After a global pandemic, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and field service organizations (FSOs) are readjusting to a new reality that is still settling in. Although there are many unknowns moving forward, one thing is certain—resuming business as usual is not an option for forward-thinking OEMs and FSOs.

Author Radiana Pit | Copperberg

Photo: Freepik

After expediting their digital transformation initiatives, many companies are looking forward to expanding their digital offerings, which begs the question: are customers ready for digital field service?

To answer this question, Navè Orgad of Konecranes, Simon Rune Sorensen of DAN Palletiser, and Copperberg’s Lisa Hellqvist gathered at the 2021 Field Service Forum for a panel discussion focusing on the future of field service as it pertains to digital transformation and customer expectations. Let’s explore some of the key takeaways from this thought-provoking session below.

How did the 2020 experience change service operations?

Beyond ensuring that all machinery was operational, DAN Palletiser looked into online and remote support to ensure business continuity not only for their company but also for their customers. And this is true for most OEMs and FSOs in the industrial sector. Likewise, Konecranes leveraged remote support and augmented reality to perform service operations.

This new, digital-first approach to service operations sets the tone for the future, with more and more OEMs and FSOs developing new ticketing systems, emergency phone support, and other remote support solutions to assist their customers. While augmented reality solutions are faster to deploy than others, solutions like predictive maintenance need more development time to be truly effective.

Although these solutions garnered attention in recent years, the shifting customer demands during the 2020 pandemic have undoubtedly compelled OEMs and FSOs to deploy them sooner rather than later.

Do customers need to be re-educated as a result of digital transformation?

Deploying advanced technology and using online platforms to perform service operations involves a level of reskilling and upskilling. With high-availability remote support being more important than ever, many companies are looking for talent to cover all bases, especially because the increasing pressure on field technicians to offer online support is becoming stronger each day.

Digital transformation requires re-education on a fundamental level and it starts with the company. Especially considering that educating customers to interact differently affects everyone involved, not only themselves. Undoubtedly, more and more customers want to learn how to maintain equipment themselves, they want to enrich their knowledge of the technology they’re using. And many OEMs already offer self-performing maintenance, with Konecranes being one of them. But as Navè Orgad wisely said:

“When injecting more technology in equipment, customers might not cope with the speed of change. They need more support from the OEM because they’re not in the business of maintaining equipment, they’re in the business of using it. The more technology is thrown in the mix, the more support they need.”

As such, finding alternative ways to support customers is essential moving forward. Considering the limited ways of delivering service in the past year, customer expectations have evolved and so has their willingness to adapt and learn how to work with advanced technology, given the appropriate support.

What is currently shaping the industry in terms of service operations?

Customer expectations and digital transformation are mutually dependent and are evolving simultaneously. Although this is a natural progression that has been building up for years, even before the pandemic, now OEMs and FSOs face a myriad of challenges that need to be addressed in the near term.

One of the challenges identified by Simon Rune Sorensen is changing the customer attitude toward data sharing and accessibility. Without adequate access, OEMs can’t perform network upgrades, provide comprehensive online services, or educate operators. As such, finding common ground on accessibility is a top priority moving forward.

OEMs should be able to upgrade their devices and equipment while customers are still in control of their data. And it’s possible to move in a more transparent direction while keeping customer security intact.

Although customers have been very reluctant to share data, they recognize that times are changing and it’s important for them to adapt. And, as Navè Orgad puts it: “Knowing what the asset condition is by far overcomes the risk.”

As long as OEMs become IT literate or IT fluent and are able to address concerns, customers can better understand how risks are mitigated and how data sharing can significantly increase customer value.

Alongside remote monitoring, which requires a shift in perspective regarding data sharing, hybrid solutions are also changing service operations. As the boundaries between physical and remote services are blurred, hybrid solutions are becoming essential for service delivery and support to customers.

OEMs should expand—not replace—their arsenal of solutions to provide what customers demand. Digital service is not an alternative to field service, but it complements it. For example, technicians that have to provide support on the field can receive remote, real-time assistance from an expert to solve the issue on the first visit.

How can companies balance increasingly high customer expectations with service delivery?

Considering the acceleration of digital transformation and shift away from traditional solutions, customer expectations have evolved. And this is true for both B2C and B2B landscapes. In fact, the B2C landscape greatly impacts the B2B one. For example, B2C eCommerce is way ahead of B2B eCommerce, and consumers across the board are expecting not only the same superior online shopping experience but also the same rapid service delivery.

This is pushing the boundaries of OEMs, compelling them to change their internal structure and rethink the way they store and deliver parts. Although the B2B industrial sector currently functions at a slower pace, delivery expectations continue to increase both internally and externally.

Moving forward, we might see more widespread adoption of predictive services that leverage data collection and analysis to not only prevent issues but to expedite service delivery so that customers receive the parts they need before it costs them unplanned downtime.

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