Increasing Customer Returns by Leveraging Data & Transparency at proAV

Episode 1

Field Service Management Podcasts


About this episode

Carl Hamilton, Field Service Engineering Manager at proAV Limited, shares his expert insight on manoeuvring in a reactive service management sector and gives advice on using AI and IoT to help increase customer returns. As well as opening the lid on the acronym, RTFM.


Matt (Host): Hi everyone. Welcome back to the Comparesoft Podcast. Great to have you here as usual. Today, my guest is Carl [Hamilton] and Carl is the Field Service Engineering Manager at proAV Limited.

Carl has worked with companies including Norton Rose Fulbright and Soc Gen Banking Corporation and is currently working with proAV Limited. Carl has worked with VIPs and high-profile individuals within the corporate event and retail sectors. He is now responsible for managing technical support across blended technology solutions within Audio Visual unified communications and beyond. So, it will be great to get his take on field service management.

Hey, Carl, welcome to the show. How are you, sir?

Carl Hamilton: Yeah, I’m good. Thank you. Yeah, busy as ever.

Matt: Can you tell the listeners a little bit more about what you do and what your job involves?

Carl: Absolutely. So, I’m the Field Service Engineering Manager for proAV. As you’re aware, I effectively deliver service and support to our extensive client base across corporate government and retail sectors. And that is for audio visual hardware, unified communications, and integration.

So, think things like large format, video displays, music systems, control systems, and smart home sort of technology – but at a corporate level.

Matt: Okay. Well, and then how would you go about setting a good service management culture?

Carl: Oh, good question. So, yeah, for me, I think it’s about building trust with your team. I think effectively, service management can be really reactive. And as much as we want to provide proactive support, it’s just not possible all the time.

So, I’m pretty confident in saying, if I need something from one of my team members, that falls outside the lines of duty, so something like working late, or pulling something together on a Saturday morning, I can almost guarantee that one of them will step up when required, but at the same time, they all know, it’s okay to say no.

We work together to deliver a service and building that trust in the team is key to getting that sort of level of support from your team. They know that as a manager, my job is to give them the tools they need to do their job. And therefore they can rely on me as much as I can rely on them.

Matt: Okay, great. So, how do you recommend planning for field service activities?

Carl: So, for me, it’s keep simple tasks formulaic. I make sure they’re repeatable. Make sure you have processes in place that don’t result in process loops, you don’t want to be stuck in issues that you can’t resolve, trying and doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We all know that’s the definition of insanity.

And if you find solutions, capture it. Capture the method, the tools, the knowledge that you’ve used to ensure that you’ve been successful and make sure they’re repeatable for future occurrences. Knowledge bases, things like that are key to allowing people to quickly get to answers and not just answers, but sometimes it’s about how do you get path, the right place with the right access. So yeah.

Matt: Okay, nice, concise and to the point. And so, then what’s your viewpoint on implementing an effective field service plan?

Carl: Yeah, good question. I think, for me, service improvement is never-ending. I think you should always be looking at what you can do to evolution-ise processes rather than revolutionise processes. Don’t try and change things overnight, because there are so many people involved that you can’t teach something new continuously, but you can teach little bits ongoing.

So, just make sure that you make small changes, not massive changes and those small changes can make all the difference. And it’s kind of a cliché, the five Ps, isn’t it; proper planning prevents poor performance. If you, you sit there and you work out, “What’s my scope of work? What am I trying to achieve here?” And work backwards from that.

So, for instance, if I’m trying to resolve an issue with a large video wall in a retail location in China, I start with, Okay, well, who can I get to China? What are the rules in place in [the] region that I need to follow? How high up is it? How do I get access safely? What do I need to take with me to ensure I’ve got the best chance of resolving that issue first time? Do I need tools? Do I need equipment, spare equipment? Is the video processor going to need replacing? Is the panel is going to need replacing? Can I have them with me on the same attendance?

And a lot of that boils down to many factors, [like] cost efficiency, you don’t want to go spending £10,000 on a new piece of hardware that might fix a problem. But actually, that’s not the problem. So, you’ve just got to judge each piece as best as you can. But at the same time, make sure that you are going through the whole process to ensure those thoughts are taking place.

Matt: Do you think software tools are useful for managing field service activities?

Carl: Absolutely. I think today’s world is imperative. I think it eradicates single points of failure, it allows transparency across the business, but also ensures that your customers stay informed. We’re actually, funnily enough, in the process of, and I say, you should evolution-ise rather than revolutionise, but we’re currently revolutionising our software portfolio because we are including Field Service Management for the first time in five years in our sort of software roadmap.

So, we are deploying a solution, fully customised solution to allow all the information required for technical resolution to be passed across various technical teams. So, information from a remote support team, straight to dispatch, then all the way to feet-on-street service.

So, making sure that, you know, schematics are available, configurations are available, that people have the right information to be successful at the right point without having to go looking for it. It’s always been there. We’ve, much like most people, we’ve had folders with key items in it, but people having to go looking for it, we want it to follow the task. So, when a customer raises a ticket, it looks for an entitlement, it ensures that we have the information there and delivers it directly to the people who need it when they need it.

Matt: Okay, excellent. And what about connected technologies? Do you see them changing the way we work in the future?

Carl: Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of the other stuff that we do in audio visual, relies on the Internet of Things, lots and lots of remote tooling. Without going too much into detail that people might not be aware of, but there are various manufacturer support tools that are available now that are all connected by cloud, which is really, really key to leverage.

But ultimately, it’s all about data. And I think if you can get the right data to ensure that you have the intelligence to make the right decisions, then that’s going to go a long way to making sure your services are what you want to deliver.

And also with AI coming into play, I think that will make life easier and easier. We’ve just got to be really careful that we don’t include too much data because people have to be at the end of that. And someone is responsible for inputting that data into the technology. So, if you get the balance wrong, all of a sudden you’re spending more time on administration and bureaucracy and less time actually delivering the service and it can have a negative approach if you don’t do it right.

But you do, absolutely, I think you can’t be a player in today’s market if you don’t leverage technology somehow.

Matt: Okay. And then, so looking at the reverse of that, what’s your take on using spreadsheets for service management? Do they still have a place?

Carl: I think spreadsheets will always have a place. I think every time you use a spreadsheet you need to stop and think, “Is this the right tool?” I’ve seen people use spreadsheets as diaries. I’ve seen people use spreadsheets to basically run entire businesses. And it’s certainly possible.

If you’re a small startup company hoping to get yourself ahead, then you may leverage spreadsheets to get you there. But what you’ve got to be careful of is, as you grow and you outgrow the use of spreadsheets, the ability to use that information becomes more and more sort of segregated. And when you create multiple, compartmentalised spreadsheets to run one business, then all of a sudden you’ve got a situation where you can’t get to that data. It will take man hours in order to adjust build reporting. It’s not, what’s the word I’m looking for? It’s probably just…

Matt: Effective?

Carl: It’s not effective, it’s not efficient, I think is the word I’m looking for.

Matt: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Well, then how do you use service management as a competitive advantage in the business?

Carl: Yeah, I think judging by where I think you’re going with this question, I think, customer service done well breeds return custom. If you deliver and support well, customers will come back to you when it’s time for that next project. And it might be two, three, four years down the line that they have that sort of large budget available again, but most revenue these days comes from existing customers, not new customers, it’s difficult to find new customers, but if you keep customers happy, and they trust your work, and they trust you as a business, if you’re transparent with them, then they’ll keep coming back. And that will keep revenue growing.

Matt: Okay. And so, moving on from that, what are your top three tips for our listeners on field service management?

Carl: Know every inch of your business. Well, in other departments you can get away with being quite compartmentalised, and only seeing your sort of area. But in service, you need to know everyone. You need to know who produces your quotes [and] who does all your sales activity. You need to know who’s delivering the projects at the coalface [and] you need to know who’s interrogating the documentation.

So, just know every inch of your business and who you can go to when you need it. Because, certainly in audio visual, we rely on subject matter experts, we rely on people who have information. There are so many technologies involved in AV but show me someone who says they know everything about AV, and I’ll show you a liar, because there’s just too much. There are too many different user interfaces [and] too many different programming styles. So, yeah leverage your business, leverage your subject matter experts, and know who to go to and when.

Secondly, I would say, make sure you provide the right tools for the job, both software wise and physical tools because everything you can do to get efficiency. And you can use certain tools to do something. But if it’s not the right tool, if it’s not the best tool for the job, it will add minutes on and those minutes become hours. The more you repeat that task, the more you lose in terms of efficiency. So, make sure people have the right tools for the job. That’s effectively anyone’s job as [a] manager. Your job as a manager is to ensure that the people have what they need in order to do their jobs effectively.

And then the last one, I think, is provide real-time information to customers, make sure your customers know what’s going on. If there are delays, be transparent, don’t hide things away. Make sure that updates are timely, efficient and easy to understand. Most people become anxious when there’s uncertainty and field service is no different. If they don’t know what’s going on, they’re gonna assume that nothing’s going on. So, you can do all the work in the world, if you don’t tell your customer what you’re doing, then they assume that you’re sitting there doing nothing.

Matt: All right. Well, you’ve provided some amazing information and advice for our listeners. So, thanks again for that. And then wrapping the show up, what’s your favourite saying or quote on field service?

Carl: We have one in audio visual, and it is based on the fact that we do look after so many different technologies, but it’s RTFM, which is an acronym for Read The Flaming Manual. I don’t know where it came from, but don’t assume you know how you’re doing something, sit there and look for the information. It’s all there in the manual.

Matt: Awesome. Well, there we go, listeners, take that one on board. And Carl, thanks so much for being on the show. Again, you’ve been a fantastic guest and provided some amazing information there for listeners.

Carl: Thanks for having me. And yeah, have a very good day.

Matt: All right, well, thanks again to all of you guys for being here listening to the show. Again, it’s great to have you here as always. We will see you on the next episode. Cheers.