By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
Many leading service organizations have been on a digital transformation journey for some time – those companies have been well-positioned to quickly build upon their efforts to react to these new and challenging circumstances. Other service businesses, however, have been dragging their feet a bit when it comes to embracing the potential that digital holds. Those laggards are now turning to digital transformation in an effort to survive the global pandemic and, in doing so, are breaking down barriers that have long been in place. Whether these laggards had been avoiding digital transformation intentionally because they were happy “doing things the way we’ve always done,” or had fallen victim to the best of intentions that continued to be deprioritized among other urgent tasks, the force by which COVID-19 is spawning these companies toward digital adoption is making them realize the power and value that they’ve been missing – and helping them to see the potential in leveraging today’s technologies not only to weather this storm, but to set the stage for a strong recovery and immense future potential.
There are three particular areas in which we see digital transformation being accelerated as a result of COVID-19, and I believe these areas – among others – will continue to grow and expand as recovery begins.
#1: Remote Collaboration
The use of augmented and merged reality solutions has exponentially increased since COVID-19 hit, and the value that these technologies have provided companies in terms of business continuity is immeasurable. Tools like remote assistance have several use cases that are enabling service organizations to persist despite the challenging circumstances.
These include using the technology for intra-company communications and sharing of expertise, for instance providing remote expertise and support to a remote facility with travel not possible. The technology can be used with customers, allowing service and support to be provided remotely with ease and a “hands on” feel. And the technology provides a valuable remote training option for experienced workers to train and “ride along” newer employees, from a distance. Munters is a wonderful example of this – the company was able to adeptly speed its plans to adopt IFS Remote Assistance for business continuity. Use of this technology will expand and evolve as recovery begins, giving companies new ways to provide service, train employees, and share expertise.
#2: Utilization of Resources
We’ve never faced greater uncertainty in our lifetimes, resulting in great complexity for organizations looking to effectively leverage and manage their resources amidst the introduction of many new – and continually evolving – variables. In some industries, demand has skyrocketed while regulations around social distancing make service delivery tricky. In other industries, demand has sharply declined but will begin to ramp back up as recovery begins – presenting challenges of how to effectively scale down and back up resources.
Technologies that enable organizations to most effectively utilize resources and make real-time decisions as variables change have become even more valuable than before. Forward-thinking companies are not only working diligently to the storm of COVID-19 but are already putting effort into preparing for what will come as we find the new normal. Digital tools that can aid in planning for evolving capacity needs, exploring various recovery scenarios, all the while optimally scheduling the resources currently needed using complex criteria are necessary to make the turbulence of COVID-19 surmountable. Cubic Transportation, for instance, has relied on its IFS Planning & Scheduling Optimization tool to be able to continue to deliver outcomes to its customers despite complex and quickly-changing criteria.
#3: Customer Engagement
The need to adapt to new methods of interacting with customers and ensuring communication remains consistent despite isolation needs is one of the most significant challenges brought forth by COVID-19. As safety has become paramount, customers have been looking for self-service alternatives and new options for communications. Many service organizations have seen significant spikes in online methods of contact, have had to look for new ways of interacting with and providing value to customers, and have had to become creative in how to meet the changing needs of their customer base.
Now more than ever, customers need you to be consistent, caring, and reassuring in your communications. They need to be able to get in touch with you easily and they need alternatives for service in situations where COVID-19 makes prior methods impossible or less than ideal. It’s important now, and as recovery begins, to assess your methods for engaging your customers and determine if they are as effective as they should be given the restrictions now in place. There are a wealth of options available to you to improve customer engagement, from tools that make communication and self-service easier to technologies that may allow you to provide new offerings to your customers that are more relevant to their needs right now.
Digital adoption will continue to surge as a result of our collective COVID-19 experiences. Companies that have already been on this path are gaining valuable experiences to refine their use and build upon their successes, and those that have been slower to embrace these tools are learning now the power they hold. Employees who had resisted change are welcoming tools with open arms that allow them to continue working, and in doing so, are learning that technology is a powerful enabler. These lessons and experiences will result in service organizations ready to embrace digital in a way they never have as we recover from this crisis.