Trends & Insights

7 Field Service Management Trends to Watch for in 2019

By Denis Amado - October 18, 2018

You are probably already aware of the big customer service megatrends:

  • Artificial intelligence and chatbots communicate autonomously with customers.
  • Machine learning automates service processes and eliminates manual sources of error.
  • The Internet of Things integrates after-sales networks into a digitally connected customer care ecosystem.

That’s the bird’s eye view. But what impact do all these developments have on field service management?

Field service is one of those after-sales functions that have always been fundamental to the customer experience because of its proximity to the customer. A service technician has intimate insights into the customer’s private life, especially since they get to enter the customer’s private home. The behavior of a service technician has more influence on the customer experience than any chatbot or call center might ever have.

On the other hand, field service management is a function that has been a constant headache for after-sales organisations over the years. Field service requires a lot of resources and is a bit pricey. The service processes are decentralized and are difficult to automate. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to achieve economies of scale when scheduling and dispatching a work order.

We have examined the seven most important field service trends for 2019. In this blog post, we give you a compact overview of the new developments you can expect in field service management in the near future.

1. The Rise of Hybrid Customer Service Concepts

Conversational AI solutions such as Google Duplex make possible what was unthinkable until recently. Human customer service becomes automated and scalable. We will soon be bidding farewell to the classical call center agent as bots continue to take over personal dialogue with customers. In field service management, this results in hybrid customer service concepts.

The benefits of digitalization (automation and scalability) are combined with those of field service (personal service on site). Before a service technician sets off, bot solutions offer to analyze the problem together with the customer on the basis of conversational AI.

In contrast to conventional call centers, there are virtually no costs involved. Due to the precise preparatory work carried out by the bots, the service technician is optimally prepared for the job. They can then solve the problem faster, which saves both time and money and also ameliorates the customer experience.

India is the fastest growing smartphone market in the world. Google offers its customers a very special service there: in-home repair and support for users of Pixel smartphones. Learn all about Google’s innovative field service approach – read the full story here.

2. The Journey Towards a Liquid Workforce

The term Liquid Workforce was coined by Accenture two years ago. The idea behind it is to build up a workforce with a flexible skill set. Since job profiles at the workplace are becoming increasingly dynamic, employees are called to adapt their skills in a flexible manner.

Training and further development are becoming an integral process in companies. The Liquid Workforce approach is predestined to be adopted by field service organisations. Their greatest challenge is technological change. The variety of products that service technicians have to support is growing rapidly.

Field worker skills that are cast in stone are no longer enough. Instead, what is needed is a field service organisation that constantly develops its skill set and makes training its core process.

3. Crowdsourcing Field Service Engineers

With the rise of the freelance economy, the entire recruiting model for field service organizations is fundamentally changing. Alone in the US, freelance workers may represent more than 50 percent of the working population within ten years from now according to Morgan Stanley.

Instead of hiring talents into conventional full-time jobs, field service teams comprise more and more of freelancing part-timers. Crowdsourcing is the new mantra. It not only offers great opportunities to get access to talent. It is also an effective way to ensure scalability throughout times of growth, stagnation and even decline.

Companies like Field Nation have built crowdsourcing into their business model and can flexibly fulfill the requirements of their customers.

4. Zero Stock Approach to Inventory Management

Spare parts management is one of the biggest challenges in after-sales service. Read our latest blog post to learn more about the most recent strategies in inventory management.

Parts management in the field service area is becoming even more complex. There are often dozens or even hundreds of service technicians on duty. If each of them carries a mobile stock of spare parts, the ensuing chaos becomes even greater:

  • Just guessing which spare parts need to go into the truck is a lot like gambling. Who knows if the right part is there?
  • It is also an expensive affair to equip service technicians with an extensive mobile stock of spare parts. In the end, most of the parts are not needed at all.

The hybrid service approach described in the first point opens up completely new possibilities in inventory management. Precise AI-based diagnosis prior to an appointment makes it possible to say which spare parts are actually needed with greater precision. This facilitates a zero stock approach in field service.

5. AR and VR Belong to the Field Service Toolset

Augmented reality and virtual reality are popular tools for training field service technicians. These technologies can be used to simulate typical on-site situations at the customer’s home. Device manufacturers use AR and VR applications to show how their products can be efficiently supported and repaired.

However, AR and VR also provide valuable help in real time. Along with mobile apps and cloud-based platforms they belong to the field service toolset 2019. Service technicians can use them to call up useful information about the device which they are about to repair. This includes manufacturer’s instructions, the device’s repair history and diagnostic information.

Based on proven best practices, AR applications also support field service technicians step by step when repairing a device. This reduces the potential for errors in field service and increases the first time fix rate.

6. First Time Fix Rate Is Everything

The importance of the first time fix rate continues to grow. We have already written on the impact this important metric will have on the customer experience. Check out this blog post about call center trends for more details.

A solid first time fix rate is even more important for field service. If a service technician is unable to fix a problem during the first customer visit, a time-consuming follow-up process starts. A new appointment has to be arranged and the field technician has to visit the customer again. This all causes enormous costs and makes customers anything but happy.

Prize question: In which country do customers place the highest demands on customer service? You’re right, it’s the United States. Samsung offers a fast in-home service to customers there who need help with their TV or one of their household appliances. Read the full story here.

7. Focus on Customer Effort

You’re familiar with the popular question: How satisfied were you with our service? Many companies still overestimate the importance of answers to this question about customer satisfaction. In reality, customers are especially enthusiastic about a service experience when their own efforts have been minimal.

Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman investigated this concept back in 2010. In a Harvard Business review article, the authors presented a new metric: Customer Effort Score (CES). The CES measures how much effort was required on the part of the customer when solving a problem. The Customer Effort Score is especially relevant for field service management. Service organisations depend on the customer’s cooperation when solving a problem, they demand an effort from their customer.

This starts with arranging an appointment and continues with the opening of the front door when the service technician arrives. At the end of the day, field service is actually a pretty hands-on affair. But done correctly, it’s a great opportunity to increase customer satisfaction for any brand.

How are you preparing your field service for the future? Let us know. We look forward to discussing new ideas about field service management with you.

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Trends & Insights

About the Author

Denis Amado

Denis Amado is Head of Service Delivery at B2X Americas.