Not so long ago, field service employees could only connect with the dispatcher, the back office, or the warehouse in a few ways: face-to-face, by phone, or by two-way radio. At the start of the day, the schedule would be provided to the technicians, and throughout the day there’d be little to no ability to communicate back and forth should any problems arise, i.e., misplaced equipment, incorrectly ordered parts, or delays in the schedule.
Such limited communication capabilities meant little support and flexibility, and less certainty for the tech, the dispatcher, or the customer about how long jobs would take or when a problem would be resolved.
To accommodate for this lack of communication and technician enablement, field service organizations were forced to overstaff and overstock in order to have enough service capacity to account for any disruptions. Often, time was wasted, and customers were frustrated.
Fortunately, continuing advances in technology have broken this paradigm. Here are 4 tech trends that broke the traditional field service mold.
Smarter consumer devices
Businesses worldwide have already moved toward the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment. This trend reduced IT costs while freeing employees to use the tools with which they’re most comfortable. Cloud-based, browser-enabled solutions allowed this change in approach.
Through smarter mobile devices, field service employees have became connected to colleagues in the field, and experts performing help desk duties to answer technical questions, locate equipment, and do other tasks much more quickly and efficiently. The result was an increased number of first-time fixes and fewer repeat visits.
These devices also eliminated the need for paper and its associated costs, allowing customer contracts, quotes, and other forms to be presented and stored within the device or in the cloud. Customers gained the ability to sign for work electronically and have their information stored instantly in a customer record system, with an e-mailed copy instantly sent to them for recordkeeping, which streamlined workflows and increased field service productivity.
Advances in programming languages have dramatically increased the capabilities of browser-based software. HTML5 in particular has allowed browser-based applications direct access to a system’s hardware, which is one of the primary enablers of the BYOD movement. For example, with a proper HTML5 framework, a web application can access device peripherals, allow full offline mode of browser-based apps, and access a device’s GPS or other location services functionality, allowing for resource tracking.
Enhanced mobile bandwidth
4G LTE is the latest enhancement in bandwidth and soon 5G will be the new standard. These enhancements have enabled access to far more useful and context-aware information to the mobile field service employee, allowing instant exchange of important information from text messages and documentation to streaming video and inventory exchanges. With this technology, video calls have become commonplace between techs, dispatchers, field supervisors, and remote support, helping to identify and resolve problems more quickly. With the increase in bandwidth limits, technology like augmented and mixed reality will become the new standard for support, training, and troubleshooting.
The combination of smart devices, increases in network bandwidth, and advancements in programming languages have allowed for the high-velocity collection of valuable field data. Workforce efficiency, business trends, and customer feedback—just to name a few—are now measured in real time. The transparency created through advanced analytics supports business decisions that improve operations and gives companies a competitive advantage.
To learn more about tech’s impact on field service, read “The Connected Mobile Workforce: Charting the Connected Field Service Employee“.