In a new series of excerpts from a a recent exclusive Field Service News white paper sponsored by Salesforce we explore how the very definition of field service is being redefined as we move towards a world of remote service delivery. In part one we will be assessing today's environment and the challenges we face and start to look at some of the tools required for remote service delivery...
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Welcome to the New World...
As the global pandemic swept across the world, many, many things changed. The way we interacted with each other in some ways became more distant; in others, we felt closer to each other than we had ever been before. Those of us based in offices invited the world into our homes through tools such as Zoom, Skype and Got To Meeting. Switchboard recordings notified us that we might hear unusual noises like dogs or children during the call as contacts centres were moved in a surprisingly seamless manner onto kitchen tables across the land. Yet, field service delivery is not such an easy role to transition to a world of lockdowns and isolation.
Field service is by its very definition delivered off-site, in the field. However, with many field engineers being classed as essential workers, and with service and maintenance operations under intense pressure to keeping the world ticking over, while we all endured lockdown, innovative thinking was required to keep service operations moving as much as possible. The result we saw was a massive swing in demand for the delivery of remote services. Before the pandemic, remote services were an option that remained primarily viewed as an offering of less value than the traditional on-site service call. Almost overnight, this switched. Suddenly, the requirements for remote service solutions were of paramount as companies desperately avoided breaking their own carefully erected bio-security measures.
Now, as we look towards building the recovery and establishing a new normal, many field service organisations are discussing a remote-first approach to service delivery. However, there are valid concerns that too much of a swing in the other direction could be akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In this exclusive White Paper, authored by Field Service News, Editor-in-Chief, Kris Oldland, we set out to weigh up the pros and cons of adopting a remote-first as default approach and ask is this the way we should approach service delivery in the new normal of our post-pandemic world?
The Tools Needed for Remote First Service Operations:
To begin the discussion, we should first look at the specific requirements in terms of technology for delivering remote services at all. In today’s modern technology ecosystem, it is common to view the different layers of technology required as a stack with one building upon another rather than a self-enclosed platform.
In today’s age of APIs, mostly when it comes to software at least, everything works well in tandem. The advantage of this approach is the flexibility to build a solution that can take the best tools available to you that meet the needs of your organisation. Ultimately though, a robust platform that underpins your service technology ecosystem is crucial. Salesforce, for example, is an immensely powerful application, whether it be as a CRM or an FSM solution. Yet, it is within the flexibility of the app ecosystem, that Salesforce pioneered within business solutions, that the true power of the technology stack lies.
"While there are strong arguments for such devices allowing an engineer to work hands-free, the reality is that almost all AR solutions available to field service organisations currently also support tablet and smartphone configurations..."
With a rich layer of solutions available, the ability to build a robust and powerful solution to meet all of your field service requirements becomes far easier for companies of all sizes and levels of complexity. When it comes to remote service, there are a couple of fundamental aspects of the technology stack that need to be in place to achieve a seamless and fully optimised approach.
#1 Augmented Reality:
Augmented Reality (AR) is a crucial aspect of effective remote services. Effectively, what AR enables the field service organisation to accomplish is to place experience exactly where it is needed. This could come in the form of engineer-to-engineer (or even engineer-to-customer) assistance that is delivered in a you-see-what-I-see environment.
Alternatively, it could come in a more automated form, leveraging artificial intelligence and pre-programmed guides that can walk the engineer on-site through the various stages of the maintenance at hand. The advantage of AR over alternatives (such as video calling) is the ability to annotate clearly on the screen which area of an asset should be focused upon.
This can even be as granular as annotating which direction to turn a dial or by how much. While on the surface, this could be seen as a nice, but non-essential benefit, the reality is that as humans we take in visual instructions 8 x faster than aural instructions1. In field service, this is vitally important as we are continually looking to seek out every efficiency possible, as this soon scales up to significant resource savings when viewed across the entire mobile workforce. Indeed, one of the critical areas of focus for all field service organisations is being able to maximise resource utilisation, and alongside tools such as Salesforce’s enhanced optimisation engine, shift management and intelligent parts recommendations, the introduction of AR is an essential element for field service organisations to be able to achieve this.
One final point for consideration is that while often we think of AR solutions being based upon smart-glasses (or head-based computers as they are increasingly being termed) this is not necessarily the case. While there are strong arguments for such devices allowing an engineer to work hands-free, the reality is that almost all AR solutions available to field service organisations currently also support tablet and smartphone configurations. This can allow service organisations the ability to begin utilising AR almost instantly without the requirement of any additional hardware other than what the engineer is already using every day.
Look out for the next feature in this series coming next week where we explore three more key technologies required for remote service delivery.
However, www.fieldservicenews.com subscribers can read the full white paper now by hitting the button below. If you are yet to subscribe you can do so for free by hitting the button and you can access the white paper instantly upon completing the registration form!
- Read the initial news report about the announcement of the latest iteration of Salesforce Field Service @ www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/salesforce-announce-the-next-generation-of-field-service-ai-powered-tools-for-trusted-mission-critical-field-service
- Read more about digital transformation in field service @ www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/tag/servitization-and-advanced-services
- Read more about the impact of COVID-19 on the field service sector @ www.fieldservicenews.com/en-gb/covid-19
- Read previous articles by Paul Whitelam @ www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/author/paul-whitelam
- Find out more about Salesforce Field Service @ www.salesforce.com/uk/products/service-cloud/field-service-lightning/
- Connect with Paul on LinkedIn @ www.linkedin.com/in/paulwhitelam/
- Follow Salesforce on Twitter @ twitter.com/salesforce