By Brian Albright, Field Technologies
Communication is critical for an effective field service operation, and some new texting and instant messaging solutions are helping field service organizations and their customers stay in touch with technicians.
Messaging platform provider Zinc has launched new features that can help mobile workers better utilize instant messaging in the field. Administrators can now divide Zinc users into smaller groups via an Organizations feature. In addition, they can use the Broadcasts functionality to send rich notifications that block all other messages and force users to close them prior to resuming their messaging activity.
The company is targeting field service, security, housekeeping, and other industries, and marketing itself as a service for keeping these “deskless” workers in touch with their companies.
Mobile workers can use Zinc to communicate with co-workers, send files, share their location, and conduct both video and voice calls. The Broadcasts feature can be used for emergency notifications or other important information, and can include links to other mobile apps.
"There is no one-size-fits-all communication tool when it comes to businesses with mobile needs -- not all companies work like software companies," said Stacey Epstein, CEO of Zinc. "Construction companies need to coordinate and share information with multiple contractors daily. A shopping mall might need to send an important safety alert out to employees in dozens of different stores. Short of a PA system or e-mail, there's no good way to do that. Broadcasts and Organizations let people from multiple organizations communicate as easily as if they were from their own company and get important information to the right people when it matters most."
Field service organizations can use this type of messaging app for status updates; locating a missing part or piece of equipment; or as a back-up way of communicating when other field service software or mobile computer solutions are unavailable. Service technicians can also use messaging to get information about up-sell opportunities, or to obtain help with support questions in the field.
Salesforce is also updating its texting features. Earlier this year the company acquired Heywire and is using its technology for a new feature in Service Cloud called LiveMessage. The product lets companies allow clients to contact them via SMS or Facebook Messenger without a dedicated phone line or telephony support.
Traditionally, when companies text their customers the transaction is strictly one-way – the customer can’t text back if there is a problem or a question. With LiveMessage, customers can engage in a two-conversation. Salesforce bots can respond to questions or, if the interaction is more complex, a live representative can get involved.
Companies can add messaging capabilities to their existing 1-800 customer service phone numbers and be up and running on Messenger and/or SMS within a day, according to the company.
Coca-Cola is even using the application to allow vending machines to send messages when they require service. Crock-Pot and Wendy’s are also using the solution.
Fortune also recently reported on Relay Network, a messaging start-up based in Philadelphia. Cox Communications is using the solution for a customer-facing application. Customers receive notes on their accounts, status, and special offers. According to the company, Cox recorded a 40 percent reduction in recalls to its customer support team and 13 percent fewer field service visits thanks to the messaging app.