Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are getting all the love on future technology watch lists. And they should – every organization should have a strategy around these technologies and their impact on business process, organization structure, and customer experience. This is true of manufacturers and others in the pursuit of field service excellence. However, I continue to believe that the most transformative technology for field service organizations in 2018 will continue to be mobile. Mobile can be augmented by some of the capabilities of the other technology systems, but mobile is also essential to enhancing the value of these other tools. Here’s why I believe that mobile remains untapped and must remain on the technology watch list:
Power to the Field
Three out of four field service organizations polled by The Service Council (TSC) have empowered their field agents with mobile devices and tools. I would argue that, most of these investments have been made to eliminate paperwork with the automation of work orders, billing, parts management and more. While this does enhance productivity, there is a lot more that can be done to truly empower field technicians. In a truly mobile system, most of the basic work order and other information should already be pre-filled or easy to fill with the aid of audio or video (enter AI). I have yet to see a majority of organizations actually look to leverage mobile to improve the field technician’s experience via the reduction of redundant form filling (even on a mobile device) or by making it easier to find information. We are just scratching the surface of exposing knowledge, expertise, and collaborative capabilities to field service technicians.
The Mobile Learning Platform
We think AR will significantly disrupt learning and training in the long run, but content on mobile devices will get there first. Almost every organization that we speak to is looking to develop on-demand learning tools that technicians can access on their mobile devices. These tools can be job or task-specific or they can be linked to broader career development objectives and goals. Mobile also allows technicians to record videos of service procedures and share these with the technician community. User-driven content is becoming a sought-after medium as it promotes service resolutions while also encouraging an interest in learning. In the remote world of field service, user-driven content can also help field service technicians feel connected to their broader field service team which develops camaraderie and enhances employee engagement.
The Mobile Customer
In our 2017 trends research, service leaders prioritized the need to improve the customer experience delivered via their contact center and field service teams. In field service, an improved customer experience refers to:
- For service events. Ease of appointment setting, visibility into technician and repair status, proper billing and invoicing.
- For the ongoing relationship. Better visibility into asset performance and easy access to self-service (account-related) or self-help (product-related) information.
Organizations, especially those that are more industrial in nature, have just begun to look at self-service capabilities for their customers especially since they recognize the cost and revenue benefits of extending these capabilities.
This is the most underrated benefit of mobile. Organizations often believe that they need real-time (and always on) data collection to build predictive models or to feed machine learning systems. The problem is that real-time performance data is hard to get. Even with better connectivity and cheaper sensors, it is still challenging to capture real-time data. In the interim, organizations have the ability to use mobile technology to track every service need and corresponding resolution scenario (parts, skills, knowledge used). All of this failure and resolution information can be used to develop predictive service models. It can also be used to build forecasting models to service parts or to prioritize knowledge and training investments to ensure that the relevant resources are easily available for those who need them.
I believe that AI, AR, and IoT will be transformational in field service. I just think that we have yet to fully experience the transformation yielded via mobile.
I recently spoke on a webinar regarding our research on the four technology areas and their potential progress in field service in 2018. This webinar was hosted by our partners Field Technologies Online and Astea (listen on-demand). I’m happy to debate and discuss the mobile topic further, please feel free to ping me below.