Managing the march towards zero-touch service

Earlier this year, Gartner released its 2019 Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management, and while  IFS understands service and flexibility required to deliver for our customers, the report is full of other pieces of enlightening information.

In addition to its vendor reports, Gartner also uses the Magic Quadrant Earlier this year, Gartner released its 2019 Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management, and while  IFS understands service and flexibility required to deliver for our customers, the report is full of other pieces of enlightening information as an opportunity to discuss the current trends impacting the service industry. There’s certainly a lot worth discussing about the state of service that Gartner lays out. One particular call-out that stuck out to me was the dramatic increase of zero-touch service in a relatively short amount of time. The benefits of zero-touch service are obvious—it greatly reduces time spent of back-office processes, it helps maximize fleet utilisation, and it saves headaches for the customer, thus improving service outcomes and customer outlooks. So where does it stand today?

According to Gartner, in 2017, zero-touch service, as a service management capability, was only utilised among about 1 percent of organisations. Today, only two years later, 15 percent of service firms have indicated that they are utilising zero-touch in some capacity.

What accounts for a 14x increase in two years? There are a variety of factors, certainly, though three in particular come to mind:

  • The maturation of Internet-enabled devices
  • The proliferation of predictive and prescriptive functions
  • A strong customer experience infrastructure

IoT is ready for prime time

Service truly begins and ends with the serviceable asset, whether that be a piece of machinery, a piece of property, a discreet material, or something entirely different. For forward-thinking service firms, connectivity of these devices is no longer a novelty, it’s an expectation. The business case is there, the outcomes are in place, and the hardware and software advancements have progressed at a complimentary pace.

On a basic break-fix level, this means that assets can often trigger service appointments through connected sensors reading a certain set of criteria. In terms of maintenance, similar assets can trigger service once a set of usage criteria have been met. And of course, with the pairing of smart technologies, sensors can predict future breakage, and dispatch a technician to prevent it. With any of these outcomes, money is saved for both you and your customer, and in the case of scheduled maintenance, organisations can ensure that their products are being serviced at more regular intervals.

There are obviously some considerations that need to be met in order to make these outcomes possible with internet-enabled devices. One big impediment that I’ve witnessed recently is that less mature IoT hardware often provides insufficient, or inaccurate data. For that reason, regular hardware audits are key to ensure not only that you’re measuring the right things, but that you’re measuring the right things correctly. What should your systems be measuring? How is that information used?

The next, equally-important step is ensuring that you have the right software in place to execute on those functions, which leads us into the next section.

Predictive functions are improving rapidly

Industry-leading service management software like FSM 6 will support predictive functionality right out of the box, which, in and of itself, will put you ahead of the pack. The predictive wave is only now beginning to crest, though. The obvious an inevitable compliment to predictive service is artificial intelligence. We’re already beginning to see this come into play.

In practice, this is how it works: Predictive, on its own, takes a series of criteria, and uses them to determine if system failure is imminent. We of course know, however, that in many fields, machine failure is ambiguous. Where AI is beginning to take it to the next level is in its ability to synthesize data from system failures in order to more accurately predict the set of particular circumstances lead to the need of a service visit. The more data fed into the system, the more the AI can define a set of common criteria for system failure. This, in turn, makes the system better at predicting failure, as well as prescribing the appropriate fix.

The most obvious thing that you need to make sure is that your systems are communicating appropriately. Your devices need to speak to your predictive engine, which needs to speak to routing and scheduling. Today’s ideal zero-touch service appointment will work like this: A set of criteria on a job site will start by triggering an appointment. It will then identify the type of failure, and recommend the right technician, parts, and tools, to maximize first-visit resolution. This naturally requires a lot of inter-connectivity between systems. It is therefore key that internal systems speak a common language, and that information can travel seamlessly from the device, through the service lifecycle.

The best way to make that happen is to start with a service solution that dispatches a team to work with you. Off-the-shelf is ideal, to a point, but eventually, you’re going to get to the point where inter-connectivity is key. Your service solution provider needs to support you throughout the lengthy implementation and integration process. This will ensure that you’re not only taking full advantage of the present, but you’re ready for the future.

The importance of CX excellence

While remote monitoring and predictive is great, breaks are still going to happen, and the good news is that a smart customer experience infrastructure can still help keep your service appointments as close to zero-touch as possible. The easiest way to do that is through chatbots.

As with anything else, these systems are best served when they’re well-connected to the rest of the service organisation. There are plenty of chatbots out there that can pull up flags in a CRM system, but few that can take that information and action it to its fullest—routing, remote repair and ticket creation. This again stresses the importance of smart integration.

Zero-touch service is only growing in importance for service firms, and the potential is there to truly revolutionise ticket management for service firms.

 

By Tom Paquin, Senior Content Marketing Manager IFS, Field Service

 

 

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