On a recent call with our CEO, Neil Barua, he commented that we need to continue communicating to our prospects that for them to quickly get back up to speed after COVID-19, they need to consider how they are going to improve their speed to market. His exact words were “you need a digital platform to do that.” He repeated this phrase quite a few times.
Following that meeting, I interviewed a material handling customer who specializes in lift trucks for an industry white paper we are working on. As the discussion went from topic to topic in the material handling industry, it became apparent that there was an underlying theme for everything that we were talking about. Every issue, problem, or challenge that they raised—pre their ServiceMax implementation—had the same solution: a digital service platform.
Digital Platforms Provide Visibility into Work In Progress
In our continuing conversation, our customers revealed that before ServiceMax, they were completely at the mercy of their technicians for information. Now, this didn’t mean that their technicians were holding them for ransom, but that they as a management team had little to no idea of what was going on in the field.
They did not know what was happening today, yesterday, 2 days ago, and couldn’t know what the status of any work order was unless they were explicitly informed by the technicians. In the technicians’ defense, they were never hired for their administrative skills—they were paid to fix equipment and were very good at it. They did the best that they could administratively, but they were working off of hard copy paperwork orders and an extremely manual process. Paper work orders were assigned, and remained assigned, until they were filled out, turned in, and closed in the system. For managers and supervisors to see what is going on in the field, they needed a digital platform that allowed them to do that.
Digital Platforms Provide Visibility into Parts Orders
These paper processes lead to the end of the month being a nightmare, with 60%-70% of all invoices being generated in the last 3 days of the month.
When parts were ordered, work orders were deferred until the parts came in. In the manual, paper-based world, a “deferred work order” is simply a paper work order put on the bottom of the stack of papers on a clipboard until the parts arrive. The technicians had to keep track of everything manually—so let’s not think that their job was easy.
As the month came to a close, the back-office staff would start calling, researching, and badgering the technicians in an attempt to get as many work orders closed as possible. Supply chain staff could see what had been ordered and was in the queue, but there was no easy reference back to the work order, only to the technician. To understand what deferred work orders were waiting on what parts, you need a digital platform that allows you to do that.
Digital Platforms Power a Positive Customer Experience
At the receiving end of these manual processes is the customer. Their equipment is down, their operations are impacted, they cannot move material, and they are also reliant on the technician for updates. When that does not happen, they call into the office. Unfortunately, the people they call at the office don’t have any information to offer. The only response that they can offer is, “let me check on that and I will get back to you.”
Then they would have to contact the technician, find out the status of the work order, see if/what parts were on order, and get an anticipated date for bringing the equipment back into service. This was time consuming, frustrating, and not at all productive. It was also administratively difficult to keep track of all the requests that were received. Again, if you want to be able to provide a reasonable response in an acceptable timeframe, you need a digital platform that allows you to do that.
Having myself been a service leader in the past, I share the frustration of work orders left open for months. Being unable to provide reasonable feedback to the customer, customers waiting days with no response, and customers having to call repeatedly to get updates and information has a significant negative impact on customer experience. I have held expense accruals open for months pending the receipt of invoices. This is additional administrative work and wasted time on the customers’ side to manage and keep their accounts accurate. If you need to manage your work orders in process, tie your work orders pending to parts orders pending, and provide real-time status of all open orders, you need a digital platform that allows you to do that.
Related Reading: Equipment Rental: Flexibility in a Time of Need
Digital Platforms Make Your Technicians’ Jobs Easier
As we finished the call with our customers, they remarked that the adoption of ServiceMax ticked all of their boxes. They saw immediate and significant impact across all of their business due to increased managerial visibility, communication, and accountability. As one customer said, “the power was back in the hands of the dispatcher instead of the technician.”
Our customers noted that the time needed to train their staff on the digital solution was less than 4 hours. Even the older generation of technicians, who were initially resistant to the technology, would not go back to the paper process now. They identified the fact that the last 3 days of the month, in the back office and finance, were now very similar to the first three days of the month, because work orders were closed in the system as they were closed in the field, with no month-end ramp. They were adamant that for them to gain those results, they needed a digital platform that allowed them to do that.
Digital Platforms Allow You to Adapt Quickly
To round out our conversation, we discussed the impact of having ServiceMax in place when the stay at home issues were ordered for COVID-19. They said that in response to the stay at home orders, they were able to send 70% of their staff home and not miss a beat. They noted that without ServiceMax, they would have been inefficient and would have needed to keep many more people on site. One thing that I had not noted previously was that no one—customers, technicians, support staff—wanted to handle paper. And with ServiceMax, paper was unnecessary to maintain a high level of performance. The customer noted “we were very lucky to have gone through the digital transformation and been online when COVID-19 happened. ServiceMax improved service operations, parts supply chain, customer communication—everything.”
Luckily for them, they already had a digital platform that allowed them to do that.