Six recommendations for building the perfect field-service technology stack
There’s no question, technology has become necessary to building a successful product-support operation. Today’s field-service leaders need various platforms and applications to understand customer history, view product support detail and monitor remote equipment for errors or outages.
Fierce competition and escalating overheads increase pressure on field-service companies to improve their delivery methods and, more importantly, keep their underlying technology infrastructure up to date.
To take the next step in boosting productivity and growing revenue, each piece of the field-service technology stack can be a great enabler. Basic processes like appointment scheduling and route planning can be automated, and analytics provide new insight into business operations including real-time performance dashboards and resource-forecasting tools.
Before you start purchasing and piecing together the right features, here are some recommendations to help you know what to look for and get started on the right track.
1. Deploy software in the cloud
While cloud technology is nothing new, research conducted by Field Service News and Click Software found that, as of 2014, only 23% of companies were running their field-service management (FSM) software in the cloud. However, 100% of companies using a cloud-based FSM solution said they would recommend cloud over an on-premises solution.
Benefits of cloud vs. on-premises deployments include:
- Lower cost—reduce overhead during low usage
- Fewer resources—IT personnel no longer need to maintain in-house servers.
- Flexibility—add or reduce resources automatically
- Scalability—detect load and add capacity
- Security—data is backed up with failover servers.
2. Inform the service process with smart, connected equipment
Smart, connected products offer major improvements in predictive maintenance and service productivity. Having access to product data coming directly from machines helps organizations reveal existing and future problems and enables companies to schedule timely repairs.
Nothing is worse for equipment end users than unscheduled machine downtime. Feeding data from sensors into a back-office service system through the cloud gives manufacturers and dealers the insight they need to proactively service equipment before it breaks down.
3. Invest in best-of-breed software solutions over systems that claim to do it all
Piecing together best-of-breed software solutions rather than customizing a large enterprise management system to do field-service work equips businesses with industry-proven software that’s the best in its space. With specialized systems to fill each of your major enterprise-software needs, you’ll have the flexibility and functionality to provide exceptional service in the field while maintaining the rest of your everyday business processes inside the office.
4. Recognize that technicians’ roles are becoming more technology-focused
As a company’s technology infrastructure becomes an even more important indicator for success, service technicians will need to adapt to and be able to use technologically complex equipment and tools. Not only will new service techs need to understand technology that’s in equipment, they’ll have to be able to use the FSM technologies, like mobile apps, to streamline the service process, achieve higher first-time fix rates and complete work orders more efficiently.
Another reason to invest in modern service technology: Young technicians want to work for companies with the latest and greatest software and devices. Are you thinking forward enough to recruit top young talent?
5. Understand that customers are in control
Field-service customers are no longer just the recipients of messages about a company’s products and services. Today’s customers demand a trusted, ongoing relationship with their service providers.
With a complete field-service technology stack, service organizations will be equipped to deliver the service customers have come to expect. Here are some examples of customer-driven product-support demands that require an automated, mobile solution:
- They want to define their own service.
- They want zero equipment downtime.
- They want to understand how their machines are functioning.
- They want a lasting partnership with trusted service companies.
- They expect short estimated-time-of-arrival windows.
6. Benchmark your technology stack
Determine what technology pieces other companies, including competitors, in your industry are using. If you’re missing commonly used pieces, you may want to revisit your technology plan and determine what you need to help you meet your KPIs and revenue-generation goals from service for 2016.
Conclusion: Be prepared to make service a major revenue driver
In the last decade, there’s been a seismic shift in the corporate mindset from seeing service as a cost center to seeing it as a profit center. In fact, according to a recent Salesforce study, 2016 Connected Manufacturing Service Report, which explores the role technology plays in the service departments of U.S. manufacturing companies, "Products will become ‘loss leaders’ within the next 10 years while services will be revenue drivers."
Make sure you’re focused on building a technology stack today that will deliver the results you want tomorrow.
– Joanna Rotter is the content marketing manager at MSI Data, a field-service management software provider and creator of enterprise field service app Service Pro. This article originally appeared on MSI Data’s blog. MSI Data is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Erin Dunne, production coordinator, CFE Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.