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The true purpose of your field service organization

Posted by Jim Hare

What’s the true purpose of your field service organization? What are you trying to achieve on a daily basis? What do you think your goals are?

Here’s one way to look at the development of your FSO.

Peter Drucker is a famous management consultant. In 1973, he famously said that the “only purpose” of any business is to create a customer. (In 1988, he also did predict that within 20 years, organizations would slash management levels by 50 percent -- and he seems to have been wrong on that one. We all make mistakes.) 

August 8, 2016

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The internal barriers in business development for your FSO

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Business development is everything, especially if you believe the old executive adage that "if you are not growing, you are dying." You need to grow your field service business, no matter what area of field service you work in (plumbing, AC repair, machine maintenance, and so on.) 

For years and years, the idea of business development was predominantly external. You needed better talent (hiring). There were factories and equipment to be bought. The technology was not there yet. Scaling and becoming profitable were about defeating the challenges out in the marketplace.

It is a very different picture around business development these days.

August 5, 2016

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Don't let silos destroy your field service business

Posted by Shloma Baum

Even if you work in a small field service business, you’re probably familiar with silos. If you have five employees but they focus on different functional areas of expertise, there’s a possibility that “silos” (in this case one person at a time) can crop up. The scheduling person focuses only on scheduling and doesn’t communicate well with the person who works with customer information. This breaks down internal communication and makes decisions less effective.

Much of this is backed up by research.

Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002. He’s probably most famous as the author of a book called Thinking, Fast and Slow, although many consider him one of the fathers of behavioral economics. The idea behind behavioral economics is to turn traditional economics, which assumes rational decision-making, on its head. Behavioral economics observes people in real-life contexts and tries to see what they would do and the decisions they’d make.

This has a lot of implications for managing your field service business.

August 3, 2016

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The value of reporting dashboards

Posted by Jim Hare

Josh Bersin is a thought leader in the Human Resources industry. He is one of the main data analysts for Deloitte Consulting around HR and organizational trends. His company, Bersin by Deloitte, had their ninth annual conference for professionals in those fields in the spring of 2016 in Florida. Bersin himself wrote a recap of the event, and this part should stand out:

“We don’t need as many middle managers now, so the concept of ‘leadership by job title’ or ‘leadership by position’ has to go away. One of the senior execs I talked with the other day told me ‘I don’t have time for mid-level managers any more. I can get the information I need to run my business through our digital information systems. If our leaders aren’t hands-on experts in their business areas, I don’t really need them.’”

This quote has important implications for field service organizations.

August 1, 2016

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Aligning sales and marketing within field service to make money

Posted by Julio Hartstein

If you are trying to make your field service organization more profitable, one of the first major steps is making sure sales and marketing are aligned.

You might stop and think, “Sales and marketing are already naturally aligned. They already have the same goals.”

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Here is an example.

Consider the idea of ‘marketing automation.’ If you are unfamiliar with this concept, the brief rundown is:

  • You go to a website of interest
  • You provide your e-mail address in exchange for a value/service
  • The company now has the right to e-mail you other values/offers/etc.

July 29, 2016

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How to improve your completed vs. invoiced jobs KPI

Posted by Shloma Baum

Completed vs. invoiced jobs (or invoiced jobs as a percentage of completed jobs) is a crucial financial metric for field service organizations. It means what you might think: you have a number of jobs completed (services rendered), but some of those jobs haven’t been invoiced (you have not been paid).

In a perfect world within your FSO, this ratio of completed to invoiced would always be 1:1. Whenever a technician completes service, he or she would invoice the client on-site. The client might not pay right away, but at least the invoice is out there.

July 27, 2016

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Why the employee retention KPI is crucial to your bottom line

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Classic management advice often holds that your company makes money because of products and processes -- and not necessarily because of people. As a result, employees can be seen as interchangeable, with a belief that if someone leaves, he or she will simply be replaced by someone else. That new person will be trained and all will be good for the company.

This approach does work for many jobs, but it is not the best way to think about your field service organization. Your technicians often have very specialized knowledge, and losing one of them can mean a revenue loss in an area they specialized in. Similarly, your employees have built relationships with specific clients they work with. If one of your employees leaves, that relationship could be in jeopardy. That can also represent a revenue loss.

July 25, 2016

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Why the customer retention KPI matters

Posted by Jim Hare

If you are a small business field service organization, you probably understand the emotional power of customer retention. When you start getting a series of customers who stay with you and can be counted on for revenue each month, it makes you feel better about the direction of your FSO -- and when those retained customers begin referring you to others, it makes you feel even better.

Even if you’re an enterprise-level FSO, you probably have a good sense of the power of customer retention. Many FSOs track customer acquisition costs religiously, and that is certainly a valuable metric to manage within your business. But while customer acquisition is important, it is only a small slice of the overall picture. That customer needs to be retained. Otherwise you are always looking for, and trying to acquire, new customers. That drives up your costs.

July 22, 2016

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What you need to know about the overtime hours KPI

Posted by Shloma Baum

Overtime hours is a relatively simple KPI to calculate and monitor: you simply look at the overtime hours being used by your back-office staff and technicians. You generally want this number to be lower for two reasons:

  • More overtime is typically more cost that you need to pay out
  • If your employees are registering a lot of overtime, there is a concern around their productivity in terms of getting jobs done during established working hours 

This is a tricky KPI in the hands of novice managers, because a less experienced (or ‘not good’) manager might tell the technician, “You need to take less overtime!” While that is potentially a solution, it does not really get to the heart of the issue at hand: Why is that employee taking so much overtime?

July 20, 2016

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How the number of work requests KPI drives decision-making

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Number of work requests refers to how much work your FSO is doing, or at least the number of requests you are receiving.

The important aspect to this KPI is how you break it down. If you do solid analysis on your number of work requests, you can get a good idea of the following:

  • Where you are generating the most revenue
  • How effective your marketing is relative to each type of service you can perform
  • Where you are not getting much revenue
  • What types of clients are more receptive to new service areas for their businesses

July 18, 2016

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How to improve the percentage of billable hours KPI

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Percentage of billable hours is a measure of productivity, because it refers to the percentage of time your technicians are doing work which is directly billable to a client. This is one of the more financially focused KPIs that field service organizations tend to track.

With most KPIs or metrics, the most important aspect is what you do with them – in other words, how the KPI drives decision-making. This is very clear with percentage of billable hours. The most productive field service technicians will have a high percentage of billable hours, and the least productive technicians have a low percentage, meaning they spend the majority of their time on tasks not related to client billing.

July 15, 2016

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The significance of the extra quotes/orders by agent KPI

Posted by Jim Hare

Extra quotes or orders by agent is sometimes called ‘up-selling,’ and it refers to the number of extra orders that technicians are taking when already on-site with a customer or client. This is important because, in reality, your technicians are some of your best marketing and sales people.

July 13, 2016

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Why should your field service organization care about change management?

Posted by Shloma Baum

What does the term ‘change management’ mean? And why is it relevant to someone working in field service? Let us explore a little bit.

‘Change management’ is a concept usually associated with Human Resources. At the most basic level, it refers to your organization making changes -- in terms of people -- in structure, approaches, revenue models, or anything involving (a) a business concept and (b) how that business concept impacts people.

One reason that ‘change management’ has become a major focus in the last decade is because of this other idea called ‘disruption.’ That idea refers to a smaller, faster-moving (can make decisions faster), well-funded company coming along and starting to out-perform you. The classic examples are Amazon ‘disrupting’ the traditional bookstore model, and Uber ‘disrupting’ cab companies and local transportation.

So the idea is that you need to think about ‘change management’ in your organization in order to avoid being ‘disrupted’ by another company.

How does this apply to field service management?

July 8, 2016

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Why your first-time fix rate is so important

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Based on research from The Service Council, the first-time fix rate -- which means the percentage of time a service issue was resolved on the first visit to a customer -- is around 77% for most field service organizations. (This number does vary in other studies.)

If you assume 77% is close to accurate -- most figures from other studies are around that -- that still means 23% of the time (over 1/5th), a customer’s issue is not resolved within one visit. This understandably increase customer dissatisfaction -- which is bad for repeat business and referral opportunities -- but it’s also a cost problem.

July 6, 2016

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{eBook} Real-time field service KPIs to master

Posted by Jim Hare

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are how you assess the health of your business day to day, week to week, and month to month. Because of a rapid explosion in data, digital tools, and the ability to present information in different ways, KPIs are more important than ever in field service. You can access real-time information about your revenue streams, how your technicians are performing, the levels ofcustomer satisfaction you are seeing, and where you can reduce cost. 

We put together an eBook on eight crucial real-time KPIs for field service organizations.

July 5, 2016

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What are the core values of your field service organization?

Posted by Shloma Baum

The Netflix Culture Document is a fairly important document to emerge from Silicon Valley. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, once called it the most important document ever to emerge from Silicon Valley -- and it’s been viewed over 13 million times on SlideShare. The document, which is linked above, was developed in the early days of Netflix to describe their culture, mission, core values, and accountability to employees and customers alike.

July 1, 2016

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What is the brand promise of your field service organization?

Posted by Jim Hare

Branding Strategy Insider defines a ‘brand promise’ as a ‘commitment to deliver made between a brand and its audience.’ Certainly seems logical, but here is a point that often gets confused: your customers or clients may not directly know what your brand promise is. The brand promise is usually an internal document or series of documents developed by a marketing team, senior leadership, and potentially some outside consultants. Some companies put variations of their brand promises in their outward-facing mission statements, but not always.

Let us take an example from field service. Say you run a company called First Time, Right Time HVAC Repair. Internally -- within your staff members and teams – you have developed a brand promise that clients will never wait more than 24 hours for an appointment and they will be satisfied every time out. Internally, you have tied this to metrics and KPIs (hopefully you are doing this.)

Externally, you might have a catchier slogan that your clients can see -- something like “We solve your problems so you don’t have to.” (That’s just an example.) This is an example of a marketing slogan (or company tagline). It’s not the same thing as a brand promise, but there are elements of overlap.

So, why would a brand promise be important to a field service organization?

June 29, 2016

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Integrating real-time information into field service

Posted by Shloma Baum

There are many ways to compete on the idea of data or analytics within field service, but two of the easier ones to implement and execute are future demand forecasting and real-time information usage. We’ve discussed future demand forecasting previously

Real-time information is just how it sounds: data is taken in as it happens. Typically, this will be from a tech working at a client site, or a tech en route to a new appointment (via their GPS enablement).

June 27, 2016

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How to design processes for your field service organization

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Recently, there was joint research from the Stanford Graduate Schools of Business and Engineering on rules and processes within an organization. The essential findings were:

  • Companies with too many rules tended to “hit a mark” — i.e. release a product — but it tended to be the wrong thing relative to what everyone wanted.
  • Companies with no real rules tended to basically get nothing done — no outcomes or deliverables.
  • Companies in the middle — 4 or 5 simple rules — tended to achieve the most.

June 24, 2016

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How to turn your technicians into marketing superstars

Posted by Jim Hare

Almost as long as ‘marketing’ has been a concept, one of the most effective marketing channels has been referral. In so many different life contexts, you need a way to cut through the noise and clutter and figure out what type of product or service would really deliver the best value.

That’s true in field service as well. If a company buys a series of new machines that are essential to the day-to-day operations of its business, it needs to make sure it has the right people prepared to service those machines. It’s possible that whoever sold the company the machines might have added a service component to the contract, but it’s not guaranteed.

June 22, 2016

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The influence of virtual personal assistants

Posted by Shloma Baum

You may have heard of Cortana, which is Microsoft’s virtual personal assistant platform. It gained some fame in the summer of 2014 when, based on a mathematical model embedded within the platform, it predicted every game of the World Cup's knockout round correctly. (The knockout round of the World Cup is based on the top teams from the group stage. Because the matchups are determined quickly and only happen once with the winner advancing, they are typically harder to predict.)

Cortana’s predictive capabilities then turned its attention to the NFL and predicted 63% of regular-season games correctly last year.

At this point, you may wonder: this is all well and good if I’m planning to bet on some sporting events, but what does it have to do with field service management?

A lot, actually.

June 20, 2016

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The impact of the cloud on field service

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Real Madrid has about 450 million fans around the world, which is larger than the current population of the United States in its entirety. By some measure, it’s the most valuable sports franchise in the world.

Real Madrid works with the Microsoft Cloud because they want to find ways to scale the process of bringing content to fans. Essentially, they want to connect their fandom, wherever they are, back to their passion. As the ad above says, “We live in a world of mobile technology, but it is not the device that is mobile. It is you.”

The cloud is extremely important to the future of field service -- in fact, it’s one of the six major factors already shaping that future.

June 17, 2016

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What is 'real-time service excellence' in field service?

Posted by Jim Hare

Think about the entertainment industry over the past 20 years or so. In the mid-1990s, movies and TV shows were released according to a set, predictable schedule -- and if you wanted to see a particular movie or TV show, you had to follow a schedule (or wait for video releases or reruns). Even a half-decade ago, this model was very different. There was a proliferation of ‘on-demand’ viewing options. Some movies came out online (through iTunes and other platforms) at the same time as they were released in theaters. Netflix changed the entire concept of how to watch a TV show, introducing ‘binge watching’ into people’s vocabularies.

All of these changes came about because technology and innovation reached a place where customers can receive what they want when they want it. We call the modern business environment many things, from ‘The App Economy’ to ‘The Sharing Economy’ to ‘The Knowledge Economy.’ Another good option is ‘The On-Demand Economy.’ Customers are used to getting what they want when they want it.

How does this apply to field service?

June 15, 2016

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How can future demand forecasting affect first-time fix rate?

Posted by Shloma Baum

There are many ways for field service organizations to compete on data and analytics, and one of the initial ways many organizations try is through future demand forecasting.

In this process, you try to gauge the demand for your services in some pre-determined period going forward (say, one month). You base this on data from the past few months in terms of billable jobs, client needs, etc. You also look at your sales pipeline and what new clients exist who might need to start making appointments.

June 13, 2016

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How to turn your technicians into sales engines

Posted by Julio Hartstein

In order to grow your field service business, you’re going to need sales. That’s an undeniable fact.

But how do you generate those sales?

There are a number of different approaches to selling -- and almost any business conference you attend or business book you pick up will give a supposedly sure-fire approach to record sales in a short amount of time. You need to, obviously, follow the old advice: trust but verify.

In field service, though, there’s one remarkable sales channel that a lot of organizations don’t focus on: their technicians.

June 10, 2016

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{eBook} Field service beyond fix and repair

Posted by Jim Hare

It often seems like people are busier now than ever before, and part of that is because of shifting job roles. In most industries, technology and digital tools allowed for faster scaling -- and it allowed it to be completely reasonable to have co-workers in Finland as you sit in the United States. At Microsoft, we often collaborate with people from other countries, often on a daily basis.

June 8, 2016

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The fight against cybercrime in field service

Posted by Shloma Baum

In February 2015, it was reported that various hackers stole 650 million Euros from over 100 British financial institutions across a two-year span. That was early 2015, but in December 2009, Wired already had enough fodder to list “the decade’s 10 most dastardly cybercrimes.” (One went back all the way to 2000.) Despite increases in IT security over the past 16 years, cybercrime is still a very real aspect of any business with a technological infrastructure of some kind. (Read: Virtually every business in existence right now.)

The implications are immense for field service organizations, as well.

June 6, 2016

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{Video} A day in the life of an industrial manufacturing field technician

Posted by Jim Hare

Are you considering a potential career as an industrial manufacturing field technician but aren’t sure what a typical day might look like?


June 3, 2016

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Manage people's energy, not their tasks

Posted by Jim Hare

Many people leading FSOs struggle with management approaches because management isn’t necessarily intuitive. What got you there -- which is usually doing well on projects and deadlines -- isn’t the same thing that will make you successful managing other people, which involves a degree of empathy and understanding. If you only focus on projects and deadlines when managing your employees, that makes you a micromanager. Many people tend not to like that.

In this post, we will break this concept down a little bit more.

June 1, 2016

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Your computer can sense you. Now what?

Posted by Julio Hartstein

The 2013 movie Her, where a man played by Joaquin Phoenix develops a relationship with an intelligent computer operating system personified by a female voice, was largely acclaimed. It has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the film’s writer-director Spike Jonze won a Critic’s Choice award for his screenplay. The film was largely acclaimed by audiences because it spoke to the core issue of technology’s pervasive role in our lives -- imagine a man falling in love, essentially, with an OS! Some reviews were quick to note how far off that seemed, but in reality, that might not be the case.

Computers are being developed -- and have been for at least four years -- that can emulate the five human senses. You might think this is somewhat insane, since a computer emulating ‘taste’ would be a challenge, for one. That is an important distinction, though: ‘taste’ and ‘touch’ are the senses that these computers can analyze and improve understanding of. Sight, hearing, and smell can be closely approximated.

Computers emulating senses is a vital part of the broader idea of cognitive computing, which many believe may be the next major wave in computing. Any ideas around artificial intelligence or augmented reality are also rooted in cognitive computing’s advancement.

So, in a few years, it’s possible that computers may exist that can (a) sense and (b) emulate the five senses. What would this mean for field service management?

May 30, 2016

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Will robot workers dominate field service one day?

Posted by Jim Hare

One of the longest pages on Wikipedia currently is “list of fictional robots and androids.” There have been enough robot-driven movies over time that Paste Magazine ranked 100 of them.

Robots hold an interesting place in our culture. They’ve long been held up as a symbol of the future, which is inherently interesting to many. But there are also causes for fear: will robots automate the majority of our jobs? Will robots rise up and rule over us, similar to plot points of many of the 100 movies ranked above?

Those are all (mostly) valid questions, but we don’t want to get too dramatic here. We just want to consider what the emergence of robotics could mean to field service management operations. And one important, often overlooked, aspect is how robotics and the cloud combine to produce exponential disruption. Let’s call it cloud robotics.

Consider this. If you essentially move the ‘brain’ of a robot to the cloud, you reduce onboard processing costs. You also increase functionality, as skill upgrades for robots will be easier to manipulate and design. Think of robots as the hardware, like your smartphone, and there can be an app store for these skill upgrades. If robots embedded with sensors can learn about their environments, they can share what they learn to a cloud storage area, which can be accessed by similar robots, who in turn become smarter and more efficient. All these steps working in sequence will help drive down costs and make robot knowledge bases more accessible.

If that’s achieved, how could robots benefit field service?

May 27, 2016

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The holistic customer service ecosystem for field service management

Posted by Jim Hare

As you may know from the new presentation of our company title – FieldOne, from Microsoft -- we were acquired by Microsoft in July 2015. At the time, the Corporate VP for the Dynamics CRM -- said this:

In today’s connected world, people expect to engage and be engaged by organizations in new ways, in ways that are most convenient for them. To help businesses respond to these changing expectations, we are committed to providing the most comprehensive customer service offering, and this includes the best field service capabilities. Field service management is a specific but critically important area of customer service, providing companies with the ability to deliver end-to-end field service. This is a unique, and transformational point in time for these solutions as enterprises look to improve their responsiveness to customers with service in the field – taking service directly to the customer anytime a service cannot be managed by phone or other channels.

Microsoft is passionate about ‘end-to-end service needs,’ meaning taking care of customers at every step of a process; so far, it’s been a great fit for us organizationally.

May 25, 2016

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How will self-driving cars and drones change field service?

Posted by Shloma Baum

We’ll alternate terms in this post. You might be familiar with the concept of ‘drones,’ otherwise known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). A few years ago on 60 Minutes, Jeff Bezos showed Charlie Rose a future where drone delivery of a recent online order is a potential reality. Based on recent U.S. Senate bills, that reality might be closer than we all think.

Drones, though, are just a type of unmanned system. Self-driving cars are the same concept, although obviously they don’t fly. (We might need to give that some more time.)

How do these two major unmanned vehicles -- drones and self-driving cars -- fit into the future of field service organizations?

May 23, 2016

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How to leverage data to drive high-value services in machinery manufacturing

Posted by Shloma Baum

Businesses talk often about ‘Big Data’ these days, and in field service it’s no different. There are a couple of major concerns around the ability of Big Data as a revenue-driver, though, notably:

In field service especially, there’s been talk of Big Data as a strong revenue driver for years now. But how exactly does this happen? How can a field service organization -- especially one in machinery manufacturing -- leverage data for high-value services and returns?

There are a few key ways.

May 20, 2016

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How wearables could revolutionize field service

Posted by Shloma Baum

In April 2016, RIMS -- the Risk Management Society -- hosted their annual conference, this time in San Diego. With over 10,500 attendees from 75+ countries, it was the biggest turnout at a RIMS annual conference in over a decade.

The conference targets risk management (obviously) and insurance professionals and attempts to show them the ‘latest and greatest’ in the field. One of those ‘latest and greatest’ elements for 2016 was wearable technology.

If you need a quick refresher, ‘wearables’ refers to wearable computers. The Internet of Things describes a world of connected objects like machines that connect to data hubs and tell you if they need service. So too can your smart shirt (with embedded electronics) send information about what you’re doing back to a central location or cloud server.

May 18, 2016

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{eBook} Visualizing the future of field service

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Do a quick word association. If we say “future,” what do you think of?

Depending on how much science fiction you read, you’re probably envisioning a world of flying cars, robot helpers, and Star Trek-style beaming-up. That last one might be a while off -- completely moving a human being from Location A to Location B through beams is quite a challenging feat -- but the other two are actually a bit closer than we think (although the cars will self-drive and not fly).

May 16, 2016

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What we get wrong about 'Big Data' in field service management

Posted by Jim Hare

‘Big Data’ -- or even just data in general and not of a ‘big’ variety -- is very important to the monetization of field service. Collecting, then analyzing, then using data properly can be a huge benefit to your business. But check this out: there were three steps listed there.

1. Collect

2. Analyze

3. Use

Organizations often don’t go through all three steps, or get stuck focusing on the processes involved at one specific step. Without moving through the steps logically, it’s hard to achieve any business advantage from data.

May 13, 2016

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Optimizing workforce utilization in industrial cleaning operations

Posted by Jim Hare

One of the distinguishing features of the industrial cleaning industry is a higher level of ad hoc (or “one-off”) service requests. After all -- if something isn’t clean and that lack of cleanliness is preventing effective performance, a company wants that addressed immediately. This happens to occur more in industrial cleaning than it does in other industrial services industries, and that can create a problem for the field service side.

With more and more ad hoc service requests, scheduling and dispatching become major challenges for industrial cleaning companies. (If you’re reading this and work for one, chances are you’re nodding right now.)

May 11, 2016

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Why your CFO now cares deeply about field service management

Posted by Julio Hartstein

If you work in a bigger organization where field service is one component of everything that happens on a day-to-day basis, you’ve probably seen a bit of a sea change in the last half-decade or so.

Your CFO and other financial decision-makers probably are caring more about the field service side, and getting involved in it more than they used to.

If you’re wondering why, it’s fairly simple actually: the 2008 recession hurt a lot of businesses, and field service/product companies were no exception. In order to successfully navigate a path out of 2008, many companies had to rethink some of their core business models. Oftentimes, the idea of ‘selling product’ wasn’t enough anymore -- while machines in some field service industries can have multi-million dollar margins, those aren’t necessarily sustainable business lines when the economy tanks as a whole. While U.S. job growth is ticking upwards, there are still concerns about another recession. Morgan Stanley recently indicated there’s a 30% chance of global recession in 2016, as well.

May 9, 2016

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Optimizing waste management field service with mobile workforce solutions

Posted by Shloma Baum

Waste management is big business. Numbers fluctuate by source, yes, but some estimates of different verticals include:

  • Waste treatment and disposal services: A $19B industry with 2.3% growth
  • Remediation and environmental cleanup: A $18B industry with 7,500 companies
  • Medical waste disposal services: A $5B industry with increasing growth
  • Industrial Laundry and Linen: A $14B industry employing 116,000 people

Those are huge numbers -- so the next logical question is, how exactly do you optimize to capture a slice of this potential revenue?

May 6, 2016

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Why predictive analytics is the future of field service management

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Predictive analytics is a massively important aspect of field service management for one simple reason: it literally redefines the idea of ‘service’ when done right.

Consider this: in a normal service setting, you have a contract with a customer to service his or her machines or products. If something breaks or generally doesn’t work, he or she calls you, and you send a technician to fix it. That’s ‘service.’ Event A happens (machine breaks), then Event B happens (technician goes to fix it).

Think about predictive analytics, though: because of the Internet of Things (IoT), a customer’s machines are connected devices, so they’re sending data to your back office. This data allows you to know when a machine needs servicing -- so you can show up without the customer ever calling you.

May 4, 2016

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How to fix your first-time fix rate

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Based on research from The Service Council, the first-time fix rate -- which means the percentage of time a service issue was resolved on the first visit to a customer -- is around 77% for most field service organizations. (This number does vary in other studies.)

If you assume 77% is close to accurate -- most figures from other studies are around that -- that still means 23% of the time (over 1/5th), a customer’s issue is not resolved within one visit. This understandably increase customer dissatisfaction -- which is bad for repeat business and referral opportunities -- but it’s also a cost problem. Cost per dispatch can range from $150 to $1,000 per call relative to type of service organization -- so a second and third call to a customer becomes costly for the field service organization, and that’s before we even factor in opportunity cost (what else those techs could have been doing instead of a second or third visit).

May 2, 2016

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Servitization and field service will transform industrial manufacturing

Posted by Shloma Baum

Andy Neely is a director at the University of Cambridge and one of the foremost thinkers on concepts around performance management and measurement, especially in the manufacturing industry. His post from late November 2013 entitled “What is servitization?” Is still one of the highest-ranked items on Google for the term “servitization,” and his definition of the idea is one of the clearest you’ll find:

It involves firms -- often manufacturing firms -- developing the capabilities they need to provide services and solutions that supplement their traditional product’s offering.

Esssentially, then, it’s the idea of beginning to develop revenue streams from service, as opposed to simply from product.

April 29, 2016

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The mistake you make in pursuing profit (and how to fix it)

Posted by Jim Hare

Recently, the Harvard Business Review ran an article about how the Internet is going to make managers care more about their employees. This section is interesting:

The foundation is Peter Drucker’s insight of 1973: the only valid purpose of a firm is to create a customer. It’s through providing value to customers that firms justify their existence. Profits and share price increases are the result, not the goal of a firm’s activities.

The locus of competitive advantage is now determined by interactions with the customer, built on the work of engaged and passionate workers. The central strategic questions of the industrial model, “How much more can we sell?” and “How much money can we make?” are replaced by “Why should customers buy from us?” and “What else do customers need?”

As Ranjay Gulati notes in Reorganize for Resilience (2010), this means orienting everyone to the goal of delivering more value to customers sooner, and aligning all decision-making with this goal. It is a shift in mindset from “You take what we make,” to “We seek to understand your problems and will surprise you by solving them.”

This has implications for your field service organization and its potential profitability.

April 25, 2016

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A happy mobile workforce means happy customers

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Comedian Aziz Ansari makes an interesting point in his book Modern Romance (which he co-authored with a sociologist): many people now have a ‘real life’ (day-to-day and human-interaction based) and a ‘phone life’ (what they do and interact with on their phones, including apps). The two lives are not always the same for everyone -- and this is a trend that only developed in the past decade or so with the advent of smartphones.

April 22, 2016

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{eBook} Making the case for a field service management solution (Industrial manufacturing and services version)

Posted by Julio Hartstein

In any organization, when you need a new service or item or software program, you need the attention of decision-makers -- and because those decision-makers are likely fairly busy, you need a plan that will capture their attention and explain the pros of your idea quickly.

In a field service management organization -- or the service side of a larger customer service ecosystem -- you might find yourself in a position to make the case for FSM software.

Since margins from service have been creeping upwards in recent years, your CFO is likely ready to pay attention. But being ready and signing off on the idea aren’t the same thing.

On the field service side, you might understand all the pros -- better inventory management and scheduling, higher customer satisfaction likely leading to retention and referral, and savings both in time and money -- but you need to be able to communicate your case up the chain.

Thankfully, we produced an eBook on just this topic.

April 20, 2016

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The hidden costs of poor field service management

Posted by Julio Hartstein

Sometimes, the easiest way to measure the effectiveness of something is how bad things could be without that thing. This ties into the difference between “value” (what you get from something) and “price” (what you pay for something). Before we get into field service, consider a bike lock. You probably would not pay a lot for one -- maybe $20 or less. But the value of it, i.e. the security of your bike (which you paid more for and use to get from A to B), is huge. Without a bike lock, even though it’s not a major purchase on its own, you could lose your expensive bike.

Now we turn to field service management. For years, the ‘service’ side of larger businesses was mostly thought of as a tack-on to the ‘product’ side -- so a company sold a product for a lot of money, and then maybe they added a service component (making sure that product keeps working), but often that fell to a third-party. In recent years, though, the idea of ‘servitization’ -- adding service lines to business to complement product lines and generate more revenue -- has caught on, and now service contracts are fairly standard. It’s a new era for field service management as a result.

Some still aren’t sold, so let’s work this like a bike lock: what happens if you have poor field service management in your organization?

April 18, 2016

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5 ways customer service is changing in field service management

Posted by Shloma Baum

The evolution of customer service in field service management can best be explained this way: it went from transactional to transformative.

What does that mean?

Back about a decade ago, the service line wasn’t necessarily even important to larger companies -- they made most of their money off product, i.e. selling a machine or device. They often used third-party providers to actually service it, and traditionally the charges weren’t even huge.

In recent years, though, service has become more important to the financial side of a business -- that’s the first concept we’ll get into below -- and that’s been the baseline change in customer service within the field service management industry. It used to be transactional -- fix this when it’s broken, get paid for it, and move along to the next job.

Now, though, it’s transformative -- if you do customer service properly, you can make some money and grow your business. FSM has begun to emerge as a profit center on the back of customer service. Here are some reasons why.

April 15, 2016

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{eBook} The critical role of field service management in customer experience

Posted by Jim Hare

If you’ve attended business or leadership conferences recently -- or even trade shows with keynote speakers -- or read articles in Forbes, Fast Company, and other sites, you’ve probably heard a lot about customer experience. It can often seem like the business concept of the moment.

First, a quick primer: customer experience is essentially a more advanced form of the old idea of customer service. It’s like taking customer service -- which at base referred to pleasing the customer -- and adding on more context, like journey mapping (how a customer moves through the stages of learning about and then buying your product or service) and personas (who is most likely to buy and make decisions about buying).

So, you often hear about the importance and value of customer experience -- but is there research that backs that up?

Yes. And there’s a lot of it.

April 13, 2016

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