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| Joseph Martin The evolution of field service as a revenue stream

With new technologies and an expanding scope of responsibilities, field service technicians – and the way they work – are changing dramatically.

The expanding value associated with equipment is causing a shift in field service and how companies view their service operations. Mark Homer, vice president of Global Customer Transformation for ServiceMax, says that increasingly field service technicians are becoming “trusted advisors” to the customers whose equipment they repair and maintain.

“Customers want to minimize the whole life cost of their equipment, at the same time that they want to maximize performance and availability from these assets, especially critical assets like in hospitals or industrial settings,” Homer explains. “It’s a change toward a more preventive model rather than corrective.”

ServiceMax is a field service management software company that recently conducted an extensive survey of global IT and field service decision makers. The survey showed that companies understand that customer satisfaction is critical to their success, but are falling short in connecting the dots to how field service fosters customer satisfaction and loyalty.

From a technology standpoint, the convergence of cloud, mobile, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies helps a field service provider stay ahead of outright equipment failures. That opens the door for these providers to offer an all-encompassing – and higher-revenue – service that involves maintaining, controlling availability, maximizing performance, and managing the life cycle costs of specific assets.

Assisted by technology

More and more companies are using augmented reality (AR) to aid their technicians on-site. AR allows them to easily interface with a remote supervisor and bring additional perspectives to repair or maintenance jobs. Virtual reality is becoming common in training classes, and IoT sensor data is being leveraged to remotely fine-tune equipment, in order to extend its life and prolong the time between maintenance visits.

As important, the ability to access all necessary information while on-site helps prevent  “leakage” in the field service space. Leakage is when the technician provides parts or services that go beyond the scope of the service contract, costing the service provider money. The ability to essentially carry the contract with them on a tablet or access it remotely prevents technicians from giving away service that requires a fee.

The technician’s role is transforming as well. It is now more than fixing a problem, then jumping in the van to head to the next job. In some cases, when appropriate, technicians are upselling and cross-selling customers additional equipment or services. In addition to servicing, technicians are also expected to emphasize and measure customer satisfaction on the spot.

Need anything else?

“It may be as simple as asking the question ‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’ or building in an extra five or 10 minutes at the end of the service call,” Homer notes. “That allows the technician to explain to the customer what they have done and how. That is an important part of building that trusted advisor relationship.”

Homer adds that technicians are also doing more to assess recurring problems with equipment and determine areas of possible improvement, then conveying that information to the manufacturer’s R&D or product design people.

Regardless of how much IoT monitoring technology gets added to the mix, helping detect performance or other problems and even fixing some of those problems remotely, visits by human technicians to customer sites for maintenance work or repairs are going to be a fact of life for a long time.

Homer says that fact may pose some challenges for the field service industry, as far as its need to maintain a sufficient workforce. Current trends, he indicates, suggest the industry needs to step up its efforts to recruit younger workers into the field.

Offering the latest technologies to field service workers can assist in recruiting younger workers and can also help your seasoned technicians be more productive. Technology appears to be a win win.

 

 

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