Lately in Austin, I gathered with about 100 field service executives at Field Service Connect, an event hosted by Word Business Research that gathers together senior level executives in the service sector to talk about the future of the service industry in the face of IoT, data analytics, and other groundbreaking innovations.
Unlike typical industry events, Field Service Connect extends beyond conferences and workshops and fosters face-to-face meetings between participants and sponsors. This provided the ideal environment for me to exchange experiences with those in attendance. I was able to gain extensive insight into the key field service challenges they are facing, and engage in thoughtful, real-time discussions about potential solutions. It was quickly evident that there are three core topics forming the common motif in the conversation on the state of the service industry and where it is headed.
Nearly everyone I spoke with indicated one key metric above all: Customer Satisfaction. This is hardly new. Ever since field service operations transitioned from Cost Center to Profit Center, the best indicator of field service success has been customer response. However, there were two new findings.
First, service providers are looking for new measures to gauge Customer Satisfaction. The trend is moving away from Net Promoter Score – which provides a very distinct indication of a customer’s likelihood of further recommending a company but is a rigid tool – and towards other means that measure how much effort a customer must expend to resolve a service event.
Second, Customer Experience needs to be enhanced. The attendees had already begun testing out a number of different tools ranging from providing their customers access to equipment and service information, to facilitating the service request process, to tracking a service call status in real-time, to estimating the amount of time needed to resolve the issue. And they have gone the extra mile by making all of these features accessible via mobile. Logging a request and tracking service status has gotten as easy as scanning a QR or barcode. Because the best in field service have realized where their customers are doing everything: on their smartphones.
There is no doubt about it: first-time-fix rate is still the king of service delivery metrics. From the first presentation, to the last, the talk of the event was on how to improve this. Many companies have enormous potential as they still are in the process of transitioning to automated systems. But early adopters are facing a new challenge. Already achieving a whopping 80%+ rate in both first-time-fix and service technician productivity, these companies started exploring other solutions which only promised more meager improvements rates of 1-2%. So in an attempt to meet the pressures from their leadership to attain 100% on each of these metrics, they started witnessing diminishing returns.
The unanimous conclusion was no real surprise. There needs to be a truly disruptive change to how field service is executed. Something akin to what digitalization sparked. Only then will it be possible to push past the 80%+ threshold. Crowd Service, AI-powered scheduling systems, and Augmented Reality tools were identified as potential game-changers.
Customer pressure on field service providers to afford quick, first-time-fix resolutions, and simultaneously create an effortless and stellar customer experience is high. The last thing field service providers need is the added challenge of a declining pool of field service professionals.
However, many of the experts I spoke with cited exactly this dilemma as their primary challenge. In fact, for many companies it has now risen to the level of CEO priority. This in turn has resulted in a number of creative approaches for attracting and retaining talent. From teaming with trade schools, to establishing apprenticeship programs to defining a new label for field services, “new collar” jobs, to retaining alumni on a contingency basis, to exploring tools and talent pools that can be allocated across the entire service spectrum and trained to respond when needed.
Service providers also need to get better at promoting the role of field service technician, the value of the service they provide, their necessity to the service organization, and other less obvious benefits, in particular for those entering the workforce. If you start pitching the role of service technician as the hero who repairs mission critical equipment and drives service revenue and customer satisfaction, all while collaborating with other talented individuals and experiencing new challenges and environments on a daily basis, the appeal to the next generation workforce will be obvious.
Coresystems is continuing to push the envelope when it comes to disruptive solutions. For more insight into, how a crowd service might be your best solution to closing the talent gap, and other general best practice for meeting your customer service KPIs, check out our white paper:
Author: Mike Fuller, Sales Development, Coresystems