Guest Column | September 2, 2021

How COVID-19 Impacted The Field Service Industry, And Where It's Headed

By Laryssa Alexander, ECI Software Solutions

Field Service Technician COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic hit small and midsized businesses (SMBs) particularly hard, and those in the field service industry were no exception. Business operations such as revenue, hiring, and spending were directly impacted and needed to be reimagined at almost every company.

As a result, SMBs are investing in additional technological resources to respond to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, and are leveraging technology to help manage budgets, maximize employees, enable remote work, improve cybersecurity, and better serve their customers.

To better understand how SMBs were impacted by the pandemic and how they are responding to the challenges, ECI Software Solutions conducted a survey of 500 SMB IT decision makers across various verticals in the SMB space, including those in the field service industry.

A Look Back

With a fundamentally people-centric business model, the absence of human interactions made operating business-as-usual almost impossible for people in the field service industry. For example, the office technology service industry was hit particularly hard when offices were closed, and people were sent to work from home. With only a fraction of the workforce still using their physical office spaces and guidelines encouraging those to maintain a safe distance and avoid interactions with new people, the field service industry was flipped on its head.

To combat this disruption, one consistent trend was the investment in technology. According to ECI’s survey, twice as many SMBs invested in technology by Q1 2021, growing from 32% in 2019 to 64%. This was necessary as 42% of respondents adopted a remote working model over the last 12 months.

Digital technologies, like enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, help companies run their businesses by keeping track of all the moving parts. SMBs use ERP to help manage essential business processes such as remote employee workflow, site scheduling, and job costing in addition to tools for document management, business process management, and real-time data, so it’s no surprise that 50% of field service survey respondents are planning to implement ERP that haven’t already.

There are still lingering effects of the pandemic, with 32% of survey respondents considering lowering costs by reducing headcount, but it’s likely reached the point where businesses no longer need to make pandemic-related adjustments. In fact, 45% of respondents said they are not making any other immediate changes to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Moving forward, as businesses start to settle in to the “new normal,” it’s clear that some of the trends and investment priorities will stay with us post-pandemic.

A Look Ahead

It’s not news that the pandemic caused major disruption and uncertainty – completely upending most businesses’ traditional operations – but it also resulted in companies being pushed to modernize their outdated business solutions, which will only stand to benefit them down the road.

As businesses emerge from the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that they have changed and so has the way work gets done. In fact, 45% of field service respondents’ businesses have already increased technology investments to maintain a competitive advantage and 63% of field service respondents expect to purchase technology to expand their offerings over the next five years to keep up with the trends.

Investments in technology will help the field service industry adapt to current and future changes such as different preferences in order size and order time, which will be necessary as 34% of survey respondents have indicated that customers are demanding smaller orders, and 28% say customers want faster orders.

Future growth in the field service industry also looks promising. Reversing the trends of 2020, 58% of respondents expect to hire additional staff. Furthermore, 65% of respondents expect to acquire another business while 22% expect to be acquired themselves.

SMBs have had a lot to overcome since the onset of the pandemic, and most have shown their resilience. While we’re not out of the woods yet, things are looking up as we head into the second half of 2021. Moving forward, there is no doubt that digital technologies will help field service professionals be more agile and adaptable to change. It’s clear that those who are investing in technology are also investing in their company’s longevity and overall success.

About The Author

As President of ECI’s Field Service Division, Laryssa is a woman of action. Laryssa’s goals are to deliver stellar customer service and innovation while balancing financial results and growth. She accomplishes this by leveraging her 20+ years of industry experience and ability to build strong collaborative teams.

Laryssa has been instrumental in the acquisition and successful transition of numerous companies through ECI, including FMAudit, PrintFleet, and Print Audit. She has progressively assumed the role of President and associated responsibilities for each company that makes up ECI’s Field Service Division.