Field Service

Outsourcing: The Secret to Better Field Service Support?

Many services organizations have found that it simply does not make sense to provide direct field technician support to their entire customer installed base. This is especially true as companies expand geographically. A common example is a company with headquarters in the Midwest but that must support an ever-expanding installed base concentrated on the East and West Coasts with customers scattered everywhere in between.

For many services organizations, the thought of outsourcing any component of their support activities would have been deemed blasphemous just a few years ago. Why? The outsource model was not yet fully tested, there were not enough qualified third-party services organizations to partner with — and, well, it just wasn’t done.

But things have changed in recent years on both the supply and demand sides. First, there are now some (although not many) qualified third-party services organizations offering field service support on a nationwide basis. Secondly, the stigma attached to outsourcing key services activities has abated. And thirdly, research has shown that most customers do not care who performs their basic service and support activities. They simply want problem resolution performed on schedule by a qualified and competent field technician. In fact, results from Strategies For Growth’s 2014 Field Service Management Benchmark survey forecast the outsourced field technician market to double from 14 percent in 2014 to 28 percent by the end of 2015.

Choosing a Third-Party Service Partner

The selection of the best qualified third-party service provider relies less on location, and more on an evaluation of the prospect’s ability to:

  • Maintain a high level of performance quality,
  • Decrease the costs associated with performing field service
  • Increase existing levels of customer satisfaction

Here’s how one of the largest medical device manufacturers in the country achieved strong results in all three categories by using outsourced technicians to maintain its DNA sequencing equipment.

Triage the Division of Labor

The company increasingly found itself challenged to provide support to its North American customers using only existing field service technicians. Management acknowledged that it would need to “think outside of the box” to provide customers with the levels of service and support required to keep their systems running efficiently.

As a result, management decided to offload the majority of the company’s preventive maintenance calls to MMS Field Service 360, a third-party service organization. Doing so freed up internal service technicians to focus on the complex, high-volume machines in the field that typically require more time (and expertise) to support.

Positive Results

The company found its customers demanded a level of consistency in both how the preventative maintenance was performed, and also in who performed it. This allowed each field tech to develop a personal rapport with customers and to set the overall tone of the relationship.

By incorporating the third party’s field technicians into its overall support team, the company is now able to perform a much higher volume of preventative maintenance calls throughout the year, resulting in:

  • Significant reductions in the historical preventative maintenance backlog
  • Improved customer satisfaction as a result of improved scheduling, consistent performance and more personal customer relationships
  • Improved service contract compliance

Overall, the company was able to build stronger relationships with its customers and meet all of their service needs in a timely, consistent manner. Company management says that’s largely because its newly “acquired” field technicians are direct, W-2 employees of the outsourced company. No local contractors were ever used in support of the company’s customers.

Teamwork is Critical

Third-party service partners provide companies with substantial benefits, allowing them to deploy the most qualified and seasoned technicians to support large, complicated installations. The outsourced field techs, meanwhile, can focus on a company’s core services, such as preventative maintenance and smaller, less complex installations. But the only way the model can truly work is if both field workforces work together toward the same mission.

A version of this article originally appeared as a two-part series at PollockonService.com. An expanded version, including two medical device company case studies, is available here.

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