“The war in Ukraine, lockdowns in China, supply-chain disruptions, and the risk of stagflation are hammering growth,” said David Malpass, president at The World Bank in June. “For many countries, recession will be hard to avoid.”

It’s the harsh reality, and businesses are already facing some tough decisions. Looking for efficiencies and better ways of working are natural reactions to any economic threat, but the challenge is balancing this with increased productivity. How do field service companies not just keep the lights on, but also remain competitive and grow the business? Here are three ways service organizations remain competitive despite difficult times ahead.

Self and Remote Service

One key area is frontline service. We saw how integral service engineers were during the pandemic and how the need for touchless service led to an increase in self and remote services. Companies found efficiencies in reduced journeys and customers often enjoyed quicker fixes, at least for smaller problems. It is a transformation that has continued and one that can enable companies to improve fix times but also reduce costs.

Predictive Maintenance

Fundamental to this are IoT and AI. Aside from the economic pressure, automation is increasingly important given the retiring workforce and the shift in customer demands and expectations. There is a maturity to automation now that is delivering measurable benefits. The technology is driving capabilities, such as predictive analysis that can determine the real-time state of machines and devices and even warn of potential issues and propose solutions.

Predictive maintenance has come a long way since the early days of purely sensor-based alarms. Today, systems are more holistic. They don’t rely on a set of pre-defined criteria to watch and report on. This means a clearer, more manageable warning system, across entire operations, that offers a detailed analysis of equipment status, while also proposing part replacement and repair options.

This can drive efficiencies in how engineers manage jobs—less journey time, more accurate part ordering,  reduced customer downtime, and increased customer satisfaction. But getting there demands two key things—connected systems and change management within the workforce.

3D Systems, a leading additive manufacturing solutions company, is using AI and ServiceMax to power its predictive maintenance service that helps the company meet uptime demands while empowering engineers on the job. By shifting from being reactive to proactive to now predictive, 3D Systems has seen a reduction in truck rolls, reduced parts consumption, improved first-time fix and mean time to repair rates, and an increase in customer satisfaction—with their NPS score growing from 22 to 65.

Actionable asset data

As Deloitte suggested late last year in its report Next Generation Customer Service: The Future of Field Service, to transform to next-generation field service, businesses need a 360-degree view of customers and assets. They also need “new processes and mindsets to embed the changes,” according to McKinsey’s Prediction at scale: How industry can get more value from maintenance.

While data silos remain a problem, there are companies that are sharing data across the business. Unfortunately, many of these companies struggle to take action on this data. We recently completed a study that revealed 34% of companies state that while asset data is being shared across the business, its use is limited by disparate systems of record.

This data quality problem presents a challenge for businesses trying to deploy predictive analytics. Many companies also face issues around legacy technologies or piecemeal solutions that overlap. Inconsistencies can creep in but how do you spot them and improve the design of the system? Organizations need skilled data engineers and data scientists to build advanced analytical models.

These are big challenges to solve, but the tools available to field service teams are more intelligent than ever before and provide companies with an opportunity to not just ride out any economic storm, but actually thrive within it. Anticipating faults, failures, and service requirements is directly linked to mastering productivity—in good times and bad.

ABOUT Joe Kenny

Avatar photoJoe Kenny is the vice president of global customer transformation & customer success at ServiceMax. His career spans over 30 years of leadership positions in Operations, Sales, Product Development, Product Marketing, and Field Service. Beginning his field service experience with the U.S. Naval Security Group Command (NSGC) as a mainframe computer technician, Joe subsequently lived and worked in Asia, the U.S., and Europe. Joe has focused on customer relationship management, using clearly defined and mutually agreed to measurements of success, and driving to continually exceed customer expectations, allowing for exponential business growth and client retention.