How outsourcing field service & repair became the default
option for B2B technology

Neil Anderson

In the first of a series of articles, Qcom managing director Neil Anderson explores the latest trends in field service outsourcing, and the considers how, when and where it can add most value to technology manufacturers.

In B2B sectors as diverse as manufacturing, supply chain and logistics, medical and healthcare, retail, transport, and hospitality, technology procurement is characterised by high-value (and typically high-volume) contracts and long-term business relationships.

Switching between technology providers and types is costly, disruptive and time consuming for the procuring businesses and organisations; for the manufacturers, distributors and supply chain, it can be disastrous. It’s easy to see why brand and reputation have become so highly valued.

In terms of technical services, these characteristics historically led technology companies to the conclusion that field service should be carried out in-house by an employed workforce. But as these technology sectors have matured, and the outsource sector has grown in sophistication and capability, this has shifted – slowly at first, now with growing momentum.

In fact, our experience suggests that outsourcing field service and support is now increasingly viewed as the default position in most, if not all, B2B technology markets.

Change drivers in field service outsourcing

Perhaps ironically, the same concerns which previously led to in-house provision are now driving this rising demand for outsourced solutions.

While outsourcing has always been viewed (usually correctly) as an efficient and cost-saving alternative to in-house provision, it was generally felt that the compromise would be in the quality of provision. Now, with several decades of outsourcing experience to draw on, there is plenty of evidence to show that critical service level factors such as time to repair, first-time-fix, technology uptime, and end-user experience can in fact be improved by the outsourcers ability to build and operate dedicated service engineering and support infrastructures.

Specialist outsource field service providers don’t need to worry about R&D, product development and testing, sales support and the other non-service demands that are often placed on in-house engineering teams. Instead, they can focus 100% on building dedicated service infrastructures and resources, investing in service technology, recruiting and training engineers for both technical AND customer service excellence, and achieving the scale required to provide a flexible response to the inevitable peaks and troughs which characterise service demand.

Mission critical

Critically, this increased understanding of the quality advantages of outsourcing field services is happening at exactly the time manufacturers are facing an unprecedented rise in demand for ever-higher levels of service and support on their technology products.

The reason is simple – technology products in many sectors have become so ubiquitous and fundamental to the delivery of core processes that the end-user organisations simply cannot afford to be without them for long.

What a great problem for technology manufacturers to have!

In retail, ever-more automated stores can’t trade without their touchscreens, automated payments and security systems. Car parks are increasingly unmanned, relying on cameras and automatic number plate recognition for everything from charging to access to site security. Manufacturing led the way in automation decades ago, and now industrial automation is mission-critical on just about every production line. And nowhere is mission critical technology more mission critical than in medicine and healthcare, where lives are literally on the line.

With entire sectors of the economy and society, from supermarkets to surgical theatres, now increasingly reliant on sophisticated technology products and systems, manufacturers understand that uptime and service quality have leapt to the top of their customers’ agenda. Field service and support can no longer be viewed as an afterthought – they sit front-and-centre as core parts of any technology solution, calling for careful planning and specialist provision to deliver the required scope, scale and quality.

The outsource solution

Of course, that’s not the only pressure on technology manufacturers. With the pace of change in technology quickening all the time, they are also under increasing pressure to innovate, to develop and roll out new products and solutions. That only increases the cost of tying up their best engineering resources in service roles, delivering field repair, preventative maintenance and other support functions instead of driving innovation.

Together, these factors have ensured that the long-running in-house vs outsourced debate has swung firmly towards outsourcing in recent years. What was once seen simply as a cost-saving alternative to in-house provision is now seen as an essential partnership for B2B technology manufacturers.

In my next article I’ll look at what technical services technology manufacturers are deciding to outsource, and how they are going about it. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss your technical service and support requirements, please do get in touch with the Qcom team on outsourcing@qcom.co.uk, call us on 01905 827650, or click here to start reading more about the many advantages of outsourcing field service and support to Qcom.

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