The year 2020 presented unique challenges for field service providers and management companies. As field services are considered essential, technicians have had to navigate in-home repairs amidst a global pandemic. However, we must always look forward to what the new year may hold. In addition to preparing for future safety challenges, let’s take a look at what may lie ahead for the field service industry in 2021 with these top 10 trends.
1. A greater focus on predictive and proactive maintenance
People have spent more time in their homes this year than any other and are utilizing home appliances more than normal. Ensuring that home devices function properly is critical during this time because people are working from home and can’t be inconvenienced by systems crashing and malfunctioning. Predictive maintenance, fueled by IoT triggers, can monitor the performance of a system and proactively inform field service technicians of potential shutdowns or needed repairs by identifying when certain parameters are out of tolerance. IoT can play a critical role in monitoring what is about to break down in home systems and predictive capabilities will be increasingly important as customers buy more devices to make their homes smarter while they spend more time indoors.
2. Increased emphasis on virtual diagnosis, claims and customer service
Insurance companies are dealing with more virtual claims than ever before. The increased flexibility of this digital process allows customers to easily submit photos and videos of damages along with their claims and permits insurance appraisers to limit in-person meetings. Even customers making property claims, often requiring an in-person appraisal, are eager to have property adjusters make the transition to virtual communications. This process puts customers in the driver seat as self-service becomes the norm. Now is the time for appliance manufactures to increase remote diagnostics offerings, as customers are eager to limit in-home technician repairs. Virtual claims cut down on technician commute time and overall cost to manufacturers as customers submit claims through automated self-service platforms.
3. Higher expectations for self-service via apps and portals
Self-service has been a growing trend for several years but amidst a pandemic it still has room to grow. No one wants to report a problem to a call center to only be put on hold, and due to office closures and the limiting of non-essential businesses, centers are under-staffed. It is far easier for consumers to log onto a customer portal to report an issue, get a repair scheduled and track status digitally. Allowing consumers, technicians and manufacturers to confer through mobile applications or web portals allows for a more efficient pace of service while adjusting to a remote reality.
4. Increased usage of mobile apps and APIs to improve service delivery
Just as customers work better with digital tools, so do technicians. Subsets of claims are still being managed by sending workers to do in-person service visits, but there still needs to be customer-technician communication from the first maintenance report through repair. Providers want field technicians to have effective mobile applications to communicate with customers within the management software. By 2022, only 30% of field service providers will be ready to deploy AI-based decision support in their field service management platforms. This capability provides a significant competitive advantage and as the mobility aspects of field service become more important, so does the need to empower the workforce with better mobile applications to communicate with consumers to report and track status.
5. The gig economy is here to stay
As individuals look for ways to work amidst closures and business restrictions, it’s evident the gig economy will maintain its steady presence well into next year. The flexibility that comes with being a contracted service technician provides workers the option to service when necessary and avoid the standard pressures of employment. The accelerating nature of the independent workforce will benefit service providers as they build out their blended workforces, scale up their essential services and cover greater geographic areas.
6. Expanded utilization of a blended workforce (employed and third-party)
The need for a blended workforce is more present than ever before. There is a growing reliance on third-party workers in response to a lull in people performing service jobs due to safety concerns, sickness or quarantine and an increase in demand of service requests. Overwhelmed manufactures must employ contract technicians to deliver service effectively, emphasizing the longstanding need to have both employed and third-party work force so you can balance the workload and rely on them to fill in service gaps of your employed staff.
7. Increased adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to improve parts prediction and availability
The biggest issue field service technicians face with a first-time service repair is parts availability. Often, technicians do not know what part will be required to fix an appliance until they arrive for the service visit. By 2025, algorithms and bots will schedule over two-thirds of field service work for field service providers using automated schedule optimization. With the increased adoption of AI/ML, systems will become smarter, analyzing the error code reported by the customer and the service history to predict the necessary part for repair and reflect accurate part availability. Smarter predictive systems can ensure inventory levels are constantly maintained so that key parts are available to improve first time fix rates.
8. Field service software is essential to keep home services available
With more service requests coming in from customers relying on home appliances, manufacturers need to install and utilize the best tools available to them in order to keep home services available and processed efficiently. Field service management software and systems allow customers to report problems and schedule repairs through self-service platforms, minimizing administrative responsibilities. Without proper software, service provider or manufacturer cannot control the volume of jobs or coordinate service requests with technicians. Digital tools like management software allow providers to scale up services even when demand is high by optimizing technician schedules and routes. Consumers are relying on their home devices to remain functional and withstand constant use. Employing proper field service software is the only way manufacturers can keep up with service demands in the coming year and keep home services available for their clients.
9. Leveraging field service workforce to make personalized offers to customers
Field service technicians are optimally suited for sales – they’re already in the door. Manufacturers can utilize technicians as salespeople to upsell customers after assessing the service request problem and make personalized offers at the time of the visit. A technician should be empowered to make an offer when called in to service a broken appliance if upgrading the machine to a newer model can be reasoned instead of spending a lot of money on repairing the existing one. Either onsite or via the customer portal, a technician minimizes the distance between seller and customers and is therefore in the best position to leverage company products.
10. The aging workforce will encourage evolution in technologies
As technicians retire, the newer workers that replace them will join the force with less experience. As part of the training process, new technicians will need more support as they first start out. Virtual reality can play a helpful role in workforce development by opening training avenues for newer technicians. Remote video conferencing allows inexperienced employees to receive help from a knowledgeable management system that can be integrated with mobile app. While on the job, technicians can refer to FAQs or diagrams for the equipment they are trying to service. By 2025, over 50% of field service management deployments will include mobile augmented-reality collaboration and knowledge-sharing tools, up from less than 10% in 2019. The implementation of this technology empowers new technicians to be effective when they lack experience the older technicians have from working for a longer amount of time and expedites service efficiency among all technicians.
The past year has held challenges for management companies and customers alike. Employing field service management software equips providers with the flexibility and organization they need to tackle the new requests and expectations of customers in 2021. ServicePower is a global leader in the field service management industry, building innovative technologies with a focus on providing customers with exceptional experience while delivering significant operational efficiencies to suppliers. Organizations can leverage these digital field service tools to manage their workforce throughout the coming year and stay ahead of the competition.