By Michael Prokopis, VP of Strategy & Innovation, OnProcess Technology

OnProcess recently chaired several roundtables at Field Service Medical 2017 called, “Prove It: Use Data to Align Customer Expectations with the Way You Do Business.” Thanks to all our great participants, we had lively and very illuminating discussions about how companies are collecting, using and benefiting from customer data, and the obstacles they’ve faced.

Three key concerns kept coming up for companies across the board: (1) limited investment in qualified people; (2) difficulties resulting from disparate systems; (3) lack of visibility and real-time information across the service lifecycle. While each can be readily solved independently, issues arise when they’re not all tackled simultaneously. And because most companies focus on solving only one or, maybe two, in the hopes of self-funding or recognizing a short-term ROI, this strategy falls way too short.

Without a well-thought-out approach and timely investments in all three areas, the promise of data-enhanced customer experience will continue to be elusive.

Company Investment is Lacking
An informal poll during each roundtable posed a simple question: “How many people does your company employ to assist with data and how well-funded are your activities?” The consensus:  very few and not enough.

With the exception of one major company, everyone else talked about a ‘team of one’ or a few people scattered across the organization with an affinity towards using customer data to help solve problems. The ‘exception’ people described their company’s data activities as taking place within global pockets, noting that no one is sure what the company’s overall, cohesive data strategy is …or if it even exists.

Most participants collect a plethora of data (including using IoT as a collection source), however, few were able to articulate specific data-informed actions that are driving the customer experience. Many suggested they are still in the early stages of codifying. And all agreed there are not enough resources allocated to enable any kind of deep dive.

A bunch of people said their companies are building data warehouses and establishing reporting and dashboards as a first step. However, they also recognized that these present historical views that tell you what happened yesterday, but aren’t designed to predict what will happen tomorrow, which is essential for driving change.

Disparate Systems Pose Problems
“Mergers,” “acquisitions,” “legacy” were commonly cited for the difficulty companies have in effectively using data. Simply put, there too many systems, too many data sources and no single taxonomy to tie data streams together. There are pockets of information, but the task of cobbling data into a coherent, structured approach consumes whatever resources (time and people) are available. Thus, the core issue participants grapple with is: how can we stitch this together without unbolting the very infrastructure of our company (e.g., replacing the ERP)?

End-to-End Visibility is the Holy Grail
Limited investment, disparate systems and siloed pockets of information all make it that much harder to truly understand how customers experience your service supply chain. Even if you track your service order/request, there are significant blind spots throughout the process that could result in your company missing a critical step and failing to deliver what was promised. One participant went so far as to suggest that end-to-end visibility is the ‘holy grail’ we are all searching for, especially in the context of using real-time analytics. He said, “If we can just identify where the possible failure point is we can tailor our processes more specifically to the customer and deliver an experience that makes a real difference.”

All in all, our roundtable participants were united in their mission to use data, in robust ways, to make a difference in customer experience. Based on the three themes that arose, it seems companies are still early in the journey. For most, adequate investment in both people and systems will help significantly as we pursue the holy grail of real-time, actionable analysis generated by true end-to-end visibility.