In the beginning of the year we prepared this post to anticipate the top 5 field service industry trends for 2020, as we had previously prepared the top 5 field service industry trends for 2019, and the top 5 field service industry trends for 2018. As we all know, the original expectations for 2020 have been greatly altered by the reality of the global coronavirus pandemic; COVID-19 has brought unprecedented changes to the way we work, how we communicate, and what we expect from other people. Naturally, these changes have also influenced the top trends in the field service industry, and this updated blog post will identify and address how the top field service industry trends have since changed and adapted to these new challenges.In 2020, the field service industry faces the unique challenge of being an essential service, tasked with providing safe service to customers within their homes during a stressful and potentially dangerous time. This not only requires effective leadership from field service management, but it also requires new protocols to keep technicians and customers safe while providing a positive customer experience. These new circumstances raise quite a few questions:
- How has communication changed between both customers and technicians?
- What does an increase in dependency on technology during the pandemic mean for data security?
- How can field service organizations balance an increase in demand for field service work, including service in remote regions, and a simultaneous technician shortage and graying of the workforce?
Thankfully there are answers to these challenging questions, and they are addressed within the updated trends for 2020.
Top Five Field Service Industry Trends
1. Data Protection and Privacy is a Non-Negotiable
The coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in cyber security challenges, with a 63% increase in cyber attacks identified in a new report by the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA). Cyber attacks are a serious threat to data protection and privacy, and they can result in data breaches including identity theft, fraud, and millions of dollars in irreversible damage. Candy Alexander, Board President of ISSA International explains that, “This should serve as a wake up call that cyber security is what enables businesses to remain open and operational. Organizations prioritizing cyber security as a result of the pandemic will likely emerge as leaders in the next wave of cyber security process innovation and best practices.”
As a field service company operating as an essential service in 2020, maintaining strong cyber security is not only a prerequisite for staying open, it is necessary to build trust with your stressed and concerned customers. To reassure your customers and drive long-term loyalty, field service companies will need to step it up when it comes to data transparency. Companies must be able to show they’re not compromising sensitive information so customers don’t hesitate to input their addresses, phone numbers, and credit card numbers into the field service management suite you use to run your business.
2. Field Service Software is Essential to Communication
COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation, and companies are expected to provide their customers with options for digital communication. Combined with the fact that this generation of homeowners is phone-adverse, digital communication channels such as email, live chat, and application messaging, are both the preferred and expected methods of communication. The lack thereof can actually result in a negative customer experience and deter customers from wanting to interact with your company at all.
Competitive differentiation has also become increasingly important this year, as the pandemic has increased customer defection due to an effect called commoditization, or the process in which services become relatively indistinguishable from the same offerings presented by a competitor. With such high stakes at hand, your company needs to prove that you can satisfy your customer’s needs and speak to them in their preferred method.
Digital communication is a simple and easy process that helps eliminate friction in your customer’s lives. With the extra complexity of life during the pandemic, your customers are looking for a solution that will help simplify their lives, not add any more frustration. By leveraging a field service software with seamless digital communication channels, such as a customer portal, you can help make your customer’s lives a little easier. This also ensures that your company joins the digital transformation, which shows no sign of slowing. Live chat is expected to continue to grow by as much as 87% in the next 12-18 months, and in some industries, chat growth has increased by as much as 150%.
This year, it’s essential to invest in field service software that reaches your customers where they are, online.
3. Appointment Scheduling Software is Taking Over
In 2020, field service companies aim to empower customers with dynamic access to information, with 77% investing in technology geared towards information enablement. Customers are increasingly self-sufficient and they want to be able to access information regarding their services on their own terms. Field service scheduling software gives customers dynamic visibility into this information, including the ability to schedule their own service appointments, receive relevant updates about the job, communicate directly with technicians, and even see the location of their technician and ETA on the day of repair.
Field service scheduling software gives your customers the autonomy they crave, while also saving your company both time and money. According to Aberdeen, companies with self-service programs boost customer profit margins by 6.8% a year. Capitalize on this opportunity to boost your profits by using the best field service software.
Give your customers a self-service digital experience so they can:
- Book online appointments and get instant confirmation
- Get proactive, custom notifications and automated job status updates
- Track technician location
- Receive end-to-end job status tracking and communications
- Access their claims portal
2020 is all about customer empowerment, and the best field service companies will adapt.
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4. The Gig Economy is Here to Stay
In 2020, COVID-19 has brought about a shortage of field service talent, while the demand for service jobs has actually increased. In fact, field service organizations are increasing their investment in service workers by 72% to meet this increasing demand. This increase in demand also includes the geographic expansion of services, as there are fewer technicians able and available to reach remote locations. Similarly, field service companies are investing an additional 47% in service location expansion. As the pandemic restrictions begin to loosen, the demand for service jobs is expected to increase even further.
Leveraging a blended workforce with a mix of employees and field service contractors allows companies to access qualified technicians when both demand and geographic range suddenly increase. 2020 is confirmation that the gig economy is here, and it’s here to stay. Companies who have mastered the management of their contractor and mixed workforce can run lean, agile operations that can weather any obstacles thrown at them.
When you look at the future of employment, the statistics speak for themselves:
- About 36% of US workers are now involved in the gig economy
- US freelancers contributed $1.28 trillion to the American economy in 2018
- If this growth rate continues, more than 50% of the US workforce will participate in the gig economy by 2027
The best field service companies will capitalize on this trend by employing a mixed workforce of full-time employees and part-time contractors. Talented field service contractors specialize in specific areas and can service remote geographical locations, allowing you to service more customers than you would using full-time employees only.
In 2020, run your field service business using a mixed workforce management style.
5. The Aging Workforce Will Encourage Evolution in Technologies
The aging workforce was expected to cause a shortage of 2 million workers in the field service industry even before COVID-19 came along. With the additional safety issues caused by working during the pandemic, many of these seasoned workers have decided to retire early, or transition to positions that do not require in-person interactions. Essentially, the pandemic has expedited a process that was already set in place, removing experienced technicians from the industry sooner than expected. According to Gartner, “aging workforces will transition to workforces with less experience but more autonomy. This will require better digital service support techniques, especially for training, safety, collaboration, and democratization of distributed knowledge.”
To remain successful field service organizations must prepare themselves for the real possibility of a future service technician shortage. The organizations that will continue to thrive, despite the shortage, will embrace advancements in technology, execute customer-focused service strategies, and empower their field service technicians while delivering an excellent service experience.
Key Field Service Takeaways for the New Year
As modern field service companies adapt to the challenges caused by the coronavirus, management professionals must focus on people, process, technology, and data. This includes leveraging a blended workforce that can respond to fluctuating demand, while continuing to provide a positive customer experience, even in remote locations. Safety measures must be implemented to protect your customers, technicians, and data. Field service software must be utilized to enable chat and self-service to please modern, tech-savvy customers who are searching for a friction-less service experience in a stressful time.
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