This article first appeared in the Jul 25, 2019 edition of Field Service News
First time fix rates have always been and likely always will be the number one KPI that Field Service Companies focus on, but it is an elusive number to hit, Michael Blumberg gives his expert advice...
Achieving a high first-time fix rate and completing service visits in a timely manner represents the Holy Grail for many Field Service Organizations (FSOs). Unfortunately, many FSOs face stumbling blocks to achieving this outcome. At issue, their technicians may lack the knowledge required to effectively resolve service issues in a timely manner.
In many cases, the information exists within the organization but it is difficult for technicians to find or access it in a timely manner. As a result, the customer may experience longer downtime while the FSO experiences higher operating costs associated with lost productivity, longer time spent on site, and increased calls to the Technical Support by the Field Service team.
This status quo may exist for several reasons. First, knowledge is maintained in disparate and disconnected databases. For example, service knowledge may exist in manuals, knowledge, articles, service bulletins, schematics, support tickets, or Knowledge Management Systems. Second, the information sources may differ in complexity, format, maturity or even language. Some of these sources may be analog (i.e., paper-based) while others might be digital/ online. Regardless, it becomes a time consuming and cumbersome task for technicians to find this information.
Another challenge to knowledge management that some FSOs face is that there is often no system of record or audit trail to capture the steps technicians followed or the knowledge sources they relied on to solve the problem. Documenting this information could save a lot of time next time a different technician encounters the same problem. FSOs have attempted to solve these problems through one or more the following technologies:
Many CRM/ERP applications include feature functionality for storing and retrieving repair documentation based on keyword search. Others include the ability to search for a possible solution to a problem based on the description of the symptoms. Unfortunately, CRM/ERP knowledge solutions are typically designed for a Telephone Technical Support environment. As a result, they are not necessarily mobile friendly.
Knowledge Management Solutions (KMS)
For example, CaseBased Reasoning (CBR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, or Neural Networks. These solutions provide a more precise diagnosis and accurate solution to the problem at hand then CRM/ERP solutions. However, they can be very costly and time consuming to implement particularly if the FSOs is supporting an extremely large install base of equipment with a long service tail.
Augmented Reality (AR)
This technology is gaining widespread appeal as a preferred technology for facilitating an improved remote support experience between experts and field service engineers (FSEs)/ customers. It is of course much more economical to deploy than KMS solutions listed above. The consensus among industry participants is that AR is best suited for situations where the field engineer is working on something for the first time and/or has exhausted other attempts at solving the problem.
While they are many great Knowledge tools available to FSOs, each application has its limitations. Unfortunately, no single technology is a panacea for all issues. A more effective alternative is to implement a unified knowledge platform that leverages investments in legacy Knowledge assets (e.g., service bulletins, knowledge articles, etc.) while permitting the addition of advanced functionality such as AR, IoT data, AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics.
Characteristics of the optimal solution include:
- A unified platform that connects disparate systems and knowledge bases through a single sign-on;
- Ability to deliver all service content including service manuals, service bulletins, knowledge articles, parts catalogues, and training videos on any mobile device;
- Allow Google-like search against fully indexed content from all sources for faster and more accurate results;
- Filter relevant answers based on the product failed component, symptom, or failure description;
- Easily author and publish content in real-time to deliver the most up-todate and accurate information;
- Capture technician feedback to continuously improve the content and search results;
Multilanguage support capabilities including real-time text transaction;
- Integration into enterprise systems (e..g, CRM/ERP) and other knowledge tools;
Reporting and analytics.
Electrolux, a leading global appliance manufacturer, provides a great example of a company that was able to overcome knowledge challenges by implementing a unified knowledge management platform. The company’s legacy system was outdated, not searchable, or mobile friendly.
Service information was located inside Electrolux’s firewall and there was no offline functionality. Service Technicians spent an inordinate amount of time retrieving information. They would often contact the Electrolux Technical Support Line for help, placing an increased burden on the Support Line personnel.
By implementing a solution similar to the one described above from Mize, Inc., Electrolux is now able to provide its 3,000+ service providers with real-time mobile access to knowledge documents and videos. To date, over 2,000+ documents have been published by Electrolux, reducing the number of interface points for service providers and dealers to access information.
This enhanced capability has reduced both the number of calls to the Technical Support Line and the length of hold times that Technicians experience.
Not only that, Electrolux is able to reduce their support costs. In addition, technicians are more productive as measured by shorter repair times and higher first-time fix rates all of which have a dramatic improvement on Customer Experience.