Field Service Expert Interview: Sumair Dutta
As part of our Field Service Management Expert Interview Series, we ask field service management experts about their views on the industry and what the future of field service management holds. Today, we interview The Service Council’s Chief Customer Officer, Sumair Dutta.
In his role at TSC, Sumair is responsible for new member acquisition, member engagement, community expansion, as well as the development and expansion of TSC’s Smarter Services™ oriented research agenda and portfolio. Sumair also plays a key role in building out TSC’s community platform focused on becoming the single source of information and networking for service executives globally. Prior to his role at TSC, Sumair led Aberdeen’s Customer Experience and Service Management research practice and was integral in the development of Aberdeen’s Chief Service Officer Summit series.
You’ve seen field service evolve over the years in your various roles as an analyst and a community builder. In what ways is field service management changing now?
Improving field service was always considered to be an operational endeavor, in that the most important objective was to get the largest amount of productivity from your field service workforce. As a result, all investment in field service was made with the purpose of improving operational efficiency. While there continues to be a very strict focus on efficiency, organizations are also looking at incremental opportunities afforded when a field agent connects with a service customer. These opportunities could be tied to new revenue or to an enhancement of customer relationships.
What are the strategic opportunities you’re seeing for field service organizations?
In our research, we’ve found that there are five major focus areas for field service leaders
- Increasing the predictive nature of the business
- Driving increased efficiency in operations
- Uncovering revenue opportunities at the point-of-service
- Developing a sustainable talent model
- Increasing the emphasis on the end experience delivered to customers
Within each one of these areas, there is an evaluation of the resources needed in terms of people, process, data, and automation.
What features in field service platforms are critical now and what will be necessary in the future?
This is an extremely complex question, depending on the type of work being done. But at the heart of the answer is an understanding of what information field service technicians or engineers need in order to get their work done. As field service leaders, are we putting them in a position to succeed when they are in front of the customer? It’s essential that there is an emphasis on issue diagnosis prior to service visits, the appropriate dispatch of the right technician with the right tools based on this diagnosis, and accessibility to customer and resolution information at the point-of-service. There is a general assumption that more technology in the hands of field service agents is better. Technology is a tool that can greatly magnify the ability of a technician, but it can also burden a technician with unnecessary paperwork and complexity.
What role do you see the Internet of Things playing in field service management?
When you think about the five strategic areas of focus I mentioned above, the Internet of Things holds a great deal of promise for field service management. Service, and field service especially, offers a great proving ground for IoT platforms given the efficiency opportunity in reducing repeat visits or unnecessary field service truck rolls. IoT also offers the opportunity for organizations to become more predictive in the service that they deliver. Ultimately, IoT will enable the transformation of the service provider-customer relationship wherein customers won’t be buying service contracts tied to time and material. Instead, they’ll be engaged in relationships around the output enabled by a service provider. For this transformation to be successful, IoT must be embraced as an organization-wide reality as opposed to a field service initiative.
How are mobile technologies changing the way field service organizations interact with and serve customers?
Our research has identified a mobile maturity framework that traces the path of mobile empowerment across most field service organizations. There are four stages of maturity:
- Stage 1: Replace – Mobile is seen as a paper/clipboard replacement strategy
- Stage 2: Remove – Mobile is seen as a means to remove obstacles to productivity
- Stage 3: Resolve – Mobile is seen as an asset to enhance resolution rates
- Stage 4: Build – Mobile is seen as an asset to enhance customer relationships
Most organizations initially focus their mobile investments on reducing the burden of paperwork, which is appropriate given that 20 percent of a technician’s time is spent on paperwork. More so, technicians report that attention to paperwork and administrative tasks is the least favorite part of their workday. That said, it is essential to consider how mobile can be used as an asset to improve actual resolution rates and drive revenue opportunities.
How are you seeing field service organizations use mobile technologies to drive revenue and maintain a competitive advantage?
Customers usually see technicians as a trusted source of information. This information can focus on the better use of products and services, helpful tips and tricks, or recommendations on other products or services that could be beneficial for the customer. By engaging in these value-oriented discussions, technicians can become a valuable source of qualified sales opportunities. In our research, these opportunities have a much higher close rate, especially if followed up on appropriately. Organizations are now empowering their agents with a plethora of lead recognition and identification tools on their mobile devices. In some scenarios, technicians are also able to directly demo a product or service on their mobile device and then invoice the customer for those incremental purchases at the point-of-service.
How can field service organizations better capitalize on sales opportunities?
In addition to providing technicians with the tools and training to record opportunities, it’s essential that organizations focus on increasing technician confidence in the proper functioning of the service lead generation system. In this, technicians must have confidence in the fact that:
- there will be appropriate follow-up recorded and tracked service opportunities
- there will be fair recognition, monetary or otherwise, for the creation and closure of opportunities
Increasing confidence falls in the realm of change management, which is essential when asking field service agents to add additional sales-oriented responsibilities to their workload.
How is the broader economy affecting field service management?
In an uncertain economic climate we see field service organizations step up their drive for efficiency. We’re also seeing the uncertainty impact customer organizations and their demands of service businesses. In several customer organizations, at medical or commercial facilities, service relationships and contracts are being scrutinized by a senior-level buyer, as evidenced by 50 percent of our service leadership community. In that, service organizations now need to justify the value of their relationship to all stakeholders at the buyer organization.
How is the role of Chief Service Officer evolving?
I’d like to see more Chief Service Officers in the first place, but for those who wear the hat of the person responsible for the service business, they’re much more focused on understanding customer value and how the service organization can play an integral role in delivering value. CSO’s also need to be taking the lead in driving a culture of service across the organization. If better support for customers is a service-only focus or task, then there is a significant missed opportunity in driving and deepening customer relationships.
What are the top three KPIs that you recommend FSM organizations focus on? How might those KPIs change five years from now?
I’ll go with two standard field service KPIs and one emerging metric that deserves greater attention.
- First-time fix rate
- Workforce utilization
- Field service worker engagement
First-time fix and utilization measure the organization’s ability to put the right field agent in the right spot. I believe engagement is key to ensuring that technicians are aligned with the mission of the service organization. If technicians are engaged, then they will autonomously pursue innovation and improvement opportunities focused on increasing value for the organization and for the customer.