Digital Transformation and the Field Service Technician
Last week we discussed the concept of transactional intensity, and ways in which B2B commerce can impact the productivity (and even the retention rates) of customer service representatives within manufacturing and distribution companies. Just like CSR’s, field service technicians are another important role within The People of B2B. And like the service representatives, field techs are often overlooked when it comes to implementing eCommerce initiatives, which is unfortunate since they too, have much to gain from a unified B2B commerce strategy.
Field service technicians often experience tremendous losses to productivity in the course of doing their jobs. When you think about a technician from an OEM (original equipment manufacturer, for example, on any given day they may encounter multiple brands of products that were used on a single piece of equipment. The amount of time it takes to diagnose and fix a problem is often multiplied exponentially by the effort to identify, locate and order the necessary materials. In addition, pricing contracts and procurement processes often need to be validated before moving forward to resolve a ticket. Sadly, this often involves multiple calls to the office to verify information or return back to the warehouse for parts.
Accelerating productivity with a rich mobile experience
It seems obvious that since the tech works mainly onsite at a customer location it’s important to have a robust mobile experience that can handle complex information and ordering needs. Unfortunately, many eCommerce initiatives view mobile as just an extension of a responsive website. When the mobile strategy stops here, it is often the field service technician who is left with a cumbersome website, multiple portals, and often an ordering process that fails to recognize their unique needs.
A unified B2B commerce solution, however, should provide a totally functional native app. At a minimum, the mobile experience should provide a user-specific product catalog, pricing and product searches and recommendations, and the ability to order as well as re-order easily. The more that the user experience mirrors the customers’ buying journey all the way through to their post-purchase activities, the more productive the technician will become in the field.
Extending critical information to the app itself, not just through a responsive site, enables greater productivity and efficiency for field personnel and drives higher adoption and engagement. The technology exists and it’s not as expensive as one might think – the Insite solution, for example, includes a customizable native app at a fraction of the cost it would take to build a custom mobile solution. It’s easy to visualize examples of how this might work.
Empowering technicians in the field
Imagine that a field service technician is able to login in with a simple thumbprint. From there a photo of the replacement part quickly locates the item within a customized catalog. Or, the item is located via a barcode scan. One click and the item is ordered, with all the required approvals embedded into the system and integrated with the ordering process. Even better, the tech can accomplish most of this functionality not only by hand, but by voice-to-text as well.
Compare that experience to searching through giant databases of information for parts numbers or worse, flipping through a print catalog because the search simply takes too long. Then confirming the customer’s pricing agreements with the home office via at least one phone call (and sometimes more), and finally, placing an order. It’s easy to see how a strong mobile experience that is designed for this role can make life easier for the tech, and the customer as well.
The right data adds revenue opportunity
It’s not only efficiency that increases when the eCommerce solution fully supports the field service technician. A good mobile experience can provide alerts that identify when a warranty might be nearing expiration, so the tech can suggest a renewal. Or, equipment information can include notices that indicate when additional maintenance is needed. The field services tech can suggest this activity be done now, while they’re on site. Needs like these that are identified in real time, can often convert into additional sales (not to mention stronger customer service.)
Integration with backend systems is key
The scenarios described above are only possible when the native app is fully integrated with data from backend systems. When designing a fully unified B2B commerce environment, it’s vital that field service technicians have a real-time view into all the information they need, from custom catalogs, to warranty information, to transactional histories, to customer agreements and pricing policies.
Eliminating phone calls to the office, finding parts information with robust search mechanisms, and ordering with just one click are all ways that field service technicians can be empowered by a robust mobile commerce experience. And this empowerment leads to more satisfied customers, and even more sales. At Insite, we often talk about how much opportunity is left on the table when it comes to the post-purchase phase of the B2B buyer’s journey. Focusing on the role of the field service technician is one way to increase productivity and increase post-purchase sales.