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August 7, 2020 | 3 Mins Read

Back to Basics: The Key Capabilities of Service Management Software

August 7, 2020 | 3 Mins Read

Back to Basics: The Key Capabilities of Service Management Software


By Tom Paquin

This is part of an ongoing series on the state and standards of service management software in 2020. For the first article in this series, click here.

When defining service management software, it’s typical to measure the worth of software by the breadth of capabilities that are offered, but that can be very misleading. In 2007, an Apple iPhone and Motorola Sidekick both had web browsers, but there’s no comparison between the depth of execution between the two, so everything here should be taken with a grain of salt.

So where do you even begin when defining the capabilities of service software? What is one expected feature that is so mature it’s a lifeline for service businesses? What is the latest killer app poised to shake up customer expectations or save a ton of money? To cover all of this, I will massively oversimplify the nuances of service software by putting them into three broad categories: Service delivery, operations, and customer experience.

In the coming weeks I’ll break down each, but today, let’s take a look at them holistically.

Service Delivery Capabilities
We’ll start with the most basic set of capabilities, and usually where people start (and many end) when considering field service management software. This is about as boring as it gets on its surface: Contract management, appointment management, Service-level agreement management, and so on. These are the bread-and-butter service utilities, usually with a direct paper counterpart that they’ve been implemented to replace.

More interesting capabilities typically go beyond the act of cataloging service and serve to enhance service delivery. To borrow a phrase from Forrester Research, these would be “Business Technology” utilities rather than simple IT: tools to help win, service and retain customers. The most prevalent of these tools are things like knowledge management and on-the-job training utilities, which take many forms. We’ve spoken a lot about Augmented Reality recently and with good reason: it’s a quick way to upskill technicians without having to over-encumber a business with a bunch of technological overhead.

Operational Capabilities
For the purposes of this massive oversimplification, I’m going to limit this to the movement of people, tools, and parts through a system but here we’re basically talking about one of my favorite topics: Optimization. Generally we speak about planning and scheduling optimization purely through the spectrum of technicians and appointments. Good systems allow appointments to be scheduled through multiple channels and optimize appointment delivery. The best tools can dot that optimization quickly, and with the power of AI, and provide real-time updates as the nature of job delivery continues.

Further than that, parts and reverse logistics management also become necessary (and frequently overlooked!) pillars of optimization. Within that there are a wide varity of considerations, as well. Getting a full operational picture, end to end, is functionally the key to service success, and it’s where a lot of companies fall flat.

Customer Experience Capabilities
The orthodoxy police will lose their mind when they hear this from me, but I would argue this is the most overrated capability set within service. Yes—customer experience is important, but customer experience is not piloted exclusively from customer management utilities. The truth of the matter is that customer attrition doesn’t come from customer relationship management in some sort of automated system, it comes from your technicians working efficiently and delighting customers.

I’m by no means implying that customer experience is not important, and there are certainly transformative experiences to have within CX. Good customer experience utilities enable frictionless handoffs that guide the customer through the service lifecycle, but their main purpose is to automate redundant tasks and reduce the load for the back-office staff, which has its clear benefits and drawbacks. Engaging and forward-thinking systems build chatbots to resolve common issues and routine maintenance without tying up a line or forcing a customer to wait on the phone for a human. CX exists as a steward through the various service systems that you have, not as the centerpiece of service delivery.

That pretty much does it for our high-level capability overview. There are naturally several glossed-over capabilities here and we’ll dig into greater detail about what makes those capabilities integral to service in the coming weeks. Next time, we’ll dig into the meat of service delivery. See you then!