The Oil and Gas service industry is facing one of the toughest downturns in recent history. A huge drop in oil prices and the broader economic Oil & Gas crash over the past couple years created tough times for field service organizations.
According to McKinsey’s 2016 OFSE Q1 report, Oil & Gas industry revenue declined about 30 percent. The news for field service organizations has been even worse. Oil & Gas services sector revenues declined a full 41 percent on the year.
There has also been a severe decline in the number of operational rigs (see chart below). This put nearly half the employees in this sector out of work.
As upstream, midstream, and downstream Oil & Gas companies struggle to get back on their feet, many wonder what will become of field service in this historically profitable sector.
But hope glimmers on the horizon. According to Oil & Gas Journal, the most recent projections for 2017 consumption look promising. Despite the fact that the majority of aggressive growth is projected to happen outside OECD countries (mainly India and China), modest growth is projected globally.
As markets catch up and Oil & Gas rebounds in the coming years, field service organizations in this sector need immediate solutions to remain profitable. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss three ideas that can help Oil & Gas field service providers bounce back.
1. Be Unconventional in Your Service
In a down market, sometimes the best thing you can do to get noticed is be different. Dozens of organizations demand the same contracts. So it’s essential that you set yourself apart. What unconventional advantage does your field service suite offer potential or existing clients? Are your satisfaction ratings reflecting any trends?
Here are three areas where you should strive to be best:
Pull as much data together as you have on route info, resolutions, and first response rates. Then look for a few cost-effective ways to speed these metrics up. How can you optimize your routes? How can you gain more resolutions in less time? How can you achieve faster first-time response rates? Set some smart goals and get moving.
Be kinder, more responsive, and have a higher level of professionalism with customers. It won’t cost you a penny. This overlooked advantage will keep customers and pay off big in the end. Find ways to work this into your culture and develop new opportunities for satisfying customers.
According to a recent Aberdeen study, nearly 75 percent of best-in-class field service organizations provide field techs with remote access to experts while they work at a customer site. Do your field techs have access to necessary knowledge while in the field?
Arm your techs with knowledge. You can send field techs out with interactive tablets or direct access to experts. Either way, it's a service advantage you should strive for.
2. Become Digitally Nimble
According to a Salesforce study, 52 percent of companies use manual methods to handle field service. This same study found that nearly half of all service agents believe their current tools in the field are “not fast enough.”
It’s no surprise that Oil & Gas field service organizations struggle to stay up to speed with digital tools-- especially when you consider the economic squeeze taking place. But becoming digitally nimble is both a competitive advantage and a crucial step for the field service organizations looking to get ahead in a tough market.
Here are three ways you can become digitally nimble:
Customer web chat
Phone calls and handshakes may still the norm in the Oil and Gas industry. But don’t let that stop you from exploring digital tools at your disposal. Offer your customers the option to text and chat via web forum. This can speed resolution of common questions and move customers to book quicker. Allow your customers to communicate with service providers in their most convenient channel, at a time that’s most convenient for them.
Use location-based software to improve your fleet’s efficiency. This can save money, reduce wait times for customers, and keep your field force on-site for longer periods of time.
Digital tools for customer booking can streamline your contact-to-booking process and free up valuable resources.
Wearables, watches, drones and self-driving cars might not be changing field service yet. But there are plenty of digital tools on the horizon poised to change the future of field service technology.
3. Ramp Up your Marketing
No matter the size of your budget, there’s always new ways to reach your target customers in today’s digital landscape. And if growth is your goal, you’ll simply have to ramp up your marketing efforts.
It might not be easy to stay competitive in a down market. But if you’re willing to hustle, you’ll certainly find success. Here are a few ideas:
Social media allows you to reach customers with your most up-to-date information. Consider using Facebook or Twitter as customer service channels. The majority of your customers use one of many social platforms. Resolve their questions and concerns in real-time to stand out from other companies.
And don’t forget about the opportunity with paid social media. In the last year alone, there have been major changes and improvements to paid social media options like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. One of your best options for reaching the right customers is targeting specific job titles and companies using LinkedIn Sponsored Content.
Event-based marketing continues to be an effective way to gain and keep customers. The first, and easiest, way to get results at events is paying to set up a booth that contains information about your organization.
The second, and more valuable, strategy is to build thought leadership via events. Become a thought leader in your industry on a niche topic and improve your odds at gaining valuable customers. Consider brushing up on your presentation skills and apply to give a brief talk on a topic in your organization’s sweet spot.
Do you have unique approach to service? Do you have a unique methodology for resolving customer tickets and complaints? Share some of your perspective to set yourself apart from competitors.
Improve your credibility by being helpful, offering insights, and having the guts to speak in front of people. Higher credibility will yield more customers long-term.
Search engine marketing
When done well, pay-per-click marketing (PPC) will most definitely yield new customers. And, this is your quickest way to gaining leads via search engines. While search engine optimization is a much more long-term strategy, results from search engine marketing (PPC) can be yielded quickly.
PPC allows you to target folks who are asking highly specific questions via search engines, or typing in very specific keywords related to your brand. You won’t need a massive budget to know if your PPC efforts are paying off. Develop your key differentiator, compelling copy, a specific offer and start testing.
It will take time to return to normal in the Oil and Gas services sector. In the meantime, we must find ways to innovate, share knowledge and set ourselves up for an even greater field service future.