Mind the Gap

By Heather Baldwin

Does this sound familiar? Your CEO has waxed poetic about the value of field service and its importance as a vital product differentiator, but has no plans to invest in it this year. If that sounds like your company, you are not alone. 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 commitment companies are making to realize the potential returns of field service through automation. The survey was conducted by Astea International Inc., a global supplier of integrated CRM solutions.

Astea found that 56% of CEOs say field service plays a vital role in their sales and marketing mission, either as a profit center or a product differentiator, but only 42% of those chief executives expect to expand their field service budgets in the coming year. Moreover, of the companies expecting to upgrade and automate field service, 40% expect to spend less than $250,000 on such initiatives, an amount Astea says that is unlikely to allow for any real gains in field service automation. Finally, while 24% of CEOs say that field service represents a vital product differentiator for their organization, only 8% of field service professionals believe that management takes such a progressive approach when supporting and allocating resources for field service.

So what can organizations do to bridge the gap? Astea suggests implementing the following five steps: communicate the value of a customer in terms of replacements costs to emphasize the value of retaining current customers; invest in technology and tools; empower employees, customers and partners with knowledge repositories and communication links that reduce workload and resolve challenges more efficiently; move information closer to the boundaries of service (By arming field service personnel with real information about the customer relationship, says Astea, those field service professionals will feel more effective.); and continue to recognize, reward and motivate.

“In tightening markets service often stands as a last defense in maintaining prices and profitability,” says Zack Bergreen, CEO of Astea International. “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.”

For more information on the survey, visit www.astea.com.