Service - H.G. Wells Style
As a tech reporter for the Austin Business Journal, the stories that would make me drool were the ones that seemed like science fiction, not news.
Hi-tech start-up promises to deliver a refrigerator that does the shopping for you – for example, automatically orders milk when you’re almost out or gathers and orders the ingredients for Monday night dinner.
Almost ten years later, I’ve still not found a “smart” refrigerator and we have yet to download data directly into our brains, but look what we do have: ShopSavvy, a price comparison engine on Google’s G1 phone. It will transform the entire shopping experience.
Yesterday, my friend showed me how it works. Using the phone, he scanned the bar code on his baby daughter’s giraffe and Voila! There was the price of the giraffe listed on multiple sites, both online stores and bricks-and-mortar shops in his area selling that item by using the G1’s built-in GPS.
Imagine a similar tool for service. Simply input the model number, or scan the bar-code, with a brief description of the problem and Voila! There’s a list of the service providers in your area and estimates of price and time to repair the problem. It’s not as far off as those smart refrigerators and brain implant, so service businesses better have the people, parts, prices, knowledge and processes automated optimized and automated to make way for the Brave New World of service.
However, we’re one step closer to that level of automation through service knowledge management. Today, you can actually diagnose the problem on-line even before you pick up the phone to ask for outside assistance. That way, if you just need to plug the machine into the wall or clean a sock from the filter, you can save a ton of money. Conversely, call center reps can do the same before they send the issue to dispatch, and dispatchers can better manage the field techs based on problem-diagnosis. And the best part of all of it: Field techs can use knowledge management to guide them through the repair process if they face an issue they can’t diagnose on the field. Saves the customer money (you don’t have to pay for multiple home visits); saves the company money ( truck rolls only once); and the field tech can access the intellectual capital of more experienced techs who have retired (without lugging around multiple manuals that would require hours of page-turning to find an adequate diagnosis and solution).
Of course, I’m still waiting for the day that my washing machine can predict imminent failure before it even happens. And then walk me through the repair itself. And then give me a backrub….