Alternative "B4B" Offerings May Be the Future of Field Service Provision
brought to you by WBR Insights
(Image source: fieldservicenews.com)
The modern field service landscape is changing.
If you've been following these articles for any length of time, you'll have read about the ways in which Internet of Things, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, and many other factors are forcing brands to innovate or be left in a cloud of dust by their more forward-thinking competitors.
However, one concern which is often leveled at the onslaught of Industry 4.0 technology making its way into the global workplace is the effect it will have on the need for human employees, and thus their job security.
"As manufacturers face increasing pressure, they need to come up with new sources of revenue," writes Sebastian Ulbert for SAP. "There are a number of service offerings that some companies have never even heard of. For companies that want to servitize their business, it's important to invest wisely so they don't fall victim to the 'service paradox': when companies invest heavily to increase their service portfolio, only to achieve higher costs with no return on their investment."
Are the Robots Coming for Your Jobs?
If a connected component can diagnose its own fault and arrange for a replacement to be ordered and/or an engineer to be booked, where does that leave the technician who would have previously been required to make that diagnosis?
While such a pattern will almost certainly rise as connected technologies become ever more ubiquitous, it seems unlikely that there will ever be a time when human engineers will become entirely obsolete. Any company which uses hardware will encounter instances when their machines need service or repair in a way which cannot be carried out by other machines, and only human eyes and human hands will suffice.
However, as the need for human engineers decreases - even if it doesn't disappear entirely - it will become necessary for field service providers to rethink their service offerings and search for ways to remain relevant in the new industry landscape.
One method is to rethink the relationship between the service provider and the client, moving from a business-to-business (B2B) relationship towards a more collaborative business-for-business (B4B) partnership. By positioning themselves as a partner in their client's business - rather than simply a service provider - field service organizations can provide new functions and services which expend their offering outside of the normal parameters.
This expanded field service role can take many forms.
Engineers can carry out utilization assessments on the customer's own products and make recommendations for improvements - either to the product itself or any documentation which may accompany it.
Field service engineers can also adopt a more sales-focused position, informing customers of new service features or product updates which may interest them, and promoting their benefits on behalf of the business.
Soliciting information from the customer is another great way for field service engineers to adopt a more collaborative position. They can, for instance, ask customers for their opinions on the devices and innovations being supplied, and request suggestions on features and functionality they feel are missing. It's easy to get carried away with innovation for the sake of innovation, and not actually find out if it's wanted or needed by the customer. So, why not have field service engineers ask the question?
All this should be backed up with regular best practice reviews and communication with the customer to cut practices which aren't working and build on those which are.
By thinking of new ways for field service engineers to expand their role beyond the usual routine of maintenance and repair, the relationships between clients and service providers can be strengthened and become more collaborative.
It seems unlikely that the onslaught of technology is going to slow down anytime soon, but with some of the B4B methods outlined above, your engineers can be safe in the knowledge they'll have a role to play in the field service industry for a long time to come.
"Customer-oriented services are an attempt by companies to distinguish themselves in a market saturated with similar products and savvy consumers," writes Ulbert. "It is no longer enough to offer the best product on the market. Consumers are looking for more: real-time responses, effective self-service options, predictive maintenance, and more."
Expanded service offerings are set to be a hot topic at Field Service Palm Springs 2019, taking place in April at the JW Marriott Desert Springs.
Download the agenda today for more information and insights.