January 2015 - The Service Council

Deflategate and Always Blaming the Service Guy

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Its Superbowl week, and as always we’re spending a lot of time talking about the teams, strategy, matchups, snacks, and more. It’s a fun time, especially if you’re a fan of the New England Patriots or the Seattle Seahawks (sorry Packers fans). However, this year, there seems to be way too much attention being paid to Deflategate and the atmospheric conditions that impact ball pressure. It’s all a little media circus.

That said, Deflategate is an instant conversation starter at social or networking events. Ah, you’re from Boston, what do you think about Deflategate? Ah, you’re not from Boston, what do you think about Deflategate? I was part of such a conversation a few days ago at a field service networking dinner. For the most part, everyone agreed that things had been blown out of proportion. However, one of the participants said something very interesting. His exact words, “Just you watch. After all of this, they’re going to blame it on the service guy.” With the recent news of a Patriots ball boy being the primary suspect in Deflategate, that proclamation seems to be ringing true.

Thinking about it from a broader business perspective, that statement about the service guy or gal taking the blame still seems to hold weight. As much as we see organizations move towards a more profit-centric model for service, there still is a attitude to treat the service business as an after thought or a necessary evil. Quite often, service is where customer problems are dumped.

That attitude has to change. Recent surveying of our community (TSC’s 2014 review) shows that more than 35% of annual business revenue is driven by the service organization and that service accounts for 32% of total cost. More so, organizations expect healthy service-impacted revenue growth rates in 2015. Service is a big deal from a financial point of view. More so, service is also a major source of customer and business intelligence. Come to think of it, service agents are the ones who truly connect with customers to learn about their challenges and problems. On a mass scale, customer complaint and other data, can be used by the entire organization to make business decisions. Sales can use customer service information to improve account management and support revenue objectives via renewals, up-sells, and cross-sells. Marketing can use aggregate service data to understand customer preferences and attitudes in order to develop more intelligent outreach and awareness plans. Design and engineering can use service data to improve quality. The list goes on.

Yet, organizations struggle to share data across various lines of business. Some of this is due to poor systems, but most of it is due to misaligned cultures and a lack of process. Those organizations that have taken steps to align objectives across business functions are yielding better results across customer satisfaction as well as business profitability.

Where does this alignment begin? At the top. Organizations that have been successful in transforming their business cultures to promote customer-centricity and collaboration tell us that executive support and sponsorship is most vital success factor. After that is the need to capture customer insight.

The connection or partnership between service and other business functions is a key component of the theme for our 2015 Smarter Services Symposium taking place between March 10 and March 12 in San Diego. We will feature numerous sessions with sales, IT, HR, and product design executives sharing their views on collaborating with their service counterparts. If interested in learning more, please visit our Symposium homepage. Or you can always reach me at sd@servicecouncil.com.

As for the Superbowl and Deflategate, lets hope that the focus shifts back to the game and the achievements of the players involved.

Surprising Takeaways from Our Recent Field Service Research

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | One Comment

The Service Council, with the aid of the SmartVan community, surveyed over 180 service and manufacturing organizations on the state of their field service businesses. The results are extensive and we are compiling the findings over the coming weeks. Here are some surprising takeaways:

  • Fifty-five percent (55%) of respondents indicated that they saw an increase in field activity (as measured by total service visits). While this in itself isn’t surprising, what is surprising is that for those who saw an increase, nearly 40% reported that the increase in service visits was due to the fact that customers are holding on to equipment longer. We’ve heard that with an improving global economy, organizations are beginning to invest in new equipment and new tools. This shows that we continue to see some concern.
  • Two-thirds of organizations state that they are able to meet increasing field service demand with current workforce levels. This is surprising as we consistently see organizations scrambling to acquire field service talent. One thing to note is that most of the worry is focused on talent loss and hiring 3-5 years from now. So, while most organizations are currently comfortable with workforce levels, this is likely to change in the near future. (Note: 47% report having unfilled positions for field service agents as they closed they year)
  • Sixty-eight percent (68%) of respondents reported that they drew more revenue from their field service businesses in 2014, when compared to 2013. What’s surprising is that nearly two-thirds of those (and 43% of the overall population) saw a greater than 10% increase in field service-generated revenue over 2013. This is substantial.
  • At the field execution layer, respondents highlighted that parts and inventory management presented the greatest challenge. This is a pleasant surprise. Most organizations get so caught up in optimizing labor that they forget about the impact of parts on field service delivery. We are also seeing an increased amount of attention being paid to the management of returned parts owing to the incredible amount of untracked inventory sitting in field service vehicles.
  • When tallying the top reasons for customer complaints with field service, we found that 31% of organizations indicated that their customers balk at the cost of service. We haven’t seen this in previous surveys and it reflects the high cost that customers pay for service that isn’t under contract.
  • To improve a day in the life of front line agents, 52% of respondents prioritized the reduction of administrative paperwork with the aid of mobile applications. And here we thought that everyone was mobile.
  • Forty-seven percent (47%) of respondents revealed that their customers have no self-service options when it comes to interacting with the field service organization. Therefore customers can’t view technician status, schedule appointments, reschedule visits, review work done, and more. As organizations look to improve the field service experience offered to customers, there has to be a greater investment in self-service applications and tools available to customers.
  • Fifty-size percent (56%) of organizations are considering real-time video feeds to improve field service efficiency. Nearly a third of that group is currently building the business case for adoption in the short-term. We’ve never seen such a high interest in video for field service delivery and this indicates a greater comfort with the quality and reliability of video available commercially.

These are some of the more surprising takeaways for me. Stay tuned for a summary of the overall findings.

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