Field service suites are the flavor of the season, as enterprises across-the-board realize the significant gains in revenue and customer satisfaction on offer. As companies embrace technology, they also innovate and apply it in new areas and new domains.
Field service software is in a continuous cycle of improvement and is all set to become more robust and lean than before. On-premises field service software is already passé. Cloud-based software, accessible through intuitive mobile apps, anytime, anywhere, offer stakeholders relevant components to do their work effectively, and collaborate seamlessly with others. The cloud facilitates seamless two-way communication, storing and synchronizing data securely.
Mobile apps facilitate better and real-time communication with technicians and managers on the move. Most field service software already has collaborative components. Such collaborative capabilities will become even more integrated with field service suites, offering a platform for stakeholders to collaborate seamlessly. For instance, clients will not just be able to track a technician’s progress and get the ETA, but also collaborate with him up front, and brief him, to ensure he come fully equipped and prepared to deal with the situation in hand. The apps itself would become sleek, lean, and even more focused.
The customer has always been the king. In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, dominated by highly fickle and impatient customers, enterprises will have to go much beyond offering a neat UX and an easy UI to attract customers. The entire process, including the design and architecture of field service software, will become customer-centric rather than process-centric. Enterprises would design systems around customer convenience and strive for internal efficiencies within such a paradigm. Such an approach would reflect in field service technology as well, where the enterprise and technicians would work around customer needs and requirements, rather than expect the customer to make adjustments to the working style of the field service technicians. This would translate into customer-centric front-end apps, 24×7 flexible services, modular pick-and-choose scalable contracts, and much more.
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Most routine services, such as billing are already automated, and in the future, such automation will become the norm. However, the future of field service belongs to emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, drones, and more.
Research firm Statista predicts the installed base of IoT devices to touch 31 billion worldwide by 2020. Field service companies now increasingly rely on IoT sensors to gauge the state of various machinery, to make a pre-emptive repair. Sensor’s issue signal when machinery’s vital parameters deviate from its mean indicating something amiss, triggering alerts when a component is about to fail or requires replacing, or when fuel is getting low. Such alerts enable proactive repairs, pre-empting downtime. Co-opting automation in the mix, the system schedules a service automatically, and makes the necessary provisioning in the inventory, leading to a highly lean and efficient set-up.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is widely used to improve the quality of service and repairs, and also to self-diagnose. AI-based chatbots make customer engagement seamless and easy and promote self-service in a big way. AI is already widely deployed in intelligent scheduling and other associated tasks and would make even more headway in other facets of field service. AI-based robots could replace humans to undertake maintenance and repairs in hazardous areas, and in places where it is difficult for human hands to reach.
Many field service systems integrate virtual reality to offer insights and hands-free assistance to technicians, facilitating a more efficient fix. Augmented reality headsets offer technicians a 360-degree view of the machinery, with annotations. Technicians could also connect with senior technicians or superiors, and collaborate seamlessly using a virtual reality interface to resolve complex problems, and affect a thorough fix in a short time.
Applying thermal imaging detects overheating equipment or malfunctioning equipment, again enables proactive interventions to prevent downtime. Drones are the next big thing in field service technology and will find widespread use to check on equipment or machines in remote or difficult to reach locations. Drones could also be used to deliver spare parts to a technician, sparing a revisit, take photographs and scan the area, and much more.
Big data and by extension, data analytics have already taken over field service by storm and makes available a host of possibilities. Real-time data from deploying equipment enable taking decisions based on live information, rather than speculate on the basis of random samples and stale, outdated information. As competition intensifies, enterprises will apply analytics in a big way to optimize routes, reduce waste, and do more, to save costs.
Data fed into analytics systems facilitates better management decisions, such as efficient routes, reductions in downtime, fuel savings, lowered insurance costs, and other improvements. In the future, integrating analytics with technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and mothers will unlock even more possibilities. For instance, robots, armed with the power of analytics may automatically shut down a cooling plant on the first signs of overheating, and make repairs itself, leading to an apocalyptic situation of robots replacing human technicians altogether, and the automated system running by itself.
Technology is always in a state of flux. The only constant change and smart field service technology will be early adopters to change. The onus is on enterprises using field service software to successfully adapt and co-opt the changes, and make the best use of it, to improve their bottom-line, customer satisfaction, and employee well-being.