Field services refers to any work conducted at a customer site where your products are installed. For example, in the enterprise IT, industrial equipment, and healthcare technology industries, field services involves managing the installation, maintenance, or repair of hardware or equipment installed “in the field”.
If you have products installed on a customer premise, field service organizations can play new and exciting roles in the success of your company. In this post, I’m going to share the basics of field services, including the types of services offered, the challenges impacting these organizations, and provide recommendations and resources for solving those challenges.
How TSIA Defines Field Services
At TSIA, we use the term “field services” to refer to any services that are related to managing and optimizing supplier equipment that is on customer premise, i.e. in the field. This typically refers to companies who need to manage installation, service, and/or repairs of systems or equipment.
Our Field Services research and advisory practice is geared towards helping traditional product suppliers better manage their people, processes, and technology, reduce costs, and improve profitability in an increasingly digital world. We do this by collecting and analyzing industry data to establish industry performance standards, and more importantly, how to improve performance.
Different Types of Field Service Activities
Here are the main categories of field services that can be delivered:
Once a customer purchases equipment, they will need it expertly installed within their operating environment. A technician will ensure that the equipment is correctly installed and fully operational from the start, setting a baseline and the standard for all future operation.
The traditional charter of field service organizations is to fix equipment in the event of a breakdown. Since “rolling a truck” is expensive and the time to respond to the incident can result in excessive downtime, it’s best to conduct pre-planned activities in order to maintain the equipment before it breaks. Examples of this include inspection and replacing worn parts before they completely fail.
Field services maintenance activities can be divided into three categories:
- Corrective: If a product breaks, a field service technician/field service engineer is dispatched to the customer location to repair it. Additionally, if a machine is not working as intended, it may require calibration. Both repair and calibration fall under “corrective” maintenance.
- Preventive: By scheduling routine equipment inspections, costly breakdowns and customer down time can be avoided. Using smart, connected products, you can capture and analyze data from your equipment, and remotely monitor performance to conduct maintenance exactly when required. This allows technicians to gain better insight on the problem and identify the spare parts needed to resolve the problem before they go on-site.
- Proactive: These services predict faults and disruptions by comparing to normal operations and noting any anomalies, allowing technicians to service and repair before the equipment fails.
In addition to in-person repair and maintenance visits, field technicians can provide advice on how customers can maximize the benefits of equipment based on their desired outcomes.
Field service technicians are actually uniquely positioned to become a customer’s trusted advisor, taking on a prescriptive and consultative role in helping a customer get the most out of their purchase, whether it’s through optimizing operation or even adding additional products and services to their contract.
Challenges in Field Services
TSIA tracks the top Field Services business challenges across the industry in order to provide data, research, and business frameworks needed for overcoming those challenges. The top challenges faced by our member organizations include:
Creating Differentiated Support and Maintenance Offers That Increase Customer Value
Customers now expect their suppliers to help them achieve specific business outcomes. This is forcing traditional “make, sell, ship” hardware and equipment business models, which previously relied on big, one-time purchases that required little customer interaction post-sale, to transition toward having an ongoing customer-supplier relationship.
Since manufacturers have traditionally “stood behind” their product with a warranty, additional value-added services get bundled in for free. Product-attached services, such as support and maintenance offers, are made available to customers, but initial attach rates of these services are low. So, as customers want closer alignment to the achievement of their business outcomes, manufacturer’s need to move from “free to fee” service offers and create new ones in order to pave the way for the recurring revenue required to sustain these new business models.
Driving Digital Transformation and Navigating Changing Business Models
Digital transformation is defined as “a novel use of digital technology to solve traditional problems”. For original equipment manufacturers (OEM), the business model changes they’re encountering are the direct result of digital transformation, in which the data collected from your products will be more valuable than the product itself.
I tell our Field Services members that when thinking of tackling digital transformation, the operative word is not so much “digital”, it’s actually “transformation”. Organizations need to transform the way they do business in order to keep up with changing customer demands and the evolution of the marketplace.
TSIA is deeply focused on researching both the broad and narrow implications of digital transformation, which has allowed us to create proven action plans to help traditional equipment manufacturers navigate these murky waters and come out the other side prepared for future profitability and success in a changing world.
Optimizing Customer Processes with the Internet of Things (IoT)
A key enabler of the digital transformation is the Internet of Things, which provides industrial manufacturers with countless new opportunities to improve their customer’s outcomes with their products. The data collected through embedded sensors in smart, connected products, can track equipment performance in a customer’s operating environment, providing real-world insight into optimization opportunities that can drive customer outcomes.
Unfortunately for a lot of equipment manufacturers, there’s a lot of foundational work that still needs to be accomplished before the full benefits of an IoT strategy can be achieved. This is why TSIA helps enterprise IT, healthcare and industrial equipment organizations identify where they’re at on their IoT journey and get to where they need to be to realize their full potential.
Service Delivery Optimization
Reducing total service delivery costs will always be a top objective of every field service organization. From reducing on-site labor costs and spare parts and logistics costs, to leveraging the right people for the job, there are a number of dials you can turn to streamline your operation and work smarter with the resources you already have, which leads to increased customer satisfaction, retention, and profits.
What is Field Service Management?
Field services is fundamentally a people-oriented business consisting of field technicians, also known as field service engineers or field force, that perform services for your customers at their location. Field service management is the process of coordinating all of the operations conducted by a Field Service organization, such as scheduling service, dispatching technicians, tracking job status, invoicing, and billing.
The Importance and Benefits of Field Service Management
A good field services management system is critical to ensuring equipment is repaired, serviced, and continues to operate as expected. Your customers depend on equipment uptime to keep their operations running as planned, and customer satisfaction is the key to renewed contracts and increased customer spending. All of these activities can be executed and closely monitored with the right field services management tool.
Every year, TSIA tracks the adoption, satisfaction, and planned spending for technology specific to Field Services organizations that they use to streamline their operations, which we deliver through our annual “Field Services Technology Stack” report.
The Field Service Technology Stack can be divided into three layers: customer-facing, productivity, and infrastructure. Here are just some of the capabilities we recommend for a comprehensive field services management platform:
- Customer-Facing: Consumption monitoring and analytics, contract management, and self-service customer portals.
- Productivity: Spare parts logistics, mobility and video functionality, and knowledge management.
- Infrastructure: CRM/incident management, installed base/asset/device management, IoT capabilities.
The full list can be viewed in the above report.
TSIA Can Help You Overcome Your Top Field Services Challenges, Here’s How
From data-backed insights, to customized plans of actions designed to help overcome the business challenges associated with digital transformation and IoT, TSIA is helping enterprise IT, healthcare, and industrial equipment organizations worldwide achieve greatness.