July 2015 - The Service Council

More on Augmented Reality for Field Service

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Its been a few weeks since we published our blog on Video and Assisted Field Service which has been popular garnering a great level of response from our community. The article has also been picked up by the likes of publications like Field Service Digital.

The response has come in two forms: a) From our community in terms of the applicability of the technology and available solutions for field service work, and b) the existence of additional Augmented Reality solutions, most of which weren’t mentioned in my original post. Both types of conversations have been good.

On the first area, most field service organizations see the value in video-enabled or AR solutions. For those companies facing a high cost of downtime (internal cost or customer cost), the value is even more significant given the premium on getting it right the first time. Yet questions persist over the reliability and business-ready nature of these solutions since this is still considered an ‘emerging’ technology. Remember, our data shows that interest in these solutions is fairly high:

More of our research on the next wave of field service can be found in the research insights section of TSC’s library.

I have to report that the solutions available are further down the path of maturity than originally thought, atleast when it comes to capability. In my previous blog, I mentioned a number of solutions that offer streaming video capabilities for field service teams with the addition of annotations, instructions and more. Well, I’ve been introduced to several more that offer an Augmented Reality experience for the field service workplace.

  • APX Labs and their Skylight program – We have several TSC members working with APX on AR solutions for field service. They are device agnostic and offer integrated workflows for the mobile worker so that the AR experience isn’t one that’s disconnected from the overall field service experience. This is key to worker acceptance, as we don’t really want our field service agents to be jumping from application to application when in front of a mission critical piece of equipment. They have also established partnerships with several enterprise software providers like SAP and Salesforce.com to develop joint solutions.
  • ScopeAR – RemoteAR allows support agents to connect with experts to get live help as they are looking at a particular piece of equipment. Experts can make annotations and provide instruction to help the field agent while onsite. With the ScopeAR training system, or InstructionalAR, a field agent can view and interact with live procedures while looking at a particular asset or product. This can be extremely powerful when considering the significant focus of field service companies in finding new ways to get their field agents productive in a shorter duration.
  • TSCImg-2015-Training

  • Rescue Lens by LogMeIn – Aimed a little more at assisted self-service for consumers, Rescue Lens is another video-enabled solution. Here, the customer can connect with a support expert and show the expert what’s wrong via the camera on their mobile device. In turn the expert can provide feedback in voice or in the form of gestures directly on the consumer’s screen.
  • Caugnate – Caugnate is an early stage startup looking to enhance collaboration between remote workers. Caugnate’s differentiation is that it creates, on the fly, a detailed 3d model of the equipment being serviced with the aid of video in the field. The remote expert can take control of the viewpoint and explore the scene based on this model, independent of what the technician is looking at. This is key, as the technician doesn’t always have to be looking at the piece of equipment to receive help. He/she could work on other things while the remote expert is viewing, manipulating, and making annotations on the 3D model. These annotations are immediately visible to the technician to guide necessary corrective action.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of available solutions. I am sure that there are others out there. These are a few, in addition to Pristine, SightCall, and ResolutionTube that are targeted at the field service market. I have no doubts that there will be more. What I like in the variety of solutions is that they are beginning to:

  • Consider the experience of the field technician while in front of the equipment
  • Integrate into existing onsite or instructional workflows
  • Integrate with existing enterprise systems

There is still work to be done around integration with workflows and with enterprise customer management or knowledge management systems, but we definitely have come a long way. I welcome any thoughts and feedback on the topic in the comments section. If you would like to reach me, please email me at sd@servicecouncil.com.

Getting Our Content and Communications Right

By Sumair Dutta | News | No Comments

Our community has grown quite significantly since we started The Service Council 5 years ago. Along with growth comes a greater variety of interests when it comes to our research. In order to ensure that we are:

  • Writing about the most pertinent topics
  • Connecting the community appropriately (based on similar interests and focus areas)
  • Communicating the right content tied to research preferences

we have developed a short survey that looks to understand the research preferences of our members, followers, readers, observers, and more. Do take a few minutes to participate: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TSCRPWe.


Sales, Meet Service: Unlocking Revenue Streams via Field Service

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

I really wanted to use Uber in this blog’s title. Field service becoming uberized or the uber-ification of field service. Seems like there is a lot of commentary on how the Uber or Airbnb business models are going to transform industries and service delivery mechanisms.

In field service, most of the discussion surrounding the sharing economy is tied to the use of contract (often shared) labor for service work. As such, service leaders look at outsourcing portions of field service work to third-party contractors. These contractors are part of specialized service firms or can be found through portals such as WorkMarket, FieldNation, or Onforce. On the other side of the coin, consumers can use platforms such as TaskRabbit or Needto.com to find contractors to support work that needs be done at home. (An interesting list can be found here) Businesses can also choose to use sites such as Angie’s List and HomeAway to identify certified contractors for work that needs to get done.

While the debate on the disruptive power of Uber and Airbnb type of sharing models on field service is healthy (and necessary), too often the focus is on the sharing component of these models and not on the user experience delivered to both the service deliverer (driver, renter) and the service consumer (passenger, tenant/traveler). The ability to tap into excess capacity at a lower cost (than developing that capacity on your own) is definitely a major advantage of the sharing economy and is applicable to B2C and B2B field service. This advantage will increase as more and more resources are connected with the aid of mobility. However, I believe that real differentiation comes into play when we can replicate the ease of connection, the ease of identification, and the ease of commerce for all parties involved (OEM/producer, contractor, customer), as is done in the case of Uber and Airbnb.

The thought of uberification came to mind in light of recent conversations I’ve had with several leaders of field service looking to cut the cost of their field service delivery operations. As these leaders see it, the delivery of reactive field service is a losing battle, and no matter how good you get at it, the customer is always going to be unhappy. Hence, it comes down to delivering reactive field service at the lowest possible cost (highest efficiency, minimal penalties incurred, lowest labor cost, effective parts usage). These leaders see no opportunity to deliver value via reactive field service visits and are therefore looking to outsource that component of their business to third-party contractors.

My thought is that a field visit, even a reactive one, can be incredibly valuable to both the customer and the service provider. For my argument to work, the field visit must be effective, as in the problem that a field service agent is dispatched for is resolved on a first visit. More so, the experience of scheduling and receiving a field service appointment should be customer-friendly (See our post on What Customers Dislike About Field Service Visits).

While on site, the field service agent can help educate the customer on what can be done to improve the performance of the product or asset purchased. This doesn’t just tie into improving the reliability of the product, but also to make the most of the product’s features. If the customer is interested, the field agent can recommend additional products and services that can support the customer in accomplishing what he/she is looking to accomplish via a purchase. The field visit is an opportunity to develop trust.

Back in the servicing enterprise, a field service agent’s visit can yield valuable intelligence that can be leveraged by sales and marketing. This intelligence can lead to the identification of new revenue opportunities that would have previously remained uncovered. As seen in our research, 23% of organizations closed more than a $1m in revenue in 2014 via service-enabled leads. These organizations did so by empowering their front line agents and by formalizing lines of communication between their service and other teams. In fact, the characteristics and strategies of these organizations are captured in the following The Service Council slidecast:

If a million dollars isn’t good enough, how about $54m? We recently chatted with Jack Kleminich from Tyco SimplexGrinnell of how his team uncovered $54m in business opportunities with the aid of service professionals. You can access our conversation with Jack on our InService podcast series page.

Not every field service visit is a sales opportunity. And not every customer is a prospect for a new sale. Therefore, organizations need to understand their customers and identify those that need the support of a field service relationship, as opposed to the burden of a series of field service transactions. With these relationship-oriented customers, reactive field service visits can serve as vital connection and communication opportunities which will lead to increased revenues.

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