The field service industry has seen significant growth in recent years, and experts foresee that growth continuing easily into the next decade. In fact, a study by the market research firm Markets and Markets projected a 17 percent growth rate between 2014 and 2019. The industry therefore anticipates a slew of trends, due partly to the cascade of technological advances that have swept the workplace. Some of those trends will include growing automation, the rise of Internet of Things, improving "soft skills" in customer service relations and an aging workforce.
The Growth of Automation
It's no secret that the business world is becoming more automated with every passing year. Yet, since the field service industry wasn't created for a technologically advanced world, it's easy for it to miss an opportunity to streamline its operations across the service chain. In fact, more than 55 percent of service organizations still rely on solving field-related issues manually, while 77 percent of service companies employ on-premises service solutions.
Internet of Things (IoT)
A new phenomenon in IT, IoT promises to be a driving force in the services industry. Some are touting it as something that could transform customer service from reactive to proactive, and perhaps predictive as well. IoT involves the ability to connect any device that has an on/off switch to the Internet. It could be any device, really -- from coffee machines to headphones to washing machines, even parts of certain types of machines. Given the increasing incidence of sensors in Internet-connected devices and the progress that big data analysis has made together make field services more efficient and proactive. IoT in field services provides many benefits, including lower costs, increased efficiency, customer satisfaction, increased visibility, employee satisfaction and manufacturer insights.
Customer Service - Improving Soft Skills
Experts insist that merely helping customers by providing them with helpful information and support isn't enough. Instead, they say, it's necessary for field service personnel to develop "soft skills." Soft skills are the ability to demonstrate empathy when interacting with others. That way, experts maintain, field service reps would be able to deal more effectively with customers. In fact, a survey done by WBR Digital found that 50 percent of companies consider it essential to develop soft skills in their employees. The reason is simple: industry leaders have found that customer interaction where employees capitalize on their soft skills improves profits.
One of the biggest concerns of the field services industry involves the projected loss of talent in the coming years. In 2014, a talent management survey by the Service Council revealed that some 70 percent of service organizations feel this will be a major problem for the industry within the next decade. Many organizations, consequently, now focus on transferring their knowledge and skills to a younger, unskilled workforce. By planting knowledge of older, and often obsolete, systems into extensive digital knowledge management systems, successful and more modernized service companies will encourage new technicians to learn the system faster.
Millennials Are Carving a New Path
Far from being lazy or entitled, millennials, who now form the bulk of the field service employee base, are proving to be a dedicated group of leaders who, by many accounts, would prefer service over salary. Indeed, managers are learning to cherish these goal-oriented individuals, and their commitment to excellent customer service has boosted such things as up-selling, cost savings, efficiency and value ads.
With millennials joining field services, the industry has become increasingly connected. Cell phones and other mobile units are becoming commonplace. In fact, a study shows that 80 percent of Internet users own smartphones. Going mobile, then, will become an important aspect of the field service industry. Huge gains in service worker communication, customer satisfaction and real-time resolution will become an industry reality. Customers are increasingly demanding a more simplified form of communication as field service companies dealing with customers through mobile means will earn both customer loyalty and higher profits.