IT Being a Game Changer in Field Service
By Libba Sapitsky, SVP-Customer Care, North America, Siemens Healthineers
1. How has your IT operating model changed during the last five years in the Field Service Industry?
It is no surprise that year after year companies continue to focus on 1) growing revenue and 2) growing profit. However, customer expectations have changed and IT is a key component for how we meet these evolving needs.
To adapt and compete with constant change and market challenges, the IT operating model must be predictive and provide innovative automated solutions based on a sophisticated understanding of operating requirements. With social collaboration tools, mobile channels for customer engagement and self-service tools, augmented reality and emerging digital tools, this journey is more rewarding than before since we are now more agile and have more innovative technology options to support field service. Additionally, while data and business intelligence are driving predictive analytics, we are able to deliver better, more innovative services faster.
2. What do you think are the biggest challenges that technologists face in Field Service?
As a technologist, being an enabler to help transform Field Service is a complex process. You first have to identify the right questions. Questions like: “What does ‘good’ look like?” “What can I do to drive improvement?” “What does Field Service need to arrive at their end goal of how they define ‘good’?”
The biggest challenges are to truly understand the customer journey, identify the pain points and guard against automating a process “as is.” It is critical to invest the time to walk the process end-to-end and understand all customer touch points. If you are not asking the right questions you risk wasting resources solving the wrong problem.
3. What set of skills do you think is required for the technology leaders to be successful in the Field Service landscape?
The role of a technology leader is more complex today because it goes beyond merely IT experience and knowledge. The role also requires leadership, business and operational sensitivity as well as seeing around corners. We operate in an environment that can be strategic, tactical or reactive. If Field Service is drawn into being mostly reactive, we will be left behind. The most successful customer-centric organizations must use technology to implement a strategic culture that also knows how to execute. And, the strategy needs to use technology to predict and prevent issues.
“For field service companies to scale, technology can be designed to address the 3R’s: Reduce events, Remote and self fix and Reduce on-site time”
Therefore, technology leaders need to be empowered and avoid being “order takers” that only design, build and run. Technology leaders of today must be agile and aligned with operations on the goal. They should be able to identify operational blind spots and always look for a closed-loop solution which is looking at the operations, process and tools. Technology leaders also should be collaborative business partners that truly care about resolving customer issues more quickly, designing capabilities to handle higher work volumes with less effort, and improving overall efficiency and service.
Also, IT needs to design with two primary “customers” in mind: the internal customer (employee) and the external customer. To address the needs of the internal customer, be cautious when selecting devices to avoid making the wrong assumption. For example, consider if a smartphone will meet the requirements or if a tablet or hybrid device would be better. Also consider what features and functions—such as screen size, weight, processing power, ports and battery life—are needed. All of these factors contribute to the end functionality.
4. Which growing or future technology innovations in Field Service are you personally excited about?
Automation provides endless opportunities to support the field. Advanced workforce optimization, logistics, collaboration and mobile solutions enable service technicians to optimize customer engagements that will inspire customer loyalty. What I am most excited about is advanced vehicle technology, seamless software integration and remote tools (i.e., Google Glass, HelpLightning) that will let field technicians to “show” what they are seeing to inside support teams and enable collaboration to resolve issues. We also are using connectivity of our systems and solutions to link data with smart algorithms, thus predicting failures before they even occur. In Field Service, it’s also important always to build an integrated solution for activities such as work-order management, dispatch, scheduling, customer interaction, knowledge management fleet management and reporting.
There will always be a need for service and handling service correctly means building reasons for customers to stay and increasing sales. For companies to scale, technology can be designed to address the 3R’s: Reduce events, Remote fix and Reduce on-site time—and remote monitor and diagnostics technology is key. For example, to help reduce dispatch, we have customers call a centralized function for pre-clarification first. If we do need to dispatch, we then are able to better prepare our field technicians. And utilizing technology to quickly identify having the right people in the right place at the right time with the right tools improves efficiency. Additionally, we can conduct “Instant Replays,” where cross-functional teams along with the customer quickly review an event to identify areas of improvement.
5. We are all dealing with technology every day. How does technology drive Field Service?
When customers need field support it means something is broken, so the field workforce must optimize every customer interaction in order to change a negative into a positive. As a customer-centric organization we support a three-legged stool—employees, customers, and business. The challenges are greater than in previous years: our employees have higher demands, our customers are more sophisticated, and our competition is fiercer. In this environment, it is our people that will be the market differential and technology needs to support them. IT can be and has to be a game changer. Optimizing the entire service process from the customer incident through service delivery, root cause analysis and corrective action can be driven by technology solutions. Technology will be an enabler in how field service does their job and even what the job entails. The prevalence of connected devices opens up possibilities for proactive, even “touchless” services, as well as new commercial models quite unlike the traditional fee-for-service model.