Embracing Proactive Field Service: The Future of Customer-Centric Service Delivery

Proactive field service is shaking up the FS space largely because it directly attacks the biggest, most universal pain points that have long defined this space.

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    Technology is enabling field providers to embrace a whole new approach to service. One built on outcomes, relationships, and effective resource management.

    At the center of this new approach is a concept known as proactive field service – a strategy that uses technology to move away from traditional, reactive service models and toward a more proactive, ideally, predictive approach.

    Done right, proactive service prevents unexpected outages or breakdowns, extends the lifetime of assets, and reduces long-term maintenance costs.

    It also helps organizations respond to issues ASAP and make the most of the resources they have. For example, orgs might leverage real-time IoT data to diagnose issues and ensure they have the right parts in stock before dispatching a technician. That way, they’re not wasting time or fuel on a problem they’re not prepared to fix.

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    In this article, we’ll look at some of the ways field orgs are using technology to become more proactive – and what that actually looks like in practice.

    What is Proactive Field Service?

    In a lot of ways, proactive field service is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a service delivery model built to meet customer needs, detect & respond to problems as they emerge, and maximize the value your org brings to the table.

    Proactive field service is similar to other tech-centric concepts like “digital transformation” or “field service management,” in that, the tech itself isn’t all that important. Instead, the focus should be finding the best tools and tactics for achieving a specific outcome.

    While much of the proactive FS conversation centers around servitization and the IoT, it’s important to note that these “buzzy” innovations only represent part of the equation. Really, proactive field service is about designing systems that deliver the desired results – by any means necessary.

    Yeah, IoT data and innovative delivery models do move the needle toward critical goals. But, much of the heavy lifting is done via smaller, less exciting transformations. Think – digitizing processes, empowering techs with better mobile solutions, automating backend ops, using AR to level up training and support, even just getting your data in order and migrating to the cloud.

    Velosio Senior Consultant Nina Bowers puts it like this, “solutions that allow techs to provide instant updates to management and office personnel reduces costs.”

    “Visual dashboards and resource scheduling make it easier to balance urgent requests with planned services. Automated work assignments based on the available skills matrix increases first-time-fix-rates. IoT alerts minimize asset downtime. The list goes on.”

    In other words, proactive field service is just like all digital strategies. Its real power lies in the strength of the broader ecosystem.

    Key Technologies

    Okay, we did just mention that proactive field service is fueled by ecosystems. Usually, that means building a stack from a core ERP and making sure your data management strategy is in tip-top shape.

    That said, there are a few technologies leading the charge, including:

    • AI Analytics. With real-time data and a tech-empowered workforce, field orgs can proactively detect, diagnose, and respond to issues before customers realize there’s a problem. They can create new service models based on customer feedback and implement systems that ensure clients always get the results they were promised.
    • IoT. Sensor-enabled assets help orgs detect and diagnose issues, predict disruptions, identify root causes, and improve inventory planning, scheduling, and resource management. Basically, IoT sensors and devices help FS companies build more complete data sets that can be used to drive all sorts of improvements.
    • Digital Twins. Digital twins use real-world insights to build simulations that predict how assets might perform under different conditions. Field providers might use them to determine how different variables might impact customer outcomes, then use their findings to inform strategic decisions.
    • Remote Monitoring. Remote monitoring (usually enabled by the IoT) helps orgs prevent downtime by offering real-time visibility into asset performance, as well as the vehicles and machines they rely on to do their work.
    • Mobility. Mobile apps are crucial, as they connect field teams to customers and their colleagues in the office. These apps provide real-time information about planned jobs, service histories, and scheduling changes, as well as valuable insights that help them deliver better service and fix issues on their first visit.

    Impact of Proactive Field Service

    Proactive field service is shaking up the FS space largely because it directly attacks the biggest, most universal pain points that have long defined this space.

    According to Microsoft, field providers have historically built service operations around three main workflows: maintenance, installations, and emergency break-fix calls.

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    Of the three, break-fix appointments tend to be the costliest for the company. Emergency services upend meticulously planned schedules, add unexpected costs to the budget, cause techs to work overtime, and, in some cases, force field orgs to eat extra costs to keep the customer happy.

    In some instances, companies might send over a tech that’s already in the area to diagnose the problem, only to discover that they don’t have the right parts or tools to finish the job. As a result, providers spend more on fuel and labor and customers get frustrated – or worse, have to shut down operations.

    Velosio’s Principal Director Kandarp Vaishnav says, “FSM software allows field providers to improve customer satisfaction by embracing a more proactive service model. For example, preventative and/or predictive maintenance helps customers get the most from vital assets and avoid costly repairs, security threats, and outages that force them to shut down critical operations.”

    And, according to McKinsey, condition-based predictive maintenance can reduce costs by up to 30%. Integrating condition monitoring data from IoT-enabled assets allows orgs to detect, diagnose, and respond to issues before they turn into serious (and seriously expensive) problems.

    Internally, proactive maintenance helps field providers get ahead of issues that might occur with their own fleets and heavy equipment. On the customer side, this approach allows them to save money on fuel, parts, overtime, and, in some cases, the heavy discounts needed to placate customers after an SLA violation.

    At the same time, FSM tech can be a real double-edged sword.

    On the one hand, it’s enabling field service companies to rethink their entire approach so that it better aligns with what customers actually want.

    But, it’s also enabling different types of companies to add services to their menu of offerings. For example, a medical device manufacturer might start offering maintenance programs to extend the customer lifecycle. Or –- a smaller operation might look toward maintenance as a service (MaaS) as a way to boost revenue without incurring extra debt.

    Consulting Manager Bill McGibony says, “one of the biggest challenges clients face is customer retention. There’s a lot of pressure on providers to provide excellent service during every interaction. Otherwise, customers will get frustrated and leave them for a competitor.”

    While the threat of losing customers to competitors better equipped to meet their needs is universal, incumbent field providers are in a uniquely vulnerable position.

    Bill adds, “some field service industries have low barriers to entry. So, new, tech-savvy competitors from adjacent industries keep entering the space, making it harder to compete on old standbys like experience and technical know-how.”

    Final Thoughts

    Much like cloud migrations, ERP implementations, and DX initiatives, the move from reactive to proactive field service is a personal journey. There’s no definitive roadmap and every org will make different choices re: strategy and solutions based on the needs of their customers and their big picture objectives.

    We understand that this isn’t a satisfying answer. But – we also know how important it is to find the right partner to help guide this journey.

    Velosio has decades of experience working with field service providers – helping clients design, implement, and optimize FSM stacks that support the entire business.

    How can Copilot affect your company’s workflow and goals? Contact us to learn the benefits of Copilot and how it can impact your company’s workflow for the better.

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