When we talk about Field Service and innovation in the same breath, it might seem a little odd. The notion that something as straightforward as Field Service can innovate to the benefit of Partners seems unlikely. Yet, this unlikeliness is at the core as to why field Service has failed to innovate, embrace and understand what Partners are wrestling with, and make changes that will benefit Partners.
Field Service and Partner success are intrinsically linked. Suppose Field Service deploys a service on behalf of a Partner, on time, on budget and with minimal customer disruption. In that case, the Partner will likely enjoy a better relationship with their customer and be more successful. And the converse is also true – a bad customer experience may harm the relationship that the Partner might have with their customer. So, doing a good job and being aligned with the customer's expectations is critical.
Against the backdrop of this interlinked relationship between the two parties, Partners have been innovating to remain competitive – changing their business models to embrace more "monthly monthly" Managed Services commercial opportunities, making a move to cloud computing, deploying new technologies to secure infrastructures, use of networking technologies and supporting a unique remote style of working. And yet, in many ways, the Field Service industry has failed to keep pace and innovate in a way that adds value to the partners, tracks their journey of change and helps deliver continuous value.
So how exactly can Field Service innovate in a way that benefits Partners? Here we examine several simple ways in which Field Service can be more aligned to Partner success metrics and deliver more value
Many partners changed their commercial models more than ten years ago and embraced a subscription or monthly recurring billing model. In that model, the Partner provides their service to the customer on a longer-term contract basis and bills the customer each month for that contract's duration. And yet, all too often, the service was stood-up with the customer or Partner incurring up-front costs associated with Field Service. So why doesn't Field Service modify its pricing model to mirror the pricing model of its customers?
Rather than taking all the money upfront, why doesn't Field Service change its commercial structure to deliver its service in the same way as the Partner does? – monthly on a subscription basis. Charge for their services on an ongoing monthly basis for the duration of the contract to align. Simple.
In this way, Partners are happier, their commercial models supported, and the Field Service and deployment component of the overall solution aligns with the commercial and payment terms associated with the underlying deal. Additionally, it provides a simple scope to include additional revenue opportunities to the customer by bundling the ongoing site support and maintenance component of the ongoing service, placing the Partner at the centre of the ongoing customer relationship.
2. Better and more transparent service guarantees
At the heart of the evolving relationship between Partners and their customers is a focus on different commercial models and the delivery of services across an ever-widening array of technologies. Coupled with this evolving complexity and changed commercial model is a customer expectation that service levels will improve – better responsiveness, guarantees on the delivery of service, good-enough isn't good enough, and a focus on delivering service excellence.
When one thinks about this again in the context of Field Service, one can see that there are real opportunities to make changes to help align and innovate to the benefit of Partners. Understanding that the ultimate consumer of the service, i.e. the end customer, has expectations around service delivery, service quality, and service availability generally, Field Service companies can evolve their thinking to provide an array of aligned guarantees that support their Partners to be successful – provide guarantees around jobs being completed the first time, provide guarantees on engineer availability, provide fixed price support and maintenance services to offer pricing guarantees and certainty, make it easy for Partners to procure these services. And make these guarantees not just target service levels, but guaranteed service levels – providing some assurance to the Partner and customer to align with what they expect from other providers in the same technology value-chain.
Providing better and more visible service guarantees helps Partners embrace how Field Service could be used as a real service differentiator rather than a "must-have".
When one engages in a conversation around Field Service, there is often that moment when one has to quantify precisely what Field Service installs, disposes or maintains. All too often, Field Service interact with an array of technologies– PCs, Wireless Access Points, Screens, Routers, SD-WAN appliances, POS-terminals, etc. – and that seems to be the core of what mostly gets mentioned. And yet, as the technology is evolving in the eyes of the customer, so too does the range of services that Field Service organisations need to provide to them and the range of technologies supported.
Services may still cover traditional installation service or post-deployment support and maintenance. Still, it might be interesting to provide simple software audits, renewal compliance audits, or tag and test services. Sure, these services can be provided from different providers, but why not include them as part of business as usual (not to mention the nirvana of cabling and installation services as a single unified function).
What of the need to upskill to support or deploy new technologies, e.g. 5G technologies or IoT devices? These move traditional Field Service organisations out of their comfort zone and into areas that Partners and their customers are increasingly looking to exploit for commercial advantage. With the evolution of technologies at the Partner and customer, the level must evolve the services and technologies that Field Service organisations look to offer to their Partners to help them be successful.
During the Industrial Revolution in England during the 18th century, skilled loom operators were in high demand. They commanded a relative pay premium when compared to their less-skilled counterparts, focusing on fewer skilled services.
If we apply this general thinking to the Field Service world, we can see that Field Service needs to embrace change and evolve much fast that it has hitherto evolved. Consider the next "skilled loom operator" in the 21st century for Field Services. It doesn't take much to see that field Service needs to evolve its thinking to match the evolution of service thinking that Partners are doing – For example, Field Service might consider evolving its thinking and services to providing lower-level Data centre tasks, e.g. simple Virtual Machine migrations or monitored virtualised environment deployments – to deliver services that are low-level, repeatable and straightforward tasks that Partners have to do as part of a holistic customer service focus, but tasks that an evolved Field Services organisation can offer as it looks to innovate and help Partners grow.
With a modified approach to how it thinks, one can see that it operates and inter-operated with Partners; Field Service can innovate to deliver real market advantage to Partners and deliver exceptional customer experience for the Partners' customers. However, a failure to embrace innovation and remain steadfastly focussed on continuing to do the same thing in the same way is not the answer.
Doing the same thing over and over again and thinking you are going to get a different result? That confirms that for Field Service to innovate for Partners' benefit, change must be at the core of everything it does and plans to do.