Speakers at ServiceMax’s annual Maximize conference discussed how field service has evolved from an industry that relied on legacy processes into one that uses real-time communication, artificial intelligence, and other technology to increase uptime, improve the customer experience, and prepare for an impending wave of retirements as an older workforce steps aside.
Back in 2011, ServiceMax made a bold move to introduce a case-handling app for the iPad, one of the first apps of its kind. What followed was a series of updates and new technologies, including scheduling, collaboration, and other tools designed to help field service workers maximize both their efficiency and the customer experience—all well ahead of their time. And today, almost two decades later, the spirit of innovation remains at ServiceMax, Stacy Epstein, chief marketing and customer experience officer, said during her presentation.
Over the years, field service has become an industry of older workers, but as these seasoned professionals with extensive experience repairing different kinds of equipment retire, a skills gap emerges. Younger workers entering the field are eager to learn, but as they take time to gain experience and master the field, companies will need to rely on new solutions. “The workforce is changing, and we have to deal with it,” Epstein said. “Assets are starting to outlive the people who know how to fix them.”
To that end, Epstein cited the need for self-healing equipment (equipment that can use AI to diagnose and correct certain performance issues without human intervention) and technologies to help provide inexperienced technicians with decades of accumulated knowledge through artificial intelligence, informational videos, and descriptive text.
In the midst of it all, customer expectations for uptime and outstanding experience have only grown, leaving service organizations very little room for error. Epstein says ServiceMax will continue to deliver solutions that leverage the latest capabilities of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality, virtual reality, and other technologies to more readily engage the workforce and help technicians provide better service.
A key ingredient in ServiceMax’s recipe for innovation? Its partners, which not only help support customers’ existing needs, but also enables ServiceMax to anticipate and innovate for upcoming trends, from the skills gap that’s emerging as experienced workers retire, to the growth of AI, which promises to automate some routine technician tasks.
It’s been a big year for ServiceMax. In the months since Silver Lake purchased a majority stake of the company from GE, ServiceMax has grown in its assets and its capabilities, said CEO Neil Barua in his keynote address. “Silver Lake is a great partner. They have enabled us to provide our customers with all of the things they need to keep service at top of mind.”
With the backing of Silver Lake, ServiceMax has indeed grown, and now has more than 200 million assets—“an amazing arsenal,” as Barua described it. “We have solutions that will make a real difference. The way that we service customers shows the depth of experience that we [provide]. What we have is not just a pretty roadmap. We push our company aggressively so that you can do the things that you do.”
ServiceMax partners keep the “world running,” offering everything from artificial intelligence-powered diagnostics tools to medical devices with 100 percent uptime, Barua said.
“The world does not function without what they do,” he added.
Partners also play a critical role in product development at ServiceMax, said Amit Jain, ServiceMax senior vice president of product. “Most of the upgrades come from suggestions from our partners,” Jain said.
He credited such dialogue for the development of the ServiceMax Go app, which brought service execution management, including field service management and asset service management, directly into the pockets of technicians. “We couldn’t be happier about the beta program,” Jain said. “It was the fastest adopted program in our history. Now we’re working on a beta version for tablets.”
Similarly, ServiceMax worked with partner Aquant.io to develop ServiceMax Remote Triage, which was released earlier this year. The offering is a new module for the ServiceMax platform and leverages the power of Aquant’s learning engine to help service organizations analyze data from multiple sources to reduce unnecessary dispatching of technicians and service equipment, while also providing knowledge for technicians on site.
“It turns AI into data,” said Shahar Chen, CEO and co-founder of Aquant. “You need to think of it as providing assisted service with a human touch.”
Ultimately, ServiceMax’s dedication to continually improving its solutions and offerings comes down to the company’s deep understanding of the importance of customer experience. “Being able to provide service and positive customer experience will sustain companies. It’s what companies can hang their hats on during a downturn,” Barua said.
For ServiceMax customers, that dedication to experience has been much more than a promise—it has delivered real value. For example, Australia-based workforce design and delivery organization Tandem Corp. entered into a partnership with ServiceMax eight years ago to help manage millions of contracted field service technicians, said Eric Yilmaz, the company’s chief information officer. He credited ServiceMax for helping the company hit seven key improvement goals within six months after starting to work together.
Robb Origer, vice president of in-home services for Dish Network, said a challenge for his business is that technician’s tools and experience are limited, meaning they may not have everything they need when they get to a job site. In the past, that has meant the technician might not be able to complete the work—a poor customer experience.
But working with the collaboration tool from Zinc, now a part of ServiceMax, Dish Network’s technicians can connect via broadband with different subject matter experts to quickly get any needed information to fix the customer’s issue. Not only does that mean a good experience for the customer, but the technician is satisfied as well, meaning better retention of customers as well as of technicians.
“You need to start preparing for the talent cliff,” Origer said, pointing to the retirements expected over the next few years.“There is a lack of practical expertise. You need to be able to support the next wave of workers.”
Mike Rowe, executive producer and host of television’s Dirty Jobs, said it best in the closing keynote of the conference: The importance of field service workers who keep the country running is growing, and it’s critical to support them.