8 Field Service Management Trends to Watch in 2024
Customer expectations are high. Skilled field technicians are leaving the workforce faster than they are replaced. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a core feature of leading field service software.
These trends, among others, will shape the future of field service. Field service organizations are exploring ways to use data, technology, and operational improvements to rise to the occasion and thrive in this new era of field service.
There are eight key trends to watch in 2024 and beyond:
- Growing adoption of AI
- More customer self-service tools
- Smarter scheduling and dispatching
- Sustainable field service operations
- More emphasis on knowledge management
- Digital transformation continues
- Focus on the employee experience
- More comprehensive risk management and safety policies
Some areas of field service are poised for dramatic change. The construction industry, for example, is introducing field service software at a rapid rate to improve workforce management, and the healthcare industry is using AI to improve operations management.
Read on to learn more about the field service trends to watch in 2024.
1. Growing adoption of AI
AI is a growing trend in nearly every industry—and it’s paying off. More than 90% of large companies that have invested in data and AI report visible returns on their investment.
There is incredible potential for AI in field service operations in 2024. Common applications for AI in field service include:
- Scheduling: AI-informed scheduling can account for travel time, qualifications, customer preferences, job urgency, and other factors to generate and optimize employee schedules.
- Data analysis: Field service operations teams are focused on KPIs like travel time, job completion time, and rework percentage; with AI-informed insights, leaders can more quickly identify trends, spot outliers, and address issues.
- Proactive maintenance: AI can create preventive maintenance schedules based on past service trends, and it can enable predictive maintenance by helping technicians monitor data from internet of things (IoT)-enabled devices.
- Customer self-service: Generative AI tools, like chatbots, can help customers answer common questions without speaking to a customer service representative.
AI-enabled software features, also known as field service automation, will become the new standard for field service excellence. In 2024 and beyond, look out for features like intelligent scheduling and dispatching, automatic invoicing, generative AI chatbots, and automated messages triggered by common steps in the workflow.
2. More customer self-service tools
Self-service options continue to be a powerful trend in the field service industry. Self-service tools save time for both the customer, who can handle these tasks in one easily accessible place, and for customer service reps, who can instead focus on fielding more complex calls. This is crucial for businesses experiencing labor shortages, overtime costs, and increased expenses.
Self-service options don’t work for every customer or every situation—but they are becoming a default expectation for many customers. Three-quarters of consumers consider self-service to be convenient, and more than two-thirds prefer self-service over speaking to a representative.
Field service businesses in 2024 will continue to pursue self-service tools like:
- Self-service appointment scheduling – enable customers to schedule appointments from a limited selection of days and times, based on a back-end schedule of technician availability
- Knowledge base and FAQs – document technical details, manuals, best practices, and answers to commonly asked questions in a database that customers can find and search
- Customer portal – allow customers to view the details of upcoming and past visits, see estimated arrival time, and pay invoices
As field service companies look to improve productivity of customer service teams and central office staff, self-service tools can make a bug difference. Self-service transactions cost far less than live service transactions, and self-service frees up representatives’ time for other, more complex tasks.
3. Smarter scheduling and dispatching
Considering the high expectations of customers and the shortage of available skilled workers, scheduling will be a difference-maker in 2024.
Smart scheduling and dispatching means assigning the right staff member to the job, dispatching them at the correct time, providing an effective route to the job, and ensuring they have the right equipment and qualifications to complete the job effectively.
When done right, scheduling can become a competitive advantage for field service businesses. Schedule optimization results in better resource-matching, more on-time arrivals, and fewer last-minute cancellations. Implementing smart scheduling can lead to a 29% increase in productivity and a 67% decrease in job delays per week, according to a McKinsey study.
Field service is a large industry, and two field service businesses may have completely different applications for smart scheduling. For a home healthcare business that provides different types of services (that require specific qualifications to perform), the top priority will be matching the right worker to the job. A respiratory therapist is not the right fit for a mobile phlebotomy job, even if the therapist is closer to the customer.
For a solar installation business that provides only a couple core services, the top priority will be efficiency—scheduling multiple customer appointments in close proximity to each other. Unless there is a unique element to this job, which should be captured in the appointment request, two different installation technicians would handle the job in the same way.
AI plays a major role in smart scheduling. AI-enabled systems help generate worker schedules, optimize schedules according to company KPIs, account for travel time, adjust travel routes based on real-time data, match workers to the appropriate jobs, and adapt to unexpected absences and newly added jobs. With this AI assistance, schedulers and dispatchers can focus their attention on unique scheduling issues that require a human touch.
Heading into 2024, field service businesses need to determine what their scheduling priorities should be, and ensure their scheduling platform is equipped to handle those priorities.
4. Sustainable field service operations
Sustainability continues to be a key focus of the field service industry heading into 2024.
Travel is an essential component of field service, so reducing fuel consumption and vehicle emissions is a common starting point for sustainability efforts. Technology is helping field service companies get closer to net-zero emissions in a few ways:
- Route optimization – Apps use GPS, traffic patterns, and the locations of job sites to provide the most efficient travel route. 68% of field service companies see route optimization to reduce miles, visits, and CO2 emissions as the top priority for their sustainability program.
- Mobile-first communication – Field service software helps schedulers and dispatchers communicate changes to mobile workers in real-time. This helps avoid workers traveling to appointments that were canceled, rescheduled, or already completed.
- Smart scheduling – When workers with suitable expertise and equipment are matched to the right jobs, the job is more likely to be completed on the first visit. This reduces the need for wasteful (and frustrating) repeat visits.
Field service companies can also make operations more sustainable by reducing their use of printed materials and paperwork. A digital knowledge base with role-based permissions gives workers access to manuals, best practices, and safety information in the field without printing and reprinting these documents. A digital quote and invoicing system that uses digital signatures helps reduce the amount of paperwork involved in customer account management.
5. More emphasis on knowledge management
Customer expectations have increased in recent years, and this trend will continue in 2024. Field service companies must be prepared to provide personalized, seamless services across multiple channels—and that requires knowledge management.
Knowledge management is the way a company organizes, stores, interprets, and shares information within the organization. Companies with strong knowledge management practices are better-equipped to access their internal data, share it securely among departments, and overcome information silos.
Field service workforces in 2024 need secure access to customer information, based on what is appropriate for their role. Accessing and using the data requires bringing together information from several internal systems:
- Customer relationship management (CRM) – customer preferences, appointment history, and details needed for upcoming jobs
- Enterprise resource management (ERP) – supply chain management, inventory management, operations, and procurement processes
- Human resource management (HR) software – access staff members’ schedules, certifications, skills, and preferences
- Internal knowledge base – training manuals, troubleshooting processes
- Compliance knowledge base – safety checklists and health reporting
- Accounting software – initiate invoices, view invoice history, and help managers track expenses
For example, a local restaurant calls their repair service to fix a broken refrigerator ASAP. The technician assigned to the job should be able to access the customer’s service history (from the CRM), the model of the refrigerator (from the appointment request), and the relevant troubleshooting and safety information for that model (from the company’s knowledge base). When they arrive at the jobsite, the technician should be able to take notes and save job details to the centralized system—even if they are currently offline. These job details will be securely saved to the customer’s account, and certain job updates can trigger further action from HQ, like sending a specialist technician to follow up.
Knowledge management is a key part of bringing field operations and central office staff together. When surveyed, 79% of customer service leaders named knowledge management as a very or extremely important priority for their business.
6. Digital transformation continues
The digital transformation of field service is ongoing, and for most field service businesses, it starts with field service management software. Companies that have not implemented field service software to help with scheduling, route optimization, and communication with field workers will look to do so in 2024. Companies that have already implemented field service software will be working toward sophisticated optimization based on business goals and field service workflows.
Field service software is often the first step because it unlocks many features in one platform: scheduling, dispatching, communication, KPI measurement, and more. Field service management tools also integrate with existing systems—like ERP, CRM, HR, and payroll—to enable better knowledge management.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will also continue to play a role in field service operations. AR- and VR-enabled tools help field service leaders provide immersive, real-world experiences at a fraction of the traditional cost. Field service businesses will increase the use of AR and VR elements to train new workers, practice sales pitches, and augment the troubleshooting process in the field.
There were an estimated 43 billion devices connected to the internet in 2023. We are more connected than ever before, and field service companies can take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve operations as well. IoT-connected devices provide ongoing insight about the performance of key systems or customer data. For example, a home healthcare company can monitor clients’ vital signs remotely using wearable devices. This not only reduces the number of visits required to take measurements, but also notifies the care team if vital signs are not in the desired range so they can act quickly.
For field service businesses that work with large, complex systems, a digital twin may be an advanced step in their digital transformation. A digital twin is an interactive digital model that mirrors a real-world system. Creating and maintaining a digital twin is a major undertaking, but it allows system managers to troubleshoot, test, plan, and perform situational analysis in a safe digital environment before making (potentially costly) changes to real-world systems.
7. Focus on the employee experience
A field service company is only as strong as its workforce. There is stiff competition for top talent these days, and field service leaders should carefully consider how they can attract, retain, and engage employees in 2024.
Meeting the needs of a hybrid workforce: Amid a shortage of field technicians, field service companies must think carefully about the needs of employees. For many companies, the workforce will be a mix of full-time, contract, temporary, and/or flex workers. Skilled field service technicians may also request schedule variations like flex time arrangements or compressed work weeks to maintain work-life balance. Offering this kind of flexibility will help retain skilled workers—but companies must be prepared to manage another layer of scheduling complexity.
Providing a great introduction to the company: As much as 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days, which means onboarding and training is a crucial time. Going forward, companies will put a greater emphasis on creating an excellent onboarding experience for field workers.
Equipping workers with technology and support: The thoughtful use of technology makes a big difference for the employee experience. With the dispatch features of field service management software, companies can dispatch hybrid workers from home or other non-office locations, giving them mobile access to the job details. Role-based permissions and workflows help companies manage contract workers, hourly workers, and other workforce as a service strategies. Access to information in related systems helps workers feel empowered to revisit best practices and ensure they are equipped for upcoming jobs.
Mobile workers appreciate the autonomy, predictability, and flexibility that comes from a human-centric approach to field service. When managers entrust field workers to influence their schedules, successfully interact with customers, and operate independently, workers feel the difference.
8. More comprehensive risk management and safety policies
Risk management came to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic, and overall safety will continue to be a focus for the field service industry going forward.
Field service companies will increasingly look for software with built-in safety features that go beyond HIPAA and GDPR compliance. Leaders can improve worker safety by providing easy access to safety checklists, emergency procedures, and offline access to data. Technology can also enable contactless and/or cashless appointments for home services businesses to reduce the spread of illness.
Stay ahead of the field service management curve
To keep up with field service trends, you need the right technology on your side. Skedulo offers smart scheduling, route optimization, and a user-friendly field service management platform that employees will love. Managers can use automatic schedule optimization to match workers to the right jobs, then deliver job assignments and updates via the Skedulo Plus mobile app.
Skedulo is a reliable, user-friendly platform committed to field service excellence—now and in the future. Read our guide to field service success to be prepared for whatever 2024 will bring.