Combating-Knowledge-Loss

Help Wanted: Combating Knowledge Loss in an Aging Workforce

There is no doubt that the “Silver Tsunami” is upon us. For those not familiar with the “Silver Tsunami”, it refers to the large amount of aging baby-boomers reaching retirement age and preparing to leave the workforce.

In field service, this comes with its own unique challenges. Namely, the struggle to retain and transfer the knowledge and expertise that the retiring workforce has built up over their career.

In a recent survey conducted by The Service Council (TSC), 7 out of 10 organizations indicated that the loss of talent and knowledge in field service was the biggest challenge their company was either currently facing or would be facing in the next 5-10 years.

Don’t Wait for the Retirement Party

The worst way to prepare for turnover in any business is to not prepare. This is especially true in field service. Waiting until your technicians are already headed for the retirement door all but guarantees losing their considerable knowledge and expertise. Their focus will be heavily on the next chapter of their lives, not on retaining their know-how for their successors.

Therefore, it’s important to be proactive and anticipate. The best way to do this is to capture that knowledge now. The Aberdeen Group states that Best-in-Class organizations are 62% more likely to have a centralized repository of service data, ensuring critical service knowledge doesn’t leave the organization along with the technician.

However, having a repository is only half the solution. The Aberdeen Group also found that Best-in-Class are 67% more likely to provide field technicians with easy access to parts and repair information via mobile devices.

Survival Requires Knowledge Capture AND Deployment into the Field

Capturing and retaining the knowledge of experienced technicians serves no purpose if that knowledge isn’t accessible to the people in your organization who need it most.

Currently, most mobile tools in field service focus on automating the administrative side of an organization, such as decreasing paperwork, expediting invoicing and eliminating billing errors. While these types of mobility tools certainly have their place, they do little to support technicians where they need it most – at the point of service.

Organizations must invest in mobile knowledge solutions that technicians will benefit from while on site. These include tools that provide online/offline access to maintenance, installation and break/fix information, as well as tools that help them to identify, locate and order parts needed for a repair.

As companies face an increase in field service technicians reaching retirement age, these are the only tools that will ensure the new generation has access to the knowledge and experiences of their predecessors.

The Silver Tsunami doesn’t have to wipe out your field service organization. By anticipating turnover, ensuring that knowledge is captured in a central library, and then providing that knowledge to your technicians through the power of mobile tools, you can surf the waves with ease.

For tips on creating and delivering a knowledge base that increases first-time fix rates and drives profitability, download the white paper: “Setting Your Knowledge Free”

Posted by / November 20, 2017 / Posted in Blog
knowledge-as-a-service

Infomill Selected as a Field Service Innovator by IDC

Infomill, a leading provider of knowledge solutions for field service technicians, has been recognized as one of four IDC Innovators in the field service market. The new report, “IDC Innovators: Field Service for Manufacturing 2017” profiles field service vendors who specialize in manufacturing and offer an innovative technology, groundbreaking new business model or both.

Knowledge-as-a-Service

According to Jonathan Ralphs, CEO, Infomill was selected because of its AnswersAnywhere Knowledge-as-a-Service which combines people, process and technology to convert, deliver and continuously optimize the knowledge required for field service organizations to increase customer satisfaction, shorten field visits and drive efficiency, accuracy and profitability. Ralphs said that the types of knowledge that Infomill knowledge experts convert include hard copy and PDF documents, service manuals, schematic drawings, exploded diagrams, part lists, product descriptions and alerts, database output, images and videos.

“We are gratified that AnswersAnywhere has been recognized as an innovative solution in the highly competitive field service market. Because AnswersAnywhere is a Knowledge-as-a-Service, we can help our customers create and deploy a sophisticated field service knowledge base in weeks rather than months,” Ralphs said.

Knowledge Management Solutions to Improve Customer Satisfaction

About Infomill: For the past 21 years, Infomill has been focused on repurposing data to create revolutionary aftermarket production support tools that reduce repeat service visits and drive up customer satisfaction for field service organizations. Infomill has a pedigree of successful aftermarket information projects with multi-national companies in HVAC, aerospace, mass transit, materials handling and other knowledge-critical sectors. Infomill is located in Derby, UK and Seattle, USA.

International Data Corporation (IDC) is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. With more than 1,100 analysts worldwide, IDC offers global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries.

For further information about Infomill and AnswersAnywhere, visit www.infomill.com or contact the US office: telephone 206-850-8503 or email sales@infomill.com

How Mobile Technology Can Solve Your Customers’ #1 Complaint

Mobile technology is a hot topic in field service. However, few organizations are leveraging it to its fullest potential in order to reduce first-time fix rates and improve customer satisfaction.

Field service has evolved significantly in the last few years and, in order to keep up, so has the technology. Gone are the days when the service organization was nothing more than a cost center and companies could rely on reactive maintenance to stay afloat. Now, the service organization is viewed as a highly important (and profitable!) piece of the puzzle and providing service excellence plays a central role in a company’s overall strategy for success.

With the immense changes that field service has undergone, one thing remains the same: the importance of the first-time fix rate. Not only does a high first-time fix rate mean fewer truck rolls, more jobs completed and lower service costs, but it also directly impacts customer satisfaction. At 61%, the number one complaint from customers is that the technician didn’t resolve the issue.

Think about that – 61% of customer complaints are directly related to an organization’s first-time fix rates! It’s no wonder that Aberdeen Group names best-in-class field service organizations as those with a 90% first-time fix rate.

While accomplishing a fix rate worthy of the best in class has beleaguered service organizations for years, what was once a difficult challenge is now accomplishable through field service technology; mainly around the availability of mobile tools.

Knowledge Base Solutions to Improve Fix Rates

The importance of mobile technology is a hot topic in field service and most – if not all— organizations are well-aware that they need to harness this trend if they want to avoid becoming an industry laggard.

Mobile technology is helping service centers remove paper-based process while giving management insight into field performance and resources, and providing technicians with the most up-to-date work order and job information while in the field.

However, there is still one area of field service mobility that is hugely overlooked. And funny enough, it’s also the one area that has the potential to directly affect an organization’s first-time fix rates: mobile parts identification and technical information apps.

A recent study by The Service Council noted that time spent looking for information is a top concern for field service technicians, with over 30% of techs ranking it as the top pressure in their job. In addition, Aberdeen Group has found that 19% of first-time fixes are missed due to lack of technical and parts information at the point of service. It stands to reason that providing technicians with this information is the fastest track to improved first-time fix rates and happier customers.

What Do Your Field Service Technicians Need?

So, what does an organization look for in a mobile parts and technical information tool? Here are some key characteristics the solution must have:

  • Online/offline capabilities – In order to drive your first-time fix rates up, your techs have to be able to access the information they need at the point of service, whether or not they’re able to connect to the internet.
  • Intuitive, searchable, interactive UI: The tech needs to quickly find the information they need. This includes being able to search large quantities of information, click on related hyperlinks, zoom in on exploded diagrams and locate part numbers easily.
  • Continuous optimization: Parts and technical knowledge are only useful if it’s current and up-to-date. Any mobile parts app must have the capability to be updated frequently so technicians are getting the most current and reliable information available when on site.

Adopting a mobile solution with the above characteristics will ensure that field service technicians will have access to the critical decision-making information they need to repair the equipment the first time. Technicians are the key to happy customers and providing them with the mobile tools necessary at the point of service is necessary if service organizations want to see a leap in their first-time fix rates and their satisfied customers.

Posted by / August 31, 2017 / Posted in Blog

Avoiding the Field Service Perfect Storm

Aberdeen Group’s February 2016 research report concluded two things: the field service workforce is aging, and organizations don’t have enough visibility into the value of knowledge being delivered in the field.

What will happen to the quality of service being provided if the most experienced technicians retire and the new talent doesn’t have access to the knowledge the elder generation built up over the years? When these two issues arise at the same time, an event referred to as “The Perfect Storm” by The Service Council’s Aly Pinder, the service organization suffers.

Losing Internal Knowledge is the Problem; What’s the Solution?

Field service organizations are well aware of the aging workforce and talent gap. According to Aberdeen Group, even the Best-in-Class are facing the challenge of addressing it. The impending need to not only retain tribal field service knowledge as organizations lose a sizeable amount of technicians to retirement, but also leverage this knowledge to somehow fill the looming skills gap that is created. An organization must figure out how to tackle this challenge if they wish to remain competitive.

The industry’s thought-leaders advise that organizations need to make better use of knowledge management tools if they want to keep ensuring service excellence, and they aren’t exactly wrong. After all, a lack of information isn’t the issue. Most organizations are swamped with disparate information and knowledge in various non-compatible forms. The first step to avoiding a perfect storm is collecting all of the disparate knowledge into a single format.

Field service knowledge must be mobile to be effective

However, this is where most field service knowledge management ends. What good is knowledge if it’s just sitting on a server somewhere? That knowledge then needs to be developed into a “single pane of glass” for an organization’s hundreds – or even thousands – of technicians to access at the point of service. In addition, organizations need to be sure the information their techs are accessing is up-to-date, accurate and can be accessed quickly and efficiently. Otherwise, first time fix rates and customer satisfaction will drop.

In my previous blog, “Knowledge Management for a Millennial Workforce” I discussed the important role knowledge management will play in the training of new talent. One thing organizations can expect from the new generation of technicians is a need for connectivity. The millennial field technician expects to have the knowledge they need at their fingertips 24/7, and organizations must be prepared to provide that.

First and foremost, field service knowledge management should always empower the technician with the right answers to do their job efficiently and correctly.

Mobile knowledge management is the key to avoiding the field service Perfect Storm. It is the only way organizations can ensure that the tribal knowledge of experienced field service technicians is retained and can also be deployed into the hands of the people who need it most – the new talent.

Posted by / July 27, 2017 / Posted in Blog
Importance-of-Mobile-Knowledge

The Importance of Mobile Knowledge in the Field

Mobile Field Service Applications

In a guest blog for Field Service Digital, Infomill’s VP of Sales and Business Strategy Bo Wandell discusses how mobile knowledge apps for technical and parts data have historically been viewed as a “nice to have”. However, as more organizations are making mobile tools a priority, they are starting to recognize the positive impact that these types of knowledge apps have in transforming their field service teams.

field-service-knowledge-management-and-millennials

What Do Millennials Know? Knowledge Management in an Aging Workforce

The Future Starts Now – Millennials in Field Service

Millennials seem to be all over the news lately, whether it’s their dining preferencesspending habits, or how their apparent love of avocado toast is dooming them to a life of poverty. So it makes sense that millennials are also a hot topic in field service, with Field Technologies magazine naming “Managing Millennials” as one of the major themes to come out of Field Service USA 2017.

*For transparency’s sake I should probably note that I’m a millennial and while I don’t own my own home, I’ve also never eaten avocado toast in my life.

In my previous blog, I talked about the importance of knowledge management (KM) in field service. Ineffective or underutilized KM can truly be the nail in the coffin for service organizations, especially as more and more organizations are coming face to face with the realities of an aging workforce. According to the Field Service 2016 Solution Spend report, 61% of Field Service USA attendees surveyed plan to invest in knowledge management within the next 24 months.

Of course, grappling with an aging workforce and preparing for the inevitable generation shift in service organizations is hardly a new concern. In fact, by 2025 millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce. While they may be getting a bad rap in the media, there is no denying that millennials bring a whole new and equally important strength to field service.

A Shift in Field Service Knowledge Management

KM is evolving from being traditionally product-focused to providing more opportunities for interaction, learning and collaboration. All field service technicians understand the importance of KM at the point of service. However, as the aging workforce retires, it will be imperative that the new talent is willing to embrace the modern KM systems so that service teams can effectively share and retain tribal knowledge.

The new generation of field service technicians are exceptionally comfortable with technology, more so than any other generation before them. This is great news because KM technology is progressing at lightening speeds, and becoming more and more imperative to field service success. Millennials are uniquely qualified to adapt to and accept new innovations in KM technology, and take on the challenges of learning a new system.

Mobile Service Management is Crucial to Empowering Millennial Technicians

However, KM software that effectively handles the retention of existing knowledge is only half the battle. The real challenge is deploying this knowledge into the hands of their field technicians. This is the generation of connectivity after all, and the millennial field technician expects to have the knowledge they need at their fingertips 24/7. Service organizations are quickly discovering this as well; Aberdeen Group reports that the Best-in-Class are 52% more likely to prioritize investment into mobile tools in order to provide technicians with better access to information in the field.

As service organizations contend with retaining and transferring tribal knowledge from an aging workforce, knowledge management will play a more important role than ever before in the training of new talent. First, organizations must recognize and make use of the millennial technicians’ unique technological strengths. The most effective way to do this is through the use of a knowledge management system that caters to their need for mobile knowledge. In doing so, organizations can ensure they are creating an empowered and efficient service team.

Visit AnswersAnywhere to find out more about mobile knowledge management that is purpose-built for field service.

[i] https://www.fieldtechnologiesonline.com/doc/major-themes-at-field-service-usa-0001

Posted by / June 8, 2017 / Posted in Blog
Its-not-all-about-technology

Field Service Knowledge Management – It’s not all about technology!

Field service excellence begins and ends with knowledge management (KM).

It’s the number one reason for that “aha!” moment when a technician realizes what’s wrong and how to fix it. After all, how can any team expect to be efficient if they can’t effectively retain, share and access critical knowledge when out in the field. Poor knowledge management can be the nail in the coffin for a service organization because it leads to fewer first-time fixes, longer repairs, higher service costs and unhappy customers.

In the last few years, field service technology has made a massive leap forward, and the technology around information management has gotten cleverer and more accessible. Any service organization in the marketing for a KM system will have a plethora to choose from. And while technology is bound to be the top consideration when making a decision, it shouldn’t be the only one.

“Does the company handling your data understand field service or is it one of many different verticals they provide services for?”

Field service is a world of its own and that way that mobile technicians work is completely different from someone in an office or a warehouse. The challenges they face in the field and the types of data they work with are unique. Choosing a KM tool that is designed specifically with field service in mind will mean choosing a tool that will help meet those all-important KPIs and core metrics that are essential to running a well-oiled field service organization.

Another area to look at when making a decision is how (or even if!) the company handles high volumes of complex data. As anyone in field services knows, technical data is about as complex as it comes, and to anyone not familiar with it, it might as well be a foreign language. How can you be confident that a knowledge management company is processing your data so that it will work the most efficiently for you if they don’t entirely understand what it is they’re processing or how your technicians will be using it in the field?

“Will the company be providing the best solution for you or the best solution for them?”

Additionally, it’s very important to look at the other customers any KM company has worked with. Chances are, if they deal only with organizations that have minimal libraries and small service teams, they may not have the manpower or the know-how to meet the needs of a company that has 200+ technicians.

On the other hand, if they work exclusively with large, global organizations or are themselves a large corporation, they may have less flexibility to address customers’ information management needs on a case-by-case basis. Which means you may end up paying for a solution filled with features you don’t even use, or discover a gap in the solution because it wasn’t built specifically for your knowledge.

All of this isn’t to downplay the role of the actual technology, of course! However, this shouldn’t be the only factor taken into account when making a decision. The technology behind information management is growing rapidly, and a company in the market for a KM tool is bound to be spoiled for choice. When faced with deciding between two similar systems that both offer innovative technology, looking at the aspects outlined above can help a field service organization choose the best from the rest.

Posted by / May 25, 2017 / Posted in Blog
Parts-Data

Parts Data – More Than Just a Number

In my line of work, I come across people who are passionate about data. Particularly parts data. And especially part numbers.

Perhaps it’s the nature of people in the spare parts industry that they have attention to detail and an affinity with numbers. I know people who can identify a particular spare just from its part number or can tell you the number for certain popular parts.

People who don’t work with parts data on a daily basis might see this as odd or maybe even obsessive, but when you consider the complexities of the human brain, it’s not that strange.

I reckon that most people would be able to tell you the telephone number of their childhood home, or the licence plate number of their parents’ car when they were growing up. Things that are familiar tend to stick in the brain.

Now though, with the ready access to data through the power of technology, is there any need to remember things like phone numbers or even part numbers? Surely having mobile phones with built in phone books or parts identification systems has completely obviated the necessity for us to commit things to memory like we used to. We can Google from our phones to find out who won the football world cup in 1966 for instance. For the record, that was England.

Certainly, when information is unfamiliar to us, we do need assistance to get the right data. In the UK heating industry, for instance, there are thousands of appliances and hundreds of thousands of possible parts.

Add different stockist codes into the mix and it is clear that even someone with an exceptional memory would struggle to remember everything. And that’s where having a good parts identification software tool really comes into its own. It gives every engineer the same opportunity to identify the right part, first time without having to rely on their memory.

But where would we be without memory? How many of us now have hundreds of songs on our mp3 players that we sing along to without a second thought? Think about the people you see very occasionally who you would still recognise from a distance just from the way they stand. People with a keen interest in cars can recognise a 1969 Corvette just from the shape of the windshield. Stamp collectors can recognise an 1840 British Penny Black because they had to be separated with scissors – there were no perforations in those days.

At the end of the day, are any of these examples of what people know really any stranger than knowing a part number for an often used replaceable item? Engineers who work frequently on a particular type of appliance will have that retained memory that means they are experts. And being experts gives us, the owner of the appliance, the confidence to know that they are going to do the job right.

Posted by / April 10, 2017 / Posted in Blog
best-versus-the-best

Field Service Solutions: THE best versus the best for YOU

If, like me, you are bombarded with sales emails on a daily basis, using the delete button on your keyboard is something of an autopilot situation. Delete, delete, delete …. oh hang on, undelete, that’s from the boss….. and so forth. Consequently we more than likely miss that one golden nugget of an email that might actually suggest the best solution to a problem that’s been niggling us for a while.

One such problem for me that has been solved by a sales email is that I have a cat with a very sensitive tummy, and as such he requires special food that is grain free – and expensive. Yes, my beloved fluffy moggy costs me an arm and a leg because he needs this special food, not because I think it’s the best on the market, but because it’s best for him, his health and my sanity (after cleaning up his ‘accidents’).

As the successful advertising campaign says – ‘9 out of 10 cats prefer Whiskas’ – but my cat is the one in ten feline who doesn’t prefer it, because it makes him sick (Disclaimer: my other cat loves Whiskas!).

The point I’m making here (bear with me), is that it’s not always about having what is THE most popular or expensive solution on the market. It’s about what is the best thing for you, your organisation, your circumstances or even your cat.  The same can be said for technology in the work place as this is where we do the important stuff, the stuff that matters and affects others, things that cost our businesses money.

I work with service technicians to provide technology solutions to help them work better, faster and more accurately.  I’m always being asked “what is the best tablet, smart device, operating system, field management system, etc…?” As I’m sure you can appreciate,  there is never a simple answer.  Some systems are good and some not so, but at the end of the day, what matters is what’s best for your company, service team and clients.

Technology takes some people out of their comfort zone and I see this all the time. Monetary investment in technology isn’t cheap, and most of the time it’s not a case of sending it back if it doesn’t fit. A lot of time and effort goes into a technological project in the work place and in my experience this can go on for months, if not years.

The product I provide my service teams with is a small but significant cog in a big wheel.  PartsArena Pro is a relatively cheap solution that, when implemented into a field service management system, gives engineers the freedom to diagnose faults and identify the right parts  through their smart device.  They can then add parts directly into the field management system and seamlessly and accurately order the right parts.

There are lots of free ways to get part and service information, and it’s true to say that I am told this by potential clients all the time. However, in many cases, service organisations can see that using alternative methods of obtaining such information is unreliable, time consuming and not necessarily good practice.

Incorrectly ordered parts and time spent on site can scupper a KPI target.  So, it brings me back to what is best versus what is best for you.  It’s a loose analogy, but a true one that demonstrates how investing in a bit of research, effort, money (and sometimes reading a sales email) can ultimately provide a solution to an unnecessary problem, whether that problem is with your company or your cat.

Posted by / January 20, 2017 / Posted in Blog