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Shifting Field Service from a Cost Center to a Profit Center
Turning your field service operations into meaningful revenue generators is a hot topic for many companies right now. At both large and small organizations, many service centers operate at minimal profit margins, if not as outright cost centers. But we have approached a point where many company executives are looking for strategies to change this system – cost centers are of course the first departments to be heavily scrutinized during times of trouble, and no one wants their department to be considered a burdensome overhead where the first brutal cuts will inevitably be made.
In essence, making the transformation to a profit center requires focus on two things: reducing costs and generating revenue. In order for this to happen, however, there needs to be a fundamental change of vision. Viewing field service as a cost center – a necessary function of the overall business, but one that costs money and doesn’t directly control the revenues it helps generate – is in fact becoming an outdated approach quickly. Indeed, a research report last year – Benchmarking Field Service in the UK and Europe – revealed that 65% of UK/Europe respondent organizations were successfully operating service as an independent profit center.
How are they doing this? By embracing new technologies, and by understanding the fact that today’s field service technicians are often having more interactions with customers than marketing and sales people.
Field Service Technicians Are More Trusted Than Sales People
Many companies have learned that their field service technicians are the hidden sales force right there already within the workforce. When out on the job, they take on the role of trusted advisor when dealing with customers – and this puts them in a great position to start recommending and indeed selling further products or services.
However, they need to be equipped with the necessary technology – which will give them immediate on-the-go access to the necessary information – in order to do it. In the first instance, the mobile-equipped field service technician can access SLAs, customer histories, service histories, and other data that enables them to not only better-service machines, but provide customers with additional guidance to help them make their machinery as productive as possible.
In addition, technicians that are trained to identify sales opportunities, and who are also able to access the most appropriate content from sales and marketing to educate the customer and make the sale while in the field, open up further opportunities to delight customers and generate revenue during a visit – often at little extra cost to the company. The overall result is that customers experience a better quality of service, which leads to improved customer retention rates and higher long-term profits in itself; at the same time, the door is opened for crucial new upselling and value-add selling opportunities. In short, when technicians are able to bring more to a service than just the fix, they are empowered to become expert, all-round customer satisfaction agents.
Creating a profit a center also requires strategies that cut costs as well as generate revenues. And this means improving efficiencies at every turn. Once again, it is the field technicians themselves that often have the answer. Due to their time spent in the field, technicians will already be in possession of the necessary expertise to streamline processes (especially repeatable ones) which puts them in an ideal position to help companies strategize their shift. Knowledge of how to optimize various operations – such as scheduling and routes, identifying which services customers are most likely to add when upsold, and how to reduce time spent on jobs – can all be collated in a remotely accessible knowledge bank. Techs can also often have crucial insight of certain supplier contracts which may be able to be renegotiated, or indeed where unnecessary spending is taking place.
On the technology front, the Internet of Things (IoT) is also shaping up to be a real game-changer for field service providers. Indeed, 81% of industry leaders surveyed by Worldwide Business Research (WBR) believe that smart, connected products will become a fundamental part of their organizations over the next five to ten years. The technology enables predictive maintenance, which shifts the idea of field service from being reactive to proactive – scheduling fixes of machinery and equipment before a malfunction occurs. This reduces downtimes, saves on additional call-out costs, and continues to delight customers by anticipating their needs and addressing them before disasters strike.
In addition, the integration of a CRM with field service management software solutions can help service departments better-optimize scheduling and dispatch. When a call-out is received, the CRM can automatically match the skillsets of available technicians against the issues the customer is experiencing and dispatch the best person for the job. What’s more, the CRM will also be able to identify possible upsell opportunities, and ensure the technician is furnished with all the necessary information required to resolve the issue on the first visit.
Winning in the Modern Service Economy
Customer satisfaction is today the primary differentiator for many field service companies. By ensuring that field technicians are equipped with all the necessary information to not only deliver a better all-round service, but are empowered to act as salespeople when in the field as well, and by utilizing mobile, the IoT, and sophisticated CRM solutions, companies are discovering that they can reduce costs while generating new streams of revenue. Ultimately, they are transforming their field service function from a cost center to a profit center that can compete and win in the modern service economy.
Profit-driving initiatives are set to be a hot topic at Field Service Europe 2018. Be sure to download the Field Service Europe 2018 Agenda for more top insights and challenges facing the industry today.