Real-time data aids field service experience at healthcare firm

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright October 30, 2014
When medical test equipment maker Luminex sent its field engineers out with iPads, real-time data started flowing back throughout the organization

© aleksey ipatov - Fotolia
One of the benefits of getting real-time information from the field is fewer unpleasant surprises, says Steve Nava, director of field service Americas for medical test equipment maker Luminex:

The worst thing that happens in the world is when I walk in the office and get blindsided by something I did not know. This helps me know more and prevent that.

Luminex turned on ServiceMax for its global workforce of 50 field engineers in June 2013, running in tandem with existing Salesforce Service Cloud and Sales Cloud applications. As a result, Nava and his colleagues now have a dashboard that shows a range of up-to-date operational metrics.

What it did for the whole organization was, it brought everything into real-time. Work was still fresh in everyone's mind when there was a question.

With the dashboard and metrics that were available, instead of waiting for the end of the month, the metrics were available at the press of a button in real time. We could immediately assess the health of the organization.

If our response time and time-to-resolution is trending up, I have that information on a daily basis.

Digital document trail

The ServiceMax implementation had direct impacts on efficiency and the quality of customer service, too. Luminex equipment is used in hospitals and clinics to test for diseases ranging from influenza to cystic fibrosis. Universities and other research centers also use its advanced testing devices for a range of purposes. These are highly regulated environments and therefore the records of every service visit must be reviewed and signed off by the company's compliance team.

Now that service engineers are equipped with iPads, the entire document trail for each service visit has gone digital, cutting the time to complete compliance reviews by an order of magnitude, as Nava explains:

The customer actually signs the iPad and all the documentation is emailed to the address of their choice for their records and attached to the ServiceMax case in Salesforce, so that all our regulatory requirements are met at the touch of a button.

The time the engineer gets on site to work with the customer until we've completely reviewed the activity at the customer site has gone from 20 days to about 48 hours.

In cases where customers are invoiced for each service call, the time to invoice each job also shrank dramatically as soon as ServiceMax was rolled out, from around 28 days down to 3-4 days.

Real-time information

Around 200 people throughout the company use ServiceMax, with various departments reviewing the information collected by the 50 service engineers. Product development monitors failure rates of specific components, sales and marketing look out for potential problems at the customer site that they can step in and mitigate. The order processing team watch out for anything that comes across that might be billable, while finance looks at other issues that impact revenue. Questions and knowledge are also shared between departments using the Chatter social collaboration stream.

That information is moving off the [field engineer's] iPad through the organization.

That real-time information flow is helping Luminex stay competitive with customer expectations, says Nava, which are set as much by their experiences as consumers as anywhere else:

Customers nowadays are accustomed to leaving their lab and receiving superior customer service [as a consumer] — why should they not expect that in the lab from every vendor? Service organizations don't only compete with [other companies] in the medical diagnostics field, I now compete with Apple and Amazon and Zappos and Nordstrom.

Much of the reason for adopting ServiceMax was to be able to achieve more of a 360-degree view of the customer, says Nava, with sales having visibility of service calls, while the service team has visibility of sales opportunities. That was not possible at the time using Oracle, which Luminex still uses as its back-office system.

Towards predictive service

Next on the roadmap for 2015 is a new machine-to-machine (M2M) capability that will see built-in sensors automatically reporting the status of devices out in the field.

We intend to have those hooks into our Service Cloud and ServiceMax, so that when those sensors are triggered, we fully intend to have the engineer dispatched automatically, the goal being predictive service.

The goal is to make the customer aware there's a potential problem and that we're on our way to resolve it. Why not shift the call to as soon as we're aware of the problem? You're being forward leaning and advising the customer that you're already aware of it.

The M2M data will also help sales teams when they meet with customers, as well as enhancing the value of information collected by product teams about device performance.

One interesting effect that is often overlooked when equipping field engineers with better technology is that it gives them a greater sense of pride in their work, added Nava.

Our engineers are proud to do a service call and get out their iPads for their customers to sign. They're invested.

Luminex encourages the engineers to use the devices out of hours too, he said.

When they go home, they can sit on the sofa with their kids and play Angry Birds or use Facebook. It's not just part of their toolkit, it's part of their personal life. They can say, 'Look what my company's doing for me to help me in the field.'

My take

We often talk about the consumerization of IT but this case study really brings it to life across several dimensions. Despite being a very specialized B2B equipment maker, Luminex is nevertheless thinking in terms of delivering a B2C customer service experience. The use of iPads seems to be especially key to making this work and it is interesting to see how the company's policy on personal use helps humanize the field engineers' engagement with their work.

Disclosure: Oracle and are diginomica premier partners.

Image credit: © aleksey ipatov - Fotolia

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