Paul Whitelam, VP Product Marketing, ClickSoftware, outlines five key technologies he believes will soon be shaping our industry...
The field service industry continued its rapid transformation in 2016, with emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and predictive analytics increasingly changing how field service suppliers manage their workforce.
Service-centric businesses are constantly looking for new ways to meet customers’ growing demand for convenient and communicative customer service.
2017 is likely to bring continued change and innovation, with new technologies reshaping service operations and delivery. It’s a great time to examine what’s in store for the industry this year, and what field service leaders might want to have on their radar. Here are five technologies set to improve the field service industry in 2017:
1) Machine learning and AI
Machine learning (when algorithms evolve and improve over time) and artificial intelligence (AI) also drove new changes in 2016.
With the ability to better process, interpret, and learn from data, more services suppliers can be predictive instead of reactive, and will be able to automate the tasks that don’t need human input. Increasingly sophisticated forecasting driven by machine learning will drive efficiency increases and cost savings.
2) Reaping the rewards of new realities
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) were a major force last year. Even though virtual and augmented reality are predominantly used in games such as Pokémon Go and The Lab, both are being adopted more widely in a workplace context to enhance employee productivity and customer experiences.
In 2017, an increasing number of field service engineers will start to see VR and AR initiatives being introduced to support their training and day-to-day work.
As experienced engineers age out of the workforce and businesses try to maximise existing resources, VR and AR will increasingly play a role in enabling training, remote coaching, and viewing more information on each task via wearables.
3) Connected customers
As our recent research showed, customer expectations are growing rapidly around the world. The demand for fast, friendly and high quality service that also fits with customers’ busy and varying schedules is becoming the norm. And, aware of the mobile-led technologies that now exist to support a higher level of service delivery, field service customers are voicing demand for engineer location tracking and up-to-the-minute communications.
This communication between the customers and engineers will give customers the ability to share photos, preferences and job information with technicians before their visit, sharing important information that will expedite the service delivery. Customers will also be able to share their customer experience with their provider after the visit, offering feedback that can inform future service decisions.
Field service suppliers that do not start to think seriously about modernizing their operations in 2017 in this way will see an impact on their ability to compete.
4) A smarter field service
A device is labelled ‘smart’ if it can connect to other devices through the Internet of Things.
This year, smart will become smarter and advancements in machine learning will create new opportunities for the field service industry.
There will be improved inter-connectivity of smart devices, which will enable field service engineers to use their smart devices to contact more experienced engineers when they need guidance.
This will improve engineers’ knowledge and skills, and also deliver better customer experiences through increased ‘first-time-fix’ resolutions.
Smart technology will also accelerate preventative maintenance, alerting the customer and technician when there is an issue with a piece of equipment before the customer needs to make the call.
Usage patterns and failures are therefore easier to recognise and plan for, minimising interruptions and failures when a device is connected through smart technology.
5) Autonomous vehicles will drive innovation
Autonomous vehicles are already being trialled in some parts of the world, but 2017 will be the year when the business masses start to investigate their potential in the context of business gain.
Autonomous vehicles are already being trialled in some parts of the world, but 2017 will be the year when the business masses start to investigate their potential
In short, self-driving cars or drones could present a field service industry game changer and as autonomous vehicle technology improves—and in-country legislation relating to their use is put in place —discussions around the benefits these offer to industry suppliers will gather pace amidst the race to innovate.