On the Service Leader’s Mind for 2018: Service Revenue

By Sumair Dutta | Uncategorized | No Comments

We just published our 2018 Service Leader’s Agenda Report (Get it here). One of the key takeaways from this report was the refocus on Service Revenue as a metric of success in 2018 and our conclusion is that service leaders are finally putting the infrastructure in place to achieve revenue growth.
Top Metrics for Service Leaders in 2018

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to chat with several service leaders on the topic of revenue growth. These leaders reflected a range of industries from medical devices to facilities management and financial services. The key takeaways and actions being prioritized are:

Know Your Installed Base

In this date and time when every single movement and action can be tracked, one would assume that companies have a good handle on their installed base and the associated contract coverage. Getting insight into installed base status and coverage is a great way to identify near-term revenue opportunities.

Talk to Your Customers

What your customers will want 3-5 years from now is very different from what they expect and want today. That said, they are already envisioning what service should look like and what they will be willing to pay for. While we talk about the role of consumerized experiences in the enterprise world, the impact of true consumerization will be felt in a much more critical way in the coming years. Customers might be willing to accept that the equipment they hold today is outdated but will wonder why the next generation of available equipment is already outdated if it doesn’t come with connectivity and desired service and support resources. As one service leader put it, “Customers don’t want to have to tell us what’s wrong, they want us to tell them.” The equipment of tomorrow better be ready to enable and support changing service needs.

“Customers don’t want to have to tell us what’s wrong, they want us to tell them.”

Expand You Service Product Portfolio

While service contracts, time and material work, and service part sales, continue to be the revenue stalwarts for service organizations, there is an opportunity for the provision of new services. In instances where customers are beginning to self-maintain, there might be appetite for training, knowledge, and other information-based resources. In other industries, new service contract or agreement terms and types might address the needs of customers who interact with or use equipment in different ways.

Get Sales on Board

All the steps above can lay a strong foundation for service growth, but eventually someone needs to approach and talk to the customer. This is where the sales team’s comfort with and desire to sell service offerings becomes increasingly important. At a recent meeting with a large service company in the facilities management space, I was happy to note that the organization had finally tweaked its sales compensation models to align incentives with desired action around service products. In this, the company had put incentives in place for standard service products and services but had also put in incentives for getting customers connected. Incentives for service sales need to be paired with improved training, better service offering collateral, and dedicated resources to aid sales agents’ in their interactions with customers.

These are just a couple of the ideas discussed on the recent IdeaShare (see future events) around revenue growth. They also happened to be most foundational. Technician lead programs, self-service portals with ecommerce functionality, and multi-vendor services, were also discussed as arenas for untapped revenue.

We’re currently looking into the world of new services via a research survey (Link). The survey looks into the types of services that are being evaluated in support of service revenue growth. If interested, please do participate. We expect to share the results in the coming weeks. You can also access a copy of our Service Leader’s Trends report to learn about some of the key initiatives and focus areas for the coming 12 months.

ADP Gets Agile: Acquires WorkMarket

By Sumair Dutta | News | No Comments

On January 22, 2018, ADP announced its acquisition of WorkMarket for an undisclosed fee (Release). WorkMarket, a TSC Customer, has been developing and offering the OS for Work for organizations to manage and support their on-demand labor strategies. Most organizations work with WorkMarket to enable the management of their contingent workforces comprising primarily of freelancers. Other organizations rely on the WorkOS to develop an overview of their entire workforce, whether full-time employee, contractor, or otherwise.

ADP provides comprehensive HCM solutions in payroll, talent, time, tax, and benefits administration. By their numbers, they support the payroll of 26 million employees in the US and 13 million employees outside the US. The company’s solutions are tapped by large global enterprises but are also used by over 400,000 small business owners.

This move marks the first major step by ADP into the gig or freelance economy, something confirmed by ADP during a recent conversation with the TSC research team. Entrance into the space in this manner makes a lot of sense given the:

  • Increased interest in the freelance work model by both employees and employers
  • Need to adapt systems to manage multiple workforce types
  • Attention that needs to be paid to compliance and regulatory needs when managing multiple workforce categories

By every measure, the interest in freelancing and contract work is increasing and raises the reality that organizations will have to manage multiple workforce types in the future. According to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital report, 66% of companies indicated that their reliance on off balance sheet talent will grow significantly in the coming 3-5 years. Deloitte refers to the blended workforce model as the Augmented Workforce. From a workforce supply side, up to 35% of the US population (as per a 2016 study commissioned the Freelancers Union) is now choosing to freelance due to the agility and flexibility offered. And companies are happy with their freelance workers. In another major research initiative conducted by the https://www.aspeninstitute.org/blog-posts/workforce-future-survey/”>Aspen Institute on the Workforce of the Future, 60% of 800 organizations polled cited the use of independent contractors in some capacity. These organizations indicated a 95% or higher level of satisfaction with their use of independent contractors and 70% reported that they were likely to increase their reliance on an on-demand and flexible labor model.

TSC sees a greater use of an ‘augmented workforce’ (we prefer the term agile workforce) in field service in the coming years. Field service is an arena where WorkMarket has a strong presence, bolstered by its acquisition of OnForce in 2017. Organizations are facing the need to ramp up their field capacity while struggling to find and train new talent. This coupled with an aging workforce issue is leading to organizations:

  • Leveraging technology tools to enhance the capacity of their existing workers
  • Investigating flexible labor models to manage work that cannot or should not be supported by highly skilled and expensive service employees

In our recently completed 2018 trends research of over 70 service leaders, 51% indicated that the workforce and talent shortage was a major external challenge impacting their business in 2018. As seen in figure 1 below, we see that this leads to internal concerns of being able to meet service demand with existing service resources. More so, service leaders are also thinking about the work allocation to their highly skilled service workforce and augmenting this workforce with a more flexible labor pool.
Internal Challenges for Service Leaders in 2018

In our 2016 research on field service outsourcing, 52% of organizations indicated that they were looking to increase their reliance on contractors in the coming 3-5 years. That said, organizations indicated that they expected approximately 30-35% of work to be managed by third-parties, thereby indicating the continued use of multiple labor models.
Workforce Reliance in Field Service - Coming 5 Years
Organizations continue to remain concerned about the brand and quality impact of a partner or contractor field service technician, especially when the service delivered is poor and not up to the standards of the service organization. Hence leading organizations have taken greater steps to further support their field service partners with:

  • Increased access to product support knowledge and training content
  • Better visibility int
    o service demand forecasts and allocation plans
  • Increased knowledge of direct customer feedback to prioritize service business process improvements

This more integrated approach requires a set of tools to match service work with the available service workforce. The ADP acquisition of WorkMarket is a step in this direction. Those using WorkMarket’s tools to manage their contingent workforces will now have the ability to rely on ADP’s broader solutions for workforce administration and management. ADP’s traditional customers will now have the ability to leverage WorkMarket’s experience and technology to integrate the needs of a freelance or contingent workforce. In addition, WorkMarket’s integrations with the likes of Salesforce and ServiceNow will also allow for improved matching between created work and available workers. This is vital in field service.

We’ve published content on the agile field service workforce (Link) or steps that organizations can take to address the retiring workforce crisis (Link). In both of these research projects we highlight the growing reliance on multiple worker types, a trend that we expect to continue in the arena of field service.

Work sourced in this post:

  1. 1- Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report 2017 – https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/human-capital/articles/introduction-human-capital-trends.html
  2. 2- The Aspen Institute Workforce of the Future Survey 2016 – https://www.aspeninstitute.org/blog-posts/workforce-future-survey/
  3. 3- Upwork Global Inc., Freelancing in America 2016 – https://www.upwork.com/i/freelancing-in-america/2016/

5 Headwinds Every Field Service Leader Should Prepare for in 2018

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

Field service must step up its game in 2018. Over the last few years, it seems like we’ve been discussing the same topics and not quite finding a worthy set of solutions. Last year, the key challenges were heightened customer expectations and the turnover associated with retiring service workers. My colleague, Sumair Dutta, wrote a great piece last year laying the framework for how service leaders can prepare their businesses to bring in new blood and to meet heightened customer expectations (here and here). So, with those issues solved, I think the service leader needs to prepare for these headwinds which will be in front of them in 2018.

Headwind 1 – Competition for talent
When you think of competition, you wouldn’t be wrong to first think about the ability to sell more products or equipment than your peers. But in 2018, we need to expand the role competition plays in our sustainability and success, field service leaders must now compete over finding, hiring, and keeping the service worker. A workforce and talent shortage was listed by half of the field service leaders we sampled in early results (Participate and weigh in).

Solving this challenge shouldn’t solely come down to paying higher wages, as pay alone isn’t a long-term strategy. The key is truly investing in your team and their individual success. Providing paths for career growth, offering training and certifications on the latest procedures and tools, and staying in tune with the voice of the employee are all ways to show the current workforce and those evaluating you as a place of future employment you are a fit. A well-rounded strategy around workforce development and continuous learning will not only help hold on to current workers but it is also a key factor to attract the next wave of workers and the millennial technician. Service leaders need to prepare to not only hold on to their valued employees but also attract new ones.


Headwind 2 – Losing good and tenured employees with no or little notice
Do you know who your best performers are? Do you know which technicians plan to retire next year or the year after? Too often service leaders primarily use the wealth of data points at their fingertips to manage current resources or problems, but not to consider the future. Most of us fall prey to putting out the fire of the day, not long-range planning activities. But as the crunch for workers, and more importantly high performing workers, becomes more cutthroat, service leaders need to take a closer look at worker performance and what makes a good technician or engineer. Service leaders need to evaluate which technicians have strong relationships with customers, which engineers quickly adapt to changes in the work environment, and which ones welcome interactions with customers that go beyond just fixing things and moving on. With this level of intelligence, service leaders can target employees that have strong relationships and are planning to leave, and allow those that want to continue working be retained in other capacities (i.e., remote expert). As the cost of living and life expectancies rise, we shouldn’t miss an opportunity to extend a bit of flexibility to an aging workforce to keep them on for another year or two, thus lessening the blow of them leaving the field.

Headwind 3 – Patchwork IT strategy shows cracks
The top challenge facing half of the field service leaders (51%) who have participated in our 2018 trends research was the inability to integrate data from the field with enterprise solutions. These leaders also point to an insufficient IT infrastructure to support the needs of the service team resulting in cobbled together solutions that aren’t ready to support today’s digital reality. What is needed is a true digital strategy which can scale with a growing team, with the introduction of more complex equipment, or meet the needs of an expanding network. The likes of artificial intelligence and augmented reality cannot truly be enjoyed by field service without a cohesive digital strategy.

Piecing solutions together causes breakdowns in data flows as more people across the organization use and need data. Field service leaders need to work with leaders from other functions and the IT team to create a unified technology strategy which solves the problem of the day and scales with the company’s growth.

Headwind 4 – Resistance to innovation
“This is the way we’ve always done it”, needs to become an outdated mantra for field service organizations. As customer expectations for service evolves, the service organization will need to find new ways to deliver value. Just showing up on time is no longer good enough. Also, primarily having technicians who want to just fix things and not interact with the customer in a conversation is no longer acceptable. So, to navigate this changing environment, field service leaders and their teams need to embrace change and innovation. This doesn’t have to be scary, but it will take buy-in and education around why it is necessary to think and act differently both on the front line and in service leadership. Change is tough, but the alternative will be worse in 2018 as the stakes continue to rise.

Headwind 5 – Customers (still) want more for less
This isn’t a new challenge, but it’s becoming more of a critical concern. The change is customers have (more) options, something they haven’t always had. In many industries, technology has opened up markets and suppliers that previously were inaccessible. Also, the revenue opportunity in service has led to entrants into the market to capture their perceived fair share. With added competition, the customer can pick and choose who gets their business, putting downward pressure on price. Those who aren’t able to offer varying levels of value (at varying prices) are forced to offer the same premium service at a reduced price. This pressure on margins impacts leader’s ability to make investments and add resources, making it even more important that the right decisions are made. To navigate this difficult relationship, service leaders need to leverage the data and tools at their disposal to make smarter decisions and deliver a heightened experience that customers are willing to pay for. Differentiation through the field experience will be key in 2018, as customers may be more open to paying for relationships and resolution.

2018 has a lot in store for field service leaders. The successful leader will be the ones that can navigate or at least create a plan on how to deal with the headwinds that are on the horizon. Failure to tackle these approaching tests will be difficult to recover from. To learn how some of your peers, and field service Champions, are tackling these and other challenges, participate in our 2018 trends research (survey). Also, we are holding a webcast on Wednesday, January 31 where I will share some findings and moderate a panel of field service leaders. Register to learn, share, and challenge the trends facing the field service leader.

Customer-Centricity at the Heart of Digital Transformation Initiatives

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

It’s easy to toss around the term Digital Transformation nowadays. Everyone needs to have a perspective on it in order to sound forward thinking. It seems to me that very few people know what it means. More importantly, very few people seem to have a clear definition of what it means specifically for their organizations, their roles, and their overall futures.Or so I think.

In order to bring our community together on the topic of Digital Transformation, we recently launched a research project aimed at service business leaders and strategists. The purpose of the project was two-fold:

  1. Uncover the different definitions of the term.
  2. Assess where organizations were in their digital journeys.

As I write this, we’ve had 25 leaders of service businesses voice their opinion and we shall keep the project open (take survey) till we hear from 50 leaders. A quick word on the early results.

Defining Digital Transformation

By far the most entertaining definition we received goes to, “Going from Flintstones darkness to Jetson light. From no data to ‘some’ data.” Others (seen below) were much more descriptive and the comment about minimizing data administration and maximizing data analysis is a really succinct way of approaching digital transformation. We need to move from the data collector stage to one where data analysis and data-driven decision making is where our resources are targeted.
Digital Transformation Definition

Most leaders responding to our survey believed that being a digital business was vital to the success of their organization but only 50% indicated that their organizations had a clear and coherent digital strategy.
Digital Transformation Strategy

In executing on the strategy, 88% of leaders indicated that their organizations do not currently spend the appropriate amount time, energy, and resources on implementing digital business initiatives and that the coming years needed to see an increased level of investment and focus on the execution of an established digital business vision.

Digital Outcomes

The desired results from planned digital transformations leaned heavily towards improving customer outcomes tied to proactively support customer needs while being more agile in reaction and response.
Digital Transformation Outcomes

Organizations hope to achieve these outcomes with the aid of:
– Improved Technology Integration
– Better Management of Customer Touch points
– Increased Understanding of Customer Needs
– Customer-Focused New Product and Service Enablement
– Intelligent Service Worker Enablement

Before any of these activities and actions can occur, organizations need to ensure that they equip themselves with the appropriate digital leadership, digital talent, digital technology, and digital mindset. These are areas of assessment that our research project dives into.

I look forward to sharing more final results in the coming weeks. If you are a service business leader, I’d encourage you to spend some time with our research survey. As indicated, we are going to close it once we reach 50 total leaders.

If thirsty for some results and content on the topic, we’ve got you covered. Feel free to listen to our discussion on the topic during our recent webinar featuring leaders from KONE Americas and Merck Millipore. You can also sign up to listen to our findings call (Jan 23, 1pm Eastern) wherein we share the expanded results of our survey.

Keeping an Eye on These Field Service Trends for 2018

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

At CES in Las Vegas this week, we’re expecting to see a lot of new gadgets and new tools on display. It seems like this year the focus will be on the pending 5G rollout, Artificial Intelligence (voice recognition), Artificial Intelligence (autonomous vehicles), and wearable devices (glasses, fitness trackers). It’s always good to track what’s happening in the overall consumer electronics space, as its typically a pre-cursor for what’s likely to happen in the enterprise. Speaking of the enterprise, we’re currently running our 2018 trends surveys for leaders of various disciplines.

– For those leading overall service business strategy (Link)
– For those leading field service (Link)
– For those in customer service and support (Link)
– For those in service parts (Link)

A lot of our time is spent analyzing field service trends. For the most part, we expect organizations to continue on their paths towards becoming more intelligent with service performance data in order to:
– Improve the predictability of their businesses
– Enhance the efficiency of field service delivery
– Uncover revenue opportunities during customer contact

Here are three additional areas that I am keeping my eye on for 2018.

Trend 1. Mobile as a Data Point.

When we think of mobility, we always think of the information available on a device. But we don’t think of the data that can be captured at the point-of-service and how this data can be incredibly impactful in building a predictive service organization.

Trend 2. Video in Learning and Development.

Most organizations are looking to reduce the time it takes their new hires to be productive. Taking away some classroom based learning and putting that online is one step that a large number of companies are undertaking. The popularity of video as a learning medium (think DIY with YouTube) also offers a new channel for dispersing knowledge and information to field service technicians.

Trend 3. Layers of Dispatch Avoidance.

Organizations want to minimize the occurrence of avoidable dispatches. Improving first-time fix is one way to address this problem, but there are other opportunities for organizations to properly diagnose incoming service requests for appropriate dispatch-less service scenarios. These scenarios could involve self-service or assisted technical support.

I’ll spend some time on each of these trends in an upcoming webinar with our partner ServiceMax from GE Digital (Registration required). If you are seeing other trends, feel free to share on the webinar or on our 2018 field service trends survey.

Looking to Boost Your CSat Scores? Consider Elevating Field Service

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

On the journey to raise profitability, a large number of organizations look to improve customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and customer share of wallet. It is vital for organizations to keep their customers satisfied, and to leverage that satisfaction to drive higher levels of loyalty and customer spend.

Typical CSat improvement initiatives focus on the contact center and rightly so. But very few consider the impact of the improvement of field service on CSat scores. Field service has always been treated as an operational challenge with very little consideration for the customer impact. Well, in our research of over 150 field service leaders, we found that investing in field service performance can significantly impact customer satisfaction results. In the chart below, we measured field service performance in first-time fix and you can see the relationship between increased first-time fix and customer satisfaction.
First-Time Fix and Customer Satisfaction
There’s something to be said about first-time fix. 100% first-time fix can be quite expensive and the cost of the additional percentage point could break the bank. Yet, it is an incredibly important metric in measuring field service performance for the simple reason that it actually measures work being done vs. just getting to work. Think about it, if someone comes to your home but doesn’t resolve that heater issue that you have, you would be fairly disappointed. Now replace that heater with an MRI machine at a hospital or an airline engine on an idle plane.

How can one work on elevating first-time fix?

  1. Better Diagnosis and Triage at Issue Identification to Determine the Appropriate Resolution Path
  2. Improved Training of Agents in the Field to Support a Higher Level of Performance
  3. Better Access to Resolution Information at the Point-of-Service to Support Problem Diagnosis and Resolution
  4. Increased Use of Intelligent Scheduling to Ensure Dispatch of the Appropriate Resources

Sending the wrong technician is expensive and creates customer angst. Sending the right technician with the right tools and information can make all the difference in improving field service and customer satisfaction performance.

I recently spoke on the topic of elevating field service performance. Feel free to listen in for our performance enhancement recommendations.

We’d love to have you join our field service research panel for 2018. If interested, please visit our research participation page. We look forward to working with you on 2018 research projects.

Predictive Service is Just Part of a Proactive Support Strategy

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

In organizations that manufacture or service equipment, there is a great push towards predictive service outcomes. With the help of more detailed data, organizations have a greater confidence in being able to predict part or equipment failure leading to a corrective, or predictive, service action.

Most equipment-centric organizations are and should be moving towards this predictive model. Yet, building and operationally executing on a predictive model is one thing, managing the internal and external change that comes with a transformed model is another. Most organizations haven’t figured this out yet. I’ve also begun to observe that organizations seem to equate predictive service with proactive service. To me, this seems inaccurate. Predictive service is and should be part of a proactive service strategy, but isn’t the only component. Desired outcomes for the product and outcomes for the customer are not always the same. Let me explain by sharing three examples of proactive initiatives being spearheaded by organizations in our community.

Proactive Escalation Management

HPE’s Rusty Walther, the VP of Global Escalation Management and a member of The Service Council’s Advisory Board, claims that no one calls him when they’re having a good day. If Walther is on the phone, something has gone wrong and it’s up to his global escalations team at HPE to react and respond to make sure that major issues are triaged and handled appropriately. However, Rusty and his team are now leveraging data to begin to identify future escalations before they happen. With the aid of an internally developed Customer Health Index (based on things that have happened) and a Customer Impact Score (things that are going to happen – updates, alerts etc.) the Global escalation team can isolate those customers that might have future service or business escalations 6 months prior to occurrence. Armed with this insight, dedicated account managers can reach out to and work with the accounts to prevent a future situation. Best of all, now the Customer’s good day is HPE’s good day.

Proactive Communication and Installed Base Management

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a short webinar (listen) on the topic of revenue growth in the aftermarket. Joining me on the webinar was Steve Evans from Hayward Gordon, a manufacturer of industrial pumps and mixers, and Mandar Parikh, VP of Product at Entytle, who has developed an Aftermarket Engagement Platform for manufacturers. Note: Entytle is a TSC partner. Hayward Gordon was looking for an aftermarket revenue boost due to a slowing product market (mining, oil and gas). Therefore, the organization decided to embark on a proactive listening and communication campaign with the aid of the solution provided by Entytle, to identify how its customers were using their products and services. Hayward Gordon prioritized customer outreach to those that owned specific pumps with high-value (high cost of failure) parts. In speaking to these customers, the organization identified numerous sales and account management opportunities tied to service contracts and service parts that helped revenue fortunes but also drove value for customers.

Proactive Quality Control

Not every predicted product failure can be rectified. It might be too expensive to do so or the value of the replacement or predictive action might not warrant the investment in time and labor. This is true for organizations supporting a high-volume of non-complex products or equipment. That said, the analysis of fault codes, part usage data, and repair procedures, can enable organizations to identify and isolate product or part quality issues. The proper recognition of these issues can enable the service organization to:

  • Proactively communicate with its customers
  • Prevent issues from occurring in future product releases

Several organizations in our community leverage this closed loop process to improve product quality and to enhance service outcomes.

The examples above highlight proactive approaches to issue avoidance, to customer communication, and to value generation. While predictive failure information can support the approaches above, it is only a piece of an overall proactive customer management plan.

We’re going to be spending more time analyzing the components of a proactive service strategy in the coming months via research, interviews, and more. If interested in sharing your perspective, please connect with me directly at sd@servicecouncil.com. If you are interested in becoming a research panelist for our proactive research survey (Jan 2018), feel free to contact me directly or to align yourself with our Leadership & Strategy research panel here.

The Agile Field Service Workforce

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

No, this is not a blog about an exercise or stretching regime to attain an agile field service workforce. Its more of a discussion about planning for the future field service workforce. In our opinion (as The Service Council) the time is right for service leaders to rethink the field service workforce of the future given the growing options available for work distribution and workforce selection.

Agile, as a methodology, is primarily applied to software development and delivery. It is also being used by several organizations in product development and research. The first principle of the Agile manifesto is to ‘satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.’ While not all the principles of the Agile methodology are applicable to workforce planning and development, the focus on customer-centricity and responsiveness are transferable.

Field service, as a profession, continues to face disruption from enhancements in automation. While service demand for manual field service work continues to remain high and will likely remain high for the short-term, investments in technology are being driven to reduce the need for manual field service intervention or to enhance the productivity of the currently employed workforce. As the current field service workforce ages and retires, service leaders are increasingly looking to automation to replace field work hours before making the decision to hire net new workers.

Where manual intervention is necessary, field service leaders now have an increasing number of workforce options to meet service needs. This becomes extremely pertinent when workforce demand is seasonal or even unpredictable. Being able to scale up or scale down in a short period of time is something that many field service leaders are looking for in the workforce of the future. The options available fall under three major categories:

  • Employee workforce – Full-time field service employees
  • Partner workforce – Authorized service providers, dealers, distributors
  • Extended workforce – Contractors, freelancers, crowdsourcing

To manage the work allocated to these various types of workforces, or to the overall blended workforce, it is extremely vital to best align the type of work with the type of workforce. For work that requires a great deal of skill, technical competence, and training, it might be best to develop a dedicated full-time workforce. Similar work might also be distributed to authorized third-parties in regions and areas where full-time workforce is not available. The extended workforce really comes into play where there is a greater volume of repeatable and ‘simpler’ work that does not require a high degree of training or extremely high degree of technical competence. Other factors must also be considered when aligning work, such as customer importance, customer affinity for service partner, contractual obligations, and more.

From a workforce supply perspective, more workers are considering freelance models as a primary way to work, or to supplement primary income. According to a 2016 study commissioned by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, up to 35% of the total US working population (or 55 million people) is currently choosing to freelance. Agility and flexibility is a concept desired by both employers and employees. And freelancing isn’t just for the new millennial workforce. Many older workers are looking at a freelance model to continue working and supporting their past employers during retirement.

In field service, a blended workforce model will likely be the most flexible path afforded to service leaders as they navigate workforce retirement, automation investment, and evolving customer needs. To maintain a high quality of work, steps need to be taken to ensure that the right type of work is matched with the right type of worker. I’ll be discussing this topic on a webcast hosted by our partner ClickSoftware on Dec 13. If interested in hearing more, please feel free to join (Registration required).

E: sd@servicecouncil.com
Tw: @suma1r

Looking for the Next Great Technology in Field Service, Let’s Not Forget About Mobile.

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are getting all the love on future technology watch lists. And they should – every organization should have a strategy around these technologies and their impact on business process, organization structure, and customer experience. This is true of manufacturers and others in the pursuit of field service excellence. However, I continue to believe that the most transformative technology for field service organizations in 2018 will continue to be mobile. Mobile can be augmented by some of the capabilities of the other technology systems, but mobile is also essential to enhancing the value of these other tools. Here’s why I believe that mobile remains untapped and must remain on the technology watch list:

Power to the Field

Three out of four field service organizations polled by The Service Council (TSC) have empowered their field agents with mobile devices and tools. I would argue that, most of these investments have been made to eliminate paperwork with the automation of work orders, billing, parts management and more. While this does enhance productivity, there is a lot more that can be done to truly empower field technicians. In a truly mobile system, most of the basic work order and other information should already be pre-filled or easy to fill with the aid of audio or video (enter AI). I have yet to see a majority of organizations actually look to leverage mobile to improve the field technician’s experience via the reduction of redundant form filling (even on a mobile device) or by making it easier to find information. We are just scratching the surface of exposing knowledge, expertise, and collaborative capabilities to field service technicians.

The Mobile Learning Platform

We think AR will significantly disrupt learning and training in the long run, but content on mobile devices will get there first. Almost every organization that we speak to is looking to develop on-demand learning tools that technicians can access on their mobile devices. These tools can be job or task-specific or they can be linked to broader career development objectives and goals. Mobile also allows technicians to record videos of service procedures and share these with the technician community. User-driven content is becoming a sought-after medium as it promotes service resolutions while also encouraging an interest in learning. In the remote world of field service, user-driven content can also help field service technicians feel connected to their broader field service team which develops camaraderie and enhances employee engagement.

The Mobile Customer

In our 2017 trends research, service leaders prioritized the need to improve the customer experience delivered via their contact center and field service teams. In field service, an improved customer experience refers to:

  • For service events. Ease of appointment setting, visibility into technician and repair status, proper billing and invoicing.
  • For the ongoing relationship. Better visibility into asset performance and easy access to self-service (account-related) or self-help (product-related) information.

Organizations, especially those that are more industrial in nature, have just begun to look at self-service capabilities for their customers especially since they recognize the cost and revenue benefits of extending these capabilities.

Data Points

This is the most underrated benefit of mobile. Organizations often believe that they need real-time (and always on) data collection to build predictive models or to feed machine learning systems. The problem is that real-time performance data is hard to get. Even with better connectivity and cheaper sensors, it is still challenging to capture real-time data. In the interim, organizations have the ability to use mobile technology to track every service need and corresponding resolution scenario (parts, skills, knowledge used). All of this failure and resolution information can be used to develop predictive service models. It can also be used to build forecasting models to service parts or to prioritize knowledge and training investments to ensure that the relevant resources are easily available for those who need them.

I believe that AI, AR, and IoT will be transformational in field service. I just think that we have yet to fully experience the transformation yielded via mobile.

I recently spoke on a webinar regarding our research on the four technology areas and their potential progress in field service in 2018. This webinar was hosted by our partners Field Technologies Online and Astea (listen on-demand). I’m happy to debate and discuss the mobile topic further, please feel free to ping me below.

Sumair Dutta
E: sd@servicecouncil.com
Tw: @suma1r

3 Trends I Didn’t Expect to See – Service Parts Leaders Discuss 3D Printing

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

In August 2017, I felt like I was able to prove that the case around 3D printing for service parts management had been made (post here). But I may have been a bit premature in my assessment.

As noted in my earlier post on the topic, several organizations such as Hewlett-Packard, NASA, the US Navy, and the US Coast Guard have displayed the real-world efficacy of 3D printed service parts. However, in a recent research survey of service parts executives, early results showed that less than half could foresee their organizations using the technology within the next 5 years, let alone have a pilot in place in 2018! This number, though taken from an initial sample, was surprising to me as these service leaders noted a number of disruptive challenges facing their service parts businesses which seem ripe for 3D printing to help solve.

Chart – Most Disruptive Challenges Facing Service Parts Leaders in Next 12 Months


As listed in the above chart, service leaders are trying to navigate a world which is unpredictable, costlier, and more demanding. So why aren’t more service organizations and manufacturers kicking the tires on 3D printing or at least thinking this will be an option for them to improve customer service, decrease the cost of moving parts across a complex service network, or mitigate the uncertainty of fluctuations in future service needs. Three lessons jumped out at me as I looked through the data from the service parts leaders who chose to share their thoughts on the topic –

1- A reduction in inventory is not necessarily the driving factor for an investment in 3D printing. Service parts executives noted that the reason they would explore an investment in 3D printing was to Improve responsiveness to customers and increase satisfaction levels. So, in thinking about what might drive a decision to invest in this technology which as noted by our early results may be cost prohibitive, the cheaper option is to prioritize incremental improvements in the current resources to support parts movement across the network (i.e., mobile visibility in to parts available, better routes to get to the problem faster, better triage and diagnosis). The leap into the future of 3D printing still remains too much for these parts leaders to bite off on when other fixes are more tangible and cost-effective.

2- Solutions still aren’t business ready, at least in service. More than 80% of our initial sample of service parts leaders either felt solutions weren’t ready or they didn’t quite know yet. That comes in stark contrast to the marketing materials and excitement displayed regarding the topic. The service community often takes a wait and see approach to new technologies. The investments can be too large, the time to deploy too long, and the risk of failure too high for many service organizations to jump into new endeavors that have yet to be proven out. We still see organizations managing a field team from a whiteboard or spreadsheet. To be business-ready, these service parts leaders expressed concerns both about the technology (i.e., quality of printed materials, cost) but also about their internal capabilities to support such an investment. The latter is a challenge that won’t be easy to fix quickly and takes a strategic vision from service leadership to cross.

3- The problems 3D printing solves aren’t top of the list of critical challenges for service parts leaders. When looking at the barriers noted by this initial sample of service parts leaders to investment, I expected that service leaders would state the technology is too expensive or they didn’t have the resources to execute (which they listed). But I didn’t expect to see that a number of service leaders noted that they didn’t think this investment would actually solve a problem they felt they currently had. For the technology to gain traction it must solve problems that are top of mind for the service parts leader, otherwise, 3D printers will be relegated to a piece of cool technology and not become a priority when service parts leaders allocate budget around their key initiatives.

The exuberance of tech geeks, marketers, and analysts like myself regarding the technology of 3D printing can’t be overstated. The promise and the value seem to be there. But as noted above and in recent data, this initial sample of service leaders still struggle with making the connection between promise and value for today’s service parts organization AND gaining the necessary momentum to bite off on the investment. To close this gap, I think service parts leaders need to further explore the technology, the price of 3D printing solutions need to come down a bit, quality of printed parts has to be proven, and the market must communicate how 3D printing solves the specific pain points of the service parts leader and technology buyer. But despite the skepticism and numerous hurdles to increased investment, the interest in the subject continues to be high amongst service parts leaders and I plan to continue to gather data points and take the pulse of the market. So stayed tuned in…

And if the topic of 3D printing for service parts management is of interest to you or a colleague, please take the 10 minutes needed to share your thoughts in this survey – https://www.research.net/r/tscp3d2017. I will be publishing some additional insights in a report later this year.

As we exit 2017 and enter another year, please do let us know topics you are interested in or you feel need more insights from The Service Council Research Team.

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