The State of Field Service - poised for success with a focus on outcomes

Profile picture for user AthaniKrishnaprasad By Athani Krishnaprasad January 4, 2016
Shifting business models from ad hoc emergency response to outcomes-based service is creating a new relationship between the makers of products and consumers.

Athani Krishnaprasad

Field service keeps our world running – whether we know it or not. Technicians trained to maintain and service the world’s most traditional and cutting-edge machinery are out in the field every day solving operational issues for customers before they become major problems.

The term ‘field service’, however, has not been met with the same global reach and appreciation, despite how closely intertwined it is with our day-to-day lives. In fact, many people outside of the industry don’t know what field service is until it has been defined for them.

We recently produced The State of Field Service, based on a first-of-its-kind industry survey of more than four thousand consumers from different geographies and backgrounds to get a sense of common perceptions of field service and draw out crowd-sourced thoughts that have real business, revenue and customer experience implications for the future of service.

Snapshot results

While the importance of field service may be known across the broader enterprise, the term ‘field service,’ and the industry itself, is still struggling to achieve mainstream status among everyday consumers. In fact, we found that while 55% of Americans had received some form of field service over the past year, only a select few (11%) were very familiar with the term.

The majority of people surveyed needed a definition of field service in order to confirm their familiarity with the industry and engagement with field service technicians over the past year.

We see this as a real opportunity for field service organizations to educate consumers and deliver a proactive, results-oriented customer experience that generates revenue and loyalty.

Like many services today, people responded more positively to the notion of calling a field service technician to their homes if they were recommended by a friend or colleague. Notably, 22% of those surveyed noted a personal connection to the technician as the most important reason to select them for the job.

Consistently, people surveyed seek out referrals and look to verify the reputations of the technicians and the companies in question before making a choice. In fact, the survey findings confirm that the outcome of field service technician engagement with customers is key to building trust and connecting it to a brand for future business growth.

Additional main considerations noted in the survey included ease of scheduling and cost.

Delivering consistent value to customers through efficient field service management decreases the quantity of maintenance calls and addresses many of these concerns.

The survey results confirmed that people universally value reliable service and that they gain more confidence in a brand each time they have a good service experience.

Meanwhile, 76.32% of respondents unsatisfied with their experience pointed to the technician not having the necessary parts or technical knowledge on the job. The good news? This element of field service, in particular, is rapidly improving thanks to increased mobile access for technicians and connectivity to products in the field.

Building technology infrastructure that connects field agents to real-time, relevant information enables them to deliver the best possible results for a customer and builds trust in the quality of future work.

The better news? A shift to outcomes-based connected field service through the IoT will drastically improve first time fix rates with a more proactive approach, and significantly less downtime and eliminate consumer headaches tied to traditional service call experiences.

A closer look at consumer behavior

When it comes to requesting field service, consumers generally still opt for fixing problems as they appear rather than taking proactive steps to prevent future problems —- even when the latter is cheaper.

Further, while people differ in their perceptions of field service and the need for technician visits, there is a unification around only calling on field service in the case of an emergency.

People of all ages, genders and geographies seem to embrace a reactive approach to field service. However, we see this tide already turning towards proactive and outcomes-based service models in the business world with companies like Enphase and, increasingly, among the younger consumer generation.

While field service may sound like a legacy profession, it is actually a breeding ground for innovation and the development of next-generation business practices. Younger people surveyed reported the highest level of openness toward a subscription model of service versus buying a product one-off, and embraced the notion of proactive technician outreach. Broadly, more consumers approach the market to find only the cost efficient products and services they need instantly — mirroring a broader on-demand-driven customer culture.

If we define service through the narrow lens of “the cable guy,” the perception is quite negative.

The reality, according to the survey, is that most people were highly satisfied with the level of field service and technician professionalism they encountered. In fact, 83% of respondents who had called on a technician in the past year reported a high level of satisfaction with the resulting outcomes from their field service experiences.

A glimpse at the future

Everyday consumers are slowly becoming more familiar with the term ‘field service’ and the concept of proactive field service. Consumers are experiencing a major, fundamental shift taking place in field service and they may not even be aware of it.

Industry leaders like GE, Schneider Electric, Rolls Royce and PTC, are driving innovation and implementing a more proactive approach to meeting enterprise customers’ needs through outcomes-focused engagement.

The field service industry is evolving more rapidly than ever and consumer perceptions will catch up if the industry effectively communicates the benefits of these developments to businesses and their customers. On the consumer side, linking benefits of proactive service with an outcomes-based model is key to capture the interest of an on-demand driven customer base.

With the emergence of technology that turns hardware into smart machines on the customer side and provides technicians with key information on-the-go on the business front, we are likely to see this trend shift significantly over the course of the next year.

The days of machine down-time, return trips to fix the same problem and missing product service information are coming to a quick end. Shifting business models from ad hoc emergency response to outcomes-based service is creating a new relationship between the makers of products and consumers.

People, and businesses, are starting to come around to this reality and, as the survey indicates, it’s on the field service industry to help them get there in the name of customer success.