Field Service...The Last Frontier
Some software vendors are saying field service is the last frontier in the CRM (customer relationship management) arena.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee for providing huge new sales opportunities. I love thee for showing me how to survive the current economic slowdown. I love thee for providing potential ASP (application service provider) revenue and a healthier bottom line.
OK, it's a little corny, but this could be what you'd hear from VARs offering field service software. I am convinced this market is going to take off in a big way.
Too Much CRM?
CRM embraces service, sales, and marketing. It provides a holistic view of the customer and creates a personal relationship between the buyer and the seller. CRM helps instill loyalty in customers so vendors can receive lifelong value from each sale, rather than a one-time benefit. Customers will keep coming back for more products and services. But you've probably heard all that before.
Jack McAvoy, vice president of marketing for ViryaNet (Southborough, MA), thinks there have been too many articles about CRM. "Service, sales, and marketing have all been automated," said McAvoy. "But, service can be divided into two sectors: call center and field service. The call center sector is fully automated and connected to sales and marketing. Field service is the last frontier. Most field service operations still function using manual methods."
Imagine a system where technicians have paperwork thrown at them through the open window of a service truck. It isn't hard to do. Skilled technicians, whom are in high demand these days, usually receive their daily schedules on paper. There are no maps or time frames. There are no details about what is involved in a particular customer's maintenance contract. There is simply a list of customers who need service.
Through automation, technicians can remain in contact with their home base. They can access the information in the customer's service agreement. They can access spare parts availability and even determine if there is a fellow technician close by that may have a needed replacement part. Better yet, customers can log into a vendor's system and find out where the technician is. If you've ever had an appliance repairman tell you, "I'll be there sometime between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.," you know the frustration of waiting all day for someone who may not even show. Field service automation saves time and money while improving customer relations at the same time.
Budget Cuts Aren't A Problem
Many end users have put a hold on capital spending, but that can work to the advantage of the field service industry. If companies aren't purchasing new equipment, they will have to make repairs on the equipment they already have. Of course that means more business for field service technicians. It also means there is an increased need for efficiency in field service operations.
"Businesses can make up lost sales revenue by increasing field service offerings. But, there is a problem," says Ken Sapp, director of channel sales for FieldCentrix (Irvine, CA). "There is a shortage of skilled labor in the field service market. Even with more than 7 million mobile technicians in the United States alone, demand outweighs the supply of workers. For VARs offering field service automation systems, this is good news. Businesses will have to start offering technicians new technology or run the risk of losing these valuable employees."
There Is A Price
VARs interested in adding field service software to their offerings will have to pay a price. Sapp said VARs will have to make a time investment to take training courses. "This software streamlines multiple aspects of field service functions," Sapp stated. "Because the software and the applications are complex, VARs will need a strong desire to understand field service processes - assuming they do not have an existing knowledge of the industry. They will also need to know how to seamlessly integrate this software into existing systems. But, for VARs who make the effort, this will be a fast-growing and profitable addition to their businesses at a time when most everybody is struggling to survive a sluggish economy."