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Three Major Areas of Field Service Evolution

Aug 31 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 3822 Views • No Comments on Three Major Areas of Field Service Evolution

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In the continual evolution of field service, mobile will continue to be the most impactful technology for enterprise field service in the near future, more so than the Internet of Things, writes Sumair Dutta, Chief Customer Officer for The Service Council

Field service, as a discipline, is changing. The rate of change isn’t as dramatic as the typical prognostications of technology-focused publications and outlets. Yes, IoT is having and will have a huge impact. So will wearable technology. But remember, this is an industry that isn’t completely mobile. Pen, paper, and the clipboard, are still considered useful tools. Technology is increasing the rate of change in field service, but the overall industry is one that is still quite cautious.

In early 2015, nearly 200 organisations participating in a field service study conducted by The Service Council highlighted the following as their top focus areas for 2015:

  • Process control, review, and management
  • Field service execution
  •  Talent management
  • IT infrastructure for field service

These areas are similar to some of the priorities outline by survey participants in 2014. What is different about 2015 is the increased focus by organisations to lay a strategic foundation for their field service businesses to support sustained business growth. It’s not just about cutting field service visits, but more about maximising the value of necessary field service visits. With this in mind, we see a continued evolution of field service around these three major areas:

It’s not just about cutting field service visits, but more about maximising the value of necessary field service visits

  1. Service Model Integration:
    Reactive field service isn’t dead. Organisations were more likely to see an increase in reactive field service visits in 2014 than they were a decrease in these visits. In 2014, 41% of organisations polled saw an increase in reactive field visits over the course compared to only 28% of organisations that saw a decrease. While organisations are looking to eliminate unnecessary reactive field service visits with the aid of connected or self-service business models, their service portfolios are still comprised of a heavy dose of reactive field service visits.  The primary goal with reactive visits is to increase efficiency so that the first reactive visit is the last reactive visit. However, organisations are also looking to enhance value delivered per service visit wherein an onsite visit is seen as an opportunity to share knowledge with, provide advice to, and improve relationships with the customer. Eventually the hope is that this leads to better trust, increased retention, and continued customer spending. In looking at the overall service continuum, the objective is to eliminate effort and inconvenience in dispatch-less service models but to maximise value when a dispatch is required. This requires a focused integration of the service delivery models around the end outcome felt by the customer.
  2. Talent:
    While most organisations we poll are able to deal with their field service workloads with current resource levels, most are looking for new field service talent and are having a hard time a) finding this talent, and b) getting the talent trained and out of the door. Our research shows that 46% of organisations had unfilled positions for field service technicians at the end of 2014. In searching for new agents, organisations are prioritising customer management and communication skills so that these agents aren’t only good at fixing things, but are also able to effectively communicate with customers. Organisations are also looking to hire agents who are familiar with the use of mobile devices and applications adopted by the organisation. We’re also seeing a significant change in training philosophies when it comes to field service. The overarching objective is to get new hires out in the field as soon as possible and so organisations are prioritising online training, collaboration, and knowledge platforms, to provide field agents with an always-on and always updated mode of instruction while on the move.
  3. Mobile: Mobile will continue to be the most impactful technology for enterprise field service in the near future, more so than the Internet of Things. The reason for this is that we are just scratching the surface of what mobile can do for field service, especially when it comes to workforce empowerment.

    We are just scratching the surface of what mobile can do for field service, especially when it comes to workforce empowerment

    While most organisations we poll have provided their agents with some form of mobile device, they have yet to fully empower their field agents with the capabilities of mobile technology. We’re still in the early stages of mobile maturity for field service wherein most investments have been made primarily to replace ineffective paper-based processes. However, mobility presents the opportunity to provide richer information to field agents to allow them to effectively resolve customer issues. It also offers field agents the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with broader groups across the organisation with the aim of improving productivity and enhancing customer satisfaction. Finally, mobility also allows organisations to create an army of data gatherers. This data can be used to monitor service demand, improve customer relationships, and identify opportunities for service business growth. In our 2015 service big data research project, 40% of organisations identified mobile point-of-service solutions as the avenue of data collection that they most wanted to tap into.

Field service is changing. The speed of change is picking up with the aid of mobile technology. Yet field service is still a human discipline, and human empowerment and engagement is key to supporting field service growth.

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