Technology is always in a state of flux. With innovations and breakthroughs rendering established paradigms obsolete, new and better solutions are replacing entrenched systems. Here are five trends likely to cause the biggest disruptions in field service management this year.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has already caught the popular imagination for the possibilities it evokes. 2019 is likely to be the year when IoT finally walks much of its talk.
Many industries have already made their devices and equipment “smart,” and more industries follow at a fast pace. Such smart equipment gives advance warning on fuel or other consumables, running low, temperatures exceeding permissible limits, machine operating outside established norms indicating an imminent breakdown, and other valuable insights. Such an IoT ecosystem gives field service the opportunity to indulge in proactive maintenance, and pre-empt downtime. The specific insights on offer also make the actual task of service or maintenance easier.
Side-by-side with IoT, Artificial Intelligence will make big strides through 2019. AI-powered field service systems automate intelligent scheduling, not just matching the right technician to the right job, but also assisting the technician in identifying and making explicit the underlying issues.
Artificial Intelligence based solutions such as RPA undertake hazardous jobs, enter and service machine parts or areas hard-to-reach using human hands, and do more. AI-powered systems, increasingly capable of communicating with each other, also self-diagnose and undertaking basic, routine maintenance or repetitive tasks by itself, without involving a technician at all.
The increasing adoption of IoT, Artificial Intelligence and automation makes the role of field service technician more strategic than before. Salesforce estimates 71% of technicians considering their jobs as more strategic compared to two years before. 63% of agents in high-performing teams spend most of their time resolving complex issues. In contrast, 57% of agents in under-performing teams spend their time on mundane tasks. The onus is on the field service enterprises to equip their workforce with the skills and competencies to provide elevated service and manage complex tasks with ease.
Field service technicians are all set to use Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) based applications and tools in a big way, to access information about the device, perform and diagnostics without having to take the machine apart, and also get to know customer preferences and special requests.
The advanced AR software offers valuable annotations and step-by-step repair instructions imposed over the image of the device being repaired, making repairs or service easy. It also facilitates hands-free repair for the technician.
AR and VR also spread remote assistance in a big way. Technicians use wearables such as smart glasses to see what the customer sees and provide live customer service or assistance remotely.
Enterprises could also promote self-service in a big way, with customers leveraging the AR and VR technology on offer to perform minor repairs, refills or service on their own.
Related Reading: Read on to learn the future of field service technology.
Most field service management suites now co-opt Big Data based analytical capabilities. The system analyzes field data, to review the health and state of the machines. Such insights enable making informed decisions such as whether to opt for proactive maintenance, the spares technicians have to bring along when going for service, and more. Operational and behavioral data allow the system to calculate a technician ETA at the site with a high level of accuracy, improving customer satisfaction manifold. Customer support agents leverage data to personalize and customize the customer experience.
Of late, field service enterprises have also started to pay more attention to identifying “right data” instead of aggregating any data they can lay their hands on, to improve the efficiency and potency of their analytic capabilities.
Aberdeen Research estimates best-in-class enterprises that adopt analytics technology increasing their service profits by 18%, customer retention rates by 42%, and SLA performance by 44% on average. With data becoming even more potent thanks to IoT and allied technologies, and improvements in Big Data Technology, these figures are all set to increase even further.
Mobility, powered up by the cloud, is already the de-facto way for field service software. Mobile based apps allow technicians, respond to service requests easily and quickly, allow managers and supervisors to resolve issues in double-quick time, and enable all stakeholders to be informed and in control of the happenings. Native mobile apps deliver real-time and offline data to field technicians, enabling them to take informed actions, even in remote locations.
The application of mobility in field service is set to become even more intense in the coming days. Experts or supervisors providing step-by-step remote guidance to the field technicians, a strong and integrated collaborative suite to ensure real-time communication among on-the-job technicians, customers, managers, and other stakeholders, and many other innovations would lift field service in a big way. Such enhancements don’t just ensure a speedier first-time fix, but also take customer engagement and customer satisfaction to higher levels.
Four out of five service decision-makers believe emerging technology is transforming customer expectations, and almost four out of five (82%) of such decision makers believe their company’s customer service must transform to stay competitive.
Today’s field service businesses face the challenge of not just making processes more efficient, but also converting field service, from a cost center to a profit generating operation. Converting field service from its traditional reactive approach to a proactive approach, improving efficiency and productivity through artificial intelligence, AR, VR, and other emerging technology interventions. Empowering technicians and other stakeholders through the increasing use of Big Data analytics, increasing customer engagement through mobility and other initiatives, and more are the ways to go in this regard, and in 2019 such wisdom is dawning on an increasing number of enterprises.