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While many organizations already provide their customers with services, they’ve missing out on the opportunity to generate sizable additional service revenue. This can be achieved by deepening the range of the services companies currently offer their customers as well as by leveraging customer data to add productized services and outcome-based services into the mix.

This was one of the points raised by Marne Martin, CEO of Workwave and president of the service management global business unit at IFS, during a Wednesday keynote address at IFS World Conference. This WoCo is the first conference IFS is dually hosting with Workwave, which IFS acquired in November 2017. IFS also announced its intention to purchase another field service management (FSM) vendor, Astea International, at WoCo 2019.

“The entire world is becoming a service economy,” Martin said. “If you’re doing B2B, B2B2C or B2C, you have the ability to double your revenue.” She cited recent research by analyst firm IDC which found that 100 percent of businesses which have already embraced servitization — the productization of services – experienced revenue growth in the last 12 months as compared with less than 15 percent of firms with low levels of servitization adoption. Martin noted that in the ‘IDC Servitization Barometer 2019’ research, only five percent of the 421 companies questioned by the research firm see long-term profitability coming from their current revenue model.

What Customers Want and What They Need

Pressure is also coming from customers who are looking to companies to provide more than just services, they also want services-related data and they want outcomes.

Customers are asking for constant communication with their service providers and customers’ expectations of what is an acceptable time for turnaround and resolution of a problem is getting shorter and shorter. At the same time, customers want more than just a field service technician fixing a machine and leaving, they may also require advice on best practices for machine operation or even recommendations on which solution is the optimal fit for them. So, a field service employee may have to wear multiple hats rather than simply that of repairperson.

Rudy Goedhart is business intelligence director at IFS customer Spencer Technologies, a global retail service provider, which aims to be a one-stop-shop for installing, supporting, moving, and decommissioning IT infrastructure for stores and restaurants. “The demand for information from customers is continuously increasing,” he said. “Now, they want to be notified 10 minutes before technician arrive onsite. It’s really hard to keep up with demands.”

That demand for information has led Spencer to institute milestone reporting throughout its projects, such as a circuit has been installed, it’s been turned on, etc., all the way through to project completion. “We can show customers that we’re good,” he said. “They now have visibility so that they can trust, they’re not going on the blind trust they used to have.”

spencer technologies

The Push for Operational Efficiency

Urban Hofstrom is global alliance lead for IFS at Accenture and also head of the consulting company’s service operation practice for management consulting. He talked about the urgency for organizations to reinvent services in terms of how they’re created, sold, and delivered so that they meet or anticipate customers’ requirements.

When Accenture talks to customers, the firm encourages companies to leverage their existing services portfolios, since “they’re not aware of the full potential,” Hofstrom said. Then, the discussion shifts to how to build and scale new services as well as how to deploy disruptive technologies like AI, blockchain, augmented reality, and 3-D printing. However, the primary driver for change is the underlying IT platform and customers’ desire to achieve operational efficiency across their service management lifecycles, he explained.


Rethinking Customer Service

Hofstrom shared two anecdotes which demonstrated current customer thinking and challenges. The first example concerned a service manager for a Danish wind turbine company, which employs 10,000 people, and had been doing all scheduling via whiteboards and Post-It notes.

Although the company is using Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity to monitor its turbines, it hadn’t thought through how best to share that information with customers. The standard practice was to print out reports full of historical data and share them with the customer. However, the customer hadn’t requested the information and the turbine company had no idea what the customer was doing with the data. “You need to look at the whole picture and not elements in isolation,” Hofstrom said, when rethinking services management.

Goedhart at Spencer agrees. “Customers may say they want raw data, but it’s not what they want,” he said. What customers want and need to understand is what service success means, which can be shared through KPIs, SLAs, and other best practices. “The key is not to overshare data, but to give customers all the answers they’re looking for,” he added.

Challenges with Service Staff Retirement and Retention

The second example Hofstrom gave demonstrated a key trend many companies are having to deal with in relation to field service management – the aging of their current workforce. He talked about a service manager at a Swiss life sciences firm, which employs 12,000 staff, 10,00 of whom are in field service. In five years, 6,000 of those 10,000 staff will be retired. The manager therefore wanted to “move 80 percent of the work” the employees do today to remote monitoring and to deploy predictive analytics.

As well as staff retiring, field service employee retention is “a huge, huge problem,” according to Goedhart at Spencer. He’s still unclear what the solution is when the company loses a valued veteran technician and it’s hard to find new people willing to do a job where the work can be “completely unpredictable,” from setting up a digital signage board at a fast-food restaurant one day to the next day pouring concrete. On the plus side, Goedhart sees the optimization capabilities of IFS FSM as helpful in reducing field service technicians’ drive times to make them more efficient and that the use of more visual appealing software and emerging technologies “attracts a younger crowd” of talent.

Coming Soon: Remote Assistance

At WoCo, Bas de Vos, director of IFS Labs, announced plans for IFS to embed its first Augmented Collaboration Service solution in its FSM products in 2020. The solution will enable remote field service technicians and their desk-based colleagues back at home base to collaborate on fixing issues beyond making a traditional phone or video call. So, the two individuals can engage in a collaboration which includes use of augmented reality (AR) to point to specific machinery parts and to indicate how to repair them.

De Vos also talked about the potential for customers to use the remote assistance technology to provide remote customer support via an AR call. In that way, a call center rep could gain a better understanding of a customer’s problem and share that with the field service technician in advance of sending them out onsite.

These usages of remote assistance can help companies dealing with increasing complex asset maintenance, the difficulty of finding and holding on to skilled employees, and managing customer expectations. “You can also increase the number of first-time right repairs instead of having to return with more experienced colleagues the next day,” de Vos said. “You can also record the AR call and store it for on-the-job knowledge transfer.”

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