In field service not much changes year to year, right? Life for the field service organization is something breaks, send a technician out, fix the problem, and move on to the next work order.
But the field service world is changing. Two trends, in particular, are leading to a new world for the field service organization: the desire to deliver value-added experiences to customers and service being delivered through a partner network. Recent research from The Service Council (TSC) highlighted that a top priority for field service leaders was the desire to improve the experience being delivered to customers, as noted by 74% of respondents. This concept of an experience brings into focus a need by service organizations to engage customers beyond what is listed in a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and create on-going partnerships with the customer to ensure mutual value is received. This is where the second trend noted earlier adds a layer of complexity, this value is often delivered through a degree of separation from the manufacturer or service organization. Third party service providers, dealers, and contractors are more involved in the service experience of today. TSC research highlights that 76% of service organizations and manufacturers rely on third parties for the completion of service work. These convergent trends of customers demanding more value while manufacturers lose control of the service that is being delivered require a new look at service. This new service world depends on a number of things to work well, but to get a start I will highlight just three which stand out to me as imperative for service success:
1- Work together to create a mutually beneficial long-term plan which addresses the needs of all stakeholders. As noted earlier, with three-fourths of OEMs and service organizations working with partners to deliver service, there is a need to ensure they work with their partner network to create a strategy which incorporates the needs and desired outcomes for all parties. Historically, the relationship between service provider and OEM was based around the installation of equipment which transferred ownership of the customer to the service company until the next piece of equipment needed to be sold to a customer. But this washing of hands by the OEM is changing as they realize the need to maintain a line of sight into the customer experience. For example, TSC field service research highlighted that the top priority for Service Champions was to improve the field service experience being delivered to customers. The interdependent partnership between the OEM, the service organization, and the customer must be built on an understanding of what the customer wants from the service experience. All three groups need to have a long-range plan in place to ensure everyone benefits from the partnership and all groups have visibility into the value being received and delivered.
2- Align the metrics and ensure visibility for all. Too often, metrics are internal facing as opposed to looking at the metrics which impact the service ecosystem (i.e., service partners, end customer, suppliers). As service networks and the number of service partners grow and transform, so should the KPIs that measure service performance. This also requires an improved focus on performance visibility across all stakeholders in areas that are most relevant to them. OEMs need visibility into the service experience being delivered and confirmation resolution has been achieved, service partners need visibility into changes or enhancements in the product, and customers need visibility into when and who will be providing resolution of the problem. This is important as in order for the manufacturer to be focused on product reliability and sales, they must have visibility into when service calls are initiated, what was the problem (i.e., factory defect, misuse), and if the customer is satisfied by the response. Without visibility across the network to performance, the OEM may be blind-sided when they look to sell the next piece of equipment, or the service organization may be overtaxed by a spike in services calls as they were unaware of a defect.
3- Make sure the end customer knows who to call when something goes wrong. As service partner relationships evolve, often the name on the equipment or product is not the name on the van that shows up to fix it when it breaks. Regardless of service provider choice, the end customer should have a seamless experience when requesting or needing service as the customer doesn’t really care who shows up to fix the problem. Delivering a seamless experience that is aligned with the OEM’s service brand is difficult to accomplish if integrations between systems and process flows are disjointed.
As we continue to see more manufacturers leverage service partners for the execution of service to the end customer, the attention paid to this service ecosystem will only grow and become more crucial to the shared success of all groups. The relationship between a manufacturer and its service partners is not something to be considered insignificant or trivial. These parties must work together to create a sustained value position to the end customer. Otherwise, they are bound to only see the short-term gains and miss the longer-range impact to growth, their business, and success.