• April 1, 2003
  • By Paul Greenberg, founder and managing principal, The 56 Group

Mobile Workers Are Integral to CRM Success

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I'm on a crusade this year to make sure that field service isn't ignored. So with this column I'm going to tout that decidedly misunderstood domain. You hear the phrase field service. Do you think of Jesse White, the actor who played the never-busy Maytag repairman? Do you get apoplectic because a field service technician is scheduled to arrive at your house "sometime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m."? As a CFO, do you think, "cost center"? If you're a field service provider, you can't be indifferent. Field service is attention grabbing, because it is really a big industry despite its deceptive overalls. It's the 21st century's blue collar CRM and it is now mobile, which means it is almost sexy. But the very ability to handle customer complaints, parts availability, and repair and warranty issues on the fly makes field service noticeable and profitable. And that's better than sexy. You're probably thinking, who cares? What's the impact on me? Well, if you have a vested interest in having customers, then field service is not only relevant to you, but is also a crucial part in the successful CRM mechanism. Unfortunately, too many executives don't realize this. In fact, I'm shocked at the responses of the 1,900 field service decision-makers who recently participated in a study conducted by Astea International, a field service solutions provider. Although 56 percent of the respondents see field service playing a vital role in their sales and marketing mission, and see field service as a profit center or product differentiator, 40 percent of that 56 percent are going to spend less than $250,000 on any initiatives to enhance that field service. That's the same field service that people like me--customers--see as the public face of your company, usually when I'm angry. Then I read that AMR Research finds that services divisions of manufacturing companies provide 40 percent to 50 percent of the profit of those companies, and 25 percent of the revenue. So what world are 22 percent of the Astea survey respondents living in who said they plan to spend less than $250,000 on field service initiatives? Not mine, the one that calls field service to fix things or deliver things or to give me an idea of exactly why I should continue to do business with you. The world in which, more often than not, the experience customers have with a field service technician determines whether you retain customers. I'm not exactly alone in this, either. Recent estimates place the number of IT service calls alone (many of which lead to field service calls) at 300 million a year. Case study after case study proves the value of investment in field service, despite the incredible number of myopic executives. York International Corp., for example, provided mobile solutions to its 1,400 technicians, who have profited through use of application provider Siebel Systems Inc., and integrator BearingPoint Inc. GEM Service Group, a GEM Industrial Inc. division, expects an increase of more than 400 technician manhours a year through use of its field service apps. Email me if you want to hear many more. So wise up, field service decision-makers, and don't act like your thinking is broken. If you do, I'll have to call you a field service technician--you know, the one you haven't invested in. Paul Greenberg is president of The 56 Group, an enterprise applications consultancy specializing in CRM, and author of
CRM at the Speed of Light: Capturing and Keeping Customer in Internet Real Time. Contact him at paul-greenberg3@ comcast.net
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