Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series about service transformation from Patrice Eberline, vice president of global customer transformation at ServiceMax from GE Digital. This originally appeared on GE Digital’s site and is republished here with permission. 

So, what does pie have to do with field service? That was the question I left you with in part one, where I discussed avoiding transformation traps. But beyond avoiding the traps, how can you transform your service business?

Real time data + context = a better foundation to drive insight

If you have more data and context around that data, you can see patterns, assess multiple conditions, and ultimately drive transformative insight. The key is to compare, contrast, and characterize. Dig deeper, and ask probing questions.

For many service organizations top priorities include:

  • Improving service revenue and cash flow
  • Reducing costs and optimizing working capital
  • Increasing employee and partner productivity
  • Maximizing return on asset performance, and working toward zero unplanned downtime
  • Staying compliant

Balancing these priorities with internal and external pressures can be challenging. For example, as a service leader, does increasing headcount necessarily equate to improving service productivity? When it comes to reducing costs, does it make sense to immediately limit overtime, delay new hires, and restructure incentives? Maybe, but maybe not. It comes back to focusing on the right data, understanding that data in context, and thinking beyond an immediate reaction. Dig deeper.

If you have more data and context around that data, you can see patterns, assess multiple conditions, and ultimately drive transformative insight.

We are living and leading in a time of fast-paced change and innovation. Uncovering and delivering on business insights is much more impactful than ever before, so let’s fine tune our previous definition of insights. True business insights are actionable, data-driven findings that create business value. Here are a few situational challenges where looking at real-time, contextual, and service specific information can provide insights that lead to better decision making for the organization. You may even find a few surprises along the way!

Balancing Priorities and Pressures

It’s not unusual to hear from the field how workloads and backlog are affecting teams each day. In many cases, your field leaders may come right out and tell you that they need additional resources. Supporting that message are usually reports of utilization rates that are high for longer than anticipated timeframes, and anecdotal stories of frustration and dissatisfaction. Is that utilization data accurate? Probably, but is it insightful? Not necessarily.

I worked with one organization who decided to dig deeper and kept asking the question ‘why.’ They initially thought they were addressing a routing and schedule optimization issue, but decided to dig deeper.  They took a look at all of the time sinks in their technicians’ work days and were surprised to find that there was an inordinate amount of time spent on administrative work. Further investigation showed that legacy systems were literally so slow that field technicians were simply ignoring the process of closing work orders onsite, and instead waiting until they returned home and could access a faster internet connection. No wonder there were issues! By understanding a bit more detail, the organization was not only able to fix the technology challenges, but in doing so was able to free up literally thousands of hours annually in their field team. Those hours were essentially extra delivery capacity that ultimately led to growth and expansion in the organization and the company.

Another common scenario I hear about is that of an executive mandate to cut costs by X percent. Frequently, this challenge is met with historically effective actions—immediately limit overtime, delay new hires, squeeze utilization, and restructure incentives. Well, that may have worked in the past, but service organizations of today are in highly competitive environments when it comes to talent acquisition, and ‘knee-jerk’ historically-based reactions may not always be the best strategy moving forward. Instead, as a global service leader recently told me, “Be service centric. Go back to your focus points and to your key service metrics.” I couldn’t agree more.

Focus on metrics that lead to efficiencies, like first-time fix. Even focusing on a single metric can have positive downstream effects for the organization.

In the case of FTF for example, these could easily include reduction of truck roll costs and lower overtime costs.

Another example might be one where your field leaders have come to you complaining about customer satisfaction, and relating the issues directly to the supply chain organization and parts availability in the field. You might be shown reports detailing how many times parts have been unavailable and field engineers have had to emergency ship an ordered part in an order to resolve the customer’s issue. Now while it’s true that you are likely looking at current data, is it enough? Dig deeper.

Focus on metrics that lead to efficiencies, like first-time fix. Even focusing on a single metric can have positive downstream effects for the organization.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was discussing this very scenario with a service leader who did just that. He kept asking the question ‘why’ and found a few tidbits that shaped his decision making. It turned out that although the field was ordering parts not readily available in their trunk stock or local stocking locations, those parts and the associated work orders were addressing largely cosmetic issues, and not operationally impacting their customers business as had previously been thought. Additionally, it seemed that all parts were being ordered with expedited shipping, rather than selectively so. Further investigation also showed that even when those parts were ordered and shipped overnight, they were not being fit that next day—wasted effort, wasted money, and spinning emotions in the wrong direction. Looking at the situation in its entirety, it was easy to address the emotional response from the field, bring greater understanding to the end-to-end process, and dramatically reduce spending on expedited shipping costs that were hitting the service P&L.

We are living in a world where IIoT, predictive analytics, machine learning, and remote troubleshooting are fast becoming the norm.

Field organizations increasingly have access to and routinely leverage “big data.” With such large amounts of information available to us, we will be able to see further than the next turn. We will be able to see patterns and trends across our teams, mapping out our entire journey, not just the next step. Remember however, that data without context is just data. We must dig deeper.  Ask the questions ‘why’ and ‘how’, and resolve that better perspective creates better business value for you and for your customers.

ABOUT Patrice Eberline

Avatar photoPatrice Eberline is the former vice president of global customer transformation at ServiceMax. She has nearly two decades of services and leadership experience and has held leadership roles at several fast-growing software companies, including SuccessFactors and Infor.