I really wanted to use Uber in this blog’s title. Field service becoming uberized or the uber-ification of field service. Seems like there is a lot of commentary on how the Uber or Airbnb business models are going to transform industries and service delivery mechanisms.
In field service, most of the discussion surrounding the sharing economy is tied to the use of contract (often shared) labor for service work. As such, service leaders look at outsourcing portions of field service work to third-party contractors. These contractors are part of specialized service firms or can be found through portals such as WorkMarket, FieldNation, or Onforce. On the other side of the coin, consumers can use platforms such as TaskRabbit or Needto.com to find contractors to support work that needs be done at home. (An interesting list can be found here) Businesses can also choose to use sites such as Angie’s List and HomeAway to identify certified contractors for work that needs to get done.
While the debate on the disruptive power of Uber and Airbnb type of sharing models on field service is healthy (and necessary), too often the focus is on the sharing component of these models and not on the user experience delivered to both the service deliverer (driver, renter) and the service consumer (passenger, tenant/traveler). The ability to tap into excess capacity at a lower cost (than developing that capacity on your own) is definitely a major advantage of the sharing economy and is applicable to B2C and B2B field service. This advantage will increase as more and more resources are connected with the aid of mobility. However, I believe that real differentiation comes into play when we can replicate the ease of connection, the ease of identification, and the ease of commerce for all parties involved (OEM/producer, contractor, customer), as is done in the case of Uber and Airbnb.
The thought of uberification came to mind in light of recent conversations I’ve had with several leaders of field service looking to cut the cost of their field service delivery operations. As these leaders see it, the delivery of reactive field service is a losing battle, and no matter how good you get at it, the customer is always going to be unhappy. Hence, it comes down to delivering reactive field service at the lowest possible cost (highest efficiency, minimal penalties incurred, lowest labor cost, effective parts usage). These leaders see no opportunity to deliver value via reactive field service visits and are therefore looking to outsource that component of their business to third-party contractors.
My thought is that a field visit, even a reactive one, can be incredibly valuable to both the customer and the service provider. For my argument to work, the field visit must be effective, as in the problem that a field service agent is dispatched for is resolved on a first visit. More so, the experience of scheduling and receiving a field service appointment should be customer-friendly (See our post on What Customers Dislike About Field Service Visits).
While on site, the field service agent can help educate the customer on what can be done to improve the performance of the product or asset purchased. This doesn't just tie into improving the reliability of the product, but also to make the most of the product’s features. If the customer is interested, the field agent can recommend additional products and services that can support the customer in accomplishing what he/she is looking to accomplish via a purchase. The field visit is an opportunity to develop trust.
Back in the servicing enterprise, a field service agent’s visit can yield valuable intelligence that can be leveraged by sales and marketing. This intelligence can lead to the identification of new revenue opportunities that would have previously remained uncovered. As seen in our research, 23% of organizations closed more than a $1m in revenue in 2014 via service-enabled leads. These organizations did so by empowering their front line agents and by formalizing lines of communication between their service and other teams. In fact, the characteristics and strategies of these organizations are captured in the following The Service Council slidecast:
If a million dollars isn’t good enough, how about $54m? We recently chatted with Jack Kleminich from Tyco SimplexGrinnell of how his team uncovered $54m in business opportunities with the aid of service professionals. You can access our conversation with Jack on our InService podcast series page.
Not every field service visit is a sales opportunity. And not every customer is a prospect for a new sale. Therefore, organizations need to understand their customers and identify those that need the support of a field service relationship, as opposed to the burden of a series of field service transactions. With these relationship-oriented customers, reactive field service visits can serve as vital connection and communication opportunities which will lead to increased revenues.