Access your guide to the Radical Age of Uberziation.
A whitepaper by Field Service News and Localz.
In this whitepaper, run in partnership with Field Service News, we look at precisely what the new challenges of modern field services are and how your organisation can adapt and thrive in this brave new world.
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Field Service in the early decades of the twenty-first century has become an increasingly tricky beast to tame. Customer expectations are hurtling forward at breakneck speed to what some companies view as almost impossible standards to reach. The customer of today is not only better informed than ever before, but via the widespread amplification of social media, more powerful too.
Customer Experience 4.0 is the logical evolution of how we have connected with our customers historically. Let’s look at how communicating appointment times with customers has evolved.
• CX 1.0 was an arrival knock on the door from the engineer - no communication at all.
• CX 2.0 was a direct mail notification of the engineer appointment.
• CX 3.0 was disconnected SMS and email improved customer communication.
Many field service companies have still not embraced CX version 3.0 even today; such is the current poor state of last mile communications within field service. These methods of communication are already outdated as we move firmly into the fourth iteration of customer expectations of last mile customer communications – real-time mobile experiences.
Uber blew the ceiling off what last mile interaction should be. Their disruptive influence has had a massive ripple effect across industry verticals far, far away from mere private transportation – including field service.
Today, customers expect:
The third decade of the twenty-first century is shaping up to be the age of the consumer – and industries are already adapting to that shift today. There is an industry-wide move towards service-centric revenue strategies, field service companies are moving beyond the traditional view of service as an afterthought to support the sales of products. In the past things were expensive and people were cheap. This dichotomy has been flipped, and has led to a race for service providers to become more than just a supplier of products. B2C and B2B companies are in a race to become powerful providers with a mix of service and product that can embed them deep within their customers’ own needs.
Customer expectations are moving beyond simply that of having ‘the supplier’ and ‘the consumer’, into a longer-term partnership. Companies today find themselves in a race to position themselves firmly into a market place more competitive than ever. Advanced service strategies offer an opportunity to become deeply embedded into your customers’ way of life. Today’s customers are highly fine-tuned to the negative impact of poor service. It is imperative to provide a frictionless customer experience.
Service needs to feel personal and tailored if we are to come close to meeting the service expectations of today’s consumer. Welcome to the experience economy. It is the economy of service today, and it is one whose importance is growing in tandem with the move towards outcome-based service solutions. Undoubtedly these are challenging times when it comes to service delivery. The bar of expectations is seemingly inching higher every time we look away, while new hurdles to overcome are continually appearing.
Customers are clear with their expectations, they want to know what’s happening and they want you to be able to tell them. Customer centricity is make or break for you, whether or not you know it, because it’s never been harder to recruit and retain customers - they’re either with you for price (and these customers aren’t loyal at all) or service (and these guys won’t be sticking around if your service doesn’t match their expectations).
Use the Field Force
Change is hard; it can be the hardest for your field fleet given they’re just trying to do their job. Listen to their opinion and act on their feedback - technology shouldn’t be hard to use, the context is much more important. Explain the benefits of any changes to the guys on the ground personally and build change in processes and systems from the bottom up (google “design thinking” for more info) working with your teams and you’ll end up with a group of people who are really invested in making your business thrive. You’ll end up customer-centric, because you’re experimenting and innovating with your teams, rather than just forcing more work onto their plate.
Expectations for ‘everything now’ has become the standard – driven in large by the disruptive influence of companies like Amazon, Uber and JustEat. Simply put, we must change our perspective of service entirely if we are to compete on such terms.
We can no longer benchmark our service standards against our peers within the same industry vertical. We are now competing with the most exceptional service experience our customers have ever had, be it in their personal or working lives. In real terms, this means the opportunity to innovate and delight customers is becoming increasingly harder as expectations continue to rise, as does our view of what ‘exceptional’ service is.
Another facet of this customer-centric new world order we find ourselves operating in is how organisations need to be wary at all times that ‘Little Brother’s watching you’. The power of social media is vast, as we have seen within the political sphere in recent times. Elections have been won and lost by harnessing or failing to appreciate the size and power of the communication platforms social media provide.
For a service business, the smallest issues handled poorly in the realm of social media can be magnified quickly to an audience of millions. This instant opportunity for customers to voice their opinion can be an excellent tool for understanding your brand’s positioning if used correctly. However, the flip side is that social media is a two-way street. This incredibly powerful tool can easily be wielded by disgruntled customers in the full glare of the public. It takes a skilled and responsive approach to nullify the danger to your brand such service-related complaints can cause. Hand the keys to your social media account to the intern at your peril.
Add to the mix the fact that we as a society are becoming ever more condensed and urbanised. This heightens the challenge of delivering effective and timely service within increasingly congested inner-city areas. Indeed, 68% of the world’s population will live in urban conurbations by 2050 (10) according to UN predictions.
Congestion is having a significant impact on the last mile of service delivery, which is often where the customer-service provider relationship is at its most fragile. There is one term which neatly sums up a lot of the challenges listed above, which was coined by the team at Localz. That term is the Individual Economy or the ‘IConomy’ for short.
The IConomy is best defined as an economy in which the pressure of consumers - who have elevated expectations of service around what they want, where they want it and when - is directly placed at the feet of the providers trying to meet those expectations. In the IConomy, consumers demand visibility of their services, expecting real-time notifications and a frictionless, punctual delivery of service.
Challenging times for field service companies. Yet increasingly, service is becoming a core revenue driver - both within individual businesses and the broader economy. The increase in complexity of field service, plus its growing importance within business strategy, would suggest that it is not only crucial for field service companies to get to grips with how they can overcome these challenges, it is now imperative.
Given the radical changes to the service paradigm, the burning question is: are the existing systems of field service management (FSM) suitable when it comes to allowing field service organisations to adapt to a more customer-centric business viewpoint?
While the array of FSM tools available are vast, we are currently witnessing the emergence of a new breed of tools; tools that are designed specifically with the challenges of the IConomy in mind.
Legacy V Uberization
Let’s now explore how Localz solution differs from the older, more established legacy tools being used by field service management companies today, and how they empower field service companies to overcome their challenges. Field service management software is not a new technology. Field service companies were receiving and delivering data to their engineers in the field long before the mobile revolution put the internet and instant connectivity into the pockets of each and every one of us.
Ours is an industry that has always been forward-facing in terms of technology; ours is an industry which has embraced advances such as mobile, Cloud and IoT with open arms. We are a sector full of forward-looking innovation, and that innovative urge has only increased as the importance of field service within the wider business strategy has grown.
However, the typical legacy solution has been built around business operations, rather than being customer-centric. The standard approach to FSM technology has been to drive greater efficiencies around the mantra of right time, right place, right engineer and right tools.
Dynamic Optimised scheduling of both engineers and parts management has moved from best-of-breed standalone tools to standard components of more comprehensive FSM platforms. Similarly, so too has asset management, mobile and even to a degree fleet management.
Collaboration tools and mobile devices which enable workforces to stay connected to the customer, their managers and customer support are becoming increasingly commonplace.
Advanced real-time tracking and messaging is more prevalent. Innovative solutions can help field service companies squeeze the white space out of a team’s day without threatening wait windows, first time fix rates and customer satisfaction.
The fact remains that the majority of FSM solutions available remain focused around the operations and the engineer. They have evolved to do their job effectively and admirably and will remain a core element of the FSM technology stack. But such solutions are not inherently designed with the customer-centric, heavy requirements of the IConomy in mind. While the current technology is evolving, it is questionable whether it can do so dynamically enough to cope with the consumer demand for frictionless visibility around services.
The solutions in this paper are essential to bridging the gap between customer expectations and actual service delivery. The impact they have on field service engineers and the ability to retain those engineers should also not be understated. Make the day of service awesome for your mobile personnel with these tips.
Engineers are problem solvers and people pleasers
As a rule, engineers fit into a reasonably neat box when it comes to where they can find enjoyment in their work. They like to be doing the job they are employed to do, which is solving customer problems quickly and effectively. They do not want to be stuck in traffic endlessly, neither do they like unnecessary endless paperwork. They do not like to arrive at a job already on the back foot with a customer who has been kept waiting and uninformed of the delay.
This is one of the critical benefits that modern FSM tools, such as Localz, can bring to the table which can often get overlooked. By automating a lot of the crucial, yet ultimately mundane tasks such as sending updates to customers as to when to expect them, tracking parts inventory in and out of their van, or even sending invoices – the engineer can focus on what they do and enjoy best.
Field service engineers are the frontline of businesses
The frequent face-to-face interaction that your customers have with your organisation are with the field service team. When the worst happens, and our customer service across the board has let us down, the field service engineer is in the direct firing line. Every tool we implement to improve the way we communicate with customers, empowers engineers to deliver the type of service that wows a customer. This really is a win-win-win scenario.
The customer benefits from an excellent level of service, the engineer benefits from a far more enjoyable working environment and the company benefits from both loyal customers and loyal employees. It might not be the first consideration when discussing the benefits of such a solution, but do not overlook the additional internal benefits of implementing such tools and the wider, longterm benefits they bring.
Investment in tools for your engineers is an investment in your engineers
When someone understands you are investing in them and that you do so because they are respected and valued within your organisation, you will more often than not engender much higher employee loyalty. If your engineers feel valued, you can guarantee your staff turnover will be below the average - something vital as we move into an era where the incoming Millennial workforce is both more transient and more costly in terms of development and retention than that which is retiring.
It is crucial that the next iteration of FSM tools move beyond the current operations focused task set and do something that is still surprisingly radical for a sector that is inherently customer-centric.
The next iteration of FSM tools must bring one more factor to the equation. This is the missing ingredient that Localz has been able to bring to the table, and it is a large part of why such companies are rapidly gaining a reputation for driving service standards forwards. This missing ingredient is, of course, the customer.
We are seeing the emergence of solutions that bring the customer into the service delivery loop. Tools that are delivering frequent communications via text, email, or phone – essentially automating ‘CX 3.0’ while also adding in that fourth layer of real-time, visualbased mobile experiences as well.
To achieve this, it is essential that these new solutions are cloudbased. Such solutions are inherently mobile, and the Cloud is now the well-established platform to facilitate such heavy computations being delivered seamlessly onto a mobile. Fundamentally the Cloud offers the ability to provide true integration across the myriad of moving parts that field service encompasses – including the most unpredictable piece of the puzzle of all, the customer.
It is imperative that such solutions must be cloud-based to meet customer demand and offer a communication solution integrating technicians, customers and technology. In today’s world, why shouldn’t it be?
Smart, real-time location-based applications lie at the heart of such tools, and it is this real-time feed that truly provides the ‘wow’ factor so vital against a backdrop of increasing customer expectations. It is real-time tracking, sat alongside an array of messaging options, which can address the needs of customer demand and deliver the highly sought after ‘uber experience’.
It is within this ‘Uber-Esque’ style of communication that we see field service organisations being able to fully empower their teams in the field, allowing them to take control of service delivery and drive the customer experience from ground level.
Given the challenges we’ve explored in the earlier part of this paper, it would seem that such tools are destined to become a necessity in FSM for those companies who want to survive and thrive in the future.
In the final section of this paper, we will take a closer look at how two companies, utilities giant British Gas and equipment hire company HSS have utilised Localz solutions to set themselves up to do just that.