In-person events are back in full swing, and we had the opportunity to attend Field Service USA in Palm Springs. The event featured some wonderful presentations on all things field service and service management. It was particularly rewarding to see ServiceMax customers such as 3D Systems, Hologic, & Schneider Electric highlighted on the main stage while we had the opportunity to share our vision on the topic of asset-centricity and its impact on digital transformation success.

We’ve done our best to summarize a few discussion themes from the event.

1. People

No field service conference is complete without a discussion on the great resignation, the silver tsunami, or the overall workforce crisis. Organizations are trying a variety of approaches to alter their recruiting, onboarding, and training programs with limited success.

  • Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of talk and discussion around the use of third-party workforces or contingent labor in making up for resource gaps. This seems like an area that would be rich with interest and ripe for innovation.
  • Most organizations are looking at technology-driven approaches to extending the scale of their existing workforce. This includes a focus on solutions for customer self-service, remote support, and technician assistance to reduce unnecessary field service visits.
  • On the topic of employee listening and engagement, organizations are finally looking to close the loop on employee-driven feedback programs. In the past, it was deemed sufficient to just open an employee survey with very little attention to subsequent action. This seems to be changing.

2. Parts

“The lead time on critical parts is now TBD.” This was one of the most memorable quotes from the event that reflected a greater interest in the supply chain topic.

  • Given supply chain disruptions, organizations are re-evaluating their parts planning and execution strategies. More organizations are moving towards placing parts closer to their critical customers. This includes a greater reliance on customer-held inventory, inventory in forward stocking locations, and material in technician vans.
  • On the topic of technician stock, organizations are increasing their analysis of order and usage patterns to reduce the occurrence of excess ordering while ensuring that unused parts make their way back into the overall inventory stock.
  • Part return and refurbishment strategies are also seeing a greater amount of interest, particularly in industries where refurbished parts can be reused and repurposed to support customer and asset outcomes.

3. Data

There is a discernable shift in interest from new data acquisition and generation to data cleansing and analysis. Most organizations are interested in understanding how their current data can be used to support specific use cases while identifying areas where their data needs specific attention.

  • The interest in building out data analytics teams for service and asset management is high. In more mature organizations, these teams are not a new concept and can even be focused on specific issues like warranty claims or parts management. Yet, most organizations are in the early stages of building their service-focused data science and data analytics talent.
  • Finding the right mix of KPIs and dashboards continues to be both an area of frustration and an area of improvement for most organizations. Organizations struggle with centering around a handful of critical metrics that give them the right level of insight to drive action.
  • Artificial intelligence solutions continue to show promise in supporting business opportunities around predictive insights, issue triage, and inventory management. However, organizations realize that these solutions are only as powerful as the data that is ingested and would like to use AI-enabled toolsets to support their data cleansing and management efforts.

Additional Areas of Opportunity

  • Remote support processes and technologies continue to see an elevated level of interest even as pandemic-related restrictions are eased. Organizations see a significant amount of value in using remote support tools to resolve or diagnose service issues and events. Remote-first is a common theme being adopted in customer support, technical support, and field service processes.
  • Extending knowledge and data to customers via self-service portals is also a popular initiative among most organizations. The primary intent here is to improve the overall customer experience with better involvement in the service process, while also reducing the volume of incoming calls and requests for non-critical service items
  • We’re finally seeing some investment in service and services marketing, particularly at more mature businesses looking to make their customers and prospects aware of the portfolio of valuable services that are delivered.

Absorbing and adjusting to resource constraints was a common thread tying together most of the discussions at the Field Service USA conference. While organizations continue to focus on technology and data to resolve these constraints, they continue to struggle with incorporating the ‘human’ element in their business transformations. Those that are successful are able to find a more balanced approach to linking their strategy with digital ambition while accounting for the overall capacity for change.

 

ABOUT Sumair Dutta

Sumair Dutta is the director of product marketing at ServiceMax. In this role, he helps shape ServiceMax messaging and positioning to support customers and prospects. Previously, Sumair worked closely with leaders of service businesses to define and shape their service vision while working hand in hand with implementation teams to execute on established service plans. Sumair is a thought leader in the field service and service management spaces and has conducted numerous research projects in the areas of field service, customer support and business strategy. He brings more than 15 years of experience in studying, analyzing and guiding field service organizations, first at the Aberdeen Group and most recently as the chief customer officer at The Service Council.

ABOUT Daniel Brabec

Daniel Brabec is director of global customer transformation at ServiceMax. With a broad base of experience in training, course development and project management, Daniel brings a unique background to his role at ServiceMax. He has spent several years working in service technology, providing oversight to enterprise implementations of service management systems, and creating and delivering the training necessary for companies to change the way they manage global service organizations in North America, Europe, India, the Middle East and Asia.