Even before the pandemic, field service was ripe for change. Signals were already indicating that a massive shift was coming, such as the proliferation of connected assets and equipment, along with the rapid departure of seasoned field service team members and a new generation of professionally nomadic, tech-enabled employees replacing them.
Then COVID appeared out of nowhere, amplifying these trends and adding others that impact how service organizations operate.
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Service Council’s Smarter Services Symposium in Chicago. Beyond being excited to take my first business trip in over two years, I was curious to hear field service leaders (across a spectrum of industries) share their perspectives and plans for the future, AKA the “new normal.”
Here are my three takeaways from those discussions.
Despite the immense promise of Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and all the other buzzworthy concepts that will automate how service is delivered in the future, people still drive the success of this function—at least for now.
At a popular exercise equipment manufacturer, building a pathway for professional growth within their service business has improved both employee retention and service innovation for their customers. Their employee mobility program was critical to scaling their service operation during the pandemic’s unpredictable spike in demand. And now that demand has fallen back to normal levels, many employees who started as field service engineers are finding opportunities in product development, quality assurance, and service management roles.
In another keynote, we heard how crucial it is not to fall into the trap of relying on your most skilled and experienced field service engineers to act like heroes. Service leaders can often become overly reliant on those team members to carry the weight of the whole organization, which presents a significant risk when those team members become over-worked and burned out—and seek employment elsewhere.
To that end, one service provider explained how they’ve created a goal to “make it possible for technicians with one year of experience to be able to provide service with the same level of ability as someone who’s done it for 40 years.” For them, training does not equal competency. It’s important that new service team members truly understand “what good looks like” before they can graduate from apprentice or junior technician status.
In a number of sessions I attended, the discussion turned to the impact the global supply chain has on service. For large service organizations that rely on parts from overseas, the pandemic-driven supply chain disruption has sent massive ripples through the business. Organizations impacted by this are looking to build a more resilient supply chain that takes into account where raw materials come from, the interdependency of parts and service, as well as the integration of the systems that manage supply chain and field service.
For other service teams, the pandemic highlighted the challenges that fragmented systems and data can create. Teams that were unable to pivot to a flexible or fully remote working arrangement saw business continuity threatened. Without sufficient access to the tools and information their people use every day, service leaders saw customer experience (CX) deteriorate while demand was increasing.
In addition, now that customers have become comfortable using digital channels to find information and solve problems, they’ll expect cloud-native service apps that are connected to your back office to always be available going forward.
This leads me to my last takeaway…
Nearly every service leader I heard from told me they were engaged in some form of digital transformation. As we talked about their experiences, some key points stood out to me.
First, while technology can have a significant and lasting positive impact, service organizations must diligently analyze their workflows and processes before implementing any new solutions. Flawed processes will always be exposed when deploying new technology and prevent any technical investment from succeeding.
Once you’ve shored up your workflows and clearly translated how they will work in your new technical environment, you’ll be able to break down barriers to the adoption of any new system.
Data unification was another hot topic in the digital transformation theme. It was common to hear service leaders lament the issues caused by having 10, 30, 40-plus ERP systems (in addition to other point solutions and shadow IT deployments) in their enterprise. However, most companies were not tackling it head-on because they were too busy trying to make their existing environments operate better. And, who can blame them? Standardizing data within multiple systems is a daunting task.
Our point-of-view is that this is not a sustainable solution, and it will actually prevent a successful digital transformation. In fact, my Oracle colleague Scott Creighton hosted a breakout session at the conference to underscore the impact data unification can have in accelerating transformation and creating value for customers.
No one could have predicted the pandemic and the impact it would have on their business. The silver lining is that companies are now taking what they’ve learned from “the ultimate stress test” of their capabilities and capacity to build a new vision for the future of their service organization.
I look forward to seeing field service leaders use this inflection point to springboard their business, become more resilient, and train and retain talent while accelerating their adoption of digital solutions. The leaders I met have a keen sense of urgency, and that’s really exciting.
Want to hear more about the latest trends in service? Watch the highlights from our virtual summit, “Manufacturing Insights: Enterprise Digital Transformation,” where manufacturing industry executives and Oracle experts discussed how digitizing end-to-end service processes can help deliver high-value interactions that drive customer satisfaction, efficiency, and revenue.
Oracle Field Service offers intuitive, AI-powered tools for routing, scheduling, and managing field service technicians. Learn more about how this solution makes it possible to deliver efficient and on-time service experiences every time with a quick self-guided product tour.
For more information about field service and field service management software, please read:
Also check out:
Rick Shimko is Product Marketing Director for Oracle Fusion Service and Oracle Field Service. He rejoined Oracle in November 2020 having previously worked for the company after the acquisition of TOA Technologies (now Oracle Field Service). Prior to the acquisition, he led the global marketing operations and demand generation team for TOA, building a strong knowledge and appreciation of the role service plays and the technology ecosystem that supports it. Rick resides in Cleveland, OH and has nearly two decades experience in B2B and SaaS software marketing across a diverse group of start-up, growth stage and enterprise companies.