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February 27, 2020

Field Service Management - Have you explored the ocean?


Field Service Management (FSM) has evolved over the years from being a back-office operation to one of the key customer relationship management processes. Likewise, the field service technician persona has moved on ways. Today, the field technician who meets and greets the customer is supposed to be the brand ambassador for the organization, making or breaking the standing.

While most service organizations have embraced basic, shiny or sizzling variants of field service solutions depending on their appetite for budget, needs and change management, has the FSM ocean been devoured for finding the Next Best Feature?

With automated and advanced field service solutions walking the ramp, here is a list of few advanced field service features that if added, can bring in the flavors of NexGen Field Service Management -

Get Smart with IoT - These days, we have been living and breathing IoT then why leave the field service space? While much has been spoken of IoT and field service amalgamation, to start with, IoT could be leveraged for automating some of the field service tasks, starting with easy ones like predictive maintenance, emergency breakdowns, remote monitoring of assets/ equipment, tracking the safety of technicians or enjoying an analysis of the equipment's (projections, failure analysis etc.)  with the tons of data generated by IoT sensors.

Get a virtual tour with Augmented Reality - This feature is fast catching up with the field service fraternity wherein knowing the details of the asset during the first time visit or training the technicians/ new joiners in the organization is no more a tedious task at hand. This feature can be extended further to provide the right knowledge to the technician on- the- go or on-field.

Learning with Machine Learning - Gone are the days when one would have to rely on manual reconciliation of numbers, failures or progress reports. Machine Learning lets you learn everything on the field - Understanding the technician work pattern to technician utilization and ramp up, inventory forecasts for upcoming jobs etc. Either utilize the in- built machine learning algorithms within the FSM solutions or write one of yours and integrate with the data generated of the FSM solution to get the forecasts.

On field collaboration - While contact center collaboration or ask an expert is a popular service feature, the usage of the same for improving the field service experience is also being widely deliberated. On- field collaboration or chat windows are being explored for peer collaboration, technician to dispatcher interaction, supervisor to technician expert inputs sharing etc. Again, this is also a feature being in- built into the FSM solutions, if not can be built outside of the solution and integrated using API based mechanisms.

Intelligent Insights and Analytics - Every organization collects data or generates analytical snap shot of the on- field performance, so what's new? The in thing is to automate the data analysis either using ML algorithms or in- built intelligence of the FSM solutions to draw out meaningful data patterns for productivity improvements, performance views and forecasts for future planning.

Empower Technicians to generate leads - This feature, quite eminent in manufacturing sector, is catching up pace with other verticals wherein on- field technicians are being empowered to be able to cross/ up sell products and/ or services while meeting their planned activities.

Connected Field Service - 'Connected Sales and Service' were the successful mantras from yesteryear. While the same still holds good, the new thing is 'Connected Field Service'. What does it mean for an organization is to amalgamate the Contact Center and Field Service operations for a seamless experience not only for the customer but also for the technician. Having a 360 degree of the customer entailing assets to service request to work order history will not only help the contact center agent strike a better conversation but also for a technician to provide meaningful services and who knows a cross sell opportunity!

The list of advancements in Field Service is overwhelming. A prudent strategy for embracing them in a calculated manner can reap benefits like productivity improvements, better ROI, enhanced CX and UX. So, are you exploring the ocean of features?  

February 6, 2020

Customer Experience Management - Transformative Journey for Utilities


A chronology of events for an enquiry/complaint about the increase in water charges, resolved in a conventional manner. Well typical example of a Reactive Customer Service. Food for THOUGHT and CHANGE!

While novel and transformed variations of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) like Customer Experience Management (CXM) are being defined with enterprises across all industries embracing them, Utilities sector has been perceived to be lagging in the race of CRM transformations.

Reasons - While Experience Management continues to be one of the top agendas, manifold reasons for this slow pace of CX transformations are -

  • Complexity of the ecosystem - Utilities landscape is known for its complexity with the pressures of infrastructure demons, elements beyond human control (e.g. - natural calamities), and too many integrations across systems etc.
  • Services should work - Given the nature of the services (like water, electricity, gas, etc.) the universal expectation of customers is for them to work seamlessly without the need for a touch and/ or maintenance. The interactions only happen when there is a fault or breakage in services or billing issues, without much need for proactive gestures
  • Change Management - Successful transformations start with a mindset, thought process and business process changes aided with a successful launch of the new system. Be it the nature of job or the talent issues, appetite for newer processes and systems has been one of the challenges
  • Legacy upgrades - With extensive investments into deep rooted legacy systems, ideas for a newer, shiny solution replacing them or managing the data/processes in one centralized system looks demonic.

So, what is the resolution?

While the name and work of Customer Experience Management stands exciting, the implementation of the same would need much more than budgets and blessings, especially amidst some of the challenges highlighted above. Based on my experience, few points to be deliberated could be - 

  • Outline the CX blueprint by understanding the customer needs - A system addressing need is a transformation indeed!
  • Plan for UX to ease the pains of Change Management - Usable system wins!
  • Prioritize the backlog/features to be implemented - Temptation to build Rome in a day will kill!
  • Analytics-based actions and strategies - Insight led New or renew actions!
  • Review legacy processes and integrations - Simplification is synonym to success!
  • Add on digital features but with a balance - Too many ingredients spoil the broth!
  • Account for feedback and inputs along the journey - Criticism paves the way to success!
  • Include essential elements of Personalization and Engagement - An engaged customer is your walking campaign! 

What could be an ideal architecture?

There are multiple solutions available in the market trusted to deliver the much-needed Customer Experience Management touch to the Utilities landscape. However, this article shows one such conceptual architecture using Salesforce based CXM features and some of the commonly used Utilities applications (like Oracle CC&B) -

  • Customer Journey Management using Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Einstein - The feature set addresses business requirements like managing market events for Utilities, multi-channel campaigns (email, push notifications etc.), customer journeys including their social activity monitoring, intelligent and insight based next best actions and offers
  • Sales Management using Salesforce Sales and Partner Community Cloud - The business requirements of managing end-to-end sales either online or on-the-go, channel partner monitoring and management, outlook integration for contact sync and activity management etc. can all be addressed using the components of Sales Cloud. As the need be, Einstein based Lead Scoring feature can also be brought in to qualify the leads getting into the sales cycle. Sales was never so easy with on-the-go solution!
  • Intelligent Service using Salesforce Service and Customer Community Cloud - Utilities, known for heavy service functions can look up to Salesforce Service Cloud coupled with Einstein, Live Agent and Customer Community to address the basic as well as the advanced needs of services while keeping the themes of Personalization and Engagement as the core - Omni channel-based Case/Service Request/Enquiry/Complaints management, easy Computer Telephony integration with Salesforce Open CTI, entitlement/SLA management, guided help for the agents with knowledge management and self- service portal for self-management of cases/enquiries while having a 360 degree of the services, billing etc. Furthermore, the platform provides personalized features like guided Chatbot, Live Agent and Next Best Action prompts for the agents. If this was not enough, one can configure a rich, dynamic UI using the latest Lightning UX both for the Utilities Contact Center agents as well as the end customers. Win situation for all!
  • Connected Field Service with shiny features of Salesforce Field Service Lightning - Again, Utilities sector with weighty field service functions needs much more than a conventional system for managing and monitoring field activities. Starting from a connected journey from Case to Work Order to a Service Appointment, Automated Scheduling and Assignment features with real time optimization, dispatcher console for field activity monitoring, intuitive mobile app for technicians which not only mans the day activities but also inventory needs, up/cross sell functions, offline access and knowledge access on the go, FSL can be configured to provide the right set of features for successful field service management. A happy technician is a good brand ambassador!
  • Smart Features using Salesforce Einstein. IoT etc. - To adopt 'Smart' tag for the Utility services one can look at connecting the products and services with smart solutions like IoT based automation, Einstein powered guided Bots, Einstein powered intelligent analytical analysis for insight led improvements, predictive maintenance services etc. 

Conclusion - Today, while Utility enterprises have started embracing the digital customer journeys, there is still ways to go before smart services become a household theme. Having said this, with digital innovations paving the way for next best services, the potential for becoming a customer centric utility is no more a far-fetched dream or a struggle. With right concoctions and innovations, the road to acquiring the Smart CXM tag would be clear and near. 

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