How AI is triaging service calls - and does it better than you

Joe Kenny Profile picture for user Joe Kenny March 16, 2020
Unnecessary truck roll is the bane of many field service organizations. ServiceMax's Joe Kenny explains how AI enables proactive service and more efficient dispatch

Glass ball in hand above busy freeway blur © Kan bokeh - shutterstock
(© Kan bokeh - shutterstock)

Increasing competition, higher customer expectations, rising costs and congestion are today all converging in a big bang moment demanding change. Organizations need leaner, more efficient models to thrive in an increasingly digital world. “Adapt or Die”, as they say, but this is easier said than done. One example — service teams will have to confront ‘No Fault Found,’ where technicians are called out and cannot validate the reported problem. This leads to the most significant and costly action in field service — an unneeded ‘truck roll’, where businesses dispatch technicians and equipment unnecessarily — a wasted trip for the ‘white van man’.

Understanding the impact truck rolling can have on costs is important. Every time a service technician is needlessly dispatched to a work site or fails to complete a job during the first visit due to an unexpected problem, it cuts into a company’s bottom line. While that technician is en route to the No Fault Found call, they are not available for actual revenue generating calls. It also affects customer experience and could be the difference between retaining or losing a customer. Even those service organisations that track asset movement in near real-time often need help pinpointing the causes of equipment failures and make sense of the best next steps.

The problem is that for service teams to really identify efficiencies (and inefficiencies), they almost need to be telepathic with their current systems. At the time of writing this, there aren’t many clairvoyants kicking around dispatch centres. Organizations are attempting to proactively manage customers with limited or zero visibility, making it practically impossible. Many service businesses today are still relying on calculated guess work, trying to understand which customers need which parts in advance and then equip their respective technicians accordingly. The truth is, no one can rely on human intuition any longer to work out how to maximize engineer journeys and repair jobs while keeping customers happy.

Collecting the data for more efficient dispatch

Truck rolls can cost anything from $150 to $1,500 per visit for a typical service business. As visits can get into the hundreds of thousands a year, it’s easy to see how easily and quickly costs can escalate. So how do businesses manage this better? And how can they reduce the burden of unnecessary truck rolls and start delivering accurate intelligence that can drive technician dispatch more efficiently and effectively?

Interestingly, the recent Technology Services Industry Association’s The State of Field Services: 2019 report notes that assisted proactive support technologies can help service organizations reduce truck rolls by as much as 71%. That’s massive. The issue most businesses have though, is that intelligence on customers and customer equipment tends to be siloed. Data from a disparate range of devices, people and places can contain the right knowledge but is often left isolated or takes too long to decipher.

To really triage customers efficiently, businesses have to start looking towards AI-driven solutions that can pull together the necessary data to help formulate more efficient plans. AI can help businesses harness data from all sources to drive business-critical KPIs and predict customer problems before they happen.

The aim of course is to use the technology to automatically validate failures quickly and offer actionable solutions, instantly. For planners and dispatchers, this means problems can be triaged with greater accuracy. They can recommend a remote solution or whether a truck roll is required, and have greater confidence in selecting the right technician skills for the job and dispatching them with the right parts and tools.

How 3D Systems used AI to reduce truck roll

This is exactly what 3D Systems, a leading additive manufacturing company, is able to do. No longer does a new service request automatically mean a technician will be dispatched. Instead, 3D Systems is able to find the most cost-effective solution for each failure incident.

The company’s ServiceMax field service management system works alongside predictive analytics from Aquant to investigate the failure, offering up likely solutions based on its analysis of historical service data. Many times, technicians can resolve the issue remotely, and if not, they have an accurate description of the problem and the parts they’ll need before arriving on site.

This has led to reduced truck rolls, reduced parts consumption, and improved first-time-fix and mean-time-to-repair rates. And most importantly, 3D Systems has benefited from increased equipment uptime due to a more accurate and rapid response mechanism, including a 62% reduction in parts usage, and a 39% decrease in repeat visits.

With this level of automated business insight, an organization’s service teams can also evaluate customer metrics like ticket volume and risk of churn, optimize field routing, automate compliance reporting, and track and assess individual and team KPIs.

Ultimately, this kind of AI-driven approach can greatly reduce the truck roll problem. It helps businesses gain greater control over service team overheads by not just predicting the future, but by organizing the present — without a clairvoyant in sight.

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