The Future of Field Service
The field service industry is undergoing a massive transformation. Gone are the days of paper schedules and forms, inefficient back office processes, and toting around a heavy log book to each appointment. Instead, modern technology is being leveraged to provide quick, effective bookings, automate simple administrative tasks, and provide other solutions that make life easier for workers, managers, and customers alike.
Despite all of the innovation, the field service industry is not without its challenges. As technology improves, customers demand more. Revenue streams must keep pace with the rising cost of business. Companies are increasingly called upon to provide more visibility, forecast demand more accurately, and give workers the tools they need to provide a better customer experience.
By identifying key trends, we can begin to predict where the field service industry is headed and how companies can best stay ahead of the curve and prepare for the future.
Where Field Service Is Headed
As with any industry, innovation is a must. Without it, companies risk becoming obsolete. They’re easily surpassed by competition, which effectively shrinks them until they risk leaving the market permanently.
There are several key factors that are currently driving change in the field service industry. While customers are demanding more from their service providers, the number of qualified technicians who can provide those services is shrinking, and companies face constant pressures to grow revenue along with efficiency.
Find out more about the future of field service
Increasing Field Service Demands from Customers
Today’s customers know what they want:
- Online scheduling: Giving customers an online portal to quickly cancel or reschedule an appointment makes working with you easier and more convenient, which sets certain field service providers apart from the rest.
- More precise scheduling: Today’s customers don’t want to wait around for a service time window—they want to know exactly when their technician will arrive.
- Preferred technician: If the customer had a great prior experience with a certain employee, why change a thing? Customers want to build a relationship with field service professionals that have served them well in the past.
- Job status updates: Just like tracking a package delivery, customers like the ability to “track” their technician or receive real-time updates on the status of a job, keeping them up-to-date on delays, arrival time, and more.
Keeping Ahead of a Shrinking Talent Pool
The majority of the Baby Boomer generation has reached retirement age, and the pace at which they’re exiting the workforce is picking up. This departure means there’s been a large loss of knowledge in the workforce. On top of that, according to Gartner, by 2020, more than 40% of field service work will be performed by contractors who will likely be working with more than one firm at a time. Essentially, field service providers will be sharing technicians. Together, these things mean it’s crucial that field service organizations begin preparing for an increasingly small and competitive talent pool:
- Training: Have procedures in place to quickly and efficiently train new field service technicians. Help your technicians invest in themselves and their careers by identifying how the skills they have stack up against the needs you anticipate having in the future.
- Offer real customer relationships: Everyone prefers working with people they like and with whom they have built a rapport. Give your technicians the opportunity to have real relationships with customers by sending the techs to customers they say they know and like.
- Flexibility and support: Be easy to work for. Just as customers want someone who is easy to work with, talent with options will look for someone who is flexible and easy to work for. Respect your employees’ time and talents by giving them tools that help make them more efficient and better at their jobs.
- Understand your up-and-coming workers: The oldest Millennials are now in their early 40s, and the oldest members of Gen Z are in their early 20’s and starting to enter the workforce. So it’s important to understand how to attract and retain these tech-savvy mid- to early-career workers on your team.
Maximizing Revenue and Efficiency in Field Service
The ultimate objective of any field service management system is to help your business increase revenue by fixing broken processes. Increasing revenue requires:
- Automating processes: Automation helps mobile workers spend less time on actions that don’t make money—such as checking in with the back office for schedule updates or completing paper forms—and more on those that do, like ensuring positive customer experiences.
- Increased productivity: With less paperwork and fewer hoops to jump through, mobile workers are free to complete more job requests.
- Efficient scheduling and routing: Reducing windshield time and getting technicians off the road and onsite for jobs is a critical step to increasing revenue.
- Reduced callbacks: Callbacks are costly in terms of both money and time. Giving field service workers the equipment and the information they need to complete a job request before arriving helps eliminate rework and multiple appointments.
- Forecasting accuracy: When managers can easily see what’s coming in and what’s going out, workforce forecasts are more accurate, leading to more cohesive hiring, workforce planning, and investment strategies.
Customer experience, maximizing revenue and efficiency, and making plans to deal with a shrinking talent pool are challenges that every field service organization will face. Being proactive and implementing mobile field service technology now will allow companies to stay ahead of the curve.
Skedulo’s Predictions for Field Service
Now that we understand the factors driving the need for change, we can more accurately predict what the future of field service will look like.
1. Growth in AI and the IoT
Artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) are going to have a huge impact on the way field service organizations do business in the near future—and in some cases, they already have.
For example, AI chatbots can now answer common, simple questions from customers without taking time from a live, salaried person. When field techs are working with customers, AI can help them learn about products or services to upsell, or preemptively answer questions that similar customers have had. AI and IoT even have a role in predictive maintenance—alerting a customer or field service tech to a potential equipment problem before the problem has occurred.
Imagine knowing when an HVAC system needs to be serviced before the homeowner knows, or getting a notification that a mission-critical machine at an oil plant is at risk of overheating.
2. Smart Devices Will Displace Legacy Tech
Smartphones, smart watches, and virtual or augmented reality devices will be the solution of choice for many field service organizations in the future. Mobile field service workers can already get directions to their next appointment on their wrist, or quickly message colleagues across town—or across the globe—on their phone. In some cases, field service workers can even sit in their office as their virtual reality glasses help them troubleshoot a machine thousands of miles away.
3. Automation Will Overtake Manual Administration
The value of automation is in transforming simple tasks that are slow and error-prone into fast, reliable actions that facilitate better business.
A field service provider can choose to automate time-consuming parts of the operation, including:
- Recurring appointments
- Location tracking
- Sharing and syncing data
- Inventory management
- Order intake
Automation reduces overhead, contributes to a strong competitive advantage, and frees up field service workers and administrative staff to focus on work that matters most.
4. Optimization Will Define Competition
Field service organizations can bring in new customers, increase brand recognition, and ultimately become more profitable—all through optimization.
Modern field service tools help organizations optimize every part of their field operation: number of jobs per day, time spent with customers, time spent on the road, employee experience, and so much more. With robust data from a modern field service management (FSM) system, organizations can assess their current processes and identify opportunities to be more efficient or profitable.
As field service marches on, FSM tools will be used by more field service companies to optimize operations and achieve business goals—whether it’s to cut overhead costs, retain customers, develop employees, retain employees, or something else altogether.
5. Proactive Data Analysis Will Get Companies Ahead of the Game
The field service leaders of the future embrace proactive data analysis. Staying ahead of the trends and having a solid grasp on the present while looking toward the future allows field service organizations to evolve.
Proactive data analysis includes predictive analytics. Data gathered can predict the likelihood of an issue before it occurs and recommend a course of action. For example, when the energy usage for an air conditioner skyrockets for some reason, it prompts a notification for a maintenance check. A field service technician is able to come out and address the problem before it becomes a major repair.
This shift toward more proactive job orders (rather than urgent, reactive jobs), leads to increased efficiency and lower costs, which translates to a competitive edge: lower prices and higher customer satisfaction rates.
Another example of proactive data analysis in action is the ability to offer personalized services using the data gained from dozens of prior actions with a specific client. Personalized services can range from personalized settings to cross-selling and up-selling.
When field service leaders embrace proactive data analytics, they can adapt to changing market conditions, better equip workers for success, and provide value-added service to existing clients while working to attract new customers.
The Bottom Line in the Future of Field Service
As field service continues to evolve, we’ll keep an eye on how our predictions play out in the market. But one thing is for sure: The field service industry isn’t going anywhere. In 2016, it was a $1.73 billion industry, and it’s projected to surpass $4 billion by 2025.
However, if field service organizations want to be around to experience that growth boom, they’ll need to stay on top of the trends and adapt to the necessary changes.
Skedulo is designed to optimize and enhance field service through mobile-first scheduling, dispatching, and data sharing. Learn how to choose a field service management platform that can keep up with the growth of your company and the continued evolution of field service.
*This article was orginally published July 2018 and updated in June 2021