By Tom Paquin
As we say so often here, businesses that offer service have been—and will remain—the lifeblood of our economy. Service powers growth around the world, and it is the engine that enables a swift and complete recovery in the face of social, environmental, and economic challenges.
It’s safe to assume that many service-oriented organizations are postponing any software purchases until they have a better sense of business continuity in the face of today’s current crisis, and that is absolutely fair. That doesn’t, however, mean that we don’t have a right (or an obligation) to start planning for the future. Eventually the restrictions holding back business growth will subside, and in their wake there will be a sudden flurry of service, from repairs to installations to consultations and everything in between.
Moreover, some companies may be looking for ways to leverage their team differently to meet their customers’ needs, and are looking for smart technologies to put in place in an effort the mitigate the effects of these restrictions.
With all that in mind, we’ve put together some important capabilities to keep in mind while evaluating potential service software partners, with an eye to managing the current crisis, and building systems prepared for any future challenge. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of criteria to consider, here are some key components worth noting:
Often when considering a solution, the fixation is on the mix of capabilities that make up the product and how they fit with your service vision. A chief consideration that is frequently downplayed, but exponentially important is how your service systems integrate into your broader enterprise systems. I’ve written before about how your service system needs to function as your grand central station. Service balances your customer and operations in a way that your CRM and ERP systems do not. For that to work properly, you need both a flexible platform and a capable integration team. With solid integration on your side, you can manage and mitigate any unforeseen circumstances from a central location, and you can measure the impact on your overall business in real time.
Planning and Scheduling Optimization
Here’s another one I’ve made a stink about in the past, but it’s worth remembering! Having a system that can dynamically shift your planning based on changing criteria is absolutely essential. When things go wrong, you need to be able to readjust headcount and account for unexpected restrictions in minutes, not hours. This generally means finding a solution this is powered on the backend by AI. True optimization is a lot more than routing, too, and getting that mix right of course goes back to the previous point—systems need to be centrally integrated, so your optimization engine can take workers—both contingent and salaried—into consideration right alongside parts, locations, expertise, and any regional, account, or company-level exceptions. There’s a lot that goes into this, but getting it right pays dividends every day.
Forecasting is basically a subsection of planning and scheduling, but within the context of today’s crisis, it’s worth pointing out separately. A smart “what if?” forcecating engine allows you to answer tough questions such as how a large reduction in workforce, or an increase in demand will impact performance. This will further influence your optimizations systems by giving your informed projections of countless scenarios so that you can be fiscally and operationally prepared, and can create projections in the moment. Imagine today if you had this functionality two months ago. This, like everything else, extends from routing, to people, to parts, which I have written about before.
We’ve talked about this one quite a bit recently, both in terms of projections, and case studies, and the point of this speaks for itself: Remote management does a lot more than prevent a truck roll. Today, it keeps employees and customers safe, profitable, and moving forward. Can we do everything remotely that we can do in the field? Obviously not, but the scaffolding is there to envision a nearly 100% zero-touch future. Having this as a component of your software purchases will be a given in six months, and of everything on this list, this one is worth the investment right now. These systems are easy to set up quickly and even easier for employees to learn. It’s worth a look.
As I mentioned at the top, a lack of service calls today means unrepaired assets, and when a recovery spurns a return to normalcy, your business needs to be ready. This might mean employing a large amount of contingent labor to staff up quickly, or it could simply mean making sure your operations are prepared to navigate that bottleneck. When business picks up, you don’t want any more reasons for customers to be unhappy. And hey—you’ll want to deliver on as many appointments as possible. We all look forward to being able to work together again. Let’s make the most out of it.