Even at the height of the pandemic when shelter in place was in effect and in-person interactions were at an absolute minimum, 70% of consumers preferred in-person appointments, and 80% of customer service decision makers said that field service remained a key part of their business strategy.
Now, as field service expands into new arenas, digital technology has become critically important to delivering the in-home experiences customers expect.
That’s why, two years after joining Salesforce through its acquisition of ClickSoftware and 20 years in the industry, I’m eager to take on the role of General Manager of Salesforce Field Service. Looking ahead, I envision a mobile workforce that embraces automation, collaborates within and beyond the organization, and delivers the right service at the right time — and in the right format — to consistently empower employees and delight customers.
Redefining the mobile workforce
With roots in manufacturing, traditional field service was mainly about fixing broken parts and maintaining assets. Recently, the umbrella has expanded beyond technicians to encompass a broad array of mobile workers: Health aides providing care in patients’ homes. Installers coming over to assemble furniture. Utility workers showing up to fix an outage. Agents bringing cars to a customer’s door for a test drive.
These terms blur when going out into the “field” may not even be part of the job anymore. Thanks to connectivity and mobile devices, technicians can often diagnose problems or even help resolve them remotely, a trend that has accelerated over the past year and a half.
As the definition of field service broadens and interactions increasingly go digital and mobile, organizations that manage mobile workers will increasingly rely on technology to provide effective, efficient, and trusted service.
A vision for the future of field service
Why is getting quality field service harder than it should be? It involves scheduling, waiting for a technician, diagnosing the problem, and then making sure it’s solved in one visit. For every customer that has gotten a white-glove experience, how do businesses replicate that consistently?
Automation and artificial intelligence can speed up routine decisions, freeing up dispatchers and mobile workers to focus on higher-value tasks. Sophisticated algorithms can consider data about service history, customers, use cases, worker skill sets, traffic patterns and more to optimally schedule visits. Organizations can use machine learning to understand which tools, parts and skills are required to complete certain tasks — all important factors in ensuring a job can be handled right the first time.
AI can also improve planning and forecasting for service organizations. For instance, predicting optimal maintenance schedules based on features like usage and temperature can help workers predict and prevent issues before they start. In the future, it’s likely we’ll even be able to anticipate customers needing to reschedule based on factors like weather to inform capacity forecasting.
The mobile workforce is most powerful when it’s connected to the rest of your customer service operations, and can leverage the collective knowledge from your team and partners. Sometimes that means connecting a technician in the field and a contact center expert via video, or enabling swarming on problems with vendors and engineers via Slack. It can also mean using augmented and virtual reality to diagnose and resolve issues. Digital channels are enabling new forms of collaboration.
For example, Salesforce’s Visual Remote Assistant technology can connect customers and employees with real-time remote support through video chat and augmented reality on mobile devices. Real estate firms have used the tool to show houses and annotate notable features, and signage installation companies have used it to audit contractors’ work for compliance with standard operating procedures.
When it comes to field service, building trust involves making the experience as effortless as possible for both the customer and the technician. Customers lose patience with technicians who show up late, have the wrong parts, or lack the skills needed to address their issue. As their expectations for service as a whole have increased, mobile workers are expected to solve the problem on the first visit.
Trust is also about making service experiences easier for mobile workers and the organizations that manage them. Mobile workers deserve tailored mobile experiences and the right data that make their jobs simpler, more cost-effective, and more fulfilling.
In order to live up to these demands, mobile workers need a single platform that gives them a complete view of the customer. Capturing all customer data in one place gives them the knowledge they need to solve problems efficiently, with little burden on the customer to explain things multiple times. It allows organizations to provide customers with real-time updates about arrival times and progress, to make data-driven decisions and to harness the power of AI to increase the chances of a first-time fix.
Exceeding expectations to stand out
Customer expectations for field service will only continue to rise as we have come to expect instantaneous satisfaction, much like our interactions with Amazon or UberEats. Having the right tools in place can help field service organizations not only retain customers, but also recruit and keep talent with high-quality tools, training and upskilling.
Ultimately, automating key tasks, facilitating collaboration and building trust is what will define the winners in the mobile workforce.
Join me on the latest At Your Service episode today at 9am PT to hear more about how Field Service is built for change.