The field service industry is an ever-evolving landscape that’s consistently presented with both new challenges and solutions for managing a successful operation. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly unearthed some new obstacles for field service organizations, who must adapt to survive.
As customers’ needs change, the workforce continues to shrink, and labor hire costs rise, modern field service companies should pay close attention to industry trends that could affect services, business priorities, and customer expectations going forward. Here are the most recent field service industry trends shaping the way today’s organizations approach field service management (FSM) and digital transformation:
1. More emphasis on the customer experience
As the field service market expands, customers have more choices than ever when it comes to healthcare, home repairs, equipment installation, and other on-site jobs. If customers don’t get the experience they are hoping for, they can (and will) switch to another provider—in fact, 32% of customers would stop doing business with a brand they love after just one bad experience.
A fantastic, seamless customer experience sets high-performing field service organizations apart from the rest. In the world of field service, a great customer experience means:
- Mobile workers are professional, knowledgeable, and on time
- Field techs arrive with the necessary tools to get the job done right the first time
- Requesting a new or rescheduled appointment is easy and predictable
- Invoices are generated quickly and accurately when the job is done
When field service organizations make the customer experience a priority, the results are incredible: 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a great experience, making the customer experience a greater differentiator than price and product features.
To keep up with increasing competition and customer expectations, field service organizations should use software that puts humans—both customers and the employees who deliver service every day—at the center of their workflow and digital transformation strategy.
2. Greater investment in the mobile workforce
The COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on how quickly working conditions can change—and how field service companies that aren’t prepared for that change might not be able to survive. Field service companies must be able to fully operate and serve customers through a remote work plan, which requires proper technology and infrastructure.
Businesses now realize that properly enabling remote work can reduce operating costs and boost employee productivity. But for remote work to be successful, field workers should have everything they need at their fingertips—from automated and self-scheduling, to dispatching, to optimized routing, to real-time communication—regardless of where they are.
And it’s not just the business that benefits from enabling and supporting effective remote work. 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 own daily schedules, successfully interact with customers, and work more independently, workers feel the difference. They can go to an important appointment, pick up their kids from school, or take care of other priorities while still doing their job effectively.
The result is more satisfied and confident workers who are engaged in their work and ready to put their best foot forward to represent the brand.
3. Increased importance of contact tracing
The health of both employees and customers is a topic that’s at the forefront of field service organizations’ minds, and that’s likely not going away anytime soon. It’s essential to keep track of where workers have been, whether or not they’re healthy, and if they’re currently able to interact with customers on a job site.
With the right technology, managers can easily track workers’ location in real-time, so if an employee does get sick (or is exposed to an illness), they can easily identify who that worker has been in contact with while on the job and mitigate the chance of further spread.
4. More sustainable field service operations
Today’s business environment requires a greater emphasis on sustainability, not just in the services provided, but also in the company’s internal operations. Field service depends on skilled workers moving from one place to another throughout the workday, which presents challenges for green initiatives, like getting to net zero emissions: reducing fuel usage, communicating efficiently to many locations, dispatching the right person to the job, and identifying wasteful practices when workers are dispersed across job sites.
Leading field service companies are using field service software that offers the visibility, data, and efficiency needed to make operations more sustainable. Look for field service management tools that help you take the following steps:
- Eliminate first-time fix failures by ensuring workers have the customer history, expertise, job details, and equipment to get the job done the first time
- Reduce (and eliminate!) the use of paper, like printed quotes, hard copies of customer service history, or paper forms for customer signatures
- Decrease fuel consumption and time on the road by providing the most efficient route from one job to the next, using virtual meeting options when an in-person meeting is not required, and scheduling/sequencing jobs in a way that reduces unnecessary travel
- Use cloud-based infrastructure, which uses more environmentally friendly cloud data centers vs. traditional on-premises servers and allows the business to scale up and down without significant amounts of wasted energy
- Improve communication with field workers to eliminate time spent traveling to canceled, rescheduled, or already completed jobs
- Review field service KPIs consistently to identify where workers are under-utilized, making too many repeat visits, or traveling too far from one job to the next and make adjustments to your strategy
5. More focus on risk management and safety policies
In addition to contact tracing for sickness and exposure, it’s become increasingly important to prioritize policies that reduce risk or prevent breaches in safety. Field service companies that offer assurance of such policies will have a clear advantage over those that don’t. This is particularly crucial for at-risk customers and job sites—like hospitals and nursing homes—who need extra precautions when they receive service.
Competitive field service organizations have started implementing tools to mitigate safety risks, like mobile apps that offer:
- Real-time location services, so managers can track employees in case of an emergency
- Contact-free customer signatures to support social distancing
- The ability to capture documents, job notes, and photos in the field (and automatically sync them to a central system)
- Optimized routing to ensure safe driving and on-time arrival
- Safety checklists that deskless workers can use to confirm compliance and escalate any incidents
6. Growing use of field service software
In the past, field service organizations relied on outdated or disconnected systems to manage field workers. But the rise of modern field service software (and the valuable features these solutions offer) has made those disjointed solutions pale in comparison. If your business is still using myriad, disparate tools to serve customers, you’ll likely be left in the dust by those who’ve implemented intelligent field service software that streamlines their end-to-end operations.
Today’s field service management software enables for route optimization, dynamic scheduling and dispatching, job matching, data collection, communication, and more—all in one succinct place.
The right solution can also seamlessly integrate with existing systems (e.g. ERP, CRM, HR, payroll, etc.) and pull everything together for a great employee and customer experience. And because strong FSM tools also collect data across those previously siloed systems, they can help ensure you’re making data-based business decisions.
7. Improvements in self-service capabilities
Self-service portals have become an increasingly important factor in providing a great customer experience. Customers now expect to have access to scheduling, service information, troubleshooting resources, and accurate field worker arrival time at the drop of a hat.
More than 80% of customers try to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a company rep, whether that is through an online knowledge base, a portal, or other self-service options. Field service companies that fail to offer tools to put the customer in the driver’s seat will likely miss out on some key competitive advantages, like:
- Ensuring high-quality, customer-centric experiences
- Engaging customers with valuable resources, including product/service information, FAQs, relevant educational content, etc.
- Improving productivity for already busy customer service teams, as customers can access information and make service requests without speaking to a representative
- Reducing the cost of customer service activities, as self-service transactions cost pennies on the dollar compared to live service transactions
The last thing customers want to do is wait on the phone to have their questions answered, schedule an appointment, or track down a delayed technician. Self-service portals 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). That’s crucial for businesses currently experiencing labor shortages and increased overtime costs.
8. An increase in predictive maintenance
Gone are the days where reactive maintenance is enough to stay ahead of the curve: Modern organizations must adopt a predictive approach (backed by state-of-the-art AI and machine learning) to ensure they meet customer expectations.
Since it’s no secret that people are spending more time in their homes than ever before, it only makes sense that they’ve come to depend more heavily on their home appliances and devices. In fact, there are expected to be 497.3 million active smart home households globally by 2025. That staggering number represents a clear opportunity for businesses in the field service industry, who can either adapt to provide exceptional service or risk falling behind the competition.
Predictive maintenance involves using the internet of things (IoT) to connect to devices out in the field and alert customers or providers when there is a possible issue. Predictive maintenance enables better oversight and predictability for many types of equipment in the field:
- Large utility companies can use sensors to monitor their assets and predict faults, avoiding major impacts to the customer.
- Train operators can monitor rolling stock for wear and tear to proactively address any maintenance or upgrade needs.
- Appliance manufacturers or service providers can monitor appliances in commercial settings and even homes, alerting the customer when there is a possible issue.
This proactive approach allows field service organizations to anticipate client needs, personalize customer interactions, and reduce maintenance downtime.
Stay Ahead of the FSM Curve
Understanding the field service industry’s most competitive trends (and what’s driving them) is essential for providing unparalleled customer service. Organizations must learn to adapt to changes in customer expectations, labor shortages, and increasing health and safety concerns or risk becoming obsolete.
Skedulo’s field service management software helps organizations easily manage the dynamic nature of their operations. With robust tools for route optimization, automated scheduling, intelligent job matching, and seamless integration with existing systems, Skedulo can help take your field service business to the next level.
Learn more about the Skedulo approach to field service management to see how effective FSM can affect your customers, mobile workers, and ultimately your revenue.