The traditional supplier model of make, sell, and ship is no longer all it takes to keep customers happy. In today’s market, manufacturers are not only expected to continue making and supporting great products, but must also work directly with customers to help them achieve their desired outcome.
Fortunately, with the added help of emerging mobile technology, field services technicians are in an ideal position to maintain an ongoing relationship with customers, and are quickly becoming the driving force behind increased end-user adoption and consumption in the technology industry. In my webinar, The Connected Technician, I discuss how field services is leveraging mobility to create a better customer experience and increase value.
Supplier vs. Customer Responsibilities
In B4B, the latest in a series of books by TSIA, we learn about the trends that are influencing the industry, and more importantly, how you can take advantage of these trends to get ahead of the curve. From a supplier perspective, we’ve historically focused on giving the customer a good product that is loaded up with features, and it was up to the customer to operate and optimize it to create their own outcomes. At most, we provided the option of adding maintenance and installation services, but recent history has shown us that this is no longer enough to keep customers satisfied.
The traditional supplier model of "Make, Sell, Ship" where customers are responsible for their own outcomes.
Customers are now insisting that suppliers take more responsibility for outcome, not just products, and this demand is creating new business models and opportunities as we move forward. There are two ways you can react to these growing expectations:
You could choose to continue doing what you’ve always done. After all, it’s worked in the past, right? Unfortunately in the current industry climate, the “do nothing” approach will lead to a decrease in market opportunity. Customers will put off the next upgrade and stick with what they have, because all of your services are tied to older products, which will make your revenue start to go down. This model leads to what I call a “death spiral,” meaning that you will soon get less and less work, which creates a big problem, not only for your revenue growth, but for the health of your business.
If you choose to grow and change with these trends, you will not only have to continue maintaining the organization you already have, but also play roles that have historically been done by the customer, or in some cases, by no one at all. You will be helping your customers operate and grow adoption of the products and services you provide, even to the point of guaranteeing the outcome that the customer generates. Over time, this is ultimately how you will grow your business.
What Does This Mean for Field Services?
If your company is going to move toward becoming a Level 3 or Level 4 supplier, you must also move beyond the break/fix component of field services and begin moving toward adoption services to get more value out of the product. Because of their regular interaction with customers, your FS personnel are in the perfect position to be the driving force behind adoption. Pacesetter companies are even utilizing their FS workforce to gather important customer feedback as they interact with customers from job site to job site.
While they attend to a customer’s needs, field technicians can conduct feature reviews, assess product utilization, and share information about new features. In return, customers are getting the type of instant, custom attention they desire from field services, such as timely service, knowledgeable technicians, and the ability to work directly with the technician to find “first-time fix” solutions that don’t require a time-consuming callback.
Ways That Companies Are Using Mobility
In an effort to successfully increase customer adoption and better serve customers in the field, more FS organizations are turning to emerging new technologies that give their techs mobile access to both personnel support and their knowledgebase.
There is an aging workforce and a skills gap in the industry. If you think about today’s best trade folks and field service technicians, the average age is 56, and will be looking at retirement within the next 5 to 15 years. Younger technicians, while having the advantage of being extremely tech-savvy, don’t yet have the years of hands-on experience under their belts. Fortunately, wearable devices, such as the XOEye, can help bridge the gap between these two strengths to easily capture the knowledge of your seasoned veterans and share it with your other technicians in the field.
Field technicians can benefit from the advice of experienced professionals remotely through the use of wearables.
While your expert technicians might no longer be best utilized doing vigorous on-site work, they can offer real-time instruction to other field techs wearing the devices through image capture, voice and picture recording, and collaboration features such as one-way video and two-way audio. These hands-free tools allow your field technician to record what they are seeing simply by looking at it, while a remote expert can get a first-person view of the issue and provide an insightful resolution. Wearables are also useful in situations where more than one person can’t fit into a space, but requires several people to oversee a project.
Mobile field service management solutions, such as ServiceMax, FieldAware, and Astea, allow your field technicians to have remote access to their knowledgebase, as well as connect them to other experts for real-time assistance. Having all of the answers available right at their fingertips can cut down time spent on site and reduce the need for a return visit, not only saving your company time and money, but also improving the customer experience. Many of these mobile apps are also an all-in-one tool that gives your field personnel accesses to tech manuals, detailed scheduling, point-by-point GPS-based directions to a jobsite, invoicing tools, and analytics dashboards to compare technician productivity company-wide.
While this industry-wide shift from products to customer outcomes has introduced more challenges to the traditional supplier model, it has also opened up new opportunities for field services organizations to develop lasting relationships with their customers and maintain a better-managed workforce. Watch the full webinar to learn more about how TSIA can help your company transition to becoming an outcome-based business and how embracing mobility can directly benefit your field services organization.
About the Author
Vele Galovski is vice president of research, Field Services, for TSIA. Using his nearly 30 years of industry experience, he has consistently helped companies both large and small drive double-digit top-line growth with a proven retain, gain, and grow strategy. Vele has also written a book, The Perpetual Innovation Machine, which describes a holistic approach to management based on ambitious goal setting, data driven analysis, skillful prioritization, inspiring leadership, and the lost art of employee engagement. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org