By: Sidney Lara,

As leaders of medical device field-service teams undertake careful examination of their current pain points, they are paying close attention to ways they can help frontline agents build skills to deliver consistent performance in order to avoid equipment downtime and keep medical facilities running smoothly.

Findings from Aquant’s newly released Field Service Sentiment Survey support that. The survey gathered data from 100 field-service executives who shared honest assessments of the biggest challenges they’re experiencing in their day-to-day workflows.

Survey Overview

The survey finds a remarkable number of the issues are linked to the ongoing challenges of sharing knowledge across workforces. Sharing knowledge across teams has a myriad of benefits to improve both employee and customer experience.  Not only does it shorten employee’s time to competency and boost worker confidence, it also has the potential to reduce downtime of medical products, which in turn enhances relationships between the technicians and  medical providers who count on reliable equipment to meet the needs of their patients.

Insights from the survey showcased that service intelligence—a new AI-powered software using Service Language Processing (SLP) to analyze data and deliver insights—can effectively address the challenges of field-service managers in the medical-products sector. Similar to Natural Language Processing (NLP), which uses machine learning to uncover valuable insights like sentiment, SLP goes a step further by learning a customer’s unique service language and mining the symptoms and behavior of the organization’s employees and customers, feeding the AI algorithm even more precise information to bring about better customer outcomes.

With wider adoption of software that use Service-Language Processing (SLP), service intelligence is expected to play an ever-greater role across the industry.

Workforce Training Tops the List

Following are the two pain points that were most commonly cited by service team leaders in the Aquant Field Service Sentiment Survey:

  • Hiring, retaining, and motivating staff members was the most reported issue.
  • Upskilling technicians and designing training programs, the second-most common pain point, was cited by a third of the survey respondents.

These two issues are closely interrelated, and both are rooted in the challenges that many field-service teams face in sharing knowledge across the entire workforce. The challenges continue to grow as the wave of retirements among baby boomers results in the loss of decades-worth of tribal knowledge in the medical-products sector.

As AI tools provide leaders with deeper insights into their workforces, they are likely to discover that field-service specialists are motivated by factors beyond competitive pay and benefits packages;they also want the satisfaction of delivering exceptional customer experiences. This means, in turn, that field-service professionals, especially those in the medical device industry, expect their employer to support them with the training and tools they need to do their job right.

Building Confidence

Technicians who can easily access information—even the sort of information spread informally across service teams from expert to novice—are more confident in their ability to successfully solve problems. They’re far more likely to feel the satisfaction that keeps them from looking for greener pastures elsewhere.

This is particularly important for younger workers, who place great importance on opportunities for professional growth and development. This cohort of workers grew up with technology and expect the option to tap into digital tools to find the information they need. AI-powered tools help these workers close the experience gap and avoid the need to “phone a friend” when they get stuck during a job, and they’re likely to appreciate the support that technology provides.

The implications ripple across teams. It’s not unusual, for instance, for leaders of field-service teams in the medical-device sector to routinely send their most experienced technicians out to address the most difficult problems. Overworked and burned-out veteran employees begin thinking more seriously about retirement, and promising new technicians aren’t afforded opportunities to develop their skills through the resolution of difficult problems.

Service intelligence technologies that allow the sharing of knowledge across the entire workforce reduce over-reliance on veteran field-service engineers, capture the knowledge they’ve built through experience, and provide the support that less-experienced team members need as they take on more challenging assignments.

At the same time, service-intelligence software allows team leaders to dig into the performance of their teams and their individual technicians in far more detail than ever before. They gain useful visibility into the training that’s needed by individual technicians or by entire teams.  And, again, this targeted training is invaluable to build the confidence and morale of field-service engineers who are eager to do the best possible job to keep medical devices in top condition.

The Data Aspect

Team leaders, motivated by the desire to do excellent work as managers, ranked pulling and analyzing data to understand organizational performance as their third most-common pain point.

Without good data, leaders of field-service teams find themselves relying on often-misleading metrics such as First-Time Fix Rate to measure performance. First-Time Fix Rate tracks the ability of a field-service team to resolve a problem on the first visit. It’s often pegged to a fairly short period of time—say, seven days without a follow-up call on the same problem. But leaders long have known that this performance indicator doesn’t account for the extra time, extra travel and extra parts that are required to fix a persistent problem that re-emerges even a day or two outside the window tracked by First-Time Fix Rate.

The development of AI-powered service intelligence, however, allows field-service executives to create far more accurate performance indicators such as Mean Time Between Failures, which measures the average time between customer issues, or the total Cost Per Successful Outcome, which captures all the costs involved with a call, even if it requires multiple visits and participation by multiple team members.

As deeper data and AI provides more advanced tools than mere dashboards to measure performance across the entirety of a workforce, service intelligence becomes a powerful tool for leaders to look at metrics holistically and better understand and shape employee skillsets.

Lean, Data-Driven Teams

The availability of deeper data provides confidence, too, for team leaders as they search for opportunities to increase efficiency and reduce costs. That never-ending task was the fourth most commonly cited pain point among the 100 team leaders surveyed for the Aquant Field Service Sentiment Survey.

The quality of decisions depends on the quality of data an organization has to drive its AI algorithm. Team leaders always want to improve their visibility into revenue and profit trends, discover ways to make their services even more valuable to users of medical devices, and identify threats that could derail their business plans.

Traditional analytics dashboards typically do not monitor data quality. Service intelligence platforms, however, address these worries by ensuring data entered into the engine is clean, accurate, and up-to-date.

Avoiding Service Escalation

Leaders of medical-product field-service teams feel even more pressure to make good decisions because of the rising expectations of their customers. Microsoft has reported that 54 percent of customers acknowledge that they expect better customer service than they did in the past, and this translates into a strong desire by field-service leaders to avoid customer escalations that add cost and hassle to the service experience. In fact, 16%of the respondents in the Aquant Field Service Sentiment Survey say avoidance of escalation is their biggest challenge today.

Customer-service escalation often results from a gap between the expectations of the customer and the expectations of the field-service team. Customers of medical-products companies are under substantial pressure to keep equipment running to meet the needs of patients and deliver on the financial goals of a hospital or clinic. Field service teams that don’t fully understand the pressures faced by their customers are likely to suffer the pains of the service-escalation gap.

The gap closes, however, whenever a field service team better understands the current needs and past trends of its customers. The predictive analysis that’s available through service intelligence programs allows leaders to drill down into individual customers’ data and get ahead of potential issues before they become a problem.

Alleviating Today’s Pain Points

The challenges facing the leaders of medical device field-service teams seldom have felt so daunting.

Service intelligence tools are delivering on their promise to reduce the challenges facing service-team leaders and ensure life-saving equipment stays up and running. Managers are getting the data they need to understand their organizations in ways that never have been possible before. Better data brings better decisions, and better decisions bring better results.

Everyone likes the satisfaction of doing a job well. Service intelligence helps bring the goal to reality.

Sidney Lara is currently the Service Principal at Aquant, a software company focused on bringing service intelligence to field service organizations through AI and data-powered platforms. Questions and comments can be directed to [email protected].