Q&A with Industry Expert Kevin Bowers

4 Dec
Q&A with Industry Expert Kevin Bowers

Kevin Bowers is the Director of Field Services Research at the Technology & Services Industry Association (or TSIA). TSIA helps industrial equipment, enterprise IT, healthcare, and other tech-sensitive industries increase their revenue and optimize their profits by employing fact-based business frameworks and best practices.

What changes have you seen in the area of field service over the past 5 years?  Are these shifts occurring at just the OEM or Distributor level, or more broadly?

First, OEMs and distributors are trying to get away from the more reactive type services (“firefighting,” if you will) to being able to provide more preventative and proactive services. Customers are now understanding the benefit to this as well.

Second, customers are starting to tighten their SLAs (their Service Level Agreement requirements). It used to be okay to be there in two days, now it’s, “Be here in a day or less, and if you don’t there’s a penalty.” So, tightening these SLAs with penalties is a development.

It also used to be normal for the customer to say, “I need you to get here.” Now, it’s not when you get there, it’s when you resolve it. It doesn’t matter how fast you arrive on site if it takes you twice as long to resolve it. The shift from focusing on response times more to focusing on resolution times is new.

Finally, one of the biggest shifts in the “new normal” that the pandemic is accelerating is the need for having your installed base connected so you can remotely support and gather data. I think the pandemic accelerated that trend quite a bit. This connectivity and data gathering is the foundation of being able to offer proactive services.

These are broad-based changes. It’s at the OEM and distributor level because a lot of them are being pushed by the customer. I think that everyone is seeing it.

Is technology helping to change the way people think about field service? If so, how is technology impacting the industry?

I think everyone thinks of field service as, “something breaks, and I call somebody, and they come and fix it.” Now that more technology is being connected, it’s proactively telling the customer things they need to do to improve their business outcomes. I think it’s been a little bit slow getting to industrial equipment, but it’s here now and it’s helping quite a bit for the ones who are willing to adopt it.

In your opinion, what are the missed opportunities in field service today? Why?

One missed opportunity is the capability to plan staffing levels. It seems that Sales sells increasingly tightened SLAs (saying, “we will resolve same day”), but then that information is not always relayed to Service. That means Service has to try to figure out how many more people they need and where the job is located to achieve a promised service level.

There hasn’t been as much structure around capacity planning as there could be. That’s where something like what The UP! App offers as far as a marketplace for field service can help.

What capabilities will industrial manufacturers have to adopt in order to effectively utilize field service organizations?

It’s knowledge management. We often hear all the stats about the “silver tsunami.” There’s a lot of people, especially in field service and industrial equipment, who are part of the older generation that are going to be leaving the workforce. They have a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge and a lot of talent. But it’s all tribal, it’s not documented anywhere.

You need to be able to document this knowledge. It will help your newer entrants into the workforce and also allows for some self-service for the customer. You could even find ways to monetize that knowledge. I think that knowledge management will make every service organization even more efficient. You can send some of the newer people out and they’ll have access to the data to fix things quicker.

Learn more about the UP! service marketplace and get quick, accurate service for your machines today.