Technologies like mobile devices, HTML5, and advanced data analytics broke the field service mold and revolutionized the delivery of field service. But what advancements in technology are taking field service and the mobile employee to the next level?
Here we take a look at 4 emerging technologies that have the field service industry buzzing, and their potential impacts on customer experience.
Portability of technology has been an evolving trend for the past 20 years. From the home PC, to the laptop, to the mobile phone, and currently the smartphone, technology has not only gotten smaller but virtually morphed into an extension of the human body. The practical applications of wearable technology like augmented reality (AR), the smartwatch, or their successors could prove to be extremely beneficial to connect mobile employees for a variety of reasons including:
- Freedom. Wearable technology allows mobile employees complete freedom of movement, without losing access to important tools.
- Enablement. Wearable technology enables the use of augmented reality which could offer the guidance employees need at each step of problem diagnosis or installation, with the purpose of increasing productivity, reducing mistakes, potentially equalizing skill levels, and ultimately leading to improved customer satisfaction. As wearables become more commonplace, AR could be used by customers to troubleshoot and fix their own problems, saving the company time and resources.
- Collaboration. Wearable technology enables connectivity with remote subject matter experts (SMEs) and allows them to engage in the field experience directly. When remote SMEs can see what the technician sees, they can help guide a mobile worker through difficult tasks.
The self-driving vehicle trend started with simple features such as lane warnings and parking assistance and has expanded to the brink of full driverless functionality being legalized in some major urban areas. With the real potential of self-driving vehicles becoming commonplace, implications for field service cannot be underestimated — the vehicle itself becomes another vector of the connected mobile workforce.
Impacts could include:
- Efficiency. Programmed to take the most efficient routes, driverless vehicles can reduce human error in travel. And from a mobile worker perspective, self-driving technology has the potential to reduce the stress of driving in stop-and-go traffic, and allowing extra time to research issues for upcoming calls.
- Cost reduction. Improved performance of driverless vehicles over human drivers has the potential to lead to cost savings in fuel, vehicle wear, and travel time.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
While the mobile field service employee is now connected to an ecosystem of technologies and business process, these technologies can also be connected to each other, such as through the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT has the potential to revolutionize field service in the following ways:
- Speed. Through IoT, critical information regarding customer support can be fed to the workforce in real time. This has the potential to reduce the time between when a problem is discovered and when a service company dispatches a field service employee.
- Visibility. Not only could a field service organization become instantly aware of when a fault occurs in the field through IoT, but they can also gain a more accurate diagnosis of the problem, enabling the right technician with the right parts and the right tools to be sent to the appropriate job.
- Customer expectations. Customers could benefit from having problems repaired even faster, thanks to data relayed through IoT, or sometimes before the product breaks down at all.
Dispatcher-less connected mobile employees
With more information comes the wherewithal to make more informed decisions at a faster rate.
Mobile workforce management tools are giving organizations an air traffic control–like level of field visibility. This visibility permits a shift from a regionalized dispatch—with a ratio of dispatchers to mobile employees typically in the region of 1:8 to 1:12—to a centralized dispatch where dispatchers are typically handling 30 or more mobile employees.
Gradually, however, with that same information more readily available and digestible, dispatch responsibility can move from centralized teams out to the mobile workforce. Over time, field supervisors and even peer-to-peer relationships between mobile employees can gain the ability to resolve jeopardy situations and other issues currently handled by back office management.
The increased flow of information back and forth from the field and the ability of devices to process and display that information in useful ways puts the connected mobile field service employee in a new position of having access to all the information and support needed to make the best decision for the company. As companies realize this and empower their field employees to take advantage of the new reality, there will be a change in roles and a shift of power from the back office to the field.
To learn more about tech’s impact on field service, read “The Connected Mobile Workforce: Charting the Connected Field Service Employee“.