Perspective Archives - The Service Council

Maintaining a “Head Start” in Your Proactive Support Journey

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In a previous blog post “Proactive. Predictive. What’s the Difference?”, I outlined the various components of a proactive support strategy. As a refresher, here they are below:

1- Predictive Service / Maintenance
2- Resource Planning for Predictive Service Operations
3- Proactive Operations Management
4- Proactive Installed Base Management
5- Proactive Customer Communication

In speaking to organizations about their proactive journeys, it has occurred to me that service leaders agree on the necessity of a proactive support strategy, but they’re waiting for the right technology or the right stage of data maturity prior to embarking on their proactive journey.

While I agree that you need a well-established data framework to make proactive customer management decisions, I would encourage leaders to take active steps to get started and to make proactive a business priority. It won’t be long before customers begin to demand this and it definitely won’t be long before competitors begin taking a more proactive approach to customer management. In fact, many organizations have already put programs in place, and while these programs might still be in their infancy or only touch upon one of the proactive strategy components, they are already providing valuable information and insight to the early movers.

The use of the Internet of Things (IoT) data to support predictive maintenance has been taking place for some time now, especially in industries with high-value assets such as Aerospace & Defense, Medical Devices, and Oil & Gas. Organizations in these industries are getting much more precise in identifying future failure events and are getting more intelligent about incorporating data capturing sensors into future iterations of their products.

Organizations in High-Tech manufacturing are taking the lead in proactive installed base management by getting smarter about the coverage of their service agreements and initiating appropriate sales, marketing, and awareness actions to increase revenue capture and to enhance customer retention.

We’ve also seen organizations in High-Tech Manufacturing take strides in proactive customer communication and management. One TSC member in particular has developed a proactive outreach and support program that is based on a customer health index. This index accounts for all the things positive and negative that have happened to that customer and all of the events that are likely to happen in the future. The purpose of the health index is to mobilize necessary customer management resources to prevent a future escalation. This involves prompt resolution of open customer requests, improved response for new customer inquiries, and greater communication between the service provider and the customer. Such customer health indices are becoming more common given the benefits associated with avoiding a customer issue versus resolving a full-blown meltdown.

And in the areas of proactive operations management and resource planning, we see progress as well. In fact, I had the opportunity to discuss the proactive concept with the team at Stedin on a recent webinar (Download Recording) hosted by TSC partner ClickSoftware. Here is a short excerpt from our interview that focuses on the predictive field service and operations management.

Q: How does Stedin view the concept and idea of predictive field service?
A: Predictive Field Service fulfills a vital role in driving the operational excellence within Stedin Meters & Connections. It’s more and more becoming the basis for meeting our goals on first-time-right-customer, first-time-fix, and net promoter score. These in turn allow us to meet our legal obligation of offering all our 2 million customers a smart meter by 2020. We have also followed the concept of Think Big, Start Small.

Stedin has embraced the Agile mindset, and for us this means we like to start new initiatives by first proving our assumptions with a small and relatively easy to realize proof of concept before moving on to bigger initiatives. Digital Transformation

Q: Which areas of the 5 (highlighted by TSC) are ones where Stedin is actively making investments? Why?
A: For now, we have been focusing on predictive operations management and predictive resource planning because these were the areas we thought we could make the quickest and easiest improvements. They are also the areas where the biggest benefits and return of investments could be made.

What’s also important to mention is that every project we do has to have direct added value to the four operational goals within Meters & Connections: Quality & Safety, Productivity & Finance, Employee Satisfaction, or Customer Satisfaction.

Our conversation then focuses on the specific (and very interesting) predictive solutions that Stedin is actively using and the accompanying results experienced. You can listen into our conversation via the on-demand webinar. Feel free to skip through my part at the beginning, especially if you have read my first blog. On listening to the team at Stedin, one can see the predictive and proactive isn’t a future state, it’s something that’s very real right now.

For more insight to how service leaders are incorporating proactive service as part of their overall digital transformation, see our research on Digital Transformation for theService Enterprise.

Sumair Dutta previously served as the Chief Customer Officer for The Service Council™ (TSC).

A Service-Focused Vision: IFS World Conference 2018 Recap

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

IFS hosted its World Conference in Atlanta last week, and The Service Council was invited to cover the event as an Influencer in the Service Management space. Our summary of the event will fall into three primary chapters.

IFS Strategic Direction

This was the first World Conference for new CEO Darren Roos. Mr. Roos wasted no time in introducing himself to customers across the globe prior to last week’s event, but the World Conference served as his official introduction. In his event keynote, Mr. Roos indicated that he intended to continue IFS’s focus on ensuring customer success by spearheading efforts that focused on:

  • Faster time to value
  • Risk mitigation
  • Value assurance

With this in mind, he highlighted that IFS’s near term opportunities for growth were primarily centered around:

  • Extending market leadership in Aerospace & Defense
  • Growing product and customer presence in Service Management
  • Increasing reach in Mid-Market ERP (defined as companies generating $1b-$5b in annual revenue)

From a product functionality point-of-view, Mr. Roos (as supported by VP of R&D Thomas Sald and CTO Dan Matthews) highlighted that the following four areas continue to drive IFS’s product R&D.

  1. User Interface
  2. Internet of Things
  3. Artificial Intelligence / Robotic Process Automation
  4. Mobile

These areas were also highly visible in IFS’s launch of Applications 10 (Apps 10). (See Official Release)

As Influencers of the service community, we had broader access to Mr. Roos throughout the event. It’s evident that he sees an opportunity for IFS to be more aggressive when pursuing growth in the three areas identified above. He sees this growth being accomplished by a continued push on the core functionality of the product, an expanded focus on customer success, and an enhanced partner network. The increased reliance on a partner network for product extensions, implementation, and professional services is a new direction for IFS, and one that is necessary to support the more aggressive growth objectives that Mr. Roos is expected to deliver. From a customer success point of view, Mr. Roos also hinted at a more standardized engagement model across IFS’s global businesses and increased technical and brand integration of IFS’s acquired products within the overall umbrella.

These are early days in Mr. Roos’s tenure, but his comments suggest an acknowledgement of IFS’s strengths as well as a realization of the need for support in accelerating growth. We anticipate a period of cultural change within IFS, where the hallmark focus on product quality will be accompanied by a greater push in the areas of sales, marketing, and customer success.

IFS and Service Management

In Service Management, there were three major product updates. Firstly, the announced IFS Apps 10 suite includes several new service management capabilities. This is typically intended for manufacturers running IFS as their core ERP and looking to extend the capabilities for service-specific functions. Additions are focused on linking service work and quotations to contact records, adding improved resource forecasting capabilities, and better integration of work sent to contractors. (Other improvements in Apps 10 focused on the entire organization, such as chat bots, and more are also applicable to the service organization). The niftiest service-focused demo in Apps 10 involved the direct scheduling of some service work with a partner within the confines of the Aurena user interface.

IFS also showed a demonstration of its newly launched (in Alpha, General Availability planned for Q4 2018) Field Service Management 6 with UI enhancements (Image 1 below) and added functionality (Image 2). The Field Service Management product is a stand-alone field service solution that is aimed at customers leveraging other enterprise partners as their back-end ERPs or CRMs. Much of the core functionality in the FSM product comes from IFS’s acquisitions of Metrix and 360 Scheduling.

Source: IFS World Conference, May 2018

Source: IFS World Conference, May 2018

Customers can choose to deploy the FSM Solution in the cloud (multi-tenant on Microsoft Azure or as a managed service) or on-premise. The on-premise focus is interesting, as most field service management software providers only support cloud versions of their software, given that this is where most companies are headed. Legacy systems in field service management are primarily on-premise and there is still an appetite from certain companies, especially in the industries of utilities, oil & gas, and telecommunications, to stick to the on-premise deployment format.

Source: IFS World Conference, May 2018

Source: IFS World Conference, May 2018

The demo during the FSM keynote focused on the UI enhancements and the ease with which users can configure fields or events within the solution. We also got to see the enhanced scheduling engine to which IFS claims to have added support for more business and delivery models.

Away from the bright lights of the keynote stage, I also got to view a demo of the IFS Customer Engagement platform, acquired through the purchase of mplsystems (TSC commentary). The solution extends IFS’s service management footprint into the area of customer engagement, typically a strength of traditional contact center or CRM providers.

Source: IFS World Conference 2018

Source: IFS World Conference 2018

The Customer Engagement Platform can support an organization’s multi-channel service desk, but the focus of the demos was on the intelligent desktop available to service agents and the AI-driven intelligent response capabilities that can be extended to agents or directly to customers in the channels through which they choose to interact (text or voice). These capabilities are quite powerful, and they not only enable IFS to claim a more robust service management solution, but also play on the increasing interest from B2B service companies to offer more consumer-like experiences to their customers.

In our 2018 research on customer support trends, our members indicate that their customers are demanding better response times and increased visibility from their service providers. Essentially, customers want better visibility into the status of their purchased assets and associated service requests and expect greater response and action times when service actions are needed. Enterprise customers aren’t as likely to move to messaging or chat as communication channels, but they do expect the response and the convenience that these channels provide.

Source: The Service Council Data. January 2018

Source: The Service Council Data. January 2018

IFS Customers

No review of an event is complete without a conversation with customers. Luckily for us, several TSC members are customers of IFS and I had the chance to catch up with several of them at the show. Most conversations centered around the breadth of IFS’s portfolio and the excitement around key capabilities introduced in the FSM and the Customer Engagement Management solutions.

All of the customers were pleased with the solution stack and the continued focus from IFS around service management. Several indicated that they were excited to see a greater collaboration with partners to support added functionality and to enhance deployments. A few also highlighted that they were surprised by the breadth of IFS’s Service Management portfolio and would prefer to see a greater push from IFS’s account management and customer success teams around solution awareness and education.

I also had the opportunity to host a panel with service leaders from Eickhoff-Bochum, The Polygon Group, and REMA Tip Top around the challenge of finding and retaining talent in the field service discipline. All of the leaders conceded that they were struggling to find new talent, but all three claimed that they saw this as an opportunity to rebrand their organizations in order to increase interest in the field service profession. Several of the takeaways from the discussion focused on:

  • Increasing the measurement and evaluation of employee engagement at the field technician level
  • Enhancing the autonomy of field service agents in a time when technology allows for more control
  • Focusing on broader personality traits at the time of hire to enable a more customer-centric field service organization
  • Driving greater levels of diversity in the field workforce
  • Using technology to remove some of the obstacles to the completion of service work and essentially making life easier for front-line agents

As you can see, there was a lot that took place over the two days of my experience at the IFS World Conference. The customer panel was definitely a highlight, especially as it focused on the human element of field service at an overall technology conference. It also highlighted that companies who work with the likes of enterprise software providers such as IFS are grappling with the role that technology will play in the future of work. There are more questions than answers at this stage, but there is a greater awareness that leaders within organizations need to take a greater interest in their employees as opposed to solely focusing on employee output.

On a final note, IFS’s Global head of Service Management and I had the opportunity to share our thoughts on major field service trends on a live broadcast on The Cube.

Proactive. Predictive. What’s the difference?

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective, Uncategorized | No Comments

There’s no doubt that service businesses are organizing themselves to be more predictive in the service that they provide. Instead of responding to a service event, they can now act on information and data available and prevent future repair issues with predictive actions. This has significant ramifications, especially on the customer who is potentially facing a shutdown of operations due to product failure. The impact on the service organization is significant too, as resources don’t need to be scrambled to meet an emergency service request. Being able to predict service needs allows the service organization the luxury to plan for future resource needs.

Achieving predictive service outcomes can be expensive. One can approach predictive service with more of a time-based preventive maintenance model, but that doesn’t really weed out all service issues and therefore doesn’t afford all the cost benefits of reactive service avoidance. We also believe that service buyers will begin to question the value of preventive maintenance schedules without real insight into how these visits are driving the outcomes desired by their businesses.

For true predictive service, one needs to get a better view into what’s happening with products in the field. This view isn’t limited to the operating performance of the product or the equipment, but also covers the environment that the equipment is in, and the nuances of how operators are handling the equipment. To enable real-time data capture and management, many organizations are heading towards the introduction of more sensors on their equipment. Anyone who has tried to do this knows how difficult it is. Sensors raise the short-term cost and complexity in R&D cycles and can get discarded in R&D’s attempts to remain on time and under budget. It takes a senior business leader who understands the long-term enterprise value of an investment in sensors to ensure that R&D and service can work hand-in-hand. Even then, it isn’t guaranteed that the service organization will receive all the information needed to develop a predictive picture. Sensor data can be supplemented by data that’s captured through customer requests or during on-site service visits – all models of data capture that should be considered by service organizations looking to introduce predictability into their delivery models.

While predictive service is being enabled, organizations mustn’t lose sight of the opportunity in becoming more proactive in how they approach their customers. Predictive service is one element of a more proactive customer management strategy. We believe that a proactive support strategy encompasses the following elements:

1- Predictive Service / Maintenance
2- Resource Planning for Predictive Service Operations
3- Proactive Operations Management
4- Proactive Installed Base Management
5- Proactive Customer Communication

I recently spent some time highlighting the various stages of The Service Council’s proactive support strategy on a Smarter Services™ Webcast called “Raising the Bar for Field Service with Predictive Technologies.” To hear a recording of the webcast, please click here. This webcast is supported by ClickSoftware and includes a wonderful presentation by team members at Stedin a leading energy management company based out of the Netherlands, who are focused on driving business value with the aid of predictive technologies. Next week, I’ll be summarizing my thoughts and presenting them on a post-event blog available on The Service Council’s website.

Voice of the Field Service Engineer – Day 5

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Its been incredible sharing these findings from our Field Service Engineer Feedback project 2018. Today’s piece is the final one. You can find the previous chapters here (Part 1, 2, 3, 4). My thanks to all of our partners, members, and engineers that participated.

Day 5: What About a Technician Effort Score?

One of the best articles on customer loyalty was written several years ago by folks from the Conference Executive Board (CEB), now part of Gartner. The article (link) laid out the argument that it was important for organizations to gauge the effort expended by their customers in common interactions. This could be tied to the acts of purchasing, billing, or seeking customer service. The authors argue that its essential for organizations to make things easier for their customers and they introduce the Customer Effort Score (CES) which has since been updated (Link).

We find that more members in the TSC community are beginning to measure the Customer Effort Score in combination with other popular loyalty and satisfaction metrics. In TSC’s recent report on the Customer Support Leader’s Trends for 2018, we actually advocate that organizations focus on making things easier for their customers and that they should adopt a dual measurement philosophy around effort. Customer Effort is a score to measure the ease of service transactions, while Ease of Doing Business is another metric to evaluate from a broader relationship point-of-view.

What does this have to do with engineers/technicians? Well, quite simply, I think its time to measure an Engineer (or Technician) Effort Score. How can we, as field service organizations, make it easier for them to get their work done? We often believe that technology investments are actively solving problems at the front-line, but they might not be. They might actually be adding layers of complexity that get in the way of work getting done.

The same methodology around customer effort can be applied to developing a an engineer focused score. As can be seen from Figure 1, we took a simplistic stab at getting answers from engineers regarding the ease with which they can complete their work.
In most of the areas of inquiry, 7 out of 10 engineers claim that it is easy for them to get their work done. Those at larger organizations tended to indicate a higher level of agreement with the effort statement above, but overall results were fairly consistent. It would be worth getting into a greater level of detail regarding the level of agreement with these effort questions, an endeavor that I invite organizations to pursue.
Engineer Feedback - Effort

Removing obstacles to work is a major way to support acceptance and adoption of new tools. For the previous 10 years, we’ve seen organizations gradually increase the capabilities afforded to engineers via mobile devices and solutions, and we now see a much simpler path to adoption. Nearly all engineers we polled have a mobile device for work (75% employer provided, 25% employee selected) and for the most part engineers claim the mobility has made them more productive and more efficient. Its interesting to note that only 58% indicate that mobility has made them a better engineer.

Employee buy-in is essential when introducing new tools that require engineers to change the way they work. For instance, when encountering a problem while on the customer site, most engineers claim that they would prefer to call into technical support or call a colleague to seek help.
Engineer Feedback - Seeking Help
As organizations evaluate messaging, visual support, and Augmented Reality tools to provide real-time assistance to field engineers, a gradual change in mindset is necessary to ensure that these tools deliver desired results. The workforce of the future might demand these solutions based on convenience and ease of use, but the workforce of today needs to know that these tools are actually focused on Improving a Day in the Life of the Field Service Engineer.

About the project

In 2016, The Service Council launched the first version of its field service engineer feedback research surveys involving 200 engineers and technicians. We were so pleased with the results that we decided to run a similar survey in 2018, which yielded participation from 550 engineers. You can access the summary results (and data tables) here. The intent of this survey, as it was for its predecessor in 2016, is to uncover the voice of the front lines. We often hear from service and field service leaders, but we rarely present the voices of the front-line field service engineers.

The Voice of the Field Service Engineer – Day 4

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

In part 4 of our 5-part “Voice of the Engineer” blog series we ask engineers to share their level of satisfaction with their current organizations. Parts 1, 2 and 3 can be found here, here, and here.

Day 4: Field Employee Listening Needs to Be a Priority

We’ll spend some more time on the technology of field service work in the 5th and final installment of our series. It seems like organizations have made heavy investments toward improving the productivity of their engineers. There is still work to be done, but the message to do more has been received loudly and clearly. It seems that in the drive to squeeze more, organizations have forgotten about the human side of field service engineers.
Engineer Feedback - Current Role
There is a lot that can be read into the data available in the figure above, but I’d like to spend some time on the areas of mentorship and career development. We’ve talked about the inherent enjoyment and accomplishment in doing field service work, a major driver for field service engineers. Yet it seems like the growth prospects for field engineers within field service organizations are limited. Increased pay and upward mobility are some forms of growth, but so are increased learning and personal improvement opportunities. In recent discussions we have seen organizations begin to offer more to their field engineers, especially in the form of learning paths, certifications, and specializations. We also see more organizations open up different career paths for their field engineers, recognizing that the engineer-to-supervisor-to-manager-to- path doesn’t work for all. Yet these organizations are more the exception than the rule. Organizations must take an increased stake in the development and futures of their engineers.
Engineer Feedback - Employee Listening

Employee listening and engagement programs are great places to invest to uncover improvement opportunities when it comes to engineer growth. In listening, it is vital to ensure that we’re not only seeking information and insight from our field engineers, but we’re actually willing to act on the information that’s provided to us. Field engineers tend to accept that their organizations are willing to collect feedback, but it seems less likely that these organizations are willing to source that feedback to formulate actual improvements. More so, recognition of the value of feedback seems to be elusive.

In promoting personal development and growth, it’s also worth considering the personal ambitions and apprehensions of field engineers and the impact that those personal traits might have on professional engagement. While some might feel that there is a pretty rigid line between personal and professional, I would argue that the line is beginning to blur. Bob Kelleher, founder and CEO of the Employee Engagement Group (he knows engagement), claims that engagement efforts often fail because they are focused only on who the individuals are as employees, neglecting their other aspects as individuals. In his work on I-Engage, Bob advocates a much more holistic approach to engagement, both from the employee and the employer. I tend to agree with where Bob is going and believe that a more comprehensive approach to employee engagement is essential even for the future of rough-and-tough professions such as field service.

In our final piece we’ll look into the impact of technology on the ease of getting work done.

About the project

In 2016, we launched the first version of our field service engineer feedback research surveys involving 200 engineers and technicians. We were so pleased with the results that we decided to run a similar survey in 2018, which yielded participation from 550 engineers. You can access the summary results (and data tables) here. The intent of this survey, as it was for its predecessor in 2016, is to uncover the voice of the front lines. We often hear from service and field service leaders, but we rarely present the voices of the front-line field service engineers.

The Voice of the Field Service Engineer – Day 3

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

In part 3 of our 5-part “Voice of the Engineer” blog series we ask engineers to rank the favorite and least favorite parts of their work day. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here.

Day 3: Let Me Get to Work

Field service engineers like the work that they do. They like fixing or resolving issues and ultimately resolving customer challenges. This hasn’t changed from our 2016 survey results, where the same two factors were highlighted as the best parts of the engineers’ day-to-day work. The top two also remain in the same order regardless of geographic presence, age, or size of company. Of note, more experienced field service engineers are more likely to enjoy interacting with customers and solving their problems, as seen by 61% of respondents. Only 38% (still the top factor) of those engineers 35 years or younger state that solving customer problems is the best part of the day. A near equal proportion claim that they are interested in the work, but are more drawn to the aspect of fixing or repairing things as opposed to dealing directly with customers. The younger engineers are much more likely to enjoy learning new skills or learning about new tools and technology. In part 1 of our blog series, we briefly alluded to the challenge that this raises as organizations look to use their field service resources to complete as many jobs as possible. There is an inherent enjoyment and pride that field engineers take in their craft, and service leaders must be cognizant of this when making investments to change the nature of field service.
Best Part of Engineers Day - 2018 Research

It also seems that there is ample opportunity for field service leaders to remove some of the obstacles that hinder field service engineers. The time spent in completing service related paperwork or administrative tasks is seen as the least favorite part of the field service engineer’s day. In the age of ubiquitous mobility, this continues to come as a surprise. The fact of the matter is that field service engineers spend nearly 20% of their day on paperwork. Not all of this can be done away with due to regulatory or other requirements, but 20% is a large number that can be whittled down. In impacting that number, I would also recommend that field service leaders and technologists address the time it takes field service engineers to locate the information that they need to get work done. As seen from our 2016 survey, the four major pieces of information and content that were desired by field engineers were:

  1. Access to service manuals and a knowledge base
  2. Visibility into spare parts inventory
  3. Ability to order spare parts in the field
  4. Access into customer history prior to onsite engagement

Worst Part of the Engineers Day - 2018 Research
This would begin to impact the “pressure to work faster” issue, which receives a higher level of disdain in this year’s survey when compared to 2016 results. Field engineers understand that there are revenue and cost benefits for service organizations when more tasks are completed by the same pool of labor. The rising expectations are viewed negatively when they

  • Aren’t supported with the appropriate resources
  • Impact the quality and professionalism of work
  • Compromise the safety of the field service professionals

In demanding more from their field engineers, service leaders must ensure that they are truly equipping them with resources and tools to get work done and that they are consistently engaging with engineers to collect and act on feedback and insight.

In our next piece we’ll look into the engineer’s level of satisfaction with various aspects of their work. If you are interested in getting to the end, and in accessing the entire deck of results, please visit us here. If you are a field service engineer, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to add your comments or email me at If you are a field service leader, I’m happy to chat as well.

About the project

In 2016, we launched the first version of our field service engineer feedback research surveys involving 200 engineers and technicians. We were so pleased with the results that we decided to run a similar survey in 2018 which yielded participation from 550 engineers. You can access the summary results (and data tables) here. The intent of this survey, as it was for its predecessor in 2016, is to uncover the voice of the front lines. We often hear from service and field service leaders, but we rarely present the voices of the front-line field service engineers.

The Voice of the Field Service Engineer – Day 2

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Last week we covered why field service engineers chose the profession of field service. In part 2 of our 5-part ‘voice of the field service engineer’ blog series (part 1 can be found here) we ask engineers what has changed about their day-to-day work.

Day 2: The Transformation of Field Service Work

Most engineers agree that the knowledge required to service products has changed. As products have an increasing array of software and digital components, the diagnosis and resolution of service issues requires a newer skill set. It is worth noting that those engineers that have been in the field for longer are unanimous in their agreement that the knowledge requirements of today’s field service engineer are changing. This has broad implications in terms of learning and development investments that need to be made to ensure that engineers are consistently up to speed on the service work that has to be done. The changing knowledge profile also raises the discussion of specialization. It might not be feasible to keep everyone trained on all the service aspects of every service product. Therefore, it might make sense to develop teams of specialists who focus on specific service areas and products. These specialists can then be used to work in their areas of expertise or to assist and train generalists when they encounter more specific service issues and needs.
Change in Field Service Work

The two other major takeaways from the results involve:

  1. Increasing management demands and pressure around work.
    As field service leaders are faced with increasing pressure to churn out more work, that pressure rolls downhill and impacts those on the front-lines. This was a major theme of our 2018 study and was seen in greater frequency when compared to our 2016 survey. Field service engineers are being pushed to complete a greater number of tasks and increase productivity. In certain organizations, field service engineers are also being pressured to uncover and bring in new revenue opportunities. This constant pressure to do more can be a worrying trend, especially if engineers feel a lack of support and resources in getting additional work done.
  2. The Impact of Technology. Younger engineers express slightly higher favorability toward the impact of technology on their service work. For those with more experience, less than one half indicate that available tools actually make it easier for them to get their job done. In the era where organizations are spending a lot of time worrying about customer effort, it might make sense to spend some time in improving the effort with which engineers can acquire the information or resources that they need to get work done.

Changing Profile of Field Service Work - By Age
Tomorrow, we’ll publish results documenting the best and worst parts of the field service engineers’ work days. If you are interested in getting to the end, and in accessing the entire deck of results, please visit us here. If you are a field service engineer, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to add your comments or email me at If you are a field service leader, I’m happy to chat as well.

About the ‘Voice of the field service engineer’ project:

In 2016, we launched the first version of our field service engineer feedback research surveys involving 200 engineers and technicians. We were so pleased with the results that we decided to run a similar survey in 2018 which yielded participation from 550 engineers. You can access the summary results (and data tables) here. The intent of this survey, as it was for its predecessor in 2016, is to uncover the voice of the front lines. We often hear from service and field service leaders, but we rarely present the voices of the front-line field service engineers.

The Voice of the Field Service Engineer – Day 1

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

In 2016, we launched the first version of our field service engineer feedback research surveys involving 200 engineers and technicians (Note: hereinafter we’ll call them “engineers” collectively). We were so pleased with the results that we decided to run a similar survey in 2018. The participation from our community has been outstanding.

Over the next five days, I’ll be sharing some interesting charts from our recently conducted survey of approximately 550 field service engineers across the globe. You can access the summary results (and data tables) here. The intent of this survey, as it was for its predecessor in 2016 (report, webinar for North America, webinar for Europe), is to uncover the voice of the front lines. We often hear from service and field service leaders, but we rarely present the voices of the front-line field service engineers.

Day 1: Why Field Service?

It isn’t the most sought-after profession, especially when we consider the types of dreams and aspirations that children typically have. This in turn is part of the problem that the overall industry is facing when it states that there is a talent crisis in engineering or repair and maintenance-oriented disciplines. The brand of field service is poor and needs some work, and all of us – analysts, software providers, service companies, consultants, and educational institutions – are responsible to reshape the image of field service. While the lure of new technology might help in reshaping the profile of work being done, the core rebranding of field service has to be built around the financial security, the safety, and the opportunity to learn and grow that the profession provides to new entrants.
Reasons for Joining Field Service
The 2018 results are very similar to the 2016 results and they continue to bring an interesting discussion to the forefront. Many of the technology investments being made in field service are aimed at eliminating inefficiencies. These inefficiencies infect every part of the field service ecosystem, from call scheduling to appointment booking, and from dispatch to actual field service work completion. Field service engineers enjoy the process of figuring out a customer’s issue and deciphering the necessary steps that need to be taken to resolve the issue. It is part of the pride of being a field service engineer, and while some of this might retire with the current generation of workers, we doubt that this will completely go away. This is something that companies must consider as part of the change management thought process around new automation. If the field service engineer is only seen as a worker drone that needs to get the job done, then maybe pride has no future play, but if the field service engineer is seen as a customer asset, then the pathway adopted should be very different.

At the end of the day, field service engineers want to fix things to solve customer problems. Enabling them to do so in a professional manner is the key to improving their work. (More on this later.) Their work, and the interest in their craft, is what keeps them in the profession.
Reasons for Staying in Field Service
If you are interested in getting to the end, and accessing the entire deck of results, please visit us here. If you are a field service engineer, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to add your comments or email me at If you are a field service leader, I’m happy to chat as well.

More soon…

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.

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