[Podcast Transcript] Science of Managing Field Assets
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Transcript to “Land of Digital Opportunities – Science of Managing Field Assets, released September 24, 2016 (Click here to listen):
Shivani: Welcome to the sixth episode of Land of Digital Opportunities Podcast by MediaAgility, a global digital consulting company.
A survey revealed that US companies that have poor customer service are losing a staggering $41 billion a year. No surprise… that 44 percent of US customers are taking their business elsewhere.
With the Field Service Management market size estimated to grow by approximately $6 Billion by 2020, it becomes extremely crucial for organizations to increase customer satisfaction, reduce operational costs —without cutting corners on safety and quality of their product or service.
I’m Shivani, and today we will be talking about the ‘Science of managing Field assets’ and let me tell you all, it’s not rocket science anymore.
If you are a Sales and Operations head with a product or service based company and manage a team that mostly operates on field, then this podcast is just for you.
In this episode we will understand what are the roadblocks in the process of field asset management that take away the soul of a business, that is, customer satisfaction. We will also try to take a deep dive into how businesses can increase productivity by tracking field force for dynamic work allocation and collaboration on the fly!
We have with us Deepak Garg, Director Digital Innovation at MediaAgility. Welcome to Land of digital opportunities Podcast, great to have you here!
Deepak: Thanks Shivani. It’s my pleasure to be here today.
Shivani: Deepak…We spoke with a leading pizza delivery company about their long-terms business goals…and they answered that they wanted to focus on continual field service improvement. According to them, at an average, each delivery driver delivers 2 orders per hour, they wanted to increase it to 3-4 orders per hour to address the challenge of increasing delivery costs. Increasing hourly wages of delivery staff has come up as a prominent factor that’s contributing to increased delivery costs. Plus, their concerns largely focused on increasing profitability, enhancing customer experience with clear visibility for operations team.
Now….with that Deepak….it seems like effectively tracking your field force to ensure that they use their time most productively while on the field.. at times gets tricky….but is that all? You have worked with so many companies and helped them solve a lot of their field asset issues, what do they say? What exactly are the problem areas identified?
Deepak: Sure thanks Shivani. So, let me take a couple examples, I’ll take an example of service field force management area and I’ll take another example from sales field force management area. By no means this covers the whole universe but these are the most prominent use cases in their particular fields. So let me start with service field force management, we were in talks with a renowned internet service provider this company provided fibre optics to customers, so typically they had a customer service bench, customers redressal, requests, complaints, and they had field force which visited customer and solved customer problems.
In this scenario, let me take actor by actor. So when I spoke with those people, first was the problem from a customer perspective. I’m a customer, I have raised a customer service request, by no means they can tell me when the customer service exec will visit me? There are vague slots, but if the customer service executive is running late or if his previous service requests are running late, I have no visibility in that data, so typically my feeling is that person will not come on time, the person might not come today itself, he/she might come tomorrow. I’m completely in the dark, completely dissatisfied, I don’t know what’s happening.
Now let’s take up the field service representative perspective. I’m on the road, I get complaint after complaint. I get a list of complaint in the morning, I try to sequence them, I go one after the other. If any of the complaints are running late there’s no way the system can manage it. Then customers complain that things don’t work well, the service requests are not serviced on time. I’m lost, there’s no way I can update my headoffice during the day about how my day is going, for example, if I’m running late and other service request have to be re-assigned, I cannot do anything. If I keep calling the head office, I waste my time , so there’s a productivity loss.
If I look from operations team perspective. Suppose I am an Operations Head, I am again lost. I really have no idea about what is the overall productivity of the system, I don’t understand how to improve month on month, and how do I better this? We took example of increasing wages of Pizza delivery boys. Same thing happens here I cannot throw hundred personnel at this. I have to understand what is the optimum number where I can have satisfied customers, as well as I am not spending too much on service personnel. As an Operations Head, I have no visibility, I am completely lost. So when we look at these, everywhere in the ecosystem exists similar problem. There is no dynamic allocation…there is no dynamic tracking. There is no consideration for real time traffic routing…and visibility for everyone in the system is missing
Let’s take another example, suppose I am a FMCG giant. I have lot of salespeople on the floor. They go from distributor to distributor, collect feedback, collect next set of orders.As a sales head, I am worried, are my people really doing enough on the field? are they visiting my customers? are they doing most optimal work they can? are they starting the day on time? are they spending enough time with the customers I need to track and understand what they are doing?
Shivani: Yeah I totally agree with you..! Deepak I was surprised how many customer surveys I stumbled upon online, came up with comments such as “your service is great, you got back to me right away….” “Wow how quickly you responded to my inquiry and it made all the difference…” Customer’s experience matters a lot….Deepak it’s time for a quick break, and right after the break we will talk about how Operations Managers can easily address these issues with an efficient field force management system in place. Right after the break! Stay tuned!
Shivani: Welcome back to Land of digital opportunities podcast by MediaAgility and now back in conversation with Deepak Garg about the ‘Science of managing Field assets’.
Deepak we discussed before the break that how.. In today’s world of digital relationship management, response time is one of the only ways we can communicate our sense of commitment for our customers and their experience. You cannot afford to disappoint your customer…Because bad experiences don’t stay between the customer and the service organization. We live in the times when social media is like a little brother who is fearless and watching everything and who gives every customer a platform to publicly share bad customer service experiences in painful detail.
How can the problems such as loss of productivity, infuriated customer, increased operational costs be addressed?
Deepak: Sure we have done this for quite a few customers. Let me share a broad perspective about it. The Problems you mentioned are absolutely real. So let me create a solution scenario for the problems discussed few minutes ago. Let’s take the example of internet service provider. We spoke about the problems at length, so what the solution could do is we have enough technology backbone available to do things in a far better way. Let me start with Field Service agent perspective; Imagine my field service agent has an app created by the Internet service provider. The app is giving all the information field service agent needs. The field service agent logs in and when he starts the day he says I am available! That is the way the system knows he has started his day. His attendance is marked in. Similarly by tracking his location, the system will figure out where he is and will find out the closest job that he can do.
So with least amount of travel he can reach the first job. Also what the system builders along with giving the customers address, imagine the system can even tell you an optimized route that is jam-free or has lesser traffic that can help the agent reach customer’s location in a fastest manner possible and will give him navigation directions. So the person is already more productive and reaches the customer faster. As soon as the agent reaches the customer’s place they say they have started this job, and when they finish the job they say job complete. This way the central system knows when the job started and when it completed. Again the system dynamically looks what is the next job that is closest to the agent’s location.
The app shows all the jobs that are assigned on the basis of location proximity to the field service agent. The travel time is reduced drastically. The travel cost is reduced drastically. The productivity of the field service agent is increased by multifold. Again if this person feels sick in the afternoon he can go to the app and say I am not available. And system will again look up for the job queued up for this person. And put it back into the system and give it to someone else. So the system is anytime real time! The field service agents knows next job at hand, for example I started a job at 12 noon and I finished it at 12:15 and someone raised a service request at 12:10 from the next building. That job will be given to the field service agent, and when in the next 20 minutes he finishes the job, the customer will be super happy!
From a customer’s perspective – because the field service agent status is updated in the central system, the customers will keep getting informed about what’s happening with his service request. When is it scheduled. The location of the customer service representatives can be tracked so the customer is completely informed. They will appreciate that even if there is a delay in the system they will appreciate for informing them. So the customer is happy.
Now from the operations team perspective, previously all the allocation that happened was pretty much manual. The operations team just took 5 requests for a day and gave it to the field service agent. The field service agents decided their own sequence based on knowledge they had of road topography and with no live knowledge of the traffic, and then they randomly went place to place. On the contrary, in this new system which is completely dynamic, the central system is actually allocating the job based on location. This system is calculating ETA of every job. Based on all the field service agents in the field, it will create a dynamic schedule to decide sequence of the job based on location. And if the new job is coming into the system it will again recalculate, for example the system receives 5 service requests.
The system has initiated and sequence of the job will give it to the field service agents. The system will also consider the road topography in terms of what is the best route Or what is the best sequence to do the job. Along with traffic conditions, the system in the back-end will take care of all of that. So everybody in the system gets real time information, the operations team get clear visibility on what is scheduled for a day. We have created a cockpit where the person can actually see the field service agent on a map in real-time where they are? where they have been? What they doing right now? What is the ETA? They are completely informed.This way we can alleviate the problem of everybody in the system. And there are multiple benefits : Let me cover the FMCG examples and we will get back to the benefits.
Suppose I am a FMCG giant I have people on the ground who are visiting my distributors. Again we can provide the sales automation app and can be given to the field sales agents who can check in and mark the attendance when they start their day. The system will give a list of customers to be presented and will provide navigation to reach the customer based on live traffic conditions and road topography. The salesperson will visit the customer, we can even track the amount of time they spent with the customer as part of the app, even live orders can be fed back in the central system. So everyone is informed about who all customers have been attended and what are the new orders coming in. This way sales forecast can be more real time.
Suppose he is visiting a customer X, before visiting the customer X the system will tell, what are the invoices due with the customer (or, please bring this topic up when you meet the customer), or this customer has not order a product for many days, why don’t you again talk to him about the product. All of these things can be pushed in real-time by the system. And the sales agents in the field can use the information – if we go back to the sales head, he is getting live information he can see where all my sales agents have travelled today? Which point they have spent how much time? They are convinced that the person has actually visited the customer. Whatever orders are there, are live punched back to the system via the app I can see live forecasts, and this works really well!
Now if you want to sum up the benefits coming out of this, first of all tracking is much better. Information updating and dissemination is far better for all actors. The productivity of the system has gone up. Imagine problem of pizza delivery boy resolved to increasing number of pizza pizza deliveries from 2 to 3 – 3.5. This is very much possible with this system. There is enough productivity gain brought back by the system. The customer satisfaction is far better. The live dissemination of information is far better, because of the effective system like this. These are some of the few things we have done for our clients that have worked really really well for them. Back to you Shivani.
Shivani: Wow…So as an Operations leader you are no longer making decisions from old and inaccurate data. The real-time flow of information and visibility into job status’ mean your time is spent well working on strategic decisions rather than crunching static spreadsheets.
So.. a dynamic field force management system can provide:
Mobility to field service agents
…can ensure job assignment based on who is available nearby
Give Real time insights to operations teams at the HQ
and deliver the customer experience that takes precedence over everything else
It’s like a digital overhaul for how most companies in this industry operate today!!!
Let’s take a quick break Deepak and in the next segment let’s hear from you on how all of this can actually be put to work!
Shivani: Welcome back to Land of digital opportunities podcast by MediaAgility and now back in conversation with Deepak Garg about the ‘Science of managing Field assets’
So Deepak, I know that you have worked with many customers to help them achieve all that we talked about in the previous segment. Tell us more about the actual solution that has worked for your customer partners but before that I’d like to know what are the common concerns they come up with to get started?
Deepak: So the typical concerns from the business side is – Will there be a productivity gain in the system? and second is what will be the productivity gain? So business whoever is funding them are always concerned as to what are the return on investment? On this particular thing it will come in what duration? What time and how much? This is a typical concern as there is always cost involved in maintaining the system. Someday it signed the concern where will this be hosted? What will be the infrastructure cost? Will there be any additional licensing involved? How do we take care of availability scalability of the system? The way we alleviate these concerns are as part of the workshop, where we try and gather the present data and figure out what is the present productivity? What are typical businesses like this? What are the productivity gains?….and we have helped them achieve that. By that we can come up with rough numbers about what they should be able to land at, and that actually give them a comfort feel. And with it we explain to them how their solution is running on a very very robust infrastructure, how secure it is, how did not do anything related to infrastructure licences. So that alleviates the typical problems and that works.
and with that I’d like to thank you for being our guest and I hope this podcast was valuable for our listeners in understanding the way operations managers can increase productivity and customer satisfaction with field service and field sales automation.
And.. for our listeners, If you want to know the secret of this science that eases your field force management problems then do get in touch with us, we’d love to assist you!
It was wonderful chatting with you Deepak. Thank you.