August 2014 - The Service Council

Integrating the Fleet into Field Service

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

The vehicle plays a vital part in service delivery. In essence, delivery cannot happen without a service vehicle or fleet of vehicles being operational and available. While remote monitoring technology and self-service options are enabling organizations to reduce unwanted truck rolls, there are still a large proportion of service events (60%+) that still require a field service dispatch. And unless the field service engineer has acquired superhuman skills, he/she still needs a vehicle to get to the customer site.

Apart from offering a mode of transportation, service vehicles play an increasingly important role in impacting field service performance. At the execution level, vehicle performance data is now used by organizations in a number of ways:

  1. For Tracking and Better Accountability – This enables organizations to understand where their drivers and technicians are, and also helps field service teams account for technician location in times of emergencies or customer conflict regarding service performance.
  2. To Support Better Routing – While personal navigation devices and smart phones are the primary tools used for turn-by-turn navigation by drivers, accurate location data can help dispatchers or other back-office service agents appropriately route technicians to their tasks or to part pickup locations en route.
  3. To Improve Scheduling – Meeting promised service windows or SLAs often requires a clear picture of the location of available service technicians. While, the nearest technician might not always be the best or most available for a particular service ticket, it is vital for field service dispatchers and schedulers to have complete visibility into the location of their field workforce.
  4. For Enhanced Driver Safety – Knowing where your technicians are in an emergency can reduce the time it takes for help to arrive at the vehicle site. More so, insight into vehicle data like rapid acceleration or deceleration can alert the service organization to an emergency in cases where the driver may not be able to alert the back-office team or contact authorities.
  5. To Support Planning Initiatives – Aggregate data about service trips, travel routes, driver preferences and more, can be utilized to forecast or predict travel and arrival times for future service events. More so, knowledge about driver preferences and tendencies can help organizations identify opportunities for increased training when it comes to field service delivery and vehicle management. Data about vehicle usage and demand can also help support decision making around lease vs. buy or repair vs. replace.

With the aid of vehicle performance data, field service organizations have been able to improve productivity and cut costs. While this should be normal in any instance where an organization goes from zero visibility to knowing where its resources are, there are discernible advantages to integrating vehicle location and performance into the field service equation.

This is one of the reasons that we have recently undertaken a research project on the topic of fleet management in field service. One of the surprising takeaways from the early data returns is that while fleet management is vital to service performance, just 50% of organizations state that fleet management, as a function, is owned by field service. While field service does have the largest proportion of responses, a 50% return is interesting. After field service, areas of fleet management ownership include operations, finance, facilities, and more. Eight percent (8%) of respondents treat fleet management as its own business function.

Figure: Ownership of Fleet Management

Fleet Management

Source: TSC Data 2014

We are still collecting results on the topic and will release complete findings in September. If your organization has a service fleet, please spend a few moments to tell us about your fleet management initiatives by taking our survey.

For more research and insight from The Service Council, visit www.theservicecouncil.com or follow us on twitter @tservicecouncil or @suma1r.

5 Takeaways from our Mid-Year Service Business Review

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

We just wrapped up our 4th quarterly business trends survey with the recent Q2 outreach. Therefore, we now have a year’s worth of trending data. Thanks to all the service leaders who have participated in our research. Now begins the journey of collecting data can be used to compare upcoming quarters with those from previous years.

But first, time to recap some of the things that we captured in our mid-year business review. (By the way, we just completed a webinar where we shared some of the top trends with the support of none other than Ron Kaufman. You can listen in to the webinar on our website http://www.theservicecouncil.com)

  1. Cost projections have been relatively spot on for the year and that trend was continued this quarter. Most organizations reported that cost changes were as expected, similar to what we noticed in previous quarters. Revenue projections, on the other hand, have been less accurate as organizations are still wrapping their heads around the concept of service revenue and the programs necessary to sustain revenue growth.
  2. Nearly 30% of organizations saw improvements in customer satisfaction scores in Q2. For these organizations, more than 70% indicated that improvements in CSAT were a result of a specific initiative with the others attributing improvements to a continued focus on customer service. In most instances, the specific initiative was tied to improved communication with customers or the increased professionalism of front-line service and support staff.
  3. While increased competition has consistently been the top business challenge over previous quarters, Q2 saw organizations highlight the current business climate as a top challenge. This was much more of a pronounced challenge (41% of respondents) for those organizations with a global service organization versus those solely focused on North America (23% of North American respondents cited this as a challenge).
  4.  Meeting service demand is also a major business challenge as indicated by 32% of all respondents. A large percentage of organizations don’t have the necessary resources, primarily in the form of people, to scale up to meet service demand. As organizations got increasingly lean and enhanced their focus on efficiency during the recent downturn, they have been reluctant to scale up on resources to meet new demand. This will be a major talking point for service organizations in the years to come especially given overall workforce challenges foreseen. (See our blog on The Looming Crisis in Field Service). In field service, this will lead to increased level of discussion around the use of outsourced or contingent labor along with knowledge management strategies aimed at retaining the expertise and knowledge of the existing service workforce (Topics that we will be diving into next quarter).
  5. Technical support is an emerging focus area for organizations as they continue to focus on efficiency. More organizations are initiating projects in technical support this coming quarter than ever before. Some of this is in response to improving first-time resolution issues in the field and in the contact center. Organizations also see technical support as an ideal landing spot for seasoned and experienced technicians, which allows for their continued support in service delivery but also creates a means for them to transfer their service knowledge to a newer service workforce. Other areas of new project initiation are listed below:

Projects for Q3

Source: TSC Data, 2014

We also continue to see a continued focus from organizations on improving collaboration between service and other business groups. The big challenge is that most collaboration initiatives are being led by service and not by the other business groups. Other groups must see the benefit of working closer with their service counterparts when considering the role that service plays in impacting customer satisfaction and loyalty.

What trends are you seeing? Let us know here.

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