Field service is, by definition, a fairly isolated existence. Our field service workers and technicians generally work on their own, and while interacting with customers is now a core element of the role, field service workers don’t have the day-to-day engagement with peers that those of us who work in offices often take for granted.
On the one hand, the freedom of a field service role can be hugely appealing; however, there are potential challenges we must address when considering our field workers’ lone-worker status.
In this article, we will explore the challenges of building a sense of community among field service workers and discuss how digital transformation can help create a more engaged and motivated workforce.
To better understand this challenge, we spoke with three experts in the field: Sarang Sambare, Senior Director of Industry Solutions at Syncron, Sidney Lara, Service Principal at Aquant, and Justin Konopaske, Director of Industry Solutions at Syncron.
The Importance of Digital Transformation
According to Sarang, one of the key benefits of digital transformation is that it can help field service workers become more efficient and productive. “By leveraging IoT and analytics, we can monitor equipment in real-time and predict failures before they occur,” he says. “This means that technicians can be dispatched to fix problems before they cause downtime, which ultimately leads to higher customer satisfaction and lower costs.”
However, Sarang also acknowledges that there is a risk that these new technologies could make some workers feel obsolete. “There’s no denying that the rise of automation and AI is going to change the nature of work in the field service industry,” he says. “But it’s important to remember that these technologies are not a replacement for human workers. Instead, they should be seen as tools that can help workers do their jobs more effectively.”
The Role of Digital Tools in Building a Sense of Community
Sidney agrees, adding that digital tools like service intelligence are essential for creating a sense of community and belonging among service teams. “On-the-job mentoring has historically been an effective way to foster a sense of community and belonging among teams,” he says.
“However, labor shortages, the retiring workforce, and burnout among seasoned workers are getting in the way of that. Service teams should adopt knowledge retention and diagnostics tools, like service intelligence, along with other digital tools that let them learn as they go and share their findings with colleagues. Technicians equipped with this kind of tech require less support from their more seasoned counterparts, which not only boosts company productivity but helps improve the confidence and overall morale of the individual.”
But what about the risk of alienation? Justin argues that the rise of digital tools actually presents an opportunity for field service workers to develop new skills and advance their careers. “Optimization engines using AI are not created on their own. It takes a significant amount of work, data analysis, and out-of-the-box thinking to build these types of solutions,” he says. “This provides unlimited opportunities for the existing and new workforce.”
Justin also notes that as younger generations enter the workforce, it’s important to align with the digital environment they operate in every day. “Many of these workers are used to doing everything from banking to communicating all from apps on their mobile devices,” he says. “When they have a different experience at work, it can be discouraging and make it difficult to attract new talented professionals to your business.”
Finding a Balance Between Old and New
Ultimately, the key to building a sense of community among field service workers is to provide them with the tools and support they need to do their jobs effectively. This means investing in technologies that can help workers collaborate and share knowledge, while also providing opportunities for career growth and development.
As Sidney notes, “Tools, like service intelligence, that share knowledge across an organization are the cornerstone of a successful service team.” By using these tools, field service workers can become more efficient, productive, and engaged, which ultimately leads to higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
It’s important to strike a balance between the old and the new. While embracing digital transformation is essential for staying competitive, it’s also important to recognize the value of traditional forms of communication and support. For example, as Sarang notes, “Face-to-face communication and one-on-one interactions are still important for building trust and fostering a sense of community among workers.”
To this end, companies can invest in training and development programs that help workers develop soft skills like communication and collaboration, while also providing opportunities for team building and socializing outside of work.
The Future of Field Service Work
Looking to the future, it’s clear that digital transformation will continue to play a major role in the field service industry. As Sarang notes, “In the future, we will see more intelligent field service systems that leverage machine learning and AI to optimize service delivery and reduce costs.” This means that field service workers will need to continue to adapt and learn new skills in order to stay relevant.
However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. As Justin notes, “The rise of AI and other digital tools presents an opportunity for workers to develop new skills and take on more challenging and rewarding roles.” By embracing this change and providing workers with the tools and support they need to succeed, companies can create a culture of innovation and collaboration that empowers workers to do their best work.
In conclusion, while there is a risk that digital transformation could alienate field service workers, the reality is that these new technologies present a tremendous opportunity for career growth and development. By striking a balance between the old and the new, companies can create a culture of innovation and collaboration that empowers workers to do their best work, while also delivering exceptional service to customers around the world. As Justin notes, “Today there are many solutions being digitized and the next phase is to leverage things like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality. This provides unlimited opportunities for the existing and new workforce.”
So, if you’re looking to build a sense of community among your field service workers, the key is to embrace digital transformation and provide your workers with the tools and support they need to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving business environment. By doing so, you’ll not only create a more engaged and motivated workforce, but also deliver better outcomes for your customers and your business as a whole.
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