Information portals for Service organisations

Empower employees through remote on-site service approaches.

Information portals for Service organisations

Due to the global travel restrictions made necessary by the various Coronavirus measures, many Service organisations are just now learning that it's possible to provide services without actually being on-site. After all, despite the Coronavirus pandemic, production equipment, construction machinery and many other technical products need to stay running.

An essential key in performing service work without traveling is empowering service personnel already on-site, even if they're not experts and normally can't solve the various technical problems that arise without additional help.

Of course, manufacturers of machinery and equipment provide valuable information in the form of operating and/or service manuals (and as the head of a service provider that produces just such information, I have to mention this). But let's be honest: this documentation can't simply solve all the problems that can occur during the operation of production facilities, even machines or technical medical devices – over many years. This requires a lot of experience and special knowledge that service employees have acquired over the course of many years.

So it's important to consider what can help in extracting the knowledge from these experts and making it accessible to those who are on-site at the facility anyway – wherever it happens to be located. Here are some ideas on how to make this happen:

More step-by-step instruction

Step-by-step instructions are a proven means in technical editing for conveying complex sequences or sets of actions. The service staff on-site can work through the individual illustrated action steps, point-by-point and thus quickly (and successfully) reach their goal. The prerequisite for this, however, is that the action sequences can be followed exactly as they've been documented. Too many surprises and associated decisions should therefore not be necessary when working through the set out script. Step-by-step instructions are therefore more appropriate for maintenance activities and less so for actual troubleshooting.

Instructional videos

Instructional videos can be a good alternative to step-by-step instruction. Here, you simply film the steps instead of writing them out. Depending on the quality of the video, this can be even faster than writing out the step-by-step instructions. However, you're not as flexible when it comes to changes and variations. Where only the text may need to be changed in the written instruction, a complete re-shoot may be necessary for the video.

Guided troubleshooting

Guided troubleshooting is suitable for identifying the various causes of errors. This involves creating a hierarchical tree structure with questions; each of which branches off into new questions until the cause of the error is narrowed down. This enables the service person (already) on-site to both diagnose and solve problems. In order to build up the Fault Tree Analysis (FTA), the expert only needs to go through all the combinations of faults, symptoms and causes one single time.

Hotline (also available with video)

When things get even more complicated, it's good if local service staff can contact an expert. A video call makes communication much easier here, especially if the products are quite complex. In principle, any mobile phone can do this (e.g. via Apple FaceTime). However, if there are a lot of requests, and those seeking help don't know the experts, a central hotline number and call management is essential. Then, it makes sense to use a professional remote service solution, such as REFLEKT Remote.

Blended learning

If you have a little more time, it can also make sense to provide training to local service staff, in order to enable them to perform certain tasks. Of course, these training sessions should also take place off-site whenever possible. The blended learning approach pursues a sensible mix of online training and classroom training (because not everything always belongs online). In this way, the number of physical attendance days can be significantly reduced without jeopardizing the goal of actually learning. The transfer of knowledge thus becomes much more efficient than with traditional approaches to training.

System-based solutions seem inevitable

All of the solution approaches mentioned above require a digital platform for the transmission of information to the Service department. No one seriously wants to go through a Fault Tree Analysis on paper, for example.

Traditional service management systems are more concerned with logistics and planning. Usually, information can be attached (normally in PDF format), but it's not optimized for digital use – and the use cases described above.

Therefore, special information portals optimised for service are just beginning to emerge, to complement service management systems. Their many advantages include:

  • Information is found more quickly
  • Information is kept up-to-date
  • Support for multiple languages
  • Support for feedback channel functionality
  • Support for collaboration options

Lots of ideas and tasks, but how can you manage it all?

If you're thinking: "Wow, this all looks like an expensive investment and a ton of work," I can answer with a resounding "No". Of course, the comprehensive development of an information portal for Service departments requires an investment in software and a corresponding project for the development of the information/knowledge base. This can be both expensive and time-consuming.

On the system-side, however, there are also providers who offer subscription-based models that have low entry costs. Then it makes sense to first test (on a small scale) which information really helps and generates the greatest benefit. And before you go to the trouble of creating everything from scratch, you can also take a look at what information is already available within your company, and first make this information available digitally, even if it doesn't correspond to the "pure doctrine" of information transfer.

Then, you can consider where the biggest problems occur and create targeted information for this. Following the credo of "first things first", the information portal can be gradually filled and therefore be made increasingly useful. It's good to give service employees the opportunity to provide feedback, right from the start. In this way, you can align yourself well with their needs and also avoid investing a lot of work in information that's actually not so urgently needed in the end.

Of course, for all this to work, you'll need responsible people in the company to take care of setting up the information portal. Such an information manager can be found from within the company or sought via a service provider such as kothes. The same applies, of course, to the editing, production and implementation of the content.

Lars Kothes
Blog post Lars Kothes