The Future of Field Service is Here

The Future of Field Service is Here

The Future of Field Service is Here

Field service of the future is automated, autonomous and above all, connected. Actually, scratch that. That’s best-in-class field service of right now.

In place of a call from a customer for servicing or repairs – an automatic, detailed notification from the machine itself. Manual updating? Not any more: inventory changes reflect on their own, in real time. Diagnosis by a technician? How about machines that self-diagnose.

This is field service enabled by the Internet of Things futuristic, but it’s far from it. In fact, more and more organisations are beginning to adopt IoT technologies. The results are enhanced efficiency, lowered costs and the one-touch approach to business more and more customers are coming to expect.

IoT and field service: from first steps to the future

As early as 2015, Kevin Ashton, who founded the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, noted at a European customer service conference that field service management was the first industry being transformed by IoT. In fact, IoT is considered by many to trace its origins precisely to field service applications.

So, what are the benefits of embedding IoT technology in a field service business? Here is some food for thought.

Another miscommunication? Answer: automation

Your customers aren’t mechanical experts. Nor should they be. However, when something goes wrong, your customer isn’t always able to provide a clear description of the problem, or what needs to be done.

The result: delays and frustration, technicians dispatched with the wrong parts, or no need for a dispatch at all.

With IoT, however, issues are instantly clear – because reports are generated automatically by intelligent software. This means problems can be isolated instantly and addressed efficiently.

Consider the following scenario. A customer phones in because a piece of equipment has stopped working. He says that a certain part is definitely to blame. A technician is dispatched, carrying just that part. After arriving, it becomes clear that the problem lies elsewhere. Another component is needed – one the company doesn’t happen to have in stock. The customer becomes frustrated – he’s losing business every moment the machine is out of service. The technician is in an awkward position too – the best she can do is return with the right part in a few days’ time. In the interim, the customer has sought the help of a competitor.

With IoT-enabled devices, this situation never need arise.

Inventory, meet insight

Consider a twist on the above scenario. Ever run out of a part you could have sworn was in stock? Ever promised a customer a fix using just that part? With IoT-connected devices, this problem becomes a thing of the past, because the system sends out a signal when new parts should be ordered.

Moreover, technicians can get a view of company inventory instantly, even if they’re in the field. The result is an end to well-meaning but empty promises. It also means companies never over or under order, optimising warehousing.

Know thyself: Self-diagnosis means fewer unnecessary call-outs

IoT devices understand themselves. Meaning? They can self-diagnose, and report on their performance. By isolating specific faulty components and monitoring overall system operation, AI gets to work locating the root cause of issues being experienced.

The result is a reduced need for in-person visits by a technician, saving time and money. It also means that when a technician does need to be dispatched, the right part is always in-hand.

Future shock?

For many, the capabilities of IoT-enabled devices still seem a little futuristic. Moreover, a business-as-usual mindset may lead to a reluctance to change. In the unlikely event that a company has a total monopoly on the market, it’s true – there’s no need to change, as customers simply have to use that firm’s services, no matter the quality.

However, for most businesses, steep competition is a reality. Meaning: companies are always looking for ways to do things faster, better and more cheaply and turn to the providers best able to meet their needs. And if there isn’t a competitor yet, new technology is making it easier for companies to enter new markets – and quickly.

Where to?

Many companies quick to adopt the new digital capabilities that began to emerge in the early 2000s reaped the rewards. That opportunity for first-mover advantage is now playing out again. Field service companies that get on board with IoT-enabled tech today may be poised to stand out from the rest of the field in a big way.

Want to find out more? Have a look at an IoT-enabled field service solution that’s tailored for you.

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What’s new in Dynamics 365 for Field Service

What’s new in Dynamics 365 for Field Service

What’s new in Dynamics 365 for Field Service

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service works in tandem with the Dynamics 365 Customer Service application to help organizations manage field-based service teams. The Field Service app includes these capabilities:

  • Work order management.
  • Scheduling, dispatch, and routing of field technicians to customer sites.
  • Repairs and returns management.
  • Inventory management.
  • Mobile app for field technicians.

Here’s what’s new with the 2018 Spring release:

1. New Unified Interface framework

With the Spring ’18 release, the field service app is built on the Unified Interface framework for improved user experience. The app delivers a consistent, uniform user interface, and follows responsive design principles for optimal viewing on any screen size or device.

2. A Common Controls Framework (CCF)

User interface controls use a Common Controls Framework (CCF) for consistency with other Dynamics 365 business applications. Controls follow consistent, familiar patterns on every surface in the application, making it easier for field service users to be on-boarded and become productive quickly.

3. Ability to hold 3D content about customer assets

Arm your technicians with 3D content to help them complete repairs. 3D models or sequences can be uploaded (directly to Dynamics 365 or hosted externally), and then associated with customer asset records for use by technicians within the mobile app. Supported 3D file formats are glTF, FBX, GLB, and OBJ.

4. Resource Scheduling Optimization (RSO) enhancements

Resource Scheduling Optimization (RSO) is an add-on capability for the Dynamics 365 for Field Service application that enables you to automatically schedule work orders for the most appropriate resources, while simultaneously optimizing appointment setting for travel time, work hours, and many other constraints.

a. Extensible scope

The Resource Scheduling Optimization solution uses scope to define the input for resources, resource requirements, and resource bookings, as well as the timeframes used for optimization. With extensible scope, the solution leverages entity views in Dynamics 365 to provide an easy and flexible way to define what gets optimized.

b. Run a simulation

The admin can run a schedule on demand as a simulation, which results in resource bookings that are simulations without affecting actual bookings. This capability helps an administrator better understand the effects of adjusting optimization scope, constraints, objectives, and other parameters, to determine what optimization configuration best matches business goals and objectives.

c. Enforce skill level

Resource requirements can include not only a skill, but also the level (or rating) of the skill required to do the work. By considering the skill (or resource characteristic) rating level required, the solution is able to find resources that better match required skills and proficiency.

5. Connected Field Service (IoT) enhancements

Syncing Dynamics 365 to devices and assets through the Internet of Things (IoT), Connected Field Service helps service organizations proactively detect, troubleshoot, and resolve service issues. This way a technician is dispatched only when necessary. Organizations can enable IoT alerts, device fault states, and preventive maintenance notifications to let field service managers or technicians know when to create a new case, create a work order, send commands to control customer assets remotely, prepare parts needed for a repair, or take other actions.

a. Unified Interface framework

With the Spring ’18 release, the Connected Field Service solution is built on the Unified Interface framework for improved user experience. The app delivers a consistent, uniform user interface, and follows responsive design principles for optimal viewing on any screen size or device.

b. Synchronization of device conditions and properties with device twins

Connected Field Service includes a representation of customer assets and devices that can be registered within Azure IoT Hub to enable messages to flow through Azure IoT Hub to create alerts.

In the Spring ‘18 release, in addition to receiving messages that require action, Connected Field Service uses the Azure IoT device twin capability. The device twin, which is kept in sync with physical devices, is a JSON document that holds metadata and configuration data, as well as a virtual cloud representation of physical devices.

Connected Field Service communicates with device twins to allow devices to report operating conditions such as device state, heartbeat for connectivity speed, and machine vibration. Field service operations managers gain visibility into device conditions and properties on a graphical dashboard. For example, the capacity of a tank can be monitored through IoT Hub and represented on the dashboard. When capacity reaches a threshold, an alert is sent to designated users for follow-up action.

Field service managers or technicians can also use pre-defined commands to control a piece of equipment, such as when to restart or shut down.

Want to get more information around what a sales solution could do for you? Check out our solution’s page.

 

 

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Five Golden Rules Every Great Field Service Organisation Follows

Five Golden Rules Every Great Field Service Organisation Follows

Five Golden Rules Every Great Field Service Organisation Follows

Surprise and delight. Sound familiar? For years, that’s been the go-to phrase when it comes to customer experience.

The mantra’s stuck around for a reason, but the route to the promised land has changed.

Now, surprise and delight means not only delivering great customer experiences, but leveraging the power of tech in doing so – a fact that holds true for field service organisations in particular.

The reality is that in today’s hyper-competitive, tech-saturated marketplace, customers have come expect more than ever before from Field Service Organisations (FSOs):

  • Personalisation.
  • Rapid order turnaround.
  • Agility.

At the same time, strategies that place too much value on new customer acquisitions through a short-term tech focus tend to be unsustainable.

So, how can FSOs navigate this new business landscape and use tech to power long-term sustainable goals? Here are five rules to bear in mind:

1. Avoid profit tunnel vision

It’s easy to become blinkered by a profit-focused mindset. While that attitude may work for a while – or seem to – the problem is this: when profit generation becomes (and stays) uppermost of mind, short-term decision making tends to dominate, to the detriment of more important long-term goals.

The next client … the next big sale … focusing too hard on these can come at the cost of your current customer base.

Remember: your existing customer base is your most profitable base. Also: it’s expensive to acquire new customers. Your current customers’ experience with your organisation should therefore be a high priority. So, improve the customer journey, making sure it’s studded with positive interactions and value-adds – repeat business and referrals await.

Consider this: a customer calls in, needing to have a piece of equipment repaired. The repairs are done, and the customer walks away happy. However, since the customer isn’t a specialist, what he’ll remember most about the process is the customer service he received. Sometimes it’s just as much about how you make a customer feel as the actual service you provide.

2. Tackle tech phobia

Yes, tech can be expensive. And for some, the promised benefits – increased efficiency, streamlined workflows, improved agility – can seem a little intangible.

However, the reality is: your competitors get it. They know the value of tech. And chances are, they’re investing in it a big way.

The result? When enough businesses begin to transform, everything in the marketplace changes. The benchmarks customers expect service providers to meet go way up. The ways in which clients expect to interact with businesses (including yours) are completely remade.

Consider:

  • The rewards of real-time. Mobile technology means that field techs can connect to real-time feeds from the office and customers. This not only means they’re more visible, but that they’re able to respond far more quickly to changes or order updates. Are your field techs making use of mobile?
  • The way the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing machine maintenance. The old paradigm: a device breaks or needs an overhaul. Only then does a customer phone in with a request for service. The new model: IoT devices send and receive data all the time. Now, you can receive an automatic notification of the need for a service or repair, without either you or your customer needing to lift a finger. Now imagine this: your local car service centre phones you, because your car has sent an alert that it’s time for a service. The agent asks if he or she can book you in for a Tuesday morning, your preferred time, based on past data. You agree – it’s not only convenient, but you’re left with the sense that your service centre really cares.

3. Don’t dodge data

The right customer information – information you’re probably already collecting – contains a goldmine of untapped business potential. That is, if you have the right tools to uncover it.

The right data analysis can reveal everything from up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, to ways in which to maximise your most profitable customer relationships, refine service delivery based on past feedback and identify your most profitable customer groups and product types. Gone is guesswork. In its place – data-guided decision making.

More importantly – data is the core of personalisation. And personalisation has come to define the most critical interactions in business today. Customers expect you to understand their needs and provide tailored, individualised service. To do that – and do it well, without draining your resources – you need the right tools to dig into your data.

For example, by knowing what products or services a customer ordered from you in the past allows you to streamline how you interact. It also allows you to suggest relevant options, upgrades and associated services.

4. Increase efficiency

Driving profitability is not all about what’s ‘out there’. In fact, what’s going on inside your business is often the most critical aspect when it comes to your bottom line.

Schedule optimisation is one internal process that can drastically improve profit. For example: by using Microsoft Dynamics 365, technicians can dramatically increase the number of appointments they’re able to fit in each day, improving both productivity and profitability.

As your business grows, increasing efficiency becomes paramount. Failing to put the systems in place to allow you to grow – without adding to headcount – can mean the difference between linear and exponential profit growth.

5. Don’t forget your most effective sales channel – your field technicians

Finally, consider your field techs – the people who are out there interacting with customers every day.

Field techs are the face of a business. So, make sure you empower them to consult with and add value to each client interaction.

This can mean anything from adding a touch of personalisation to every meeting, going the extra mile when it comes to fulfilling an order, or using tech to streamline order processing, parts ordering and payment. Doing so can be a powerful differentiator in the market.

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Gartner: Microsoft a Visionary in Field Service

Gartner: Microsoft a Visionary in Field Service

Gartner: Microsoft a Visionary in Field Service

It’s only been two years. After entering the Field Service market in 2015, through the acquisition of FieldOne Systems, Microsoft has made rapid progress. Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant (for Field Service Management) now places them in the Visionary category:

“U.S.-based Microsoft is a Visionary on the basis of the breadth of capabilities it offers on a single platform”

Gartner went on to state:

“[Microsoft’s] Dynamics 365 for Field Service covers end-to-end service, including capabilities not found in many competing solutions, such as predictive equipment maintenance management and contract, depot repair and inventory management.”

At The CRM Team, we’re very excited about this. Dynamics 365 for Field Service is developing at an incredible rate. For example, we love its ability to connect to the Internet of Things and initiate preventative maintenance for devices. Gone are the days of service departments scrambling when something goes down. With constant monitoring of devices over the cloud, service companies can intervene at a much earlier stage. With Dynamic’s 365’s built-in intelligence, this early warning process can be automated. All these efficiencies create a better customer experience AND reduce costs.  With Microsoft’s extensive research budget, it’s only going to get better and better. Gartner highlighted this rapid pace of development in their report:

“Microsoft has… an aggressive product development roadmap… a result of significant growth in license sales and active users.”

With 90,000 active users of Dynamics 365 for Field Service around the world, companies are adopting it in their droves. We’ve helped a number of companies adopt Dynamics 365 for Field Service ourselves, both in South Africa and the UK. It’s truly an end-to-end solution. Have you considered transforming your vision of field service? Download the full Gartner report here or, better still, see how Dynamics 365 for Field Service revolutionized Michelin’s service division. It’s a fascinating short video:
Want to explore how we could help you transform your field service? Get in touch.

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Run a field service business? Here’s why efficiency is everything

Run a field service business? Here’s why efficiency is everything

Run a field service business? Here’s why efficiency is everything

Read the statistics – they paint an interesting picture. Consider this:

  • 91% of customers stay loyal to brands that offer low-effort interactions
  • Only 4% of service organisations can solve an inquiry using a single application
  • 77% of consumers globally have a more favourable view of brands that offer proactive service notifications.

Conclusion: customers love efficiency. They stay loyal to companies able to offer it. However, very few businesses are able to offer the kind of service that keeps customers coming back. If you’re one of the few that can, you’ve got a powerful market differentiator – one that can allow you to carve out a niche in the market.

Here are 4 ways the right toolset can drive efficiency for that market-leading edge.

1. Intelligent Scheduling.

A great top-down view is key to optimising service delivery. If dispatchers can access real-time information on where technicians are, accurate, efficient scheduling becomes possible. Workloads and resources can be better balanced too, and more appointments scheduled per day. The result: productivity gets a massive boost.

2. Remote Monitoring

On-site assistance should be carried out only when necessary. The right technology can help you detect, troubleshoot and resolve issues remotely when possible. Remote monitoring and predictive maintenance also become possible when you have the right tools. Moreover, systems can be designed to ask customers the right questions upfront. Do this and you can ensure you dispatch technician only when necessary – and that when you do, you always send the right person for the job.

3. Streamlined Administration.

Admin is the enemy. It eats into energy and resources. By streamlining the back office, your time is far better spent. The right technology means that client emails, phone calls and appointments can be monitored at the click of a button, and stored in one place, against their client record. Clients can also be kept informed at any stage of the engagement, with updates being sent by staff from any device. Further, when you have the ability to generate reports instantly, you can prioritise the most important clients and ensure you always provide great experiences to your customers.

4. Efficient Contract and SLA management.

Field service organisations have tons of info to keep track of. And while background information is key, it can quickly become a burden. Technology can provide key alerts and prompts, making insights actionable. For example, when service contracts, warranties and installed products are kept up to date, business flows far more smoothly. Driving additional revenue becomes possible too. Accurate contract information can ensure you are offering renewals at the right time, and not letting any contracts expire.

Conclusion: customers care about service. Organisations able to keep interactions low-effort build customer loyalty. The right toolsets such as Microsoft Dynamics for Field Service can connect and empower service technicians, facilitate optimal scheduling and enable optimised contract management. From customers’ perspectives, the result is smooth, seamless service delivery – the kind of interactions that keep them coming back.
Want to explore how we could help you transform your field service?

Get in touch.

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