Throughout the pandemic, the Service Council has conducted surveys assessing the changes in the challenges facing service leaders. In particular, as a follow up to our annual Service Leaders’ Agenda survey, we tracked the changes in the external and internal challenges. Data gathered subsequent to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic identified a dramatic increase in the volatility of customer demands for service as one of those external challenges.
As organizations shut down, or trimmed operations during the initial stages of the emerging pandemic, the volume of service requests for many companies declined. This caused some companies to temporarily furlough or let go of service technicians. Additionally, a backlog of scheduled services, such as inspections and preventive maintenance services ballooned. However, when companies started to reopen, the volume of break-fix/on-demand work orders began to soar.
Moreover, with safety concerns prevailing for both employees and customers, new regulatory and safety requirements often produced stringent conditions on service delivery operations. The pandemic also disrupted supply chain flow, from hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment (PPE), to crucial spare parts and supplies needed to keep equipment operating.
The data also revealed that outdated processes, aging technology infrastructure, and lack of collaboration across departments were major concerns for service executives. These concerns have compelled many service companies to re-examine their service processes much more closely than they had in recent years. Many have recognized that improvement and refinement of service delivery must be enabled and supported by appropriate technology investments and infrastructure. Nearly 80% of service leaders polled said they had already planned to increase investments in service-related technologies in 2020. The pandemic seems to have amplified the urgency of those previously existing plans.
Through all this, sustained or improved customer satisfaction and loyalty remain a top objective for most organizations – perhaps now more than ever. As the volatility in service demand continues, companies that adapt most effectively to the changing environment imposed by the pandemic will emerge with lofty customer satisfaction and loyalty, and as leaders in their industries. Technology investments will aid that adaption.
In light of these dynamic circumstances, one practice that can help with the volatility in service demand is the use of a blended, or hybrid, workforce. That is, use of an external workforce that can augment a direct employee (W2) workforce when circumstances require additional or unique service support.
The Covid-19 pandemic has perhaps highlighted the benefits of engaging an external service partner to supplement an organization’s workforce to meet the changing demand. As part of a hybrid workforce, an external service partner can provide valuable services in the following circumstances:
- Responding seamlessly to customers during direct employee workforce shortages, like heavy vacation periods, seasonal workload increases, engineering change/upgrade rollouts, etc.
- Fulfilling geographically remote service requirements, where a direct employee is not available, and/or to avoid excessive travel costs for sending an employee from a distant location.
- Providing routine or commonplace service activities, which permits a highly trained direct staff to focus on more complex service issues.
- Providing a unique, specialized skill or experience, when the direct staff may have a shortage of the required skill.
- Supporting long-term projects such as long-duration installations, moves, upgrades, and de-installations, leaving the direct force to concentrate on on-demand and preventive maintenance services.
- Augmenting general staff requirements as needed.
A blended workforce can help ensure that the direct staff is used effectively and productively. It can reduce overall service delivery costs by making sure technician skill sets and related costs are allocated in the most appropriate and cost-effective manner. It can help maintain revenue per internal technician at an optimal level. Such cost and revenue protections improve margins for service businesses even in highly volatile times. And finally, it can enhance employee satisfaction by ensuring that highly-skilled and trained direct employees are available to work on the most challenging and fulfilling tasks.
The underlying technology enabling a blended service staff can be a key success factor. Field Nation is a premier provider of such indispensable technology for blended workforces. Field Nation’s solution supports and enforces the processes and policies its customers require. Their technology ensures that technicians assigned to jobs are the right technicians, with the right skills, at the right places, at the right times, and that they will have the right tools and materials needed to successfully complete the work. Moreover, the Field Nation solution captures all relevant metrics and performance data.Bottom line – the service provided by a blended service workforce must be unwavering across the board, regardless of who delivers the service, a direct employee or a partner. And it’s especially important in the midst of a disruptive and volatile service environment. That consistency must be apparent to both the customer and the service company. Field Nation’s technology and solution, combined with their thoroughly vetted, highly skilled technicians strengthen a blended workforce to empower that consistency.