Field Service, Hands & Feet, Installation Services..these are many descriptions for deploying or maintaining equipment on a customer location sounds rather boring, mundane and at the “unsexy” end of the technology market value chain. And yet, without these services the rest of the technology value-chain is undermined, and value isn’t delivered as planned.
And yet, this performance of a human-centric service, is riddled with complexities, wasted effort and poor communication that often tests the patience of the ultimate customer, when it really should be much easier. But when one examines the process associated with an ad hoc service call it isn’t difficult to see why the customer experience leaves much to be desired.
The customer discovers that they have a technical issue that prompts them to contact their Channel Partner for resolution. At this point, the Service Desk will likely perform a remote diagnostic of the problem and look to restore the service and give the customer some immediate satisfaction.
Where a remote “fix” is not possible, it is then placed in the queue for the Partner to locate a field-service resource – a resource to go to site and perform onsite work to resolve the problem. This process of allocating the job to be completed, is complemented with the inevitable questions from the customer that demonstrate heightened concern – How much will it cost? When will they get here? Will they be able to fix it when they do turn up? – and with this heightened concern there is a possibility that the customer experience becomes diminished.
Customer temperature: Elevated
All too often the process of locating that right quality resource, negotiating the appropriate rate (and liaising with the client on pricing and site access) can take several hours, all taking place against the backdrop of a customer with concerns that the job is taking a while to fix – communication is key at this juncture. This scheduling the visit to site, finalising pricing and general site access is at the time when the customer mood is at its most heightened – Who is the engineer? Will they know what to do? Are you sure they can fix it? – questions that all point to a degree of anxiety and at the time that sees the customer experience under most pressure
Customer temperature: High
When the engineer or technician reaches site, it is like a pressure valve releases and the customer starts to believe that the situation can be resolved successfully. However, whilst there is a sense of relief there are still lingering doubts about whether or not the engineer has the right parts of equipment on board, is skilled to fix the job, or can successfully resolve the problem at this visit.
And it is not just at the customer end where there is concern. Channel Partners may have similar issues as they want to problem resolved and want proof that the issue has been fixed, either by way of remote access to confirm successful resolution or by proof with artefacts – pictures, diagrams and delivery of artefacts to confirm the job as complete.
Customer temperature: Low
With the job now complete and the customer now likely satisfied, it is likely that the mood and temperature with the customer will have been restored to more acceptable levels. However, there will be that lingering doubt about billing – was the job completed as specified? Was it done at the quoted price? What about any extras? How do we know it was completed as specified.
This need for certainty that ultimately releases the payment for the bill associated with this job, means that the job can be correctly closed. The customer temperature is reduced and the facets of customer service associated with account service – e.g. Account Management, responsiveness etc – now come to the fore.
Customer temperature: Low
However, one cannot ignore the fact that the process of delivering an exceptional level of customer satisfaction – a great customer experience – has been under some pressure, given the process above and the many hand-off points and many different ways in which the client relationship has been tested.
As client-service computing moved to a consumption commercial model, the same analogy can be used with the newly emerging Field Service 2.0 that delivers not just control and predictability for Partners, but also delivers outstanding customer experiences that are ultimately beneficial in supporting the aspiration of Partners to retaining and growing these hard-won accounts.
In the context of the above process, the evolution in Field Service, to a new model that is more customer-centric, elevates the overall level of customer experience and delivers visibility, value and control to everyone participating in the value chain.
This evolved model, appropriate for current market conditions, supports Channel Partners in delivering exceptional levels of customer service, by removing friction in as many locations as possible, improves communication, coupled with more financial and operational predictability.
If we reflect on the stages outlined above, one can see how the application of this new model supports a better customer experience and delivers a smoother (and likely more cost-effective) level of interaction between everyone. When the customer raises the issue and the Partner is unable to fix things with remote triage, there is minimal delay in scheduling an on-site visit. The newly evolved Field Service model places control and visibility of scheduling, into the hands of the Partner, who is able to swiftly schedule a visit, provide clarity of pricing for that call-out, that supports a better level of customer experience – giving the customer certainty that an engineer is scheduled and certainty of price to complete that job, helps reduce the customer temperature.
Additionally, the smart Field Service organisations are those that not only provide that visibility, control and pricing certainty, but do so in a way that is also backed by Service Level Guarantees centred on engineer and work quality, with clear targets to resolve issues at that visit – so certainty not just that a resource is available at a good price, but that resource will be fix and resolve the issue when they come to site, without leaving site.
This level of certainty in all matters related to the call will dramatically improve the level of customer experience and help establish a “ring fence” around a customer relationship if done correctly. It is this excellence in issue-resolution that helps maintain strong and ongoing customer relationships.
Once the call out has been successfully completed and the job closed, it is often the lingering reconciliation, billing and job artefacts that can cause a job to remain open for a lengthy period, when it could so easily be resolved quickly through automation – again, where Field Service 2.0 organisations are focusing their resources to minimise friction, improve visibility and help close jobs faster and enable payment to be made.
But not all job sites are the same and not all client relationships are the same – some sites are 7 x 24 sites e.g. some fast food sites, whilst other existing client relationships are billed on a more traditional Managed Services model. Both of these simple examples of operational and commercial complexity, mean that the evolving Field Service leaders who are genuinely supporting the needs of Partners and customers, need to offer commercial models that directly map into these different customer operational models – they need to be able to offer across the entire week (all 7 days of it) and also be flexible enough to offer a commercial model that an neatly dovetail into the existing Managed Services framework, rather than being stuck with more traditional models of Time & Materials-based engagements.
It is clear to see that the evolving Field Service 2.0 model, akin to the evolution to a consumption-led computing model, provides an array of benefits that strongly support a better customer experience for both customers and Channel Partners alike, whilst offering alignment of operational and commercial models that are now firmly part of mainstream technology business as usual. Failure to embrace these obvious market forces and align to meet the needs of both Partners and customers alike, will ensure that many field service organisations will struggle to keep pace with market changes and run a real risk of being left behind if they fail to change. And failure to change to embrace a new way of doing things, will all but guarantee a diminished customer experience which may put hard-won customer relationships at risk. And in these current market conditions, nobody wants to risk losing a hard won client - evolve or decline....
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