Managing the Impacts of Coronavirus within your Organization

In a few short months, the coronavirus pandemic has changed our global landscape. Manufacturing shutdowns, stock market fluctuations, travel bans and shelter-in-place orders are forcing organizations to completely rethink the way they operate.

While some factories are temporarily grinding to a halt, others are becoming increasingly busier. For food and beverage manufacturing, medical equipment companies, hospitals and more, avoiding equipment downtime is more critical than ever. Field service organizations will need to meet these demands while facing unique new business challenges.

Cost Pressures will be Higher

Many field service organizations will start feeling the financial crunch. This is why it’s imperative that they start thinking about what remote technologies and offline support tools are available to help them achieve lower service costs. Solutions aimed at reducing truck rolls, time on site, return visits, and incorrect parts orders are a good start.

Now is also an excellent time to revisit your current technology. Are there any features or add-ons offered by your field service management platform that you could be utilizing? What integrations to they offer that could help you lower costs and increase efficiency? Focus on technology that is quick to implement and is easy to use. Your IT team and field service engineers are under enough pressure and don’t need added stress or tech overload right now.

Access to Knowledge is Critical Right Now

Many executives are struggling with the dilemma of how to keep their workers safe while also keeping their customers up and running. A survey from TSIA found that almost 88% of companies are continuing to deploy field service engineers to sites, with 67% implementing significant restrictions like limiting travel and time on site, as well as increasing the use of local 3rd party providers.

Minimizing time on site and return visits are crucial right now. Additionally, the need to keep contact to a minimum means training techniques like job shadowing are not a safe option right now. Because of this, your engineers will need immediate access to technical and parts information. Making sure they can get the answers they need is vital to helping them stay efficient, while also reducing equipment downtime. In addition, it will lessen the impact on your call center and support staff during this time.

If your company is relying more heavily on the use of 3rd party providers due to travel restrictions, it’s vital that you empower them with the tools they need to deliver the same quality of service as your full-time employees. Ensuring that they have mobile access to important break/fix, installation and parts knowledge will be one of the most important arrows they can have in their quiver. This will help improve the 3rd party technician’s efficiency and accuracy, while showing your customer that you can still deliver excellent service in a time of crisis.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

This is perhaps the most important thing you should be doing as a company. As we have all seen, information and guidelines are changing by the hour. It’s important not only for your organization to stay informed, but to then keep your employees and customer informed as well.
Field service engineers are remote by nature. During times like these, it’s common for them to feel more insular and out of touch with the company. This is made more difficult by the fact that organizations must limit physical contact between their employees.

Daily virtual contact with your team through video conferencing or phone calls is a great way to help ease anxiety, keep everyone informed, emphasize important information and reinforce the important roles they are all playing in keeping your company functioning.

Perhaps your engineers have been grounded for all but the most essential jobs. They may be struggling to find structure in their new routine and stay focused. Offering virtual training courses, information exchanges or product information sessions will go a long way in helping them feel productive.

It is also important to stay in contact with customers. They are facing anxieties and pressures of their own. Knowing that you are still there to literally keep them up and running will go a long way in strengthening customer loyalty after this pandemic subsides.

AnswersAnywhere to Highlight Powerful New Analytics Feature as Lead Sponsor of Field Service Medical 2020

San Diego, CA – AnswersAnywhere, the leading global provider of knowledge delivery solutions for field service organizations, will return as a lead sponsor for Field Service Medical 2020, the only peer-led conference for medical device leaders in customer care, service, and support.

At the conference, which takes place in San Diego, CA on February 24-26, AnswersAnywhere will be highlighting Data Insights, a new product and journey analytics feature. Data Insights allows field service organizations to easily access product, knowledge and user data, perform predictive analytics and gain a deeper understanding into service calls to make more informed business decisions.

According to Bo Wandell, Vice President of AnswersAnywhere, Data Insights will help users identify the behaviors that contribute to achieving Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like first time fix rates and mean time to repair. Additionally, by having a complete picture of user journeys, executives will be better equipped to address the field service talent gap through targeted training and resources.

“Executives need rich, real-time, actionable data to make the most informed decisions for their field service organization,” Wandell said. “AnswersAnywhere Data Insights will allow field service managers to better allocate resources and forecast trends, as well as identify knowledge gaps and areas where additional support or education is required.”

As an example, Wandell said that Data Insights could uncover that the top 20% best performing field service engineers are also the most frequent users of exploded product diagrams and parts lists, how-to videos or other servicing documentation in a company’s field service knowledge base. Wandell said, “Armed with this unique insight, a field service executive now has a roadmap to make the remaining 80% of his field service staff more efficient.”

Tracing a field service engineers’ knowledge base journey while working on a piece of challenging equipment, according to Wandell, will provide insights that are not available anywhere else in a company’s field service ecosystem. He said, “If you have a product model that has a low first-time fix rate or a high instance of incorrect parts orders, our Data Insights solution would allow you to follow service engineers’ path to resolution either in the aggregate or individually. By determining where the break down in knowledge delivery exists, the knowledge base can be enhanced to deliver new solutions that will drive efficiency.”

“Another example is if you have a certain product model that has a low first-time fix rate or high instance of incorrect parts orders. Imagine being able to trace your field service engineers’ knowledge base journey while working on that piece of equipment? You would be able to draw some pretty powerful conclusions about what type of supporting information or additional knowledge they need in order to increase efficiency and accuracy for that model.”

The AnswersAnywhere Data Insights feature is available to all AnswersAnywhere knowledge base customers. Attendees of Field Service Medical 2020 are invited to stop by booth #203 in the Exhibit Hall for a demonstration.

About AnswersAnywhere:
Unlike traditional knowledge management software solutions, AnswersAnywhere is a complete outsourced knowledge service that includes the people, process and technology required to transform disparate parts and technical information into a mobilized, online/offline knowledge base. AnswersAnywhere knowledge experts convert, deliver and continuously update parts and product knowledge for use by field service engineers and technical support representatives.

The types of source information that AnswersAnywhere knowledge experts convert into usable, interactive knowledge bases includes FAQs, parts lists, installation and service manuals, schematic drawings, exploded diagrams, product descriptions and alerts, safety notices, database output, images, videos and MS Word and PDF documents.

AnswersAnywhere integrates with leading field service management platforms, including ServiceMax and Salesforce Field Service Lightning. Our knowledge experts have created and manage technical product knowledge bases for over 200 companies. For more information, visit http://www.answersanywhere.com.

Everyone’s Talking About Parts Catalogs…

There’s a topic that keeps coming up at every field service event I attend…

Parts Catalogs.

There’s intense pressure to reduce costs and increase profitability in many service industries. And yet, equipment is becoming more complex and regulations keep changing. That’s why more businesses are looking for better parts catalogs.

Incorrect parts orders are one of the biggest challenges to increasing profits.

According to Aberdeen Group, one in four parts orders (25%) are wrong. The reason? Engineers cannot determine the right part from the information they have.

Imagine if you could eliminate incorrect orders…

Your service costs would reduce. You’d deliver a faster fix. Your customers would be happier.

Most importantly, your business would be more profitable.

That’s why everyone’s talking about parts catalogs.

Many companies struggle with disparate data. Important technical information is often locked up in corporate silos and scattered across several different departments. It’s not unusual for parts lists, exploded diagrams, parts images and price lists for equipment to all resided in separate departments within a single organization.

Even if a company provides parts information for their engineers, there is no guarantee that it will make them more efficient or accurate. Often, engineers struggle to access any information at all because of connectivity issues onsite.

A limited system hinders performance and extends the time it takes to find the answer and information is often missing.

It’s not ideal. It wastes engineers’ time and your money.

So, what does the perfect parts catalog look like?

Four key elements will make a huge difference to your results:

  1. Offline access

Whilst onsite, your engineers might have online access to information via a mobile device. But what if there’s no signal? In this situation, your KPIs will suffer. Offline access is a game-changer.

  1. User-friendly information

Your business will have thousands of pages of parts information: technical documents, parts lists, exploded diagrams, and more. It’s one thing to collate it on a shared drive, it’s another to make it work for you. The perfect catalog needs to give answers – fast. Parts lists must display next to diagrams. Hyperlinks must link to other relevant information. Only then will you accelerate your service.

  1. Integration with field service management

Switching between screens is slow and frustrating. Integrated systems are a reality today, with impressive efficiencies. They reduce errors, they speed operations, they enhance service.

And they increase your profits.

  1. Up-to-date information

Is that part available or out of stock? Has it been recalled? Is it obsolete and, if so, what is the alternative part that’s taken its place? These are all possibilities in a parts ordering scenario.

Data can become outdated as soon as it’s published. It’s a huge challenge for many. Your engineers will stop using your parts catalog if they cannot rely on its accuracy.

The perfect catalog provides up to date answers every time.

Incorrect parts ordering can be overcome. Implementing a solution that offers online/offline, integrated parts catalogs is the ultimate solution to ensuring accurate parts ordering every time. It might not be a quick fix, but it is an important investment in the future of your business.

 

 

Why data-driven field service businesses perform better (and how to be one)

There’s no doubt that the best performing field service businesses are driven by their data.

Aberdeen Group says these organizations are reporting a 7% decrease in operating costs. Just one advantage to data directing your business operations.

But what does a data-driven business look like, and how can you become one?

Why is data so important?

That might seem like a question with an obvious answer. We all know how important data is. It provides us with facts to replace hunches and assumptions.

Working with data is certainly not a new thing. Far from it. But using data to inform, influence and predict the performance of your field service business is relatively new – and incredibly effective.

Data can help to better allocate your resources and identify knowledge gaps and training needs. It can also enhance your customer service and in turn, your customer loyalty.

Put simply, data can help to transform your field service operations. It can save you money, make the most of your time and ensure excellent service.

Savvy businesses have been working to harness the power of data for years. Back in 2012, an Economist survey identified that 63% of those ahead financially were also ahead on data usage.

And today, data is no longer past tense only. You used to learn what had happened with data, weeks or months after the event. Collection methods have revolutionized since then. We can now access data that tells us what’s happening right now, in real time. It helps us to become predictive, not just react to events of the past.

Where is it?

That’s the thing. Your data is everywhere. You’re probably drowning in it. Overwhelmed by the many sources and the sheer amount of it.

Having the data is one thing. Using it effectively is another.

It’s a major challenge for many large organizations. There’s no benefit in grappling unsuccessfully with large amounts of data without extracting practical learnings from it.

Many departments have access to data that could be useful. You might have machines that collect data, not to mention many service systems via mobile devices. Digital transformation has delivered the goods, we just don’t know what to do with it all.

Which data matters for field service?

The data of most use to your business depends on your objectives and KPIs.

As a field service operator, that’s likely to focus on delivering excellent service: first time fixes, rapid response times and maximum job completion per day.

Your field service management software is likely to collect the most valuable data for you. That’s to say, your field technicians working alongside your customers. They’re on the front line of your operations.

Thanks to digital transformation, field service data is often available in real time. And with the right software, you’ll be able to gather even more.

Such knowledge enhances performance too. AnswersAnywhere Analytics recently uncovered that the top 20% best performing field service engineers were also the most frequent users of the knowledge base. A useful insight for the remaining 80%.

Remember: data is for everyone

There’s a myth we need to dispel. Data is not just for top-level managers when it comes to field service. Every level of your business will benefit from being better informed; from chief executives right through to the field service team themselves.

And getting buy-in at every level is powerful stuff.

Take the example of HVAC and parts ordering. If your parts managers have access to data that highlights key seasonal peaks in demand for particular parts, they can manage their stock accordingly. Hold more when demand is high, and less when it’s not. The result is two-fold: less cash tied up in stock and faster fixes for your customers.

Spread the love of data across your entire organization. If you get the right facts into the right hands, you’ll transform your operation.

How do I start?

It probably seems like an enormous task. As with many such challenges, starting small is often the answer.

Choose some core KPIs – just one or two if you like. First time fixes, jobs completed per day and mean repair time are all common measures of performance. By engineer, by machine and by customer.

Let’s say you decide to monitor first time fix rates.

So, gather data to understand which engineers have the highest first-time fix rate. And monitor which pieces of equipment get fixed first time. This might throw up some training gaps on certain equipment, or the need to have more parts available to speed the fix.

Monitoring first-time fixes by engineer might uncover some best practice to make more widespread across your field service team. Do your better-performing engineers use certain tools or resources to speed their work? Do they follow a different fault diagnosis process?

If you cannot gather the field service data you want to see, talk to your field service software provider. They might guide you towards analytics that already exist or help you with relevant reporting.

Should you have gaps in your field service data, consider new methods of collecting it. Such investment could make a significant difference to the future performance of your business.

How AnswersAnywhere helps your field service data analysis

At AnswersAnywhere, we’re acutely aware of the importance of data-analytics. It helps to drive our customers in many ways.

And that’s why we’re constantly developing new capabilities in our mobile software. We want our customers to have direct insight on how their engineers are using AnswersAnywhere. For example, the products or manuals they access most frequently, and the customers that require this type of on-site support.

Such clarity will enable AnswersAnywhere users to understand where to focus their development of this parts and technical data tool. They’ll also appreciate the knowledge that’s being under-utilized, prompting important training opportunities.

Without doubt, data analysis is helping field service organizations get ahead of their competition. The effective process must achieve three things though. You need to be collecting the right data in the field. You must then process it correctly. Finally, you must get it into the hands of those who can learn and act on it.

Achieve this, and you’ve just found one of the most powerful tools (to date) in the 21st century.

Improving Field Service Training with Knowledge Management

There’s no denying field service organizations pour a large amount of time and resources into training new talent. In fact, it’s estimated corporations spent around $19.7 million last year on training expenditures alone.

Effective training increases employee retention – this is a no-brainer! According to a survey by Society for Human Resource Management, one third of newly hired staff quit their jobs after the first six months, with the majority citing lack of skills one of the major reasons they leave. Considering the fact that the Millennial worker is twice as likely to leave a job after two years than their predecessors, it’s no wonder field service organizations are putting more emphasis on training than ever before.

What is Effective Training?

So now the question is, what does effective training look like? Companies have long known that the typical “one and done” onboarding process doesn’t work, and this is especially true for field service. Training needs to be an ongoing process and companies need to figure out how to provide new workers with continuous support in the field, in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

Some companies rely on new staff calling support centers for questions and guidance. But let’s be honest, call center staff are already busy, they don’t need the additional burden of providing support training as well!

A Crucial Component in Field Service

Enter Knowledge Management – organizations are starting to realize what a crucial role this plays in the training process, both initially and throughout the employee’s tenure.

A good knowledge management application will provide the digital training new hires need to learn the solution. It allows for scenario-based learning, which in turn makes lessons more impactful, especially when combined with the ability to refer back as needed. Additionally, some knowledge management platforms will allow trainers to monitor everyone’s progress by providing analytics to see who is accessing what information and work individually with those who need extra guidance.

Also consider that millennials are native tech users and expect access to information at all times. By embracing knowledge management, you’re being the kind of forward-thinking organization that millennials want to work for.

Making Knowledge Management a core component to your training process also makes new hires feel empowered. By giving them access to knowledge in the field, they will feel more confident to handle any task that may come their way. All of this leads to increased retention rates in the company.

Increase Adoption to Drive Efficiency

A common complaint we hear from executives who have implemented new software in the field is that workers “don’t use it”, either out of inertia, lack of training (or confidence in that training), or simply because they prefer the “old way of doing things”.

However, by making knowledge management an essential part of new hire onboarding, not only will it provide additional support in the training process, but it will drive adoption of that technology. We already know knowledge management is crucial in the field, reducing repair times by more than 50% and increasing SLA compliance by more than 26%. Ingraining the use of these tools early on will help companies drive efficiency like never before.

Ready to learn more about how knowledge management can make training more effective and empower your field service engineers?

AnswersAnywhere Announces Integration with ServiceMax Go and Host of New Features

Seattle, WA – October 18, 2019 –
AnswersAnywhere, the leading global provider of knowledge management solutions for field service organizations, today announced integration with ServiceMax Go and the availability of innovative usage analytics and control over the delivery of proprietary technical knowledge.

AnswersAnywhere’s integration with ServiceMax Go, ServiceMax’s new mobile app for service execution management, further supports AnswersAnywhere’s mission of delivering parts and service knowledge to field service engineers when they need it most – on site with a customer. Bo Wandell, Vice President of AnswersAnywhere said, “From inside ServiceMax Go, a field service engineer can call hundreds or thousands of pages of relevant parts and service knowledge simply by pushing the integrated AnswersAnywhere button.” Wandell said that a part selected from an AnswersAnywhere parts list or exploded product diagram can be added automatically to a work order in ServiceMax Go.

According to a Technology Services Industry Association’s (TSIA) research report 2019 Field Services Technology Stack, deploying a knowledge management solution reduced mean time to repair by more than 50% and lowered annual employee attrition rates by over 3 points. “Knowledge management has evolved from a ‘nice to have’ to a strategic necessity for field service organizations seeking ways enhance efficiency, increase service profits and improve engagement with their mobile device focused workforce,” Wandell said.

Unlike traditional knowledge management software solutions, AnswersAnywhere is a complete outsourced knowledge management service that includes the people, process and technology required to transform disparate parts and technical information into a mobilized knowledge base purpose-built to address the needs of field service engineers. Wandell said, “Developing and deploying a knowledge management strategy in a big corporation is not for the faint of heart, but it is a perfect outsourcing opportunity. Because AnswersAnywhere is a Knowledge-as-a-Service, we can deploy the first version of a customer’s field service knowledge base in 90 days after project launch.”

According to John Stetic, Senior Vice President of Innovation and ISV Partnerships at ServiceMax, AnswersAnywhere is a seamless complement to ServiceMax. Stetic said, “Our ServiceMax customers are large companies servicing complex assets supported by hundreds of field service engineers around the globe. Productivity and efficiency dramatically improve when field service technicians are provided with the right tools and information via ServiceMax and integrated parts and technical product knowledge from AnswersAnywhere – enabling successful service execution.”

AnswersAnywhere for ServiceMax v3.0 also includes new analytics that track and report every interaction with a field service knowledge base. “Field service executives want to understand how parts catalogs and service knowledge are being leveraged in the field so they can draw correlations between usage and achievement of key performance indicators,” Wandell said. “If AnswersAnywhere Analytics uncovers that the top 20% best performing field service engineers also are the most frequent users of the field service knowledge base, that’s an important piece of the puzzle when trying to figure out how to make the remaining 80% more efficient.”

AnswersAnywhere also has released new security functionality called Knowledge Segmentation, aimed at companies that employ third party service providers. Knowledge Segmentation allows field service managers to control access to parts and service knowledge based on audience. Access can be limited to specific products or a much larger subset. Additionally, organizations can create an “expiration date” that allows individuals to access information for a certain length of time, even if the information has been downloaded to a mobile device.

About AnswersAnywhere:
AnswersAnywhere is a Knowledge-as-a-Service that combines people, process and technology to convert, deliver and continuously update parts and product knowledge for use by field service technicians and technical support representatives. The types of source information that AnswersAnywhere knowledge experts convert into usable, interactive knowledge bases includes FAQs, parts lists, installation and service manuals, schematic drawings, exploded diagrams, product descriptions and alerts, safety notices, database output, images, videos and MS Word and PDF documents.

AnswersAnywhere knowledge experts have created and manage technical product knowledge bases for over 200 companies. For more information, visit www.answersanywhere.com.

About ServiceMax:
ServiceMax is the global leader in Service Execution Management, offering cloud-based software that improves the productivity of complex, equipment-centric service execution. Enterprise companies across the globe have turned to ServiceMax to help them keep the world running. For more information, visit www.servicemax.com.

To watch a demo of AnswersAnywhere for ServiceMax, click here!

TSIA Report Field Service

New Report Shows Knowledge Management Reduces Repair Time by 50%

TSIA (Technology Services Industry Association) has released an eye-opening report. The 2019 Field Service Technology Stack report focuses on the importance of technology to field service operations.

It showed that knowledge management had a huge impact on performance, with significant improvements in mean time to repair (>50% reduction) and annual employee attrition rates (down over 3 points).

According to TSIA, a leading firm that helps companies embrace technology, the report further cements knowledge management as a “need to have” among field service organizations. This important technology captures, maintains and reuses knowledge to enhance productivity.

Why such a huge fall in repair time?

Quite simply, when field service engineers have insight from a knowledge base, they can achieve faster repairs. In addition, a good knowledge management process increases engagement, resulting in lower staff turnover.

Why Knowledge Management Reduces Churn Rate

Knowledge management’s correlation to faster repairs isn’t exactly surprising. After all, it’s been well documented in numerous studies – we’ve even written about it many times on this very blog.

The evidence is unanimous that giving field service engineers access to the critical knowledge they need on site will transform fix rates (and if your knowledge management solution is AnswersAnywhere, it will eliminate your incorrect parts orders too).

However, the TSIA report managed to highlight an oft-overlooked benefit of knowledge management in field service organizations – reducing staff turnover (also known as “churn rate”).

High turnover is something that many field service organizations struggle with, and it’s only getting worse as companies lose experienced workers to retirement and millennials fill their shoes. After all, millennials are twice as likely to leave a job after two years and are only half as likely to be employed by the same company after 10 years.

For a while now, industry experts and thought leaders have been saying that one of the best ways to retain millennial employees is to engage and empower them with technology. Now, thanks to the Field Service Technology Stack report, we have evidence that this is indeed the case!

Advice for Organizations that Want to Invest

As equipment becomes more complex, so does the knowledge management needed to complement it. Because of this, it’s difficult for companies to know where to start. The TSIA Report offers these recommendations for investing in knowledge management (and new technology in general):

First, benchmark your technology footprint against other members. If your organization’s technology is lacking, examine where those gaps are and revisit what technology will assist you in meeting your goals.

Also, be sure to include integrations in Phase 1 of the project. Integrating technologies like knowledge management can boost adoption and improve performance. According to TSIA, critical integrations are often pushed to later stages and then end up never getting off the ground.

Read the full TSIA 2019 Field Service Technology Stack Report here.