The Holy Grail of Service: Feedback from the Field

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Field service organizations are constantly seeking to optimize service—attain better first-time fix rates, fewer no fault founds, and increased uptime. In a way this represents the Holy Grail of product support, allowing every field service tech to fix things faster, more accurately, every time. When technicians fail to deliver against this utopian objective, senior management frequently reminds them of their failure, especially when it impacts a critical customer. But oftentimes the blame doesn’t lie with the service technicians because repairing complex equipment is made more difficult by numerous factors, such as:

  • Multiple electronic control units and sensors generating tens of thousands of error codes
  • Multiple potential symptoms with multiple potential causes
  • Multiple equipment configurations (especially with electronic controllers)
  • Multiple suppliers building different systems that must work together seamlessly

Typically, the first step in field service repair is troubleshooting. The trouble with troubleshooting is that service techs are often familiar with common problems but they get stumped when ‘’long tail,” or unusual, equipment problems occur. The problem is that conventional troubleshooting guides can’t contain all the possible failure modes, there are simply too many, and usually overlook recent failure trends and lessons learned from the field.  As a result, technicians are forced to escalate infrequent problems to the manufacturer’s customer support center or subject matter experts (SME).  Long tail maintenance events not only drive more escalations, they also take more time to repair and cost more to complete.

This is where feedback from the field can be essential. Service feedback consists of various types of information:  observations (about the equipment or operating conditions), error codes, key performance indicators (KPIs), pictures or video, new symptoms, new solutions, best-practices and/or new ways to streamline a particular activity. Every action and observation made during a service visit can be useful to engineers and other technicians.

With technicians in multiple locations working on similar, sometimes identical, equipment, a large service organization can gain competitive advantage if they have access to all the information gathered from troubleshooting sessions. Only one person has to experience a new symptom to make it available to everyone in the company. Leveraging a central knowledgebase significantly cuts down on the guesswork of technicians, reduces training costs and accelerates repairs.

For CaseBank, a large focus of the development of the diagnostic tool, SpotLight®, centers on field experience—which until recently has been difficult to collect, organize and retrieve. SpotLight gathers and consolidates information from individual troubleshooting sessions on various types of equipment to apply that knowledge to future sessions. Once collected, feedback from the field is consolidated into a central knowledgebase of equipment failure modes, symptoms and causes and is applied to future troubleshooting sessions.

A knowledgebase of feedback from the field benefits the technician, the customer support center, and the operator of the equipment. As technicians fix things faster and more accurately, it yields reduced MTTR, lower NFF, fewer repeat calls to the customer support center and increased customer satisfaction.  In a future blog post we’ll discuss how feedback from the field also benefits a manufacturer’s engineering department.

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