For many businesses, COVID-19 has proven to be the force in making remote service roadmaps a quick reality. We have featured a variety of companies that have shared stories with us about how acting quickly on Remote Assistance technologies was key in navigating the pandemic, including Munters, Alfa Laval, and Panasonic. With such an acceleration in the use of technologies that enable remote service delivery, combined with increased acceptance from customers due to current circumstances, it is interesting to think about what this period of business continuity through remote service will mean when a return to former service delivery methods does become widely possible and safe.

Of course, the answer will vary from industry to industry and company to company. Based on the conversations I’ve had; I know remote service is here to stay – but I also believe in-person service is a critical element of service strategy. On a recent podcast, I discussed this topic with Michael Blumberg, President and CEO of Blumberg Advisory Group. “I think every organization has to have a touchless service strategy,” he shared. “I think touchless service will become table stakes for all service organizations. Just like you can’t think of a field service organization that doesn’t have a mobility solution.”

Marrying Remote and Field Service

If remote service will become table stakes, does that mean the need for field service decreases? Well, yes and no. The burden of non-value add tasks on field service decreases – travel can be minimized, and issues that can be easily resolved remotely should be. This frees technicians up to spend time creating value – handling detailed repairs, working with frustrated customers, acting as a trusted advisor, even training new technicians. This change provides a valuable opportunity for you to more intentionally leverage your resources in a way that moves you toward your service goals.

So how do you create the best strategy for service delivery that combines remote and in-person capabilities? “I think the strategy may differ a little bit by industry, but some of the things you should consider is what is the complexity of the equipment being supported? What’s the level of mission criticality of that equipment? What are the safety issues?” suggests Blumberg. “You also have to consider the skill set of your customer, because remember when we talk about touchless service, we’re talking about supporting the customer.”

I agree with these criteria for consideration, but I think there’s also this softer element of when does an in-person visit add value in the sense of just needing to have human connection. We know how true it is that field service is the face of the brand, and I don’t believe all of that experience is replicable in an all-remote world. So maybe that’s something where it’s more of a frustration or an escalation or maybe it’s an initial install where that person is a part of the brand experience. But that softer element is important to consider, too. I believe a remote-first service approach makes sense as a really good frontline and first wave of service delivery. It’ll be powerful in terms of triaging and resolving simpler issues, so that the field technician’s role can evolve into being more of a customer service type role – a trusted advisor – than just a break-fix type role.

From Business Continuity to Business Transformation: Creating Your Hybrid Service Strategy

Having remote service capabilities is powerful in that it puts you in a position of power in terms of what you’re capable of and how you want to be strategic in making the decision of how and when you opt to provide service in a touchless way or in an on-site way. Perhaps remote service has become your only method of service delivery during COVID-19, but when that changes you will be able to move from business continuity to business transformation. As I mentioned at the beginning, the companies I’ve interviewed this year all had Remote Assistance on their roadmaps; they simply sped things up as a means for business continuity. But post-pandemic, those remote service capabilities will be leveraged to further Servitization objectives and create new revenue streams.

In considering this transition, Blumberg offers some advice. “They really need to gain clarity about the value in the use of the tool. They really need to be able to clearly articulate to the customer what it will do. What value will they get out of it? Will it save time? Will it improve productivity? Will it increase uptime? They’ve got to be able to talk about it in those terms, because without those terms, there’s no value,” he says.

Make sure that as you think through how to create new service offerings, you do so with customer pain points in mind. “Companies often have a production orientation versus a market orientation or customer orientation. Companies that don’t do a good job at monetizing their service or selling offerings is they’re talking to the customer in terms of what works for them – ‘look what this has done for us’,” says Blumberg. “That’s a production orientation. The market orientation is, “Look at what this can do for you. Companies also use too many buzzwords. In the research that I’ve done recently on touchless service, I find the companies that are really getting their customers to embrace it have branded it themselves. They’re not saying, it’s an AR solution from XYZ company; they’ve given it their own brand name. I think that makes a difference.”

We know that service holds immense potential for businesses, and that goes for both remote service and in-person service. Adding Remote Assistance capabilities to your repertoire varies the opportunities you have to differentiate your brand and solve your customers pain points; you just have to think through the right tool to use in each scenario.

Sarah Nicastro
Author

Field Service Evangelist, Future of Field Service