In 2020, field service companies were tasked with the unique challenge of operating as essential work amidst the global pandemic. This brought with it specific adaptations for safety protocols and planning, as well as an increased need for operational efficiencies.
Driven by these extenuating circumstances, the field service industry has been transforming faster than ever before. Moreover, this transformation is highlighting the importance of intelligent software, customer independence and workforce flexibility. With these focus areas top of mind, let’s explore the top five trends we expect to see in the field service industry in 2021.
Field Service Industry Trends
1. Greater Focus on Predictive and Proactive Maintenance
With an increasing number of people working from home and sheltering in place amidst the pandemic, the home has become more prevalent in most of our daily lives. This also means that home appliances are being used much more frequently than ever before. Increasing the strain on these home appliances can lead to systems crashing or malfunctioning, exactly when they are needed the most.
By leveraging predictive maintenance technology fueled by Internet of Things (IoT) triggers, appliance and home system performance can be monitored regularly. When certain parameters are out of tolerance, a field service technician can be notified and proactively informed about the necessary repairs or maintenance. This allows critical repairs to be addressed before they cause inconvenient issues, helping homes run more smoothly.
Looking forward, it is expected that customers will buy more devices to make their homes smarter and reduce the need for cumbersome last-minute repairs. Field service companies will need to be prepared to help facilitate this smart home transition, providing predictive and proactive maintenance services.2. Increased Adoption of Virtual Diagnosis, Claims and Customer Service
Limiting in-person interactions has been an influential aspect of the pandemic, and it’s no surprise that customers are eager to reduce the need for in-home repairs and in-person meetings. That being said, the adoption of virtual services, including virtual diagnostics, claims and customer service, will be critical to the success of field service companies in 2021.
Reducing in-person interactions benefits customers and companies alike, and insurance companies are already dealing with more virtual claims than ever before. By allowing customers to easily submit photos and videos of damages alongside their claims, customers can remain safely inside their homes while manufacturers can save on technician commute time and overall costs. If field service companies have not already, then now is the time to start leveraging intelligent software with virtual service capabilities.3. Higher Expectations for Self-Service via Customer Portals
Over the last several years customers have become increasingly self-sufficient, and with the remote reality of the pandemic, there has never been a better time to adopt this trend. Customer portals empower customers to take control of their own experience, and can help eliminate the frustrations caused by an analog customer experience. Instead of picking up a phone and being forced to wait on hold or hope for a call back, they can log onto a customer portal to seamlessly report an issue, schedule a repair, and track the status of their service.
Customer portals also offer a centralized digital location for communication between customers, technicians and manufacturers. This expedites the service lifecycle, which benefits everyone involved. While certain aspects of pandemic-era life will hopefully come to an end in 2021, the independence provided by digital technology is certainly here to stay.4. Increased Reliance on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
In 2021, there will be an increased advantage to leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) within field service companies. Manual methods simply cannot keep up with the time consuming nature of scheduling, dispatch and inventory management during a pandemic.
AI-Driven software can efficiently optimize technician scheduling, expertly balance zip-code management to keep technicians from being dispatched to COVID-hotspots, and automate inventory management so that technicians are prepared to fix a repair on the first visit. Reliance on scheduling powered by algorithms and bots will continue to increase in 2021, and according to Gartner, is expected to be leveraged by two-thirds of field service providers by 2025.
Moreover, parts availability is one of the biggest issues negatively impacting first-time fix rates. AI and ML systems can automatically predict the required part and its availability for each repair using the error code reported by the customer, the service history, and current inventory levels. This improves a company’s first-time fix rate, saving money and mitigating the need for repeat in-person interactions.5. Expanded Utilization of a Blended Workforce
There have been fewer field technicians available for work due to sickness or safety concerns during the pandemic. Conversely, there has actually been a growing demand for service jobs because people are spending more time at home. This combination has created a service gap for many field service companies, illustrating a need for a more flexible workforce model.
By utilizing a blended workforce, a mix of both employees and third-party technicians, field service companies are better able to balance this fluctuating workload without a break in service for their customers in need. In 2021, it is expected that more field service companies will look to third-party workers to fill this service gap and ensure their customers receive high-quality and timely service, regardless of internal gaps in employee service.
In 2021, the field service industry will continue transforming rapidly, with intelligent software, customer independence and workforce flexibility being especially important. Incorporating these priorities into 2021 business strategies will be integral to success, and the top five field service trends explained in this article provide tangible ways to do so.
To learn more about intelligent field service management software with a visionary customer portal and the unique ability to serve a blended workforce, explore the ServicePower field service suite.