Would you walk into a pub that served you a warm beer the previous time? Or, go back to this fine dining restaurant with your partner if it was noisy and unclean? One word that can make or break it for the service business is ‘Experience’. With customer satisfaction being the buzz word in the past years, now the new trending words are ‘Experience Economy’, ‘Customer Delight’, and ‘Good-feel Service’. The trend is very common in the B2C sector which has led to terms like ‘Uberized Service’, ‘Amazon like Delivery’ or ‘Disney like Experience’. This wave of keeping customers happy and providing them with great experience has to become a priority on the list of the majority of Field Service Directors today. With the quest to create the perfect value proposition and customer experience comes in the various challenges that these leaders in manufacturing face today.

Recently, I (Rohit Agarwal, producer of Field Service Summit) had a fantastic opportunity to moderate a round-table discussion along with Kris Oldland, Editor of Field Service News about the Challenges that Service Leaders Face today and the future technologies in Field Service and Spare Parts at the Spare Parts Summit Summit in Coventry, UK. One important observation was the interlinking of issues with spare parts and field service. The service leaders faced challenges in obsolesce management, spare parts management, data collection, utilisation and analysis along with field workforce training and planning. With the advent of digital tools, faster production and time to market, one big challenge for Service Leaders today is obsolescence management as it has become increasingly challenging to predict and prepare for the future. IoT and connected machines have made predictive maintenance easier and helped the service organisations to move into the proactive space than the reactive space. One challenge still remains with break-fix due to user mismanagement, negligence or insufficient training. Although IoT allows companies to note some cases of misuse and offer training proactively preventing damage to the machines and need for servicing prematurely.

The service leaders have accepted that there will always be break-fix with machines whether it is due to an unforeseen circumstance or a user issue. So the goal in these instances is to have enough data to be able to get a technician with the right spare parts to the location and get it fixed immediately. This is a shift from the older model of a technician visiting to collect information, making a fault report to get the spare parts and revisiting the customer to fix the issue which is a higher cost for the service company and loss in uptime for the customers. Tracking of spare parts and more specifically ‘Having the rights parts at the right place’ is also an issue being tackled currently by the service leaders. Some leaders are concerned about the tracking of spare parts as they become ‘lost’ with technicians, in spare part boxes or in inventories. Technologies like RFID readers, GPS tags could play a big role in actively tracking the spare parts to make sure the parts can be delivered to the right place when required.

The manufacturing, service and aftermarket space today is in a fantastic rush for data and today is commonly referred to as the new gold or oil. Kris Oldland had an interesting take on how this gold can be dug out but will still be useless unless refined and put it in the right form. One challenge with data is also getting data from the right source. Similar to ores to extract gold, if the content of the ore is bad, the gold will be very expensive to extract and the return on investment will be low or negative. Data has a similar proposition today. Companies have started asking, how much data is enough data and which data is good data. With better data processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning making progress, the data analysis and processing woes should be answered more effectively in the near future. The challenges cannot be addressed with a magic wand or just ignored, but being able to address them is a progressive first step. Collaboration with the customers and getting them involved in the whole process of solving the challenges can also boost progress for the service organisations. To sum it up according to a Forbes quote, the ’An experience is not an amorphous construct, it is as real an offering as any service, good or commodity.’