There has never been a more exciting time to be in the field service industry. Artificial Intelligence (AI), virtual reality, and advanced field service software enables field service companies to significantly elevate the value we bring to our customers, not to mention enhanced revenues and a stronger bottom line. Below, we’ll explore five trends reshaping the field service business in 2019. If your organization’s growth strategy does not take these trends into account it’s time to realign.
1. The Smart Home Keeps Getting Smarter
It is estimated that by 2020, the Internet of Things (IoT) will grow to more than 200 billion smart objects – enough for every person around the globe to have 25 smart devices. This makes the “smart home” our top trend for 2019. One of the most attractive features of a smart home is the ability for devices to communicate without human interaction, such as reporting a self-identified maintenance issue.
In this scenario, the diagnostics will likely have been completed by the smart device itself, which enables the field service organization to quickly deploy the most qualified technician and the appropriate equipment and parts to fix the job the first time. In this way, managing the workforce, including contractors, is key to meeting the challenges of servicing the smart home. Field service management software, dispatch software, and inventory management are essential IoT solutions for succeeding in this effort.
2. Inventory Management is Powered by AI
In traditional field service operations, managing inventory is challenging and can become a costly cog in workflow. And for service technicians, it can be especially problematic as they struggle to gain accurate, real-time insight into available inventory at any given time. Having the right component in the right place at the right time is a delicate dance that even the most efficient organizations wrestle with from time to time.
But in the era of smart devices, it becomes even more complex as inventory encompasses a much broader range of parts than washing machine pumps, thermocouples, and hoses. Organizations need to elevate the level of their inventory management systems to meet the growing sophistication of today’s smart devices and networked systems. Predictive logic technology can address this need.
Going beyond historical analytics, AI and machine learning can more accurately analyze, predict, and monitor part utilization and requirements. This ensures adequate stock is always available so you can decrease truck rolls, improve first time fix rates, and enhance customer satisfaction, while reducing carrying costs.
3. Augmented and Virtual Reality Empower Technicians
As the IoT continues to expand, the level of sophistication needed to service smart homes and businesses also increases. Field service organizations will benefit from a more hybrid workforce model that includes both employed and contracted technicians, some of whom may be stationary, performing repairs and maintenance virtually.
Whether stationary or in the field, the level of expertise needed to service today’s smart homes requires a different type of knowledge sharing. In the past, training was done primarily through hands-on experience in labs or in the field. But the new complexity of smart devices level-sets previous tiers of knowledge within the workforce. Even technicians with many years of experience will need training to properly service connected homes.
Virtual reality (VR) training systems are an effective method for growing and maintaining a highly sophisticated team of technicians. VR is especially beneficial for younger workers who may be proficient in gaming technology, which means they can get up to speed more quickly than they would in a traditional lab setting. VR allows simulation of repair scenarios in a way that is more immersive and effective than learning traditional static technical schematics.
4. Autonomous Vehicles Are Driving their Way to the Top
Until recently, many of us viewed autonomous vehicles (AV) – especially driverless cars – as a somewhat elusive concept that was still years in the future. But as headlines around the globe now show, that reality is now. A recent study by KPMG reveals the significant progress being made by countries in terms of innovation, infrastructure, legislation and consumer acceptance (The Netherlands is leading the way, followed closely by Singapore and the U.S.)
The report states that investment in AV over the past five years has reached close to $50 million (USD), with the vast majority coming from outside the automotive sector. The potential impact on the field service industry is significant. AV will affect the types of service this technology will require, enabling us to distribute assets and deploy technicians.
Imagine a time when the smart refrigerator communicates the need for maintenance directly to the field service organization, which triggers a drone to deliver the needed part to arrive at the customer’s home – just as the closest technician is alerted and arrives in a driverless shuttle. Workforce management software will be a key component of this workflow. The potential for AV technology to disrupt the field service industry is more than just likely; it’s inevitable.
5. Field Service Technician Enablement is Key
With the advent of mobile technology, customers have come to expect greater control and faster response in most every area of their lives. With the click of a button on their mobile devices, they can order groceries, activate their home’s climate control system, schedule their next doctor’s visit, and secure a reservation for dinner.
They expect the same level of efficiency, convenience, and competence for their service requests as well. This brings us to the final of the top trends for 2019: field service technician enablement.
- The customer doesn’t care what goes on behind the scenes to make the service call possible
- The customer only cares about the service experience and if the problem is fixed quickly.
- The customer expects it to be easy to schedule an appointment
- The customer expects a knowledgeable, friendly tech to show up on time,with the right equipment and parts to fix the problem
Workforce management is the key to meeting the newly empowered customer’s expectations. Today’s field service technician is the front-line brand ambassador for your business. Enabling both employed and contracted employees with field service software gives them instant access to available parts and the knowledge and resources they need to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
Embracing change as opportunity is essential.
Delivering faster, smarter service is the key to achieving long-term profitability. But to thrive in our quickly changing field service ecosystem in 2019, organizations will need to rethink how they do business. Instead of focusing solely on processes that evolve around meeting the needs of the field service organization, the emphasis should be on delivering an exceptional customer experience and building customer loyalty. And this requires a highly qualified, agile workforce enabled by field service software and mobile workforce management technology.
To learn more about workforce management and how it can benefit your organization, contact ServicePower today.