Mark Glover looks at some of the key themes raised from the second part of Field Service News’ London Think Tank where technology and customer trust formed part of the debate...
Our inaugural Think Tank session held in London last year produced a wealth of insight. The first tranche focused on the importance of health and safety which became worthy of its own separate report which we were proud to produce.
The second half of the conversation in London took on a strategic theme, plotting a route through technology and diagnostics while unpacking the value of service both externally to the customer but also its worth inside the business.
Ahead of the full report being published, this exclusive preview of the conversation touches on those key points giving an insight to what you can expect from the resource.
Value of Service
“How can you create a differentiating model that is value driven when they can’t see the need?” offered one attendee, his question sparking a larger debate around the value of service in modern consumerism. Your household appliances are becoming cheaper and disposable. It’s now easier to buy a new washing machine rather than wait to get it fixed.
The problem perhaps is a customer’s perception of service which, to them, is something that happens when there’s a problem when the only thing that matters to the customer is a working asset. When you plumb in the new dishwasher the last thing, you’re thinking is its life-cycle. So how can service demonstrate its value to customers when its very existence is dependent on asset failures? A question contemplated intently by our Think Tank attendees.
Disrupting the traditional service cycle by superseding the value of a product with the value of a service offering was concurred round the table. Certainly, the Break-Fix model and product services are establishing themselves as commodities, but can they pave the way for a shift to an outcome-based approach, where through technology, an assets efficiency can be improved, and uptime maintained.
"Attendees opened-up on the challenges faced within the four walls of the corporate building...
Our attendees obviously passionate about this, offered an array of comment on the value of something that they have worked in for many years. Having fought against the negative PR around service, their insight on this thread should embolden even the most cynical of service professional.
Internal Marketing of Service
As firms integrate service agreements into asset contracts, it makes sense to incorporate sales and services into an overall account management team but is such a thing commonplace and how is the service offering flagged-up in a firm’s hierarchy of other products? Kris Oldland, Field Service News’ Editor-in-Chief, sought a response to this by framing a question on the internal marketing of service, asking if other departments, such as sales and marketing teams, ever tapped into the knowledge of its service department.
Interestingly, it produced a discussion about service’s place in a company’s strategy and how it’s perceived by other strands of the business. Does service suffer from the same negative perception internally as it does externally?
Here, surrounded by peers, attendees opened-up on the challenges faced within the four walls of the corporate building.
The relationship between customer and provider is taking on more significance in the Uber and Amazon era and who could have predicted same-day delivery and on-demand transport five years ago?
The roundtable attendees might well have done given their experience in customer demand and in this thread of the Think Tank they shared their ideas on what the customer expectations in 2020.
"But trust filters from service directors..."
Today a customer expects pristine, efficient and watertight service as standard, it’s the minimum of requirements. Getting a product on the same day is the norm, but it has evolved from a foundation of trust, created through positive experiences with that provider. “If the consumers trust they have that relationship with you, they will keep coming back,” Alistair Dobson from Whirpool said.
But trust filters from service directors, such as Alistair, to their engineers who are the touchpoint with customers and the conduit for passing-on this level of customer care.
Furthermore, trust takes on extra importance in a time of big data where customers are reduced to an email address on a vast CRM that blasts e-shots with offers, reminders and updates to its customer-base. Now more than ever customers appreciate a human offering advice and guidance and it’s in this moment that trust is ultimately created.
“How can we prevent the engineer from going out?” Whirlpool’s Alistair Dobson said when asked about effective diagnostics. “How can we resolve the issue over the phone, directly with the customer.”
Communicating diagnostics to a customer online or by other means is slowly removing call-outs. Sometimes downtime can be due to user error; a lack of familiarity with a new complex asset, or the fix may be a simple one, solved by a trained technician in the call-centre talking the client through the problem over the phone.
"Service outfits are doing everything possible not to send engineers..."
But if the technician must jump in the van, kit bag in tow then they need to do so with the correct part, something which can also be identified during that initial touchpoint. All which emphasises the importance of the initial triage phase.
It’s an interesting concept: that service outfits are doing everything possible not to send engineers. If an issue can be resolved without a technician in attendance, and more and more this is happening, then effective diagnostics will form a key part of this shift.
Here the attendees shared some of their experiences on this early stage of a service process.
A clear understanding of technology is paramount for the modern service professional given the sector operates on the cusp of technological innovation. The asset is now smart, fizzing with data to assist in diagnosis. Accurate diagnostic tools function via the most modern of technologies: AI and Iot bound together with slick connectivity, all of which is enabling the first-time fix, often as we’ve seen, without the need of an engineer visit. It can also pre-empt down-time, so if the engineer is dispatched then they can solve the fix before it happens.
There’s no doubting tech’s benefits but the group warned against complacency when integrating new products into the overall service offering. Ultimately, they agreed, any new technology must benefit just one person: the customer.
Want to know more? Read our full executive briefing report from the first part of the Field Service News Think Tank Sessions now and get the full insight from the senior field service executives taking part within the conversation...
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