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6 Field Service Industry Trends to Watch for in 2018

As the head of a field service company, your primary objective is to provide customers with fast, efficient, and effective repairs, but there’s a lot that needs to be accomplished behind the scenes in order for that to happen. Schedules need to be made, contracts need to be drawn up, field technicians need to be trained and dispatched in accordance to their skill level—and so on, and so forth. Field service industry trends tend to focus on how to make these necessary processes more time and cost-effective on the business end and more satisfying on the customer end.

Take a look at these top 6 field service trends for 2018 to get an idea of what best practices and technologies you should consider implementing to boost your bottom line and improve overall customer experience.

  1. Automate on the back end

Field service automation is proven to generate faster revenue, reduce costs, increase productivity levels, ensure quality, accuracy, and consistency, and more, making it one of the fastest growing field service industry trends. To get in on this growing trend, start by automating tasks on the back end. Field service automation management software automates tedious and complex tasks, such as scheduling, dispatch management, contract, SLA and warranty management, inventory management and more, to streamline operational process and enable your employees to focus on more pressing issues.

  1. Focus on field service mobility

One of the best ways to quickly and accurately respond to service requests is to prioritize mobility. It’s now easier than ever before to tap into mobility, thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and connectivity created by the Internet of Things (IoT).

By delivering real-time and offline data to field technicians via native mobile, you enable them to access essential customer and case information from anywhere in the world. You can also use mobility to provide technicians with remote step-by-step guidance for better first-time fix rates or to establish a direct line of communication between the technician and the customer to help them work through issues remotely, thereby increasing customer engagement. Equipping technicians with the right information via mobile application can also drive revenue through field-based sales.

  1. Think ahead with predictive maintenance

 The days where field service technicians could sit around and wait for calls for repairs to come in are long over; even preventative maintenance has become passé.

Field service companies are now looking to predictive maintenance as the way of the future. Rather than peer into a crystal ball to see what malfunctions are on the horizon, technicians can use IoT-enabled tools to proactively monitor equipment health, set up alerts which are sent to an operator console in the event of a behavioral change, and execute predetermined actions to mitigate potential damage. Some tools even use cloud integration to simulate normal device behavior so that technicians can test out potential fixes in a secure environment before actually implementing them.

  1. Make training more engaging

As the head of a field service business, you already know that it’s impossible to understate the importance of training. Field technicians are expected to have the technical knowledge necessary to quickly diagnose and repair products on-site, which requires a solid understanding of the mechanics of your company’s products. In recent years, field service businesses have also placed additional emphasis on soft-skills training to improve customer service, ranking it second only to product repair training, according to a study conducted by Worldwide Business Research.

Adequate training is also directly linked to employee engagement: 40 percent of employees who do not receive adequate training . Consider your company’s training and development content: Is it in-depth and informative? Does it present information that’s easy for the trainee to understand and retain? Is it interesting and engaging? Does it incorporate interactive or hands-on training techniques?

If your answer to any of those questions was “no,” there are some easy adjustments you can implement to make your employee training more comprehensive:

  • Move certain training programs online to provide technicians with an on-demand library of training content that allows them to move at their own pace;
  • Use mobile applications and augmented reality (AR) to connect new employees with seasoned members of your staff to enable trainees to ask questions and get answers in real-time;
  • Combine online training with mobile applications via real-time, interactive webinars that enable trainees to interact directly with instructors from anywhere in the world;
  • Consider investing in AR or virtual reality (VR) tech to run training scenarios in a risk-free sandboxed environment, without the need for expensive physical training materials.
  1. Explore AR and VR technology

 Speaking of AR and VR, although they have yet to achieve widespread adoption in the field service industry, there are promising use cases emerging each day for these cutting-edge technologies. Some businesses have already started to use in-house AR applications to help field technicians maneuver complex situations. Best-in-class field service organizations (organizations that resolve the issue on their first trip at least 88 percent of the time) are 72 percent more likely to .

AR and VR are useful not only for training purposes, but for ensuring more accurate first-time fixes. A technician can use AR and VR-based applications and tools to access information about the device she’s been sent to fix, including repair history and diagnostics, without having to take it apart. This remote access is made possible through integration between AR/VR applications, field service software, and/or customer relationship management software. Certain AR software even offers step-by-step repair instructions when imposed over the image of a device, making it possible for customers to perform minor fixes on their own equipment.

AR and VR can save your business time and money with remote assistance. Rather than perform repairs on-site, technicians can use wearables such as smart glasses to see what the customer sees and provide live customer service remotely. This technology is also useful in situations when a technician has been dispatched but runs into issues or requires a second opinion—rather than dispatch a second team, your company can use augmented glasses to connect the first technician with a secondary team operating at a central location. For these reasons, AR and VR are two of the most exciting field service trends for 2018.

  1. Use data to your advantage

The field service industry’s shift away from corrective maintenance and toward predictive maintenance highlights the importance of data analytics and its ability to provide companies with actionable insight into how they can improve employee performance and productivity, personalize the customer experience, increase ROI, as well as identify device malfunctions before they occur.

As the head of a field service business, you’re likely already familiar with the myriad of ways data is collected, including through GPS and location systems, client details, and IoT device connectivity. To make good use of the data you’ve gathered, invest in a Field Service Management (FSM) system that processes information and uses it to provide business transparency and data-driven recommendations. Leading field service companies already leverage FSM and have seen great results: Best-in-class organizations that adopt analytics technology typically see service profits increase by 18 percent, customer retention increase by 42 percent, and SLA performance increase by 44 percent, according to Aberdeen.

When evaluating which FSM system is right for your business, consider the pain points you experience and would like to rectify. If you find that your company struggles with billing or engaging leads, look into software that offers comprehensive contract management. If you struggle with keeping track of inventory, utilize software that offers granular insight and inventory management at every stage of the transaction. If you struggle with customer communication, invest in software that enables the customer to track every stage of the repair process in real-time and automatically processes customer feedback. Ideally, the right FSM system will provide all of this and more.

Conclusion

If your goal is to empower technicians, increase customer engagement, and boost profits, learning about these growing field industry trends can only take you part of the way. The next step is to look into a comprehensive solution that can leverage the capabilities necessary to put these trends into action.

Hitachi Solutions’ Extended Field Service, which is built on Microsoft Dynamics 365, is a holistic management solution that includes an extensive feature set to improve every aspect of field service operations, including customer asset, work order management, predictive maintenance, and more. If you’d like to learn more about these and other field service trends or how your business can gain from a Dynamics 365 implementation, don’t hesitate to contact the qualified experts at Hitachi Solutions today.