In early returns for the 2024 Service Leader’s Agenda survey, 72% of service leaders reported that “investment in technology for service business operations” is anticipated to increase. Not surprisingly, leaders also reported that their “Technology Evolution” will stand out as one of the top three external forces or challenges that will have the most significant impact on their service business (alongside “workforce and talent shortage” and “changing customer expectations/service delivery”). This is a 13% year-over-year growth compared to 2023, displacing other challenges such as Supply Chain Disruptions and Economic/Business Climate.
As noted in an earlier article we posted on 2024 trends and predictions, the upcoming year is expected to be one of exciting growth. While you may tire of hearing the term “digital transformation” (in fact, it may feel like an overused trope at this point), the technology investments, expansions, and implementations you embark on in 2024 will play a critical role in the success of that growth. Unfortunately, technology can also become a roadblock if your people and processes are not aligned with your investment. Our research continues to prove that best-in-class organizations have an uncanny ability to connect functional and technical roadmaps.
On the back of the annual Service Leader’s Agenda survey, we also hold qualitative discussions with our Industry Advisory Board Members and member organizations to understand their top priorities for the coming year. Below, we’ll outline a couple of trends we’re hearing that signal 2024 will be a year of new technology investments and expansions.
AI and Chatbots Take Center Stage
If you’re dizzy from all the artificial intelligence (AI) talk, buckle up; it’s not going anywhere. Last year, we witnessed AI investments being prioritized by 27% of respondents (January ‘23) and 49% (June ’23) respectively, moving from the #5 prioritized investment to the #3 by mid-year. However, 2024 data is showing that AI has moved to the #1 spot as the planned investment for the upcoming calendar year, with 62% prioritizing an investment in the 12-month period of calendar year 2024. This comes as no surprise as many of the service leaders we’ve spoken with are moving into pilots and early adoption phases for this technology in early 2024.
It’s also noteworthy that in 2023, “Cost” was highlighted as the #1 metric (falling down to #4 in ’24) with “Revenue”, “First-Time-Fix-Rate” (FTFR) and “Workforce Productivity” displacing the top metrics. It’s noteworthy because both FTFR and Workforce Productivity are causal in nature to inflation of service costs.
We also anticipate in the coming year that AI will enable self-service for both technician and customer. Anecdotally, we’ve found that many service organizations are using chatbots to help bridge the gap between AI technology and self-service. For instance, several organizations we’ve talked to are using a chatbot for technicians to enter a service-related question out in the field, then allowing the generative AI tool to point them to a specific location in a service manual to quickly solve a customer issue (“Guided Workflows”).
Of note, self-service has been somewhat cumbersome to implement effectively; we can all likely reference a scenario in which we’ve moved quickly through a customer-facing chatbot to get to a real call agent. But we believe this year, self-service will move from a roadblock to service enabler. Tools and processes are becoming more sophisticated and issue resolution is becoming more common through this technology.
Field Service Management Tool Investments Outpace CRM Expansions
Though AI has knocked field service management (FSM) tools out of the number one spot for technology investments this year, we can’t ignore that FSM will still remain a top investment for many organizations in 2024. Last year, FSM was the number one new investment for service organizations, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools were the number three expanded investment. However, in the aggregate 2024 data, new and expanded, CRM has significantly fallen on the priority list. Rates of FSM investment stayed about the same YOY (38% and 39% in 2023 and 2024, respectively), but new CRM investments fell by 14% YOY, lagging behind knowledge management, FSM, business intelligence and artificial intelligence tools.
So what does this signal?
We believe this tells a story that many field service organizations (especially in complex manufacturing industries such as medical/healthcare, industrial manufacturing and high tech) have a greater requirement for a technology platform steeped in the field service set of requirements. These requirements may include advanced scheduling and routing, asset tracking (including serialized components for warranty entitlements), bill of materials and other asset lifecycle capabilities earlier in the product lifecycle (concept > design > manufacture > service).
This is not to suggest CRM is less important. To the contrary, the importance of integrating CRM with FSM is of great importance, as the need for the 360-view of the customer becomes of greater emphasis and priority to drive personalized and adaptable customer experiences.
Did you catch our webinar that covered all 2024 service trends and predictions? It’s not too late to watch the webinar on-demand. Watch the webinar here.