I recently read a Twitter post that asked the following poll question:

Who led the digital transformation of your company?

  • CEO
  • CTO
  • Agile Squads
  • COVID-19

COVID-19 was checked as the correct answer.

This post led me to think about how the COVID-19 crisis has catapulted many organizations into a degree of digital transformation that could not have been imagined just a few months ago. I would argue that service organizations, particularly those with a strong Field Service element, have experienced this transformation much more rapidly than other businesses during the crisis. Think back to six months ago, or even four months ago, and remember what your top business priorities were then. Fast forward to today and think about how quickly you’ve had to pivot in order to find new ways to engage with your customers, keep their assets running, and at the same time respond to the challenge of keeping your employees safe.

The challenge for service organizations: Keep assets running during the COVID crisis

COVID-19 has forced many companies to look at ways of extending the lifecycle of existing assets to meet operating challenges driven by the crisis and its side effects. Supply chain issues have triggered delivery delays of new equipment and spare parts. Lockdowns and infection risk have slowed or stopped mobilization of technicians to customer sites and customers are trying to minimize expenses in light of the uncertain economic situation.

Digital transformation, whether in the form of accelerated implementation of new initiatives, or the innovative use of existing technology, has allowed service organizations to provide a measure of business continuity to their customers while at the same time containing operating costs and minimizing risks associated with deploying employees to the field.

Acceleration in the adoption of remote technical support

Since COVID-19 first imposed lockdowns on much of the world’s population, service organizations have had to find creative ways of supporting customers that do not involve deploying personnel to site. Some companies have turned to existing collaboration solutions or have quickly deployed new technology to support customers in troubleshooting their assets. Service organizations have been able to virtually mobilize expert resources around the globe to respond to customer issues in real time. In a world where many organizations are experiencing talent shortfalls or the effects of an aging workforce, the trend of adopting remote technical support as an alternative to sending resources to the field is expected to continue driving benefits beyond the current crisis.

Further Reading: A Post-Crisis Handbook for Service Leaders, Part I

Efficient scheduling in challenging times

According to one study from TSIA, 78% of service organizations polled completely stopped sending technicians to customer sites during the height of the COVID-19 crisis. That said, there are times when sending a technician for an emergency repair is inevitable. Manually scheduling technicians is difficult under normal circumstances. Add to this the complexities caused by COVID-19, such as personnel restrictions and reduced hours at sites, delays in delivering parts and tooling, as well as dispatchers working from home without access to information, and efficient scheduling becomes next to impossible.

Service teams with access to advanced service scheduling solutions are reporting that they are leveraging tool capabilities to reduce COVID-19 exposure risks for both customers and technicians. Dispatchers are capturing additional information such as temporary access hours, site restriction information, and PPE requirements to ensure that technicians are dispatched to site “just in time” with the resources needed to get the job done in just one visit.

Leveraging data to control costs and drive positive outcomes

The COVID-19 crisis is also triggering renewed interest in advanced connected services such as remote monitoring and diagnostics on assets. Data captured from monitored assets can be used to make intelligent decisions on everything from reducing equipment failures to extending maintenance cycles through the analysis of asset lifecycle data. Access to better asset history data is allowing service organizations to support customers in their efforts to reduce capital expenditures while at the same time mitigating their organization’s contract risk and preserving contract profitability during the current economic downturn.

A brave new service world

The Old Model Doesn't Work: Revamping Service Delivery for The Medical Device IndustryCOVID-19 is the first pandemic of this magnitude to occur in the modern age of technology. For all the economic and societal disruption this virus has caused and is still causing, the same pandemic five or ten years ago could have caused an even higher degree of disruption.

Access to technology, combined with innovative and agile approaches put in place by service organizations to quickly respond to the challenges brought about by the crisis have allowed them to weather the storm.

The post-COVID challenge for service providers will be to ensure that the advances made during the crisis not only stick but can also scale to become a competitive differentiator in the post-pandemic world.

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ABOUT Sara Cerruti

Sara CeruttiSara Cerruti is vice president of global customer transformation at ServiceMax. She has over 20 years of experience in driving business process optimization and digital transformation initiatives in industrial businesses including Oil & Gas and Power. Sara combines Lean Six Sigma transactional and shop floor experience with business process transformation expertise to help customers achieve results by effectively leveraging technology to drive productivity and growth opportunities.