Field Service Investment a Low Priority

A recent survey of more than 3,500 field service professionals and their senior managers discovered a major divergence between the importance placed on field service by CEOs and the dollar amount invested in updating field service technologies. The survey, conducted by Astea International Inc., found that of the nearly 1,900 CEOs surveyed, 56 percent view field service as playing a vital role in their sales and marketing mission, but only 42 percent expected to expand their field service budgets in the coming year. Of the companies that are expecting to invest in upgrading and automating field service, 40 percent expect to spend less than $250,000 on such initiatives, an amount unlikely to allow for any real gains in field service automation, Astea says. The findings come despite a recent AMR Research Report that discovered that service businesses (divisions of manufacturing companies that provide parts, maintenance, and other services to customers after original product sales) account for 40 to 50 percent of a manufacturing company's profit and 25 percent of its annual revenue. The gulf is also apparent in employee attitudes toward field service. For instance, although 24 percent of CEOs say that field service represents a vital product differentiator for their organization, only 8 percent of field service professionals believe that management takes such a progressive approach when supporting and allocating resources for field service. "In tightening markets service often stands as a last defense in maintaining prices and profitability. Organizations that can make good on promises for excellent service and perform it at reasonable costs will be the ones that weather the turbulent economy," Zack Bergreen, CEO of Astea, said in a statement. Astea offers five rules for overcoming what it calls the disconnect in field service: 1. Communicate the value of a present customer in terms of replacement costs. At a time when new customers are hard to find, the value of retaining current customers increases. 2. Invest in technology and tools. CEOs need to support their conviction with real technology investment, and if they have done so, ensure that the investment is optimized. 3. Empower employees, customers, and partners. 4. Move information closer to the boundaries of service. By delivering customer information to the field across multiple platforms, mobile field service personnel can optimize their value to the organization and to the customer. 5. Recognize, reward, and motivate. Those organizations that best communicate the value of field service are also those that systematically recognize the impact that field service has on the bottom line.
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