If you prefer, you can read the full podcast transcript below.
[00:00:09] Mobile Reach
: Welcome to the Five questions for a Field Service Expert Podcast. This is the show for field service professionals where we dig into the big questions about field service delivery and management. Every episode we ask a field service expert five questions that can help you do your job better.
[00:00:25] Today we’re talking to Sarah Hatfield, vice president of product management at OnProcess Technology. OnProcess is a managed services provider that works with complex global supply chain organizations to optimize the flow of people, parts, and services following the sale of a product. Sarah leads OnProcess’ strategy for the company’s products and services, as you might gather from her title. And she uses her 15-plus years of experience in supply chain to build and manage solutions for field service management among other sectors. She has an extensive background in product and program management, having worked at Comcast, Asurian, and ADT. Her early career includes four years of active duty with the 25th Infantry Division of the United States Army and she is a veteran of foreign wars as well as the recipient of multiple service awards including the Combat Action Badge. Sarah welcome and we are delighted to have a few minutes with you today.
: Thanks so much for having me.
[00:01:25] Mobile Reach
: So, Sarah, we have five questions for you as we do for all of our field service experts. Are you ready to go?
: Yeah, absolutely, let’s go.
[00:01:36] Mobile Reach
: Cool. Let’s talk about metrics to start. There are probably too many to mention in field service but went when they’re really important. It’s what a field service leader sort of lives and dies by. They may compass productivity, CSAT, assets, inventory contracts, financials, you name it. What field service KPIs would you isolate and consider sort of the most critical to measure and optimize for.
: Gosh, I mean you really hit it, Dan. As you said there are so many to choose from. But if I were to really isolate to figure out what was going to drive the greatest value for an organization, I think first and foremost is customer satisfaction. So, at the risk of sounding cheesy, that’s really the root of all things in field service management. It’s really the customer that keeps us all in business on a day-to-day basis. And I really think that at the end of the day, it’s a differentiated customer experience that’s actually going to be what determines the winner in the market. So, I would start with CSAT first and foremost. And then, after that, I would probably say utilization or productivity. And that’s something that is a challenge for everyone in field service management. I mean it’s just ridden with those organic utilization challenges, right? So if you think about it from the labor perspective, you’re dealing with everything from training to vacations or windshield time or administrative time. The list goes on. There are a million reasons why your technicians can’t be productive every moment of every day. But it doesn’t just stop with labor either, right? So when you are selling vehicles or even tools they often fall into the same category because you have both planned maintenance and unplanned maintenance. Tools break. Vehicles go down and need to be fixed.
[00:03:32] And while organizations are carrying these heavy fixed costs, they’re literally paying for these assets whether the assets are people or tools and vehicles and they’re not fully utilized. So that’s one of the first places I look is to see what is the utilization or productivity rate for any organization. I think it tells a lot about how effectively and efficiently that business is being managed.
[00:03:57] Mobile Reach
: I really appreciate that practical view. Sorry, go on.
: So after CSAT and productivity, I really look next at go-backs or first-time resolution on the other side of the spectrum. When you have technicians that are going back for multiple check-ins and have multiple service orders instead of having that first-time resolution it results in incredible costs in the business. You’re having a negative customer experience and then you have the downstream impacts from there. Perhaps you lose the customer or perhaps you have to go through a lot of additional work in order to regain the customer’s trust. So there are lots of costs associated with the customer experience side of it. But then there’s also the more traditional costs that you would expect to see. So, if you send a technician out to a job and the job isn’t done right the first time, you now have to schedule a second one. So you probably are driving and call into the call queue with a new inbound call. You’re also having to roll a truck for the second time which we all know is incredibly costly. So I think I would look at that first time resolution or reducing go-back probably next. And then I think SLA adherence is also incredibly critical. And when I think about SLA adherence, it’s definitely that end-to-end SLA. Did you meet your entire metric for KPI on time? I think a lot of the small wins along the way, right? It’s not just was the job completed in the time that it needed to be completed and was it accepted? Was it assigned? Was the technician en route in a timely manner that allowed them to have enough time to get to the job and complete the job in time? So I look at all of those SLAs along the way. So, overall SLA adherence, as well, I would say is critical.
[00:05:47] Mobile Reach
: That’s awesome and a super comprehensive reply looking at it from sort of all dimensions of field service management and delivery. Speaking of delivery, we know the best kind is contracted, scheduled, planned, all that. But a good portion of demand we also know is unplanned. Talk to us a minute about a few of the best practices when it comes to managing those exceptions in scheduling and capacity handling with unplanned demand.
: Yeah, I mean unplanned demand is just super tough. And I think that we all feel the pain of that pretty regularly and understand what it feels like. I believe that unplanned demand or exceptions, if you want to call them that, really require a dedicated function. You can’t expect your usual dispatch team to really effectively respond to exceptions along the way and still hit all of their regular SLAs and achieve all the metrics that they’re opposed to with the standard types of things. Because unplanned activity or an exception is distracting. I mean that’s just really what it comes down to. And I think that’s why we see so many organizations turning to outsourcing experts to manage their field service exceptions. Because if you follow that kind of rule of thumb, that 20 percent is really costly. And it adds up quickly if it’s not managed expertly and efficiently.
[00:07:15] Mobile Reach
: I like that, a dedicated team, makes a ton of sense. Let me move on to revenue and value creation. So talk to us for a minute about some of the innovative ways at OnProcess you’re seeing field service managers maximize revenue. We know technicians are selling, maybe despite their wish to the contrary. But how are you seeing field service leaders best achieve their revenue numbers?
: I love how when you asked the question, you aligned revenue with value creation because there’s so much that goes into that. And I think probably the most interesting thing that I’m seeing right now is what I like to describe as the evolution of field service management. So when I think about field service management, I kind of think about it in three different ways.
[00:08:20] So first everyone you know just kind of inherently and organically insourced everything and all the teams were internal. And then as they began to become a little bit more cost conscientious and were looking for ways to really maximize and make their business more efficient and more effective, you saw the trend toward outsourcing.
[00:08:43] And I think what we’re seeing now is really that third wave, that continual evolution of service delivery. What we’re seeing is companies looking to transition to more of these Uberized type of field service networks where they’re operating in these very variable competitive marketplaces in order to improve customer experience and reduce costs and at the same time and improve productivity. And of course all those three things actually working together in harmony to drive that overall value creation and improve the bottom line.
[00:09:18] Mobile Reach
: So sticking with value creation for just a minute. Let’s go into sort of the zone of automation, artificial intelligence, and the like. So, we know there’s a lot of value being created by these technologies, by these experiments if you will, or these sort of pilots. Given the state of technology and the fact that service ultimately is a people business, how do you see field service management evolving as an industry with the combination of both of those forces?
: Yeah. So I had the opportunity to attend some really fantastic field service based shows this past Spring. And all of those, technology and AI and automation and machine learning, all these great things were really at the center of everything. And when I think about all of what I’m seeing and hearing about in the field, I think it all comes down to really looking at all the work that we have in front of us. There are two primary categories, so very complex work and then less complex work. And I think that there is a home for all of these great new trends in automation, AI, and technology in both of those sectors.
[00:10:31] I think what we’re going to continue to see is like I was describing with the evolution of field service management and a combination of both these Uberized style models where things are highly competitive and variable but also where we’re looking at the AI and automation component of it also in that complex and less complex work. So I think we will very quickly see the shift of each of these trends starting with less complex work where we have our highly skilled labor force is actually driving the implementation of these things. And I think there’s always going to be a people component and I think that’s really critical for success, for customer experience, and for tribal knowledge. But I think that we’re going to continue to see these technology trends with our more skilled workforce driving them and the less complex spaces and then continuing to evolve into the complex as well.
[00:11:24] Mobile Reach
: So my last question, Sarah, is really sort of zeroing in on this notion of the Uberization of field service. Let’s go a little deeper into that. You know field service organizations have been using freelance technicians for some time obviously for surges in demand, or expanding into new geos, what have you. How do you see field service organizations leveraging these distributed technician networks?
: So I just think that this whole notion of Uberizing field service management is ridiculously cool. I mean it just makes so much sense when you think about it. So it’s a variable labor model and it’s 100 percent based on a network of these authorized service partners. And it guarantees 100 percent productivity but at the same time you’re also reducing costs and improving quality simultaneously, so it’s the unicorn of field service management.
[00:12:18] So here’s how it works. A company like OnProcess or any managed service provider would integrate into the client’s system of record. This is really just to make sure that there is a seamless flow of real-time information. So what happens is, as a dispatch would come through, that request would be instantaneously assessed to determine two things. And all of this is happening in real time. But, first and foremost, you would need to determine which of those authorized service partners actually can perform the work. And for those who would look at things like geography or skillset or certification and part availability and SLA requirements to figure out, literally, who can actually do the work. So remember they have a whole network there to choose from. It’s not about finding that one partner and it’s not about just finding one partner. It’s about driving quality and improving cost. So how do you do that? It’s really about layering on star criteria just like they do in Uber. You would use that star-rating to really determine which is the best partner to perform that work. But it’s not entirely like Uber either, right? It’s similar, and the reason I say similar, is because it starts with customer satisfaction just like Uber or like Lyft. But then it really ups the game on the maturity scale and layers in a whole suite of these operational analytics like the ones we talked about earlier in order to drive quality. So in the star rating, you’re looking at customer satisfaction, of course, but you’re also looking at things like first-time resolution and SLA adherence and how deep their technician skillset catalog is.
[00:14:00] So all of those things help bring that layer of quality to field techs who can perform the work. Then we take it even a step further and add in criteria like price. So if someone has a lower price point than one of the competitors in the service partner network they would have a higher star rating from that perspective. And if it’s balanced with quality and they have the highest quality metrics at the lowest price, they’re going to be stack ranked at the very top. And then that work, that job that’s come through from the client, is automatically routed to that service partner with that highest star rating. So what we’re doing here is really incenting these positive behaviors in the field. So, think organically incenting our network to compete against each other. So it’s a win-win, because the partners are rewarded with volume which is of course what they’re looking for. And the client is rewarded with the best quality, 100 percent productivity, because they’re only paying for what they use, and the lowest cost. But it’s not necessarily the lowest cost, it’s balanced appropriately with the quality. So I mean it’s really truly the absolute next wave of field service management. And I just think it’s super cool.
[00:15:11] Mobile Reach
: That is fascinating. You’re clearly working on some really cutting edge stuff at OnProcess and I loved hearing about it today. Thank you so much for sitting with us for a few minutes and spending some time to talk about what you’re working on and where you see the industry going.
: Yeah, thanks so much, Dan. You can learn more about Sarah and her work on process at OnProcess.com. Thanks for listening to Five Questions for a Field Service Expert. For more expert views on field service, subscribe to the Mobile Reach blog at mobilereach.com/blog.
View all episodes of the Five Questions for a Field Service Expert Podcast here