By Kayleigh Fitch-Oracle on Dec 15, 2015
IDC Manufacturing Insights analyst Heather Ashton, in a recent blog post, discussed how emerging technology – particularly enterprise mobility – is helping manufacturing organizations meet rising customer expectations for superior service. Just as in traditional business-to-consumer scenarios, stellar customer service often hinges on the moment when a manufacturing organization is engaging with customers face-to-face – during a field service event.
“In the manufacturing sector, from high tech to industrial, much of the focus to date has been on equipping the field service technicians with the types of technologies…to enable faster, more precise, repairs that can also leverage experts who may not be physically with the equipment in need of repair,” says Ashton.
However, she also suggests that just having sophisticated field service capabilities for enabling technicians in the moment is not enough if you want to truly excel at customer service. “But, what about the other part of customer satisfaction, namely visibility into the status of a scheduled repair or site visit?”
Visibility into the status of a scheduled repair or site
visit – for all stakeholders involved – is absolutely a critical component of a
modern, customer-focused field service strategy. However, Oracle believes there
are actually five types of field service visibility you should seek out if you
want to be a customer service leader in the manufacturing sector (and drive
surprising efficiencies along the way!).
1. Parts and Inventory: At the most basic level, a field service management solution should only assign work to a field service employee that has all the necessary parts and equipment to perform the necessary repair. However, what happens when the employee arrives on site only to find an unexpected scenario requiring an entirely different set of parts? That field service representative needs the ability to quickly determine the availability of the actual parts required to perform the fix, and a means for ordering those parts and scheduling a follow up visit if the part is not available at a nearby depot or on a team member’s truck.
2. On-Demand Knowledge: Having access to knowledge and context about a customer and their service history is important. But beyond an individual customer, field service employees need context for how a particular problem has been solved in the past, or how to troubleshoot when faced with a certain set of circumstances. Even better: a field service management solution should be able to understand which knowledge articles or manuals are most likely to be helpful for a particular job type, and automatically make that knowledge available at the exact moment it is needed.
3. Team: Dispatch teams can easily get visibility into the status of field service employees. However, what about field service team leaders or managers and dispatchers who spend their time away from the back office – out in the field, in the action? Most solutions today enable peer-to-peer collaboration between field service employees embedded directly in a mobile application. However, these highly mobile supervisors need a tool that blends the best of both worlds – offering dispatch-level, air traffic control views on a mobile device but also the capability to communicate directly with employees (in either a one-to-one or one-to-many style) to support tough jobs in progress or reorganize the schedule as the day unfolds.
4. Scheduling: Whether it is a customer scheduling or changing an appointment via an online, self-service portal or a contact center agent booking an appointment on behalf of a customer, it is important to provide a precise commitment to all parties. Gone are the days when it is acceptable to tell a customer someone will call them 48-hours prior to the scheduled appointment – only to offer a 4-hour appointment window! Customers and agents can leverage the visibility provided by data-driven field service solutions to schedule appointments much like booking a flight online – choosing the exact day and time that’s convenient for them and knowing the service will actually happen at that time.
5. Man/Machine Merge: The Internet of Things is rapidly becoming a standard element of field service operations in the manufacturing sector. Machines that self-diagnose or even predict future breakdowns drastically reduce time-to-resolution. Most field service management systems can accept an alert or work order generated by an asset, and dispatch the appropriate technician with all the right parts to fix the issue. However, what happens when a person also notices the problem, calls customer support and a separate work order is issued or another appointment is scheduled for the exact same problem? This dilemma highlights the need for manufacturing field service organizations to have complete visibility into both machine and human-generated service requests in a single view, and a process for removing duplicates from the system before two field service experts show up to fix the same problem.
If you don’t already have a plan for achieving all five types of visibility in your current field operations, it’s worth having a conversation with your team about which types of visibility would help them work more efficiently and deliver better customer service.