Webinar Panelist Responses To COVID-19 Questions
Following up from our webinar, this Q + A covers critical questions impacting the service sector and how businesses can adapt.
As the pandemic has forced technicians to comply with additional and more complex safety protocols, how can we leverage technology to ensure we keep pace with these changes?
Given that things are constantly changing, you need to use a technology that can be quickly updated and incorporated into your service delivery process. From a Health and Safety and data collection process, a dynamic, low/no-code forms application is the best option. FieldAware has partnered with ProntoForms to embed their mobile forms application into our field service hub. This enables users to update their forms to include new requirements, then digitally dispatch them automatically and associate them with the appropriate jobs to be performed in the field. In addition to this, FieldAware empowers customers to quickly edit the tasks that need to be performed on specific types of jobs. Once updated, the jobs automatically include the new or amended tasks that are to be performed by the field resources.
The combination of these two capabilities enable FieldAware customers to be agile as they adapt their business processes in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
With business conditions constantly changing how are service organizations efficiently informing their staff and customers of new work procedures and changes in those procedures?
Many of FieldAware’s customers have established virtual coffee breaks. During these breaks the teams receive details and instructions on new or updated working procedures and data collection forms. The virtual meetings also provide a feedback loop where field technicians can share problems being experienced in the field and where improvements can be made to existing procedures.
FieldAware automates the dispatch of updated forms and process flows enabling the engineers to automatically receive the latest versions of job details including Forms and Tasks, so they are always operating on the latest workflow processes and data collected.
For customer communications, customers update their processes on their website or through the FieldAware customer portal and promote support service as links within email footers. They are also using customer communications apps like those from our partner Localz to include links in SMS messages. The messages are sent to customers at key stages of the service delivery cycle. These messages can include links to the latest policy or guidelines, or contain the key points inside the text message. This makes it very easy for customers of our customers to always be aware of the latest processes and protocols.
In our service business we have field technicians that are self-isolating how can they continue to contribute to the business while they can’t leave their home?
A number of FieldAware’s customers are using self-isolating field technicians to contribute to the back-office capabilities such as participating as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in their cross functional teams who are:
- Adapting current business processes in reaction to the changing COVID-19 pandemic situation.
- Preparation of the recovery phase when the lockdown is relaxed, and the company starts to deliver all their normal service offerings to all customers.
- Assisting in the design of new service offerings and operating processes which will be required when the company moves into their restoration phase of fully competing in the market to win and retain customers.
Other customers are using self-isolating field technicians as triage support where they work from home to remotely investigate and potentially fix service requests. They are using remote diagnostic systems and calling the customer to talk them through a fix process where it’s appropriate to do so. If remote fixes are not possible then the job is rescheduled to a field resource to go on-site and benefit from richer diagnostic information and appropriate spares.
To streamline the administration process of allocating triage work to self-isolating field technicians, FieldAware customers are using the Unavailable Time function to set a Self-Isolation status to those resources which is clearly visible on the scheduling Gantt chart.
What techniques are service companies deploying to continue to deliver service with a reduced workforce?
Many FieldAware customers have reduced the range of services they provide to their customers to just emergency work. The range of jobs that fall into this category varies from customer to customer, depending on the nature of their business.
Some customers have relaxed the service areas or geographic boundaries that a field technician can work within so a smaller team can cover a larger area for just emergency work.
For planners and dispatchers working with unfamiliar customers and field resources, FieldAware’s planning mode and Smart Scheduler can prove beneficial. These two applications allow planners to build a work schedule in a safe environment where what-if-planning can be considered. Once a good schedule has been created, it can be published, and the work is dispatched to field technicians. Smart Scheduler optimization ensures an efficient work schedule is created that meets customer business rules and business objectives. It is easy for the customer to change this decision-making criteria in response to changes required to meet the latest COVID-19 working procedures, so the schedule of work continually reflects the company’s business objectives.
What role can communications play in streamlining the service delivery process during this COVID-19 pandemic situation?
Increasing communications with customers is critical to creating an open and transparent environment that will ease the anxiety of customers and smooth the delivery of service. We have seen the following examples from our customers where transparent communication enables them to continue to deliver effective emergency services.
Example 1 - Confirming when service work will be delivered and informing them of the site access processes and protocols. This reminds the customer when the field technician will be on site, and gives critical health and safety advice to ensure the customer is prepared and understands their responsibilities, all of which speeds up site access and the commencement of work.
Example 2 - Confirming new protocols with the customer such as all equipment is sanitized before it arrives on-site. This eases the customer concerns and increases their acceptance of the on-site activities.
Example 3 - Keeping customers appraised of changes to the service schedule and process protocols. This helps to ensure the customers can adjust their availability, as well as informs them how to properly engage in the service delivery process.
Example 4 - Communicating narrow service appointment windows. This enables the customer to better coordinate their activities to provide access to the service area and equipment, reducing the time the field resource is waiting on-site trying to gain access.
Who are the types of staff members that participate in continuity planning sessions and how do they effectively implement and communicate the changes they make?
Many of our customers have established a “War Room” continuity planning and execution team. This has evolved from a dedicated conference room with all relevant information available on whiteboards to a virtual center using collaboration applications such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc. Teams are staffed with experts from operational delivery, planning, product management, marketing and sales. They take input on external events such as customer feedback, government, industry and, manufacturing guidelines, etc. They combine that input with internal feedback from the field service operation and other elements of the business that interact with customers.
Teams are responsible for adapting business processes to meet current conditions so they can continue to deliver service to the end customer. They operate fluidly and at high speed, adapting and launching process updates and then monitoring for feedback so adjustments can be made. They are acting swiftly and calibrating along the way, rather than continuing to work towards perfection. They realize that perfection is the enemy of good and over-engineered changes will likely be out of date.
The broad team is important as there are many factors that the team have to consider. This includes the health and safety of employees, customers and partners, the execution of service delivery and the protection of corporate brand as well as the corporation’s very viability.
Internal communication is done via team briefings or virtual coffee sessions, ensuring the staff are quickly made aware. Process updates are then implemented to the field service management and other systems, guaranteeing new procedures and data collection requirements are automatically incorporated into the to work execution process. Customers are provided updates via a range of channels, including customer pages on websites, FAQs on customer portals, email notifications or one-on-one outreach via Customer Success Management teams. Using tools such as Localz, a FieldAware partner, customers can also be updated and reminded throughout the service delivery process via SMS messages with detailed instructions or links to supporting documents.
We’re planning to move forward with Augmented Reality, but we don’t know how far we’ll need to go? What guidance can you provide us for developing our plan?
It depends on your operational requirements as there’s a range of different types of solutions addressing different AR needs.
For two common use cases, there are a range of options that don’t require the use of google type glasses. To support a triage remote investigation step in your service delivery process, you need an AR app that enables your remote technician to be able to view what the customer sees via their standard smart phone. The engineer can then guide the customer through performing different actions to try to resolve or capture more data. Some of these applications allow the technician to overlay the image of their hands into the video the customer is relaying on their smart phone which can make the remote call more productive.
The other form of support is system experts providing advanced support to other employees and subcontractors. Both the expert and the field technician need to have the software active on their phones.
The first customer use case is very helpful at this time where getting on site is difficult, so resolving service calls remotely is a very positive experience for the customer.
The second use case is very helpful at the moment where system experts are self-isolating and available to provide remote support to less experienced employees or subcontractors. Likewise, it will be very useful in the Recovery phase as it enables your experts to support subcontractors or less experienced engineers thereby increasing the range of support you can provide without expanding the size of your workforce.
There are more advanced use cases for AR that do require goggles to provide overlay information to help field technicians diagnose complex problems including real-time visualization of remote sensor data.
In all cases, FieldAware provides the ability for planners to schedule work to remote technicians that are providing triage support. If they are equipped with appropriate AR software, then they can perform the remote support work and if a site visit is required jobs can be updated and rescheduled accordingly.
What’s the best way to transition our services model from traditional SLAs to Outcomes-based services delivery?
This is a tricky process, one where you should engage a 3rd party to guide you through the transformational program. It requires your organization to move away from the comfort zone of charging for items or services at a rate and specification that you control. To a new service model where you charge not for the outputs you deliver but the outcomes your customer requires and values.
You will need to quantify the value your customers gain from the outcomes you create, as this will be an essential factor in ultimately determining your pricing model.
You will also need to carefully quantify your internal costs to establish the complete end-to-end service. These inputs will need to include the core products that you may manufacture or resell, along with the operational costs to deliver and sustain your service operations. The transformation will require the redesign of your service delivery processes. It will need to include a smart sensor technology to monitor your equipment and detect, as well as alert, you to error conditions as they occur. This type of proactive, automated monitoring underpins just-in-time services and ensures your service operations continue to produce the outcomes your customer has contracted.
FieldAware provides a field service hub, and together with our partner ThingTech’s IoT platform and smart sensor capabilities, we are successfully supporting customers today who have transformed their business offering to an outcome-based service offering.
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