By Stephen Booze
It’s common for the customers of medical device manufacturers (MDM) to see field service engineers (FSE) and technicians as a trusted advisor. That’s because the very nature of their job is to solve device problems and bring greater clarity to its use in ways that benefit the customer.
While it’s important to never blur the lines between customer support, customer service and sales, it’s still possible to enhance the trusted advisor role in ways that transform field service into a profit center. The goal is to equip FSEs with the right combination of education, tools, skills, and technology to maximize their effectiveness. This creates a closed loop between product support, customer service, R&D, sales, and marketing.
In the first installment of this blog series titled “Transforming Field Service into a Profit Center,” we looked at the following two of five educational areas for empowering FSEs to do just that in a customer environment:
- Operational Awareness
- Situational Awareness
This time we’ll tie it all together with the right mobility tools and technology for seamless digital communication, documentation, and signature flow across the company while in the field. That requires equipping FSEs with an enterprise workflow automation software platform that drives seamless customer support and a stronger bottom line.
Integrating People, Processes and Technology for Seamless Customer Support
Building FSE soft skills for operational and situational awareness while they’re in the customer’s business environment can yield the following important insights:
- How the company is operating
- Problems they may experience and general atmosphere that can help the manufacturer
- Product and service upsell opportunities
- Product development, use, marketing and sales insights
Making note of these insights requires that the FSE have the tools and capabilities that enable them to do their job as best they can in terms of solving product issues, which includes:
- Providing the right mobile device with connectivity
- Easy/simple access to product info, parts and inventory catalog access updated in real time
- Digital trunk stock inventory that includes the proper parts and information they need for the day’s customer encounters
All these needs are fulfilled by seamless data communication and processes between customer service, product support, and the FSE, which includes:
- Access to the electronic forms and e-signature abilities for customer signoff
- Integrated communicate via email, voice and messaging to customer service, sales, service departments, billing and accounts personnel, and even product development and engineering personnel.
Mobile devices used by the FSE must have a way to integrate communications, documentation, and collaboration paths to deliver a seamless customer experience. The answer to this challenge is an enterprise workflow automation software as a service (SaaS) platform that is easily customized and very adaptable to varied needs and users.
The MDM SaaS platform must be able to provide sales, marketing customer service, product support and its FSEs with the following customizable functionality:
- Direct product information access
- Seamless note input capability via customized forms using voice, pen or screen touch
- Instant customer account/relationship history access
- Prefilled electronic work order documents and signature capabilities
- Direct communication/collaboration with specific internal personnel across departments via email, voice and messaging
This closes the loop between FSEs, customer support, marketing, and sales. The resulting streamlining lets the FSE transfer pertinent information and documentation in real time. FSE’s can then move to their next assignment while the appropriate person/department acts on the provided information.
Customers are happiest after a device challenge or question has been resolved by the FSE. The FSE is the focus of that positive customer experience (CX), which makes the customer more receptive to FSEs advising on unseen opportunities. These can include ways for the customer to increase efficiency through a service, product, or upgrade that meets the needs of a known pain point. This is all derived from casual FSE conversation, operational /situational observations in the customer environment, and the service call.
Automatic software platform connection to specific documentation, forms, and the right sources within the company empowers the FSE to:
- Make solution recommendations
- Seamlessly input and transfer customer upsell opportunity info to the specific account sales personnel without blurring the line between sales, service, and customer support
- Track FSE and customer journey for further insights
The valuable service benefiting customer, FSE, and MDM results in a 360-degree view of the customer journey that fosters continuous improvement. The software platform is the key to all of this. But it’s structure, transparent use and customization are vital to seamless integration and enabling field service to transform into a profit center.
Customer Service, Technology Platforms, and Profit Center Transformation
Transforming field service into a profit center is about digitally integrating the untapped connections between the FSE and:
- Customer service (and the call center)
- Product Support/Service Desk
- Supply Chain
While the software is the conduit for that connection, it must be simple to use for the FSE. As an enterprise workflow automation solution, it must have the same level of customization across all departments to enable:
- FSE categorization and assignment based on geographic location, skillset and availability.
- Effective management of consignment as well as Trunk stock and warehouse inventory visibility and management for single visit resolution to customer challenges.
- Real-time digital access to client records history, trending issues, and resolution approaches across a product’s user base.
- FSE digital knowledge base access along with a separate customer product documentation knowledge base. This includes seamless viewing, downloading, or emailing to proper customer contacts in real time for record keeping or instruction purposes.
- Seamless electronic work order with automatic form field population, e-signature, printout, and automatic transfer to the correct enterprise departments/personnel.
- Ability to make potential upsell notes and connect customer decision makers to correct MDM sales reps in real time.
The ability to complete digital work orders and make note of potential upsell opportunities are perfect examples of maximizing the opportunity when the FSE has the right person in front of them for immediate sign off. The workflow software’s automatic form population capabilities will make it easy for the FSE to complete work orders and other documentation. The software’s communication functions enable them to automatically pass on the following information to the appropriate people and departments:
- Time stamps and duration for on-site FSE visit
- Issues being addressed and resolution
- Upsell opportunities and decision maker acknowledgment for sales follow-up
- Integration of new customer information into integrated CRM and/or ERP system
The right enterprise-wide software platform based on a module approach should do these things extremely well.
Software Platform Attributes for Complete FSE Profit Transformation
These FSE processes and the enterprise workflow automation software must be highly customizable to ensure that its use in the field is simple, intuitive, and automated wherever possible. The software should make it easy for the manufacturer to streamline its functionality for different user needs.
For example, the FSE should only see the document and process fields they need to see. The module-based enterprise workflow automation SaaS should be intuitive to eliminate any FSE learning curve for an effective user experience (UX) so they can do what they do best.
This level of customization must ensure that it reflects new functionality changes across modules while making sure that they are compatible with established functionalities. The software must take user interface (UI) or back-end process tweaking or changes on a code level out of the equation.
The goal of turning field service into a profit center has far-reaching efficiency and bottom-line implications that ripple throughout the MDM enterprise. While profit center transformation takes time, SaaS workflow platform implementation can streamline and organize the process.
A modular workflow platform enables an MDM to stage implementation rollouts in ways that maximize benefits while minimizing disruption. This makes continuous improvement part of the company culture in ways that ensure it serves the needs of the customer, the company and the bottom line.
About the Author:
Stephen Booze is the VP of Digital Innovation for Solugenix where he supports the company’s mission of providing services, talent, expertise, and technology platforms such as ServiceNow that Increase operational efficiency, performance, customer service and sales fulfillment.