We now live in a world where field service performs differently than it did a year ago. Today, remote support and virtual assistance are changing field service delivery, rendering many traditional key performance indicators (KPIs) irrelevant.

Author Radiana Pit | Copperberg

With that in mind, field service organizations (FSOs) have started to rethink and recalibrate their KPIs to align them with their changing operations and measure the success of their remote, digitalized performance.

The change before the storm

According to a research report published by Field Service News in 2019, the field service industry was already facing a myriad of changes caused by digitalization and servitization. Striving to achieve excellence and beat the competition in the realm of field service delivery, FSOs have become more customer-centric, with 91% of companies including NPS or alternative CSAT metrics to measure customer satisfaction. 

As such, FSOs were already poised for change before the outbreak, with the mindset starting to shift toward more customer-centric models. Traditionally, FSOs were more focused on KPIs for operational efficiency and although these metrics continue to be important, the industry experienced a newfound appreciation for customer satisfaction.

To support their customer-centric initiatives, FSOs have also started to shift toward more proactive, rather than reactive, field service delivery and measure machine downtime or overall equipment effectiveness over first-time fix rates. However, this change wasn’t as swift as expected.

Back to the first-time fix rate (FTFR)

When the pandemic began, several companies continued to meet their legacy KPIs—just from different locations. According to an industry report by CSG, most FSOs have simply sped up the implementation process for the same KPIs they were previously considering.

Yet, many have relied on their traditional first-time fix rates to ensure customer satisfaction because the ability of rescheduling client repairs has decreased significantly. In fact, according to the same report, first-time fix rates are meant to sit at a minimum of 75% for most companies in general, and higher in times of crisis. By maintaining a first-time fix rate during the pandemic, companies have been able to reduce operational costs, sustain customer satisfaction, and limit off-site exposure for field technicians.

However, in the long run, predictive diagnostics and maintenance are expected to diminish the importance of the first-time fix rate metric alongside other legacy KPIs such as on-time response (OTR) and preventive maintenance (PM). These metrics will be replaced by new KPIs that are aligned with servitization and digitalization models. 

The advent and proliferation of advanced technology

Even before the outbreak, AI-based service capabilities, predictive diagnostics, and remote support have revealed the need for new KPIs that make sense in a world where equipment doesn’t fail as often anymore. Technologically advanced companies have even replaced traditional KPIs such as mean time between failures (MTBF) and mean time to repair (MTTR) with the mean time between prevented failures (MTBPF). 

More and more companies have started to understand that the new standard is to ask how many times a failure has been prevented rather than how many times a failure has occurred. But such a tech-driven shift in perspective demands a new start with a clean slate for companies comparing year-to-year performance. That’s because it’s impossible to compare last year’s MTBF with this year’s MTBPF. Since these are different metrics, comparing them is not relevant in any way.

But beyond MTBF and MTTR, there are other KPIs that are currently being revised by forward-thinking FSOs. As the use of remote support technology has significantly increased during the pandemic, companies are reconsidering the need for technician travel time metrics since there are fewer dispatches required. 

Likewise, visits per engineer per day will become less relevant. However, technician utilization rates are likely to go up as the resolution will be accelerated by advanced tech. This is also somewhat tied to new hire training time measurements, as advanced tech requires new skills that technicians need to learn. 

Plus, with the more experienced workforce retiring and the younger one taking over, this metric will become much more relevant for organizations that want to understand the value of visual tools for technician support.

The remote resolution rate

One of the most important metrics to come out of the proliferation of advanced technology is the remote resolution rate. In times of crisis, virtual assistance has proven to be effective in enabling field service technicians to guide customers to a resolution via augmented reality, thus eliminating the need for on-site dispatches. 

Companies that have implemented virtual assistance before or during the pandemic, have been able to ensure business continuity by viewing their customers’ equipment through mobile devices and showing them exactly how to execute basic repairs without having to breach social distancing regulations. 

According to a TechSee webinar, virtual assistance and remote resolution sessions can cancel up to 30% of the scheduled engineer visits and deliver a 90% reduction in no-fault found dispatches.

Field service KPIs in the new normal

Moving forward, ensuring service delivery will be different than it was in the past. Although the world will recover from the outbreak, business-as-usual is unlikely to resume. The industry has experienced new ways of operating and it will continue to employ remote capabilities to ensure service delivery, operational excellence, and customer satisfaction.

When travel restrictions were first implemented, virtual assistance and remote support have become proven solutions in an otherwise bleak situation that significantly impacted day-to-day operations.

Even if technician visits will be deemed feasible and safe again, virtual assistance can become the new standard for more basic support not only because it diminishes health risks, but also because it unlocks new levels of productivity for FSOs. As such, service KPIs need to be reassessed and aligned with metrics like deployment speed, for example, which is a key component in digital operations.

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