’s talk about the people aspect of this. This effort was a MAJOR change. Many countries/regions were changing how they had been conducting business. Everyone was introduced to new technology. How did you handle such a change in culture – what change management, training, and communication methods did you use? What role do you feel these played in the success of your project?

Rijnenberg: Change management plays a critical role and having a sound strategy is imperative. For each of the process steps, we determined if there would be a change related to four areas: tool, activity, culture, or organization. This exercise helped us to determine where we were introducing change and could anticipate potential issues, and preemptively develop a strategy for bridging those gaps. Overall, I will say that our FSEs have been eager to receive an automated tool because they all welcomed the ease it would bring to their jobs in terms of administration, having access to information at their fingertips to do a better job onsite, and gaining the ability to better collaborate with their peers. So in that sense, the change management of implementing the technology itself was relatively easy.

Nicastro: What other thoughts or advice can you provide for a peer on why it’s worth it to slow down and do a project like this right?

Rijnenberg: You obviously never have enough time to implement and are under pressure, but I would strongly advise when setting priorities and areas of focus never to assume things. It is so important to take the time to get a clear picture of the current state in each operation, compare this with your desired future state, and develop your roadmap from there.

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December 7, 2018 | 4 Mins Read

Best Practices In Service Parts Logistics

December 7, 2018 | 4 Mins Read

Best Practices In Service Parts Logistics

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By Micheal Blumberg

Service Parts Logistics Management represents the largest investment and second largest operating expense within an Aftermarket Service or Field Service Organization (FSO). Service parts also represents one of the most critical resources required for ensuring high first-time fix rates and recurring revenue. Therefore, anything that a FSO can do to improve the productivity, efficiency, or quality of the service parts logistics pipeline will have a dramatic positive impact of financial performance and customer satisfaction.

To understand where and how to improve service parts management, let’s first examine critical operational issues that impact financial performance of the service parts function. Our research indicates that 60 to 75 percent of all service requests require spare parts to resolve the issues.  As a result, an FSO is likely to experience low inventory fill rates and/or low first-time fix rates if they do not have adequate systems or procedures in place to ensure parts availability where and when needed.

Another issue is that nearly 50 percent of the value of an FSO’s parts inventory can be found below manned parts depots or warehouses (i.e., vans/trunks, branch offices, or consigned to the customer site). The problem is that many FSOs don’t know exactly where this inventory is located or what the dollar value is at each location. Without this understanding, FSOs run the risk of having too much inventory in manned warehouses to compensate for their lack of information.

Before you click away, disappointed that I brought up something as practical and boring as time management, hear me out. My intent is not to crush your spirits.

One reason why spare parts are often located below manned warehouses is because the FSO has not implemented the appropriate controls to track these parts. Another is because the parts have not been returned through the FSO’s reverse logistics and/or depot repair operations when it is deemed defective or no longer required. Approximately 80 percent of the value of spare parts in the logistics pipeline fall into this category. However, it is also important to consider that 30 to 35 percent of parts returned to depot repair operations are actually good parts. The reason they are returned, if at all, is because either the FSO’s FSE misdiagnosed the problem or used the spare part as a test procedure. In other words, replacing a spare part in a problem unit to determine if the problem is indeed due to a defective spare part.      

Navigating The Complexity Of Spare Parts Management

As a result of these issues, spare parts management becomes a complex task. Having too many spare parts on hand can have a negative impact on the balance sheet and income statement; too few parts can result in degradation of service quality and customer satisfaction. Fortunately, there are several best practices that FSOs can implement to avoid these challenges. These include: 

  • Track and control spare parts: FSOs can utilize bar codes, RFID, and blockchain to track and control the volume and value of spare parts in all stocking locations whether manned or unmanned.
  • Leverage IT Infrastructure: Utilizing enterprise management systems and best of breed software solutions to manage, plan, forecast, and coordinate spare parts inventory can have a dramatic positive impact on improving first-time fix rates and inventory availability levels.
  • Expedite delivery to reduce logistics investment: By moving toward same-day or next-day parts delivery and storing spare parts in Forward Stocking Locations (FSL) that serve multiple FSEs or customer sites, an FSO can significantly lower their investment in spare parts.
  • Improve front-end diagnostics: Implementing remote support and IoT solutions to identify the problem, symptom, and root cause of a problem prior to dispatch will increase the probability that the FSE has the right part on hand and that he/she does not utilize spare parts as a form of test equipment.
  • Advance Depot Repair Operations: Transforming depot repair activities from a job shop to assembly line function, implementing test and screening procedures pre- and post-repair, and performing these functions in FSLs and Regional Return Centers will improve spare parts velocity (i.e., cycle) time and reduce inventory stocking level requirements.

Benchmark research by Blumberg Advisory indicates that significant improvements in efficiency and productivity can be achieved by implementing the strategies identified above. The average percentage improvement by key performance indicator is as follows:

By implementing these best practices, FSOs will also find they operate a stronger balance sheet, healthier profit margins, and higher levels of customer satisfaction. These strategies all have several things in common, namely a heavy reliance on data, technology (i.e., information systems), and process improvements. 

Companies that operate asset-intensive field service operations, in other words those that maintain a high investment in spare parts, should give serious consideration to implementing the strategies identified above. This requires that FSOs examine how well their internal logistics management systems align with the state of the art, as well as assess the impact these systems have on KPIs related to Service Parts Management. In other words, conduct a benchmark evaluation of these systems, process, and KPIs against industry standards and best in class performance.

To learn more about Service Parts benchmarks and best practices check out Blumberg Advisory Group’s Operational Excellence consulting practice at https://blumberg-advisor.com/operational-excellence/

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December 7, 2018 | 3 Mins Read

3 Essential Characteristics Of Self-Service

December 7, 2018 | 3 Mins Read

3 Essential Characteristics Of Self-Service

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

I was reading a Forrester 2019 Customer Experience (CX) predictions blog last week and this quote stuck out to me, “Meanwhile, customer expectations have been rising slowly but steadily. In the current favorable economy, it’s likely that this movement will continue, pressuring firms to improve CX just to keep from falling back even further. It’s like what the Red Queen said in Through the Looking-Glass: ‘. . . it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.’”

While many field service organizations may feel they are running in place with their efforts to advance CX, it is important to keep the forward motion. As you work to further your CX initiatives, self-service is a critical topic. You can’t provide a stellar CX without strong self-service capabilities, and the demand from your customers to take control of their service experiences is only going to increase.

I spoke recently with Aly Pinder Jr, Program Director, Service Innovation & Connected Products at IDC Manufacturing Insights about what he feels 2019 will bring, and the expansion of self-service offerings quickly came up. “I believe customers will play a bigger role in their own service experiences. Customer portals will go beyond an FAQ tab to empower the customer to interact with the service organization, peers, or even the front-line technician. This added access will transform the relationship between the customer and service organization, adding visibility, value, and a bond that will be tougher to break by a competitor,” he says.

So, what is important to your customers with regard to self-service, and why? Here are three general areas in which you need to ensure you are meeting ever-increasing demands and empowering your customer-base.

  • Seamlessness: Customers want to be able to reach you when they want, how they want. If they call, they want someone to answer. If they prefer mobile, they want to be able to communicate through an app. Some like email while others choose chat. The goal is to be there when they need you, in whatever way they want to reach you. And, most importantly, to ensure that interactions are captured and communicated company-wide so that customers don’t have to repeat themselves or do redundant work.
  • Control: Customers want to be able to take matters into their own hands. In today’s tech-savvy culture, most customers won’t tolerate having to call and wait on hold to schedule an appointment. They want to be able to log on to a portal or use an app to schedule and modify appointments themselves. Self-scheduling is a must-have capability. Customers also want the ability to view information about their account and service history, to make changes to preferences or appointments as needed, and to view information on additional/alternative products and services at their leisure.
  • Real-Time Insight: As consumers, we are so accustomed to being able to access any information we need at any time. From a service perspective, providing the ability for your customers to peruse their account information, history, and scheduled appointments is only step one – but that’s just the beginning. You should also be considering how to provide customers with real-time updates on scheduled appointments, technician details and arrival time, and immediate access to the service summary and invoice upon completion. IoT presents another opportunity to provide real-time information to customers on equipment you’re servicing, and this data is often valuable enough that you can leverage it to increase service revenue.

There are a wealth of solutions available to you today that can help you deliver on your customers’ self-service demands by augmenting your customer service function. Making the investment in strong self-service capabilities is worthwhile, and arguably essential. Your investment will pay off in higher customer satisfaction and NPS scores, as well as providing a competitive edge if you can deliver a truly seamless experience that provides the control and insights your customers are seeking.

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December 6, 2018 | 7 Mins Read

Strong Leadership: The Anchor In a Sea of Field Service Change

December 6, 2018 | 7 Mins Read

Strong Leadership: The Anchor In a Sea of Field Service Change

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By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Bob Latvis has a long history in field service. He started as a field technician at Cox Communications more than 30 years ago and worked his way up through the ranks to serve as the Regional VP of Field Operations at Cox before taking a role as the Regional VP of Technical Operations at Comcast Cable. As a leader within these organizations, Latvis has always focused on being accessible and authentic – traits that have contributed to his success in leading these organizations through decades of change.

Change abounds in the field service space – we’re witnessing an evolution in the delivery of service, rapid changes in customer demands, technology advancements that allow for a brand-new way of operating, a younger generation of technicians coming into play, and much more. All these changes are exciting, but they each present their own challenges. In such a transformative time, strong and effective leadership in field service has never been more important.

What constitutes strong leadership? Latvis and I discussed three key characteristics that he feels constitute strong field service leadership.

Maintain an Employee-First Mentality

The first step in increasing your relatability and authenticity is to have a really strong awareness of and appreciation for what’s going on across the entire business. “I’ve found that it’s helpful to stay current with what is happening in peripheral departments,” says Latvis.

For instance, there is great benefit for the field service leader to attend a marketing team meeting, or to have regular one-on-one meetings with finance or supply chain. Seeking out perspective on how other departments are approaching their business challenges helps to enhance your broader perspective as well as observe how other leaders lead.

Latvis also points out the importance of humility and argues that you can’t be relatable without a heavy dose of it. “In order to be a successful leader, you have to show humility. If you’re the VP coming into a room full of technicians, be humble. Be willing to listen and not be the biggest voice in the room. Just be there as a sponge. Think of it as asking for help in your own development. Employees will embrace that vulnerability. You don’t have to have street credibility; you can build your credibility up by saying, ‘I need your help to be successful.’”

Consider how building your relatability and authenticity will enable you to get closer to your employees, which will in turn help you to improve your operations. “When you’re relatable and your team is comfortable approaching you, they can really help you solve your business problems and define your business strategy. Remember, your frontline employees have a direct pipeline to your customers; they see them every day and talk to them every day — they are gold mines of information. If they don’t feel you’re approachable or relatable, they may see four or five things that could really improve your business but not approach you because they are afraid you would take that as criticism versus ‘Wow, your idea could really save us time, save us money, could improve our customer satisfaction.’”

Latvis suggests keeping in mind the difference between compliance and commitment. “Anyone can create a compliant work environment but doing so will give you the bare minimum of performance. If you work toward creating a committed environment, you’ll get much more because people are committed to doing a great job versus just compliant to doing the bare minimum,” he says.

Other important aspects of relatability and authenticity are speaking in your own voice and always, always being honest. “Speak in your own voice that is recognized as authentic and not scripted,” suggests Latvis. “Communications experts are wonderful at crafting effective messaging, but if it doesn’t sound like something that a person would normally say, credibility can be lost. When folks feel that you are being honest with them, whether they agree with the message or not, it’s accepted much better. If you aren’t transparent in your communication, you leave room for speculation and suspicion.”

The final key to relatability is accessibility. “You have to make yourself accessible. I’m a realist – I understand the email box is filling up left and right, you’ve got your financial statements you need to look over, and you have your business priorities you need to track down. But you have to make yourself accessible, so people see you as somebody that is really invested in them and their job experience.”

Maintain an Employee-First Mentality

Customer experience is top of mind for today’s service organizations, but Latvis suggests you keep in mind that engaged employees are required for a positive customer experience. Therefore, it is important as a leader to maintain an employee-first mentality and to work tirelessly to ensure your employees are engaged and satisfied. “Companies can easily fall into a trap of overlooking employee satisfaction. The perception is often ‘you’re paid to do your job, so just do your job.’ Too much emphasis is put on the extrinsic motivation or compensation — and companies feel the techs should be happy just with what they’re getting paid. Not enough effort is put into empathy, the appreciation of the skill it takes to do their job, and focus on the mutual purpose that you serve,” says Latvis. “We all serve the customer, and from what I’ve seen, when technicians see that the senior leadership is engaged at that level, they know that their going the extra mile makes a difference. Rather than the mindset of ‘Hey, you’re getting paid well. Just do your job,’ it should be, ‘I care about you as a human being, and I want you to be successful.’”

Investing in one-on-ones is a great way to keep employees connected and engaged. “It shows that the leader is engaged in that employee’s continued development, whether that’s into leadership, to make them more technically astute or competent, increasing their financial acumen, or making them a more marketable employee. Having an individual development plan increases employee engagement and shows that the company is invested in the employee’s future. Time put into one-on-ones is a demonstration that you want your employees to build a long-term career with you. The secondary benefit is that it also allows the identification of talent for succession planning.”

Keep in mind that one-on-ones aren’t always possible or practical. While they are a great goal to strive for, the most important thing is to ensure you are staying engaged with your workforce. “The field service workforce is evolving into a more real-time, virtual environment.  This means you can leverage tools like message boards, group text, chat, email and SharePoint to stay connected and augment your face-to-face interactions.”

Take an Active Approach in Managing Change

In a time of great change, much responsibility falls on field service leaders to ensure employees remain informed, comfortable, and confident. Change naturally causes an anxious response, and a good leader can act as a calming force in the face of change. According to Latvis, transparency is the golden rule. “Transparency is the key. Be honest with your workforce. Explaining the ‘why’ behind the change is essential. Without ample explanation, folks will be left to guesswork which leads to increased stress around the change as well as assumptions and conclusions that aren’t always accurate.”

As you’re communicating around change, keep these tips in mind. “Ensure your team knows that you understand that change can be difficult - show empathy and not intolerance. Always emphasize the ways in which this change will help the employees you’re communicating it to – they will be more receptive to change that will impact them personally in a positive manner. And keep your communications short and sweet – don’t overwhelm people with too much dialogue,” suggests Latvis.

Involving your employees in projects from the beginning is important in promoting acceptance. “It has been my experience that pulling employees into the process has a tremendous upside. For instance, holding focus groups or feedback sessions to solicit how to best approach a change to the business are excellent tools to not only gather valuable input but to help obtain buy-in early on. There is great credibility that is available when you share that employees had feedback into the change,” says Latvis.

If you choose to involve your employees, which you should, it is imperative that you make sure they feel their input and feedback is valued. “You have to be sure employee feedback is acted upon. Keep an action item list and, as questions come up, documented them along with who owns the follow-up and the date by which you’ll close the loop,” says Latvis. “This process ensures you maintain credibility. Whether it’s an answer people want to hear or not, commit to following through and your employees respect that. If you ask for feedback and don’t follow through, the next time you find the room shuts down. When you really need their feedback, people will think, ‘Why bother? Nobody’s listening anyway.’”

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December 6, 2018 | 3 Mins Read

IoT Is The Foundation Of Next-Generation Field Service Management

December 6, 2018 | 3 Mins Read

IoT Is The Foundation Of Next-Generation Field Service Management

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By Bill Pollock

The global Field Service Management (FSM) segment has reinvented itself several times over the years, from break/fix, to network services, to software support, to predictive diagnostics, and more. However, the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) is having a much greater and more profound impact on the global services community than anything that has preceded it.

FSOs will be increasingly behind the technology curve if they do not leverage IoT-powered FSM capabilities – or at least engage a primary FSM solution provider that does. The IoT is quickly becoming the chief differentiator that divides those FSOs that can meet the challenges of the present, let alone the future; from those that cannot.

Mobile technologies can also make an FSO’s business analytics capabilities much more vibrant. What good does it do to collect real-time data if you can’t share it in real time? A full-bodied mobility platform can improve any FSO’s “velocity of service” by shaving off days, if not weeks, of delays and potential paper-based mistakes. Having the IoT generate data in real time without the means to get that relevant data and information out to the field in real time is a big mistake. The combination of the IoT and mobility is powerful.

Through the use of Augmented Reality (AR) apps, now actively being combined with Virtual Reality (VR) to form a more complex and robust “Mixed Reality” (MR) capability, we are likely to see even more advances that will ultimately reduce the cost of performing service – for both on-site and remote repairs – over time. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will also play a part.

Without the IoT, there can be no predictive diagnostics; there could be no AR, VR or MR. Cloud-based FSM solutions leveled the playing field across all services industry segments, the now the IoT is taking this a step further.

Even the core aspects of FSM have evolved. A standard scheduling functionality is simply not doing the job anymore for many FSOs, and many have set their sights on solution providers that can offer optimized scheduling. The same applies to standard business analytics versus advanced analytics, as well as for the various components of spare parts and inventory management. In fact, what used to be “passable” in the past, now looks a little bit “dusty” and, as such, FSOs are seeking more robust functionalities made possible through the integration of the IoT into FSM.

Soon there will also be an entirely new way of collecting data and reporting KPIs as a result of remote diagnostics, AR, and the growing influence of the IoT. It will be analogous to keeping two sets of books – that is, one set of KPIs (like Mean Time to Repair, Elapsed Time from Problem Identification to Correction, etc.) for the way service has historically been performed (i.e., having a field tech dispatched on-site), versus the “new” way, led by remote diagnostics and repair. These methods will need to be measured, monitored, and tracked separately.

The future of Field Service Management is already here! By scoping out how the global services community is evolving, at what pace, with which technologies, FSOs can plan to adapt to the multitude of changes that have occurred and those that are coming.

For more information on this topic, please feel free to download a complimentary copy of the companion Analysts Take paper here.

Bill Pollock is President & Principal Consulting Analyst at Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM), the independent research analyst and consulting firm he founded in 1992. Bill is a prolific author and speaker on all things service, and a long-time contributor to the industry’s leading trade publications and conferences. For more information, Bill may be reached at (610) 399-9717, or via email at wkp@s4growth.com. Bill’s blog is accessible at www.PollockOnService.com and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/SFGOnService.

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