By Emily Newton, Revolutionized
When the field service management industry responds to changing needs and new demands, customer outcomes improve too. Here are some emerging trends currently impacting field service management that are likely to keep shaping it for the foreseeable future.
1. More Self-Service Offerings
During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people got accustomed to using online services and portals as they spent more time at home. Many found it easier to do something like book an appointment online rather than picking up their phones to communicate with service providers.
That was especially true when companies often had limited staff on-site or in their call centers. The internet emerged as an accessible and straightforward way for customers to connect with companies and have their needs met.
Self-service portals enable smooth communications between all relevant parties. Most can capture details about the nature of a client’s problem and the associated urgency, helping technicians prepare before arrival.
Mobile apps are especially convenient for people who submit service requests. After downloading an application onto a compatible device, they can verify the service status or receive real-time updates as information changes.
From a field service management perspective, any app data must sync with other platforms that companies use to assign workforce members and monitor progress. Otherwise, the application may appear to help customers but ultimately cause more problems for everyone involved.
2. The Desire And Need For Contactless Field Service
Even with vaccine rollouts underway, many people will not hurry to return to the old ways of doing business once it’s safer to do so.
Plus, scientists point out that being fully vaccinated will not wholly safeguard a person from contracting COVID-19. As immunologist Ali Ellebedy clarified within a recent piece published in The Atlantic, “Being vaccinated doesn’t mean you are immune. It means you have a better chance of protection.”
Thus, many people may decide they’d still prefer contactless field service options once the spread of COVID-19 gets under control with vaccination programs. Many company leaders have already made substantial changes to keep work crews safer. Now is an opportune time to assess whether room for improvement exists in your operations.
For example, maybe you already have a robust contact-tracing program that worked reliably in the past. However, there are other approaches you could take to keep everyone safer.
One option is to dispatch field crews directly to customers from their homes rather than your company property. If they don’t have to go to a centralized place to pick up their work vehicles or tools, there’s a reduced chance of people mingling and helping the virus spread.
Implementing an option where customers go into an app and check a box to note that they want contact-free appointments would be a straightforward way to keep track of such requests in a digitized system. Your crews may encounter people who have underlying health conditions that make it unsafe for them to get vaccinated and require them to stay indoors and isolated as much as possible.
In cases like those, people will appreciate having contactless appointments available.
3. A Rise In Mobile Payment Processing
Many people worldwide have recently realized that mobile payments are much more convenient than carrying cash or physical cards. Some individuals recognized the safety in those options, particularly for curbing COVID-19 transmission through frequently touched surfaces.
A 2020 survey showed that 84% of merchants polled viewed contactless payments as better for health than paying with cash or cards. The research also indicated that 7 out of 10 people merchants encountered since the start of the pandemic requested that the companies start offering contactless solutions for paying.
However, company leaders don’t necessarily need to invest in contactless card readers to let people avoid using physical methods of payment. There’s a broader increase in people becoming interested in mobile payment processing. Such methods use various approaches to move away from paper-based billing.
For example, some field service workers have people pay online through a secure portal or dedicated smartphone apps. Other companies rely on third-party payment support from brands like PayPal.
Customers may find it easier to pay for services immediately rather than receive bills later. They also like that mobile payment services generate confirmation messages they can refer to later to maintain good recordkeeping. If someone pays for a service with cash, they’ll likely still get a receipt, but it’ll be a paper one that’s easy to lose.
4. Companies And Service Providers Finding Value In Advanced Technologies
Industries ranging from healthcare to manufacturing have rapidly invested in technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). Those options are increasingly relevant and appealing from a field service management perspective, too.
A McKinsey & Company report predicted that AI would cause 40% of productivity-based improvements by 2035. The coverage also mentioned a related workforce-as-a-service trend. It concerns field workers being available whenever and whenever demand dictates. That approach increases customer satisfaction while reducing the need for full-time employees. People may more often work as freelancers while providing service, according to the document.
However, technological offerings like IoT sensors and augmented reality glasses could help those more-flexible workers feel well-equipped wherever they go. Some field service workers don’t necessarily provide on-premises assistance. One company mentioned in the research experienced a 17% reduction in demand for simple service calls once it launched an automated incident-resolution system that offered remote support.
5. Technicians Receiving Additional Training
The COVID-19 pandemic has made almost everyone revisit their understanding of public health measures to some extent. For example, most people learned as toddlers to cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing.
However, you can still find plenty of adults who don’t realize it’s better to cough or sneeze into their elbows. People touch phones, door handles, and keypads with their hands, but not their elbows. Thus, tweaking that part of sneeze etiquette is a smart public health decision.
The need to do things differently in the interest of health also affected field service management in terms of training. Home appliance brand Whirlpool used the pandemic as an opportunity to ensure its more than 7,500 field workers understood how to diagnose and repair issues, plus follow public health measures.
That was particularly important since many service needs originated at nursing homes, where the pandemic risks were often even greater than in the general population. The pandemic also brought an overall increase in customer needs. One of Whirlpool’s authorized providers in Florida received more than 1,000 service calls daily. Technicians coped with heavier workloads while following new safety protocols.
If you use a field service management platform that allows entering data about the training a technician received, now may be an excellent time to update it to include public health awareness measures. Customers want assurances that they won’t expose themselves or others to unnecessary risks by letting technicians into their homes or workplaces.
Mandating that every worker completes specific training for COVID-19-related measures is a practical way to give people more peace of mind.
Field Service Management Must Evolve
Field service management is like most other sectors in that it cannot remain competitive and responsive to customer needs while sticking to the same methods. The five trends explored here give a glimpse of what people should prepare for now.
If you’re considering how to enhance your current processes of overseeing field service crews, the areas here are excellent starting points.
About The Author
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She regularly explores the impact technology has on the industrial sector.