Article | July 24, 2017

Ensuring Success With Field Service Mobile Apps

By Heather Ashton, IDC Manufacturing Insights

Field Service Apps

Service excellence continues to be a strategic objective for OEMs, as service organizations endeavor to expand customer engagement while optimizing service delivery. Field service sits at the nexus of this customer/operations intersection, and it is the fulcrum for success or failure in the age of maximizing service efficiencies and delivering a superior customer experience.

As manufacturers consider how to upgrade or replace their existing field service operations technology, many are choosing to undertake field service transformation by not only leveraging 3rd platform technologies (mobile, cloud, social, and analytics) but also changing the underlying business processes and optimizing the field service workforce. According to IDC Manufacturing Insights' 2017 Product and Service Innovation Survey, adoption of mobile technologies for field service management was widespread, with 56.3 percent of manufacturers using mobile devices to support field service technician enablement.

The Challenges Of Mobile Apps

Mobile apps are redefining just what is possible for service technicians to accomplish out in the field. In many ways, it has transformed the level of automation, collaboration, and transparency available to technicians. But mobile apps for field service do not come without their challenges. One of the common issues is that rolling out field service management applications with mobile devices can be challenging for a multigenerational workforce. Many companies we spoke with expressed their concern with how to properly introduce new mobile apps for field service to technicians that "weren't born with a screen in their hands." If the company does not properly manage the mobile application and content layout, rollout, and technician training, the results can be disappointing, or in extreme cases, derail a field service transformation project.

In our recent report on Field Service Transformation Practices for Optimizing Field Service Delivery in Manufacturing, we identified mobile application rollout as one of five top areas that require a best practices approach. Among the service organizations we interviewed for the report, one of the leading practices can be summarized as follows: Assess the relative mobility maturity of your field service staff, realizing that there may be multiple levels, and cater user interface design and training to each group.

From an application and content perspective, simplicity rules the day, and leading service departments develop mobile apps that work across multiple devices, including iPads and a variety of smartphones. Following the simplicity mantra, the way the information and data are surfaced in the application should also be streamlined, with basic data present at a glance, but additional information provided only if the user seeks it. In addition, UX considerations should be incorporated for both technicians and the end customers.

This last point is worth emphasizing, because the mobile app is an excellent opportunity to delight the customer — companies we spoke with often said their customers faces lit up at the opportunity to "sign" the work order or invoice with their finger on a tablet or smartphone. Often, it sparked a conversation about what else the mobile app showed the technician, which led to greater customer satisfaction, and in some cases, an entry point for add-on sales and services.

Service organizations can use mobile apps to streamline their field operations while also delivering superior customer service and giving their technicians the tools needed to succeed. As part of a broader digital transformation effort within service operations, mobile apps are one of the fastest-growing areas for companies to invest, and with the right approach to UX design, rollout, and training, they can be make a tremendous impact on employee productivity, customer satisfaction, and overall efficiency.

About Heather Ashton:

Heather Ashton is a Research Manager at IDC Manufacturing Insights, responsible for the service innovation practice. Ms. Ashton's core research coverage includes the customer and service lifecycles in manufacturing, including CX and UX, field service, and warranty, as well as the impact of connected products on customer engagement and service transformation. Follow Heather on Twitter @HashtonIDC.