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Top Five Challenges Plaguing Field Service [Plus How to Confront Them]

First and simply put, field service management is best summarized by the four Rs: Delivering to the right person, at the right place, at the right time, with the right tools. This field service fundamental is crucial to understand before discussing the recent challenges facing the industry.

While each field service business may have its own unique challenges to overcome, we have identified the top five challenges that we see time and time again — including ones that you should be aware of before embarking on a field service implementation project.

1) Proactively Getting Things Right the First Time

To expand on our earlier and oversimplified value proposition of field service management, the biggest return on investment is realized when the four Rs are carried out properly the first time.

One of the biggest expenses for field service organizations is “rework,” which refers to making a return visit to a customer’s location due to lack of information. Sending the wrong person with the wrong tools at the wrong time to the wrong place is the four Rs gone wrong. When any of these four situations occur, those rework activities naturally result in a higher cost of service to the organization.

The primary cause of rework is lack of information, or misinformation, typically regarding customer/location data and technician data (skills and inventory).

An experienced field service solution partner can help you bridge the information gap by working closely with your business stakeholders to deploy important data management systems and protocols. Nucleus Research has determined that vendors can leverage technology such as internet-connected mobile devices, home appliances, and industrial machinery to gain real-time visibility into their products while they are in use. From there, businesses can proactively monitor performance and increase system uptime.

2) Continuous Improvement: Understanding Why Things Went Wrong

We mentioned earlier how return visits increase the overall cost of performing a certain service for a business. Perhaps, more important however, is the ability to pinpoint the reason why the rework needed to happen in the first place.

It is crucial to be able to analyze and interpret the vast amount of data collected by modern business applications. Based on that data, you need to be able to draw meaningful conclusions about which corrective actions are needed.

An evolving business needs to adapt and adjust its internal processes to not only lower costs and increase margins, but also increase overall efficiency and productivity. Given the nature of the service-based work force, a more efficient and productive day has a logical correlation to overall employee happiness. Providing tools and techniques that empower a workforce to perform better at their daily duties creates a positive and confident culture where employees feel supported and valued.

3) Third Party Billing and Tracking

Whether the customer agrees or not, a COD-type (cash on delivery) model is often the simplest payment term for a service-based business. The reality of the situation, however, is far more complex than this conveniently simple model.

For instance, equipment can have manufacturer warranties, customers can purchase extended warranties, and sometimes companies offer in-house service contract warranties. All of these contribute to someone other than the customer paying the bill.

Tracking return parts, entitlement details, and all the relevant third party billing rules is no easy feat. For this reason, the third challenge that service-based companies face directly impacts revenue: Who to bill, what to bill for, and when to bill. Field service software can offer warranty management features that are optimized for businesses that service many different vendors, distributors, or manufacturers.

4) Consistent User Experience Means Consistent Customer Experience

Number four on our list of top field service challenges is all about consistency. Service-based companies want to be able to provide a top tier (and referable) quality of service every time. But in order to provide consistently outstanding customer experiences, the workforce must first have consistently outstanding experiences with their system. This is a bit of a catch-22.

Given the wide variety of services performed (demand/repair, maintenance, installation, sales quotes, etc.), the ability to guide system users through a repeatable, step-by-step process that keeps service consistent each time for each job role, is what ultimately drives your customers’ experience with those different roles.

Standardization is a good thing. Keeping those standards nimble is even better. Whatever your business’ main KPIs/goals are, incorporating a service standard that can evolve with customer service expectations is a key factor for success.

5) Proactive vs. Reactive Management

Recent technological advancements are providing new opportunities for proactive management. Historically, reactive readiness has been the dominant resolution strategy. The fifth challenge that field service organizations face is the ability to recognize this technological shift and implement a more proactive service management style.

According to Nucleus Research, service departments can “proactively add value to the customer relationship by taking steps to avoid product failures and improve system performance.” Technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) empower predictive maintenance and help field service organizations avoid equipment downtime. Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) technology make it possible for the senior workforce to remotely shadow/assist the junior techs in the field when the circumstance requires. While this type of proactive management does require an initial investment, the alternative of “sticking to old ways because they’re working” is a false reality with an imminent expiration.

In conclusion, the most successful field service organizations embrace change, adapt to technological advances, and incorporate process improvements.

Regardless of your current field service application (or lack thereof), Hitachi Solutions prides itself on being our customers’ best partner — a commitment fully realized by providing industry expertise (and solutions!) that can help grow alongside your business. For more information regarding Hitachi Solution’s field service expertise, click here.

Want to learn how Hitachi Solutions can help your organization overcome industry challenges? Contact us today!

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