Field service organizations these days are often under tremendous pressure to do more with less: generate more revenue, increase customer loyalty and improve efficiency — all while lowering costs. But how? They’re questions service managers wrestle with every day, and they were the big themes discussed by service experts this week in Costa Mesa, Calif., the latest stop for the SmartVan Roadshow.

Rethinking Service From Cost-Center to Profit-Center

Revenue growth is a top priority for field service managers. According to a survey from The Service Council, revenue was the top metric service managers wanted to improve in 2013. The path, however, isn’t always clear as managers juggle many priorities. ServiceMax’s Randy Reynolds spoke about how to solve the dilemma of doing more with less, while also moving the service into the black.

It all starts with a field service organization’s greatest asset: technicians. As the “eyes, ears and face of a brand,” technicians can have a huge impact on how service organizations increase revenue, according to Reynolds. But it’s only possible if techs have the information and tools to do their jobs well, to meet customer expectations and to sell. He mentioned one field service organization that gave its technicians a 10 percent cut of everything they sold. That incentive unlocked the salesperson in technicians, accustomed to fixing the problem and moving on. It also helped with recruiting new techs to the company.

Data Is the Difference

A profitable service organization depends on data. Accurate information about open contracts, SLA compliance and warranty status are vital to a manager, and to the bottom line. That data is coming from many sources, including the devices themselves, as more connect to the network. The trend toward connected devices is an inflection point for the industry, said Tarun Patel, director of customer engagement at Etherios, a company that specializes in machine-to-machine (M2M) technology. If harnessed, that data leads to better decisions, happier customers and more profits.

Proving the Value of Service Throughout the Business

The role of field service is changing. These days, technicians need to sell, deliver great service, and come armed with the right information to help drive revenue for the business. And technology is an important part of that new equation. But how can managers turn techs who are skeptics into true believers? They must keep an open mind about new technologies themselves, and then ease technicians into new tools to build confidence. Beyond that, it comes down to trust. “Don’t be afraid of what technology allows techs to do,” said Dave Carevich, director of business development at McKinley Equipment.

McKinley’s technicians, for example, use iPads for easy access to the customer, part and equipment information they need. The devices also allow techs to capture accurate information like inventory and asset condition while at a customer location. Not only has technology improved service, but its also helped McKinley’s service department adapt to changing demands. The importance of speed for addressing customer problems, accessing information and providing customers with quality information is the biggest pressure, Carevich said.

And the benefits work both ways. McKinley’s customers help to identify and troubleshoot problems with photos and videos, so the company can send the right technician with the right part. “A picture from a customer is worth a thousand words in our world,” Carevich said.

Roadshow Rolls on to Houston

The next stop on the SmartVan roadshow is Houston on June 4. Don’t miss the great lineup of field service experts who will discuss the latest technologies that are changing service. For more information, or to register, click here.