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Field service providers drive CX, engagement, retention

Manuel Grenacher, general manager of SAP Service Cloud, offers tips for using CX best practices to improve the lives of both field service providers and the people they service.

Field service providers are an important part of any customer support system, helping to optimize, repair and automate user-facing technology. The quality of technicians and the systems that support them, such as field service management software, play a huge role in how customers view a company.

Manuel Grenacher, general manager for SAP Service Cloud, has a long history of field service work. He founded Coresystems, a field service management (FSM) developer acquired by SAP last summer that focuses on optimizing and automating as much of the field service process as possible. Here, he shares some insights as to why it's important for field service providers to focus on CX.

What can SAP offer field service providers?

Manuel Grenacher, general manager of SAP Service CloudManuel Grenacher

Manuel Grenacher: [Our field service management software] offers end-to-end functionality -- from the customer request to execution in the field. We also handle the entire process afterward, including invoicing and contract management. These days, everything is about customer experience. Customers have big moments in life, like getting a car. But they also have small CX moments, like a technician being on time. Those small moments also count.

What do companies need to keep in mind for creating good CX through field service providers?

Grenacher: Companies are always trying to differentiate their services from their competitors. To do that, either you offer more services, or you offer it on demand. In any case, you have to invest and scale up. There is a McKinsey study going around saying that, by 2020, 50% of workers will be doing a gig job.

That's perfect for field service operation. You can crowdsource tasks to freelancers, partners or other externals. In other words, companies are finding out they can scale beyond their own technicians and provide service even if they don't have those skills in-house. This delivers better CX and portfolio returns.

How do you see automation changing the way field service providers work down the road?

Grenacher: There [are] two ways to think about automation: One is to get service requests, and one is to execute them. A good FSM vendor should focus on both.

[You can automate the process] around how you get a service by automating appointments or using a chat so [customers] don't need to call in. A machine could even listen in and handle some requests. Companies can even offer chat-based or video-remote help to customers who want to try self-service.

I usually compare it to Uber. To order an Uber -- and to see it actually arrive -- is as important as the drive itself.

Service is always what you remember after you buy your product.
Manuel GrenacherGeneral manager for SAP Service Cloud

The second part, how you execute service, is more about the planning. You are making data-driven decisions to provide the right person, with the right skills, who is close by and on hand to execute the service within the fastest time frame.

I see a lot of companies are already working on the second part, but we also believe the first part is just as important. That is sometimes really broken for some customers. They end up hanging around in call centers or complicated portals trying to issue a service request. If the initial CX from field service providers is bad, it's hard for a technician to change that. Customers want service in real time. They want a message saying, 'Your technician will be here in 50 minutes.' They want to be involved in the process.

What are some trends in field service management today?

Grenacher: When we look at facilities or infrastructure, there's a lot out there that still needs to be connected. The technology is here, but larger organizations have been slow in adapting.

Mobile technology is a big help. We have a service that enables FSPs [field service providers] to label a tool with a simple 2D barcode and pair it to that barcode. If a customer sees a problem with their equipment, they can just scan it into their smartphone. That way, FSPs can identify the equipment without effort on the customer's part.

Often, customers will not address small issues because of the effort it takes, and that creates bigger issues down the road. Operators of equipment often have to service different devices from different OEMs. Things as simple as connected and labeled equipment can help solve many issues for them.

How can technicians help improve CX?

Grenacher: A technician should have all the information and history of a product on hand so they can recommend to a customer what to do on site. For example, they can tell them what spare parts to have around so the technician can fix the problem on the first visit. Also, technicians need to be more flexible than five to 10 years ago, when you learned 10 to 20 products.

Today, you have to learn on the fly. We realized when they can train on the go -- with 15-minute modules on their phone -- they really do it. Complex learning platforms and heavy trainings done in the evening mean they show up tired and don't learn.

Service teams that adapt to new technologies will win in the market. Everyone is after [the FSM] market. It's an important part of CX. Service is always what you remember after you buy your product. In the end, these vendors that started in CRM trying to optimize sales are realizing that service is even more important.

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