In the race to support our customers and deliver maximum asset uptime, have we actually remembered to focus on all the elements that affect our customers?

Let’s look at a few customer personas. How are we changing the life of the asset operator? A scenario before Covid: A fault occurs on the asset and it either stops working or slows down production. The operator has a quick check to make sure there are no jams, blockages, or anything obvious. If nothing is found by the operator, they will perform the universal first fix step and turn the asset off and back on again. If that doesn’t fix it, then either the operator or manager will call the Service provider to confirm the fault with minimal technical description. In some instances, error or fault codes might be provided to the contact center agent. Now until the technician arrives the operator can do nothing other than go and help someone on another machine or go and have a coffee break.

Now as the ability of service organizations to deliver remote service advances, we expect an evolution in the above scenario.

Today’s potential scenario: The Asset stops working as above and the operator does the normal checks with no success. Now we see the potential evolution to the operator’s role. The operator now reports the problem as before, but their level of involvement increases once they have reported this fault. The service provider will now want them to be able to answer more technical questions that will increase the ability to diagnose the problem and get the asset working within this first interaction. The question is ‘how far does the service provider want the operator to go?’

So, depending on service providers’ business set up, the contact center agents ask questions based on a knowledge base, call script or an Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled assistant, or the operator gets transferred to a more technical resource. As the questions are more technical and may now even include a level of diagnostics work where the operator essentially becomes the hands and eyes for the technician, the effort extended by the operator might actually cover the physical remedial work previously reserved to the service provider’s technician.

This evolving solution potentially offers a much quicker resolution time which should increase the asset productivity, which benefits the customer. As there is no travel and actual visit, it benefits the service provider by lowering their cost to serve. This sounds like a good win-win situation.

As we fix a problem here, are we creating different ones over there?

Considerations for the Asset Operator

Have we created a new role within the customer’s organization or new levels for the operator’s role? Does there now need to be a super operator or more technical operator? Do these new roles now require a new pay structure, updated performance management requirements, changing skill sets, and more? Are there specific training needs that need to be provided by the asset manufacturer or service provider?

Now, what happens if you want to go that one step further and encourage them to actually turn a spanner (wrench) or a screwdriver? Or perhaps you simplify the repair by designing and creating customer replaceable units that allow less trained personnel to remove an assembly and replace it with another? Do these replaceable units now create another demand on resources? Storage, packaging, returning, and management, and who owns them—the service provider or the customer?

Finally, as we venture into grey areas of responsibility for the operator whilst working on the asset, are we looking into aspects of managing credentials and technical skills while also focusing on health and safety?

Considerations for the Asset Operator’s Manager

Whilst the customer is generally pleased with the potential improvement in asset uptime, will they see the additional roles performed by their resource as a benefit? Or will they see challenges and additional costs that need to be overcome and result in more for them to do? They may also perceive this as a reduction in delivery from the service provider as an opportunity to negotiate a reduction in the cost of the support agreement or maintenance contract.

Considerations for the Service Provider

Here we have a list of things to consider as a service provider, who has a responsibility to have the answers before they can offer remote service as a true commercial solution.

  • The health of the asset itself—can you guarantee the quality of work from the operator?
  • Perception of fault ownership—who is at fault if caused by the operator whilst working under the instructions of a remote technician or from self-help documentation?
  • Warranties—how do you ensure the warranty conditions are adhered to?
  • Contract coverage—what is covered and how do you maintain the rules around your Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
  • Intellectual Property—by providing the ability to run diagnostics are you parting with your secrets?
  • Training—if you train the customer/operator are you potentially giving them the confidence to possibly support the asset without you?
  • Customer replaceable units—can they buy these direct? Who owns the inventory, you, the service provider, or the customer?
  • Health & Safety—if the customer/operator hurts themselves, is the service provider responsible?

We have seen COVID-19 accelerate the need for remote offerings in our world and while we actively strive to provide better and safer service, this is a reminder that we need to do together and not in isolation.

Service providers need to work with customers to ensure the expectations are aligned. The goal is to have a win for both parties. Expectation and understanding are two elements that drive any successful engagement, so think about setting those expectations for both parties as early as possible.

Once they are set, ensure the tools and solutions to deliver on them are available, understood, and utilized – Software, Business Processes, & Delivery. If they are not understood and aligned, you will both lose out in this partnership.

[Continued Reading: Polybius and the Evolution of Remote Support]


ABOUT Kieran Notter

Avatar photoKieran Notter was the former director of global customer transformation at ServiceMax. He was acknowledged as a service industry domain expert with 30 years’ experience. He specialized in field service revenue and working capital improvements, with a particular passion for supply chain operations. He was highly effective at partnering with customers to deliver tangible, practical results across their service operations. Having previously worked for companies including Kodak, Bell & Howell and, most recently, Pitney Bowes he understood the importance of a logical approach that is supported by real-time analytics. His considerable experience in implementing and using systems such as SAP, Servigistics (PTC), Oracle (Siebel), Salesforce and ServiceMax enabled him to recognize a client’s challenges and facilitate solutions that lead to sustainable growth.