Two-tier service? Are your regional customers missing out?

 

After all their hard work to develop sophisticated business-wide technology platforms, it’s remarkable how many vendors, systems integrators and resellers are not employing them to their full potential.

Platforms that bring together all the functions of a business are undoubtedly a boon. Take call centres, for example. An integrated platform makes it so much easier to triage, book and track service and maintenance calls through to completion, providing a transparent, automated end-to-end process.

That’s the case in metro areas, at least, where field technicians employed by IT enterprise services companies receive and provide real time information via their integrated platforms. For the 20-30% of IT field services that are delivered in regional Australia, companies have little choice but to outsource to agents. And naturally, companies want their regional customers to experience the same high level of responsiveness as those in the big cities, while keeping field service costs as low as possible.

Surprising often, however, there’s a missing link between the integrated platforms in which enterprise services companies have invested, and the platforms being used by their third party field agents. If you’re an enterprise IT services business, it’s this missing link that means you could be unintentionally creating a two-tier service: one for metro areas, and one for regional.

If your aggregated field service provider or individual field agents cannot interface directly with your IT platform, it immediately diminishes the high level of visibility and control that your platform delivers for metro field calls. And with no real time updates or communications, you are, in effect, trusting third parties to do what’s been asked but with little idea of whether the tasks have been completed. It’s not unusual for vendors, resellers and systems integrators to have to telephone or email their external field agents to check that they’ve completed their service calls.

As well as jeopardising quality of service to your regional customers, the non-existent interface between platforms impacts the continuity and standard of service records and reports. Field agents have to be relied upon to complete manual updates and email or upload to your portal, a costly activity in terms of labour.

Consider, too, that your third parties may be outsourcing to other parties, as is often the case outside larger cities. There’s a lack of real time control and visibility here that creates all sorts of risks. If, for example, the field services fail to come up to your customers’ expectations, how will you know? Poor transparency could cost dearly in terms of time, money and reputation. And if a technician then has to revisit a customer, it not only inconveniences the customer, it cuts margins enormously, impacting profitability head-on.

Of course, it’s easy to go on as before and accept that a lower level of service for regional customers is the norm – keeping the status quo is always an option. But do you really want your technology investment to be effective for only 70-80% of field service events? After all the effort to develop, market, sell or resell hardware or software, do you really want to relinquish so much control?

Rather than accepting that the third parties in your downstream supply chain cannot keep up with your business, you can demand that they integrate their systems with yours for a fully automated process from start to finish.

One way to achieve this is to licence all your field service agents, although this is costly and unlikely to generate a sufficient return on investment due to the low call volume per agent.

A more beneficial and realistic option is to choose field service providers that already have their own fully integrated solution; one that equals your own platform’s level of service detail, transparency, precision and efficiency. These are third parties that offer you:

  • Interface with your platform
  • Critical mass in regional areas
  • Real-time updates via an API data feed
  • Service levels you expect of your own field technicians

Only by insisting that every field service agent, whether they’re servicing one job a year or a thousand a week, integrates with your platform will you have true visibility over what’s happening in the field.

You’ll have the assurance of knowing you can deliver an end-to-end service to the same standard in all locations with real time documentation, reporting, invoicing, cost tracking and customer satisfaction reports. And very importantly, you’ll be reining in your field services costs.

 

BEST Technology Services welcomes your thoughts and comments. To discuss any of the commentary in this article, contact John McVicker. For more on how Best Technology Services’ field services capability can support your outsourcing, go to www.best-ts.com.au.

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