Why service is the product

Profile picture for user Harisubramanian By Hari Subramanian October 7, 2015
The days of service being an afterthought or necessary evil are truly gone, says ServiceMax co-founder Hari Subramanian. Today service is the product.

Hari Subramanian

If you are an organization focused on service today, then the outcome of that service is your most important and valuable product. I believe that is true regardless of the technology, platforms, and people you enlist to support service operations. The days of service being an afterthought or necessary evil are truly gone.

While technology is changing the way industries collect, analyze, and utilize operational data, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: service is at the core of industrial innovation. There’s a growing number of companies transforming their business expansion and customer retention strategies around how they service their customers. This trend is a key validator of an emerging and sustainable shift in field service from reactive, esoteric, and often paper-based to proactive, data-rich, and linked to the latest information technology.

Machines, technicians, and customer success

The way people engage with machines, and technology, is rapidly changing. Machines are now talking back to people, providing actionable feedback that can drastically improve performance AND service, and delivering context around the business value of field service. Machines are even starting to talk to, and understand, other machines storing and mobilizing service analytics that accurately portray operational efficiency and closely monitor the status of technician deliverables. Service needs to embrace these new ways to streamline, quantify, and report on tasks completed in the field.

Companies such as Enphase, a provider of solar energy micro-inverters, and McKinley Equipment Corporation, a provider of loading dock equipment, have transformed their businesses by accessing higher levels of service efficiency and taking an outcomes-based approach to service. They are connecting previously unconnected hardware to dramatically improve technician productivity, billing, and service cycle data.

Moving to this model also allows these companies to deliver elevated service to customers and clearly differentiate themselves from competitors. As we’ve said before, leveraging the Internet of Things and industrial internet to connect field service assets, creates technology-driven opportunities for technicians to better manage their work day, and dramatically lower the risk of unplanned machine downtime.

The servitization of the Industrial IoT

In field service, a focus on the servitization of technology - centering sales strategy around an ongoing maintenance, service, and upgrade program to amplify the value proposition of hardware - and the IoT will prove instrumental in driving the broader industry toward adopting more efficient and cost-effective processes, technologies, and customer success programs. In fact, with the rapid rise of the industrial internet, I would say the future of field service operations is dependent on servitization

Technicians around the world can increasingly tap into the IoT with machine-to-machine (M2M) technology, equipment tracking, wearables, and automated installation to respond instantly and completely to issues, upgrade opportunities, and customer requests. Customers can benefit from perpetual entitlement to service, reduced service response times, efficient problem solving, and a profitable lack of machine down-time. Companies like Rolls Royce don’t just sell machines, parts, or hardware, they sell the time required to keep them running.

Other industry leaders, including GE and PTC, are already introducing ‘brilliant machine’ concepts to meet service requirements with solutions that solve them in new and faster ways - often before we fully know something is wrong. ServiceMax is already working with both PTC and GE across sectors to connect assets to the cloud and provide streamlined analysis of data flowing from machines in the field to technicians on the move. The ability to offer quality service to customers fueled by transformative solutions linked to the industrial internet is more important than ever before. It’s also why I co-founded ServiceMax to become a comprehensive operating system for the service economy of the future and serve as a platform for its convergence with the IoT.

Where service is headed

The next wave of field service innovation will rely on smart, connected machines. Organizations servicing those machines will need a trained class of service technicians who can access and analyze continuous streams of performance data to efficiently provide proactive, predictive, and flawless service. Technology is the driver behind new service components that optimize machines, resources, technicians, and tap into the industrial IoT to positively impact customer relations, company bottom-lines, and reduce service backlogs.

Legacy service processes and the administrative infrastructure supporting them result in significant amount of hardware down-time that directly impacts customer businesses and bottom-lines. The moment the field service system is connected to the web, actionable customer, technician, and job information becomes instantly available and adaptable. Companies that link remote machines to the web and IoT have the ability to optimize technician deliverables based on a huge increase in accurate data reflecting real-time performance of the product in the field.

Of course, there will still be a significant number of disconnected machines, but the technology-driven service processes underpinning their maintenance will be faster, of a higher quality, and will allow technicians to build lasting relationships built on customer success.

The result for all of field service is a more efficient, proactive, resourceful and cost-effective service operation that serves as the final product.