Preparing to deliver service with a mind towards customer and employee safety

We welcome our guest blogger Antony Bourne, Senior Vice President for the Industry Business Unit at IFS.

Having gone through the first global pandemic most of us can remember, it will change the way we think about a number of things, including the way we go about delivering service in the field.

Even historically product-centric companies are adopting servitization —a progression from product to recurring service revenue—so a broad spectrum of the economy will need to chart a course to advanced service provision. This will build customer loyalty and trust and position them for reliable, high-margin revenue. But how do we deliver valuable customer touchpoints in an era where we must keep our distance from each other? And how are customer expectations and preferences going to push our service organisations in new directions? Technology has a role in addressing both of these questions.

Nearly far away

Technology for instance has a role to play in helping us be closer to our customers and each other even from a safe distance. The most obvious example of this is the rapid rise of remote service tools which enable a skilled technician at a distance to meaningfully consult on work being performed at a customer site. This reduces the need for on-site visits, makes more efficient use of highly knowledgeable experts and improves the customer experience. The technology can be implemented in as little as a couple of weeks, as our customer Munters has found. In some cases, this tool may also enable customers to access remote experts directly, for a transformational approach to self service.

Service organisations too can find their own headquarters, dispatch centres and depots may present risks given the pandemic as employees pass through and congregate in these facilities. In this environment, it is more critical than ever that organisations standardise on enterprise software and field service management software solutions that are easily accessed from outside their four walls. A number of our field service customers have moved away from in-office work entirely, with their service organisations either accessing their IFS software through a virtual private network or connecting directly to a cloud instance of the software. We believe this rise in remote work — combined with the primacy of service in ensuring business success — will cause the existing exodus from on-premise to cloud software to accelerate.

Parts of the problem

Manufacturing activity, shipping and the supply chain have been disrupted by the pandemic as countries or regions shut down to stop its spread or as workers lay down tools due to illness. What this means is that in multiple industries, replacement parts, components and subcomponents required for service provision may be in short supply. In the immediate term, this means service organisations need excellent visibility into what parts they have in stock not just in warehouses, but on service vehicles, at drop sites and at customer sites. Enterprise solutions that do not provide this type of visibility will be anchors around the necks of service groups that may not, as a result, be able to meet obligations for scheduled maintenance, could miss critical service level agreement (SLA) performance targets and damage the customer experience.

As the supply chain recovers, these service organisations may want to consider a supplier relationship management approach to help them mitigate risk in their supply chains. We seem to have learned little from the SARS outbreak and now have a second opportunity to absorb these lessons. Whether supply chain risks are associated with a country or region of origin — or a given vendor — identifying and hedging risks will become more important. In some cases, it may make sense to proactively spread risk across both higher-cost domestic suppliers who can deliver quickly and lower cost overseas suppliers who send things on the literal slow boat from China. In the event of supply chain disruption in one region, you have an existing relationship with a fallback vendor who may not be as directly affected, if at all, by the crisis.

A way forward

As a recognised leader in service management software, IFS is committed to being part of the solution to companies charting their course to service success. While we could be past the worst of the pandemic, it will take years for consumers and business customers to let their guard down to exposure to contagion completely. And we could see outbreaks happen locally or in broad regions or countries. But the technology exists to weather these events with minimal disruption to the business.

Want to hear more? Catch Antony in conversation with Professor Tim Baines about how to derive value from digital through Servitization. Antony will also be a keynote speaker at The World Servitization Convention 14-16 September.