Year-end predictions may not always end up ringing true, but as we wrap up 2015 it’s worth taking a few moments to discuss how technology trends will continue to impact field service in the year to come. Some of these will look familiar – while others will be new or sound far-fetched – but it will be interesting to see how these play out over the next 12 months. It’s also a good time for field service organizations to take stock of where they stand technologically and how they’re prepared to meet the next generation of field service.
Service expectations are shaped by technology
The customer experience continues to be the linchpin of differentiation among price-competitive industries. Technology is a main driver of what customers expect in terms of service, and nowhere is this more evident than field service, the most personal of all customer interactions. Look for a constant focus on mobility as both consumers and field service organizations continue to migrate away from the desktop.
Internet of Things and Big Data get strategic
We’ve been talking about these two for a while now, and they’ll continue to be top of mind as businesses learn how to harness the power of both. IoT has matured from devices that merely connect or identify themselves to devices that can meaningfully engage and add value to business processes. Big Data will evolve, too, as a vital part of a holistic field service strategy. It’s the difference between saying “I’m here,” “I’m here, and this is how I can help,” and “I’m probably going to need to go there soon.” A lot of Big Data’s value to field service involves predicting the need for a field service visit before a problem even occurs.
Wearables finally happen (with an assist)
We’ve been waiting for wearables to prove their usefulness in field service, and it looks like a strategic partnership with augmented reality and video technology might be the answer. Paired with these technologies, smart glasses could be used to assist techs with complicated diagnostics or repairs, new processes, and even enhance safety by providing warnings or recall information.
Self-driving cars…sort of
Self-driving cars are having a moment, and while we can’t ignore it, we’re not ready to say that field service will be an early adopter. However, many of the on-board technologies that are already in use today – collision avoidance and maintenance alerts, for instance – could have significant impact on fleet management costs, with significant savings on insurance, maintenance and replacement. As organizations with large fleets upgrade their vehicles, look for these technologies to become part and parcel of field service’s day-to-day.
With arts organizations, public libraries and products like Glowforge putting 3D printing within reach of more people, it’s all but inevitable that field service will find a way to leverage the technology – for instance, enabling a field technician to print a necessary part onsite rather than having to leave and come back or reschedule the appointment. The ability to print parts will also have impact on how businesses handle inventory, so it will be interesting to see how field service technology software responds to the opportunity of 3D printing.
Field employees become all knowing
Perhaps that’s overstating things a bit, but as businesses look for ways to differentiate through service, field technicians will be empowered to do more than just fix, deliver or install. Because mobile employees are often the only company representatives that customers meet in person, they will naturally get questions and requests outside the scope of the original task. With access to real-time information and knowledge repositories at their fingertips, field employees will continue to be on the front lines of the customer experience. And, as field service organizations begin to leverage some of the tech tools mentioned here, mobile employees will need be more tech-savvy in order to understand and perhaps troubleshoot the high-tech devices they’ll come to rely on. With tools like IoT, near-field communication, wearables and more in play, employees must have a comfort level beyond that of just a user.
Read more about how tech trends are set to impact field service in 2016 and beyond on the Oracle Customer Experience blog: “The Top Tech Trends Impacting the Future of Field Service Management” by Stephen Fioretti and “The Internet of Things is Here – Is Your Field Service Organization Ready?” by Christine Friscic.