The impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has altered the world we live in (perhaps even perpetually). Its effects on the service industry have been wide-reaching in terms of health and safety, as well as productivity and capacity planning (we discuss this below). On behalf of the Service Council™, we wish you, your colleagues, partners, customers and families health and safety through this unprecedented time in humanity. For more information on disease prevention please visit Center for Disease Control & Prevention and World Health Organization (WHO).
Service Industry Faces Increasing Pressure
As we summarize the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the services and customer support industry, the impact has been wide-reaching. We’ve been analyzing the latest trends and through discussion with countless members seeking input on how best to navigate the impact of the pandemic, we’ve framed the issue in the following paradigms:
- Health & Safety
- Capacity Planning & Meeting Service/Customer Demand
- Workforce Productivity
Health and safety are of course the number one priority. With the pandemic impacting both ends of the spectrum in terms of demographics which are immuno-compromised (young and elderly), this will lead to the aging workforce, who possess the skillsets and technical expertise to support complex assets, becoming inaccessible. It will also put further pressure on service leaders to find alternative measures in terms of knowledge and skill gaps required to maintain asset uptime and performance.
The impact on productivity, workforce utilization, and capacity planning challenges will skyrocket. Greater than one-third of service leaders who responded to our 2020 Service Leader’s Agenda Survey indicated a “lack of resources to support service demand” as the top internal challenge facing their organization. The consumerization of service, resulting in a requirement of service providers to provide immediacy to issue resolution (predictive, proactive, preventive service), has placed overwhelming levels of pressure on service providers. The issue of how intensive the asset is, also serves to compound this challenge. In industries where asset uptime is mandatory (health/medical, airlines, etc.), providing service and maintaining asset performance is essential. In many cases, asset uptime could be life-threatening to you as a consumer. In other cases, it could be life-threatening to the business (continuity, profitability). Downtime isn’t an option.
This lack of “business as usual” has resulted in a dramatic change in the economic climate and signals a potential recession might be upon us. According to the US Census Bureau, greater than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. The uncertain economy was also highlighted as a key area of concern amongst the greater than 100 service executives who recently responded to our annual Service Leader’s Agenda benchmark survey (US Election Year). This concern is now heightened with the compounding impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and could lead to further workforce reductions and serve to curtail investments (technology, etc.)
Augmented Reality (AR) Technology to Solve Pandemic Disruption
In recent research conducted by the Service Council™, service leaders expected an increase in field service activities related to Assisted Service/Self-Service, Remote Service and Predictive Alerts (see diagram). With this increase, AR technology could be the great equalizer in sustaining business continuity.
Beyond the enablement of remote service and assisted self-service for asset maintenance and issue resolution, AR technology provides the ability to increase collaboration amongst Field Service Engineers (FSEs). In another recent Service Council™ survey (Voice of FSE, with nearly 600 field technician respondents), FSEs claimed the worst parts of their day-to-day job were the inability to collaborate with peers, isolation and the time spent looking for information. The old saying, “employee engagement leads to customer engagement,” could not be any more appropriate in this challenging era. AR technology will not only enable remote service, but also foster collaboration among FSEs, decrease isolation and decrease the time spent looking for information, thus, improving engagement and efficiencies. Through this difficult climate, AR technology will be one of the essential tools to help with the overall disruption this pandemic has created.
Service is Humanity™ (In Action)
Many across the Service Council™ community have sprung to action in response to the pandemic with generous (and compassionate) complimentary offerings of their technologies to assist with business continuity in this time of required health and safety precautions. There are many wonderful examples of Service is Humanity™ in action. One of these examples is PTC, with its recently announced free offer of Vuforia Chalk through June 30, 2020 (Enroll).
The Vuforia Chalk AR remote support and collaboration technology offers see-what-I-see video conferencing and augmented reality-enabled Chalk markup, which is critical technology during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This technology enables technicians to connect with remote experts to troubleshoot issues, perform maintenance procedures, and collaboratively work through challenges – even when they cannot be in the same place at the same time. At a time when avoiding close contact is critical to preventing illness, this technology can help service organizations stay connected with their customers and help them minimize downtime where possible.
Service is Humanity™ is a cultural philosophy the Service Council™ introduced at its Smarter Services™ Executive Symposium 5 years ago which has gained momentum with many organizations embracing this methodology (DELL Technologies among others). Service is Humanity™ is defined as:
A company-wide cultural philosophy which recognizes the role and importance of service on humanity looking beyond traditional operational metrics. It represents the EMPOWERMENT of the employee to create unique experiences at his/her discretion to create exceedingly exceptional customer experiences which improves the World.