The technician as a sensor - 5 takeaways from Field Service Medical

Profile picture for user sdutta By Sumair Dutta March 25, 2020
Service plays a crucial role in the success of digital initiatives, writes Sumair Dutta of ServiceMax. Here are his five takeaways from last month's Field Service Medical conference

Maintenance engineer repairing and checking CT scanner machine © samunella - Shutterstock
(© samunella - Shutterstock)

Whatever happened to the title of the Chief Service Officer? I raised this question at this year’s Field Service Medical conference, which took place recently in San Diego. In my opinion, the role of the CSO is essential, given the impact service can have on the success of digital initiatives.

When these initiatives are aligned with value for the customer as delivered via the serviced asset, I believe they are more likely to succeed. To support my argument, I relied on content from Gartner’s excellent Future of Field Service Management report that outlines the next steps for organizations aligned with differing service operating models, such as Appointment-centric, Knowledge-centric, Equipment-centric and Outcome-centric.

I also had the privilege of the knowledge and insight of Marc Coleman from life science chemicals producer Millipore Sigma, who discussed some of the steps his company is taking to empower the field technician workforce while supporting the rest of the organization with the insight and knowledge captured by field technicians.

There were also valuable nuggets from great speakers representing organizations such as Medtronic, Becton Dickinson, Siemens Healthineers, Stryker Medical, Hologic and more.

Here are my five main takeaways from the conference:

1. Recalibrate the service value proposition

For service leaders, the need to justify the investment in the service business will never go away, but a new focus on its contribution to delivering value can raise its profile. Service leaders need to be proactive in communicating the service business case with different levels of customers. As relationship models change, it becomes vital to document customer expectations regarding value and to have a well-defined set of actions if service performance either exceeds or falls short of expected value. This is an area where limited progress has been made.

Too often, sales teams simply discount or give away service when selling product. It is essential that service leaders have a good understanding of the cost of service and share this data point with sales. Several organizations charge service discounts back to sales while others have started to build incentives for the sales team around service margins. In terms of revenue contribution, service leaders have started to enhance their alliances with marketing and other business groups to show how service-captured intelligence can be used for market sizing or investment decisions.

2. Look at the entire asset, not just the physical product

Most medical devices have mechanical, electronic, and digital components that need to be managed, maintained, and updated. Yet most installed product records or Bills of Material are only capturing the mechanical components or related consumables. As service leaders look to become more asset-centric, it is essential that they develop a Bill of Materials that covers all of the components of the product. For further reading on this topic, it’s worth reviewing this article that discusses the overdue need for a software bill of materials.

3. Limited progress in connected service

While Gartner believes that this industry continues to be ripe for innovation in connected products and services, it seems like very little progress has been made. This is due to two primary reasons – ongoing security concerns and limited resources brought in to understand and make sense of the available data. To the latter, it’s worth adding that service leaders must be involved in the upfront development of connected products to ensure that the right information is being transmitted for better service or customer outcomes. Some organizations have taken the approach of conducting a pareto of the top service issues and discovering what information can be useful in supporting remote or field service. Eventually, the goal is to aggregate this data with the digital service language to build predictive service and support models.

It’s also important that the business justification for connected products includes new services in addition to service transformation. As new competitors such as biomeds take over the basic service interactions based on their relationships with larger hospital networks, the burden falls on product OEMs to find new value offerings that can be delivered to their customers.

4. The field technician as a sensor

While technicians must focus on solving mechanical and customer problems they can also serve as conduits of vital information needed by the service business. This can plug some of the gaps in delivering connected products and services today and add extra value to the service role. The information they collect can include asset performance data, basic installed base data, real-time customer feedback, competitive equipment data, or new service leads.

The key is to make sure that it is easy for technicians to capture and share this data. Adding 20 custom fields to a debrief process can often frustrate technicians who are primarily focused on completing their service work.

5. Customer success frameworks gain traction

As medical organizations move from transactional to value-based relationships with their customers, they are beginning to insert account management and customer success tools into their processes. Several presenters at the conference discussed their reliance on quarterly or semi-annual business reviews to review performance, reset expectations, and communicate value. One of the major struggles in this area has been around the proper documentation of the customer needs and requirements around service. This becomes more complex given the different needs of the various stakeholders at the customer level.

Jon Matthews at Siemens Healthineers led an insightful presentation on the Customer Distress Index. The CDI score is intended to be a mathematical representation of a customer’s service experience tied to an individual unit of Siemens equipment. The score is based on product-specific thresholds and trends as well as open calls or overdue tasks that might lead to customer frustration.

What was most impressive about the presentation wasn’t the actual index or the score, but the fact that Siemens had aligned service management compensation with this metric in order to drive focus and action. Similar scores are now built into popular customer success solutions and are more widely available, yet there often is limited planning associated to actions necessary once scores cross particular thresholds.

On a final note, Steve Chamberland from Becton Dickinson (BD) shared a wonderful story about that organization’s service business turnaround. As a result, the service team received company-wide recognition as winners of the annual BD cup. Think of this as the Stanley Cup for one of the best performing teams at BD. It was great to see the recognition for the BD team, an act that reinforced the importance that the organization places on service.

I’m sure there were other areas of debate and discussion at the event. If you were there and would like to share your takeaways, connect with me at [email protected] or via LinkedIn or Twitter.