For years, field service organizations have used field service management (FSM) technologies to simplify the scheduling and dispatching of technicians, identify the parts needed to fix problems, offer proactive maintenance, and minimize machine downtime. But there has been an unanticipated benefit to field service management technologies: data collection.
The data that FSM solutions collect in the process of managing services in the field is a virtual treasure trove of information. As work orders are created and completed, a service history of everything that’s been done, by who, when and with what parts, is created. Traditionally, this data is used by field service technicians, dispatchers and service managers to improve operations and service delivery. By knowing what happened with a piece of equipment in the past, dispatchers can schedule technicians who have the right skillsets and technicians can be prepared with the correct parts and background information to make a first-time fix. But there are valuable uses for this data beyond field service management.
Early adopters of field service management technology realized this and started sharing asset data with call centers and quality assurance. With access to asset data, customer service reps could gain insight into an account and quality assurance teams could simplify the recall process. Now, forward-thinking organizations are beginning to leverage asset data across more business functions, from sales to supply chain to product and engineering.
Here are some examples of how this data can be used beyond traditional field service applications:
1. Sales Teams Armed with Customer Data
Once FSM customer data is available to sales teams, reps can gain deeper insight into the current temperature of the account. Is the customer happy? How has the asset performed? How is the asset being used by the customer and how frequently? How many times have service technicians been required onsite? What were the issues? How quickly were they resolved?
Deeper visibility into the account helps salespeople determine sales approaches, timing, pricing strategies and set the stage for selling add-on services and complementary solutions.
2. Support for Supply Chain and Parts Management
Companies rarely want to house excess inventory, especially when parts and storage are expensive. But they also can’t carry too few parts, or they risk defaulting on service-level agreements. No customer with an SLA expects to wait on a part to be delivered. FSM historical data can help identify which parts should be stocked and at what levels.
3. Improved Customer Contracts
Contract administrators can use field service data to design contracts based on service calls. How frequent are the calls? Are the majority coming during the warranty period or after? What level of technical expertise is typically required of the technician? How long is the average service call? What is the average cost of keeping the equipment up and running?
With this data, contract writers can predict costs to see if outcomes-based contracts are viable, and if so, how those contracts should be priced to maintain profit margins. Customers can win, too, as they gain insight into the value the service contract is providing them.
4. Empowered End Users
By providing asset information to the end customer, we can arm them with the data necessary to participate in a self-service model where they perform tasks, schedule service, and troubleshoot problems without the assistance of customer service.
Using their own historical data, they can learn what’s happened to the asset previously and see how issues were solved. The product manufacturer could benefit by learning more about where their products were installed after they were sold by a distributor, who owns and operates them, and how they’re being used. Moreover, it could provide a mechanism to build a direct customer relationship.
5. Analytics for Engineering and Development Teams
Most product development teams take a methodical approach to research. But they’re often not aware of—and not leveraging—the best information available, which already exists within their organizations.
By integrating FSM information with product lifecycle management systems, development teams can see how customers are using the product and can use that insight to inform design decisions for the next generation of the product.
It’s Just a Matter of Time
There are material challenges that must be addressed to enable the widespread sharing of FSM data. Additional business intelligence and analytics software is required, integrations are necessary, and purchasing priorities and processes must change. Attitudes within organizations must evolve to embrace a more sharing environment, and silos must be removed.
But it’s clear there’s a plethora of value waiting to be unlocked. The key is in expanding our definition of field service management beyond the traditional aspects of scheduling work, and understanding that it’s a valuable repository of information that should be leveraged across the organization. The sooner we recognize this, the sooner we unlock that value.