While the coronavirus has forced many offices worldwide to close, field service teams continue to provide essential services that ensure the safety of the general public, such as emergency elevator interventions.
But it’s not been easy. The pandemic is disrupting the field service industry on a scale never seen before, from the daily running of operations to cash flow. And the global markets reflect the damage. The predicted growth rate of the global construction industry has fallen from 3.1 percent to 0.5 percent, for example. The impact is significant and widespread.
We’re dedicated to helping your field service business navigate the current challenges and prepare for post-COVID-19. Below, you will find some key findings from early research on ways to overcome the challenges of the pandemic and succeed in an uncertain future.
1. Embrace digital now
Accenture analysis touts digital adoption as a determining factor for the success of construction businesses in the post-COVID-19 era. Most companies understand the need for digitization, but the pandemic has hammered home the necessity of a solid digital infrastructure. Digitized companies are better equipped to adapt to unexpected challenges, such as those thrown up by COVID-19, than those without.
The analysis highlights the following benefits of digital adoption:
- “augmenting workers and engineers with digital collaboration capabilities.” With access to digital tools, technicians have more autonomy on-site and can collaborate more easily with colleagues and managers. Also, field service companies can enable remote work where possible so that internal teams can continue to get their job done without the potential risks of social contact.
- “automating low value-added activities.” Digital tools can quickly and accurately handle many tasks traditionally done manually, freeing up time for ops managers and their teams to focus on higher value activities like customer relations and important decision-making. For example, ticket data in ESS is automatically synced from the field to the back office, which enables technicians to focus on service rather than paperwork.
- “sharing data for rational and insight-driven decision making.” Instant access to business data empowers managers and their field teams. For example, on the ground, technicians can instantly share files such as elevator measurements with management for help diagnosing an issue and determining appropriate remedial action.
The great news is that it’s not too late for field service companies to embrace digital. However Accenture emphasizes that companies must “fast-track their digital adoption” to catch up with their competitors.
2. Customers have changed, so should you
Recent McKinsey research reveals that “B2B customers are changing” because of the current crisis. For one, customers now tend to be more cautious. This may mean that they are reluctant to continue or engage in long-term commitments such as recurring contracts.
The field service industry needs to respond to customers’ new needs. This could mean redesigning service models, for example, creating shorter-term contracts or replacing contracts with a more flexible option.
It could also include reshaping go-to-market sales approaches, as McKinsey suggests. The findings reveal that customers’ preferred way to research suppliers is via digital channels. Field service companies may respond by improving their online presence and remote sales channels, for example.
And field service companies must consider customers’ sharp focus on safety. Steadfast, well-implemented safety protocol needs to be the priority and will help them differentiate themselves from competitors.
But there’s no one-size-fits-all solution—field service businesses should implement individualized changes. Success depends on continuously understanding how your customers’ needs are changing and finding ways to adapt.
3. The need for agility
The pandemic is a stark reminder that nothing is certain, and has emphasized the necessity of agility in business. Accenture reveals that the coronavirus has complicated operations at every stage of the engineering and construction value chain, and companies that operate by more traditional, linear planning methods are struggling to adapt to the increasing complexity of projects. This is resulting in financial loss and even business closure.
Agility enables companies to quickly make decisions and continuously adapt to changes and, as a result, be better prepared to deal with an unprecedented crisis. What’s more, McKinsey argues that agility is essential for companies to adapt to changed customer behavior and capture growth.
Deploying agile technology is just one piece of the puzzle. Field service businesses must also develop agile processes, starting by “understand[ing] the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on each project”, according to Accenture’s report.
One approach to agility includes establishing a “start-up mindset,” i.e., prioritizing action over research, and having regular check-ups with internal and field teams. The key is to continually assess needs and priorities of the business and customers, and pivot where necessary.