Wrapping Up 2019 & Preparing for 2020: Expectations from the Field Service Industry


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As the New Year approaches, it‘s a good time for organizations to reflect on what worked in the last 12 months, and what could be improved. More importantly, it’s a good time to focus on the future, and what technology trends companies can exploit to increase customer delight while meeting the company’s business objectives. Per Forrester, customer experience leaders must create experiences that meet or exceed customer expectations to drive profits.

For success in 2020 and beyond, organizations must adapt and implement new and improved operational and technological standards that promote sustainability, digitalization, and that promise to further streamline business processes. Below are some predictions that will serve organizations’ customer experience strategies as 2020 rounds the corner:

Voice Capabilities
Mobile workers will increase their adoption of voice interfaces to boost efficiency and meet safety requirements.

Twenty states have already enacted a hand-held ban for all cell phone use. Mobile workers who need to reach their dispatcher or send an update to a customer while on the go can use speech-to-text or voice controls to conform with these laws.

Voice capabilities also empower multitasking, collaboration, and other efficiencies such as note taking, calling headquarters, activating a case, accessing repair history, or searching a database — all without stepping away from the task at hand. Field service organizations willing to get ahead by investing in these voice activated tools now, will win big in the long run.

Artificial Intelligence
The market is finally catching up and field service organizations are reaching new levels of AI implementation. As 2020 approaches, production deployments will validate AI’s role in predictive maintenance, the future of work, and other areas within field service management. These will establish where AI will be most practical and valuable.

We find ourselves in a world where smart uniforms, drone deliveries, and robotic automation are becoming a reality. Sometimes the most difficult part of capitalizing on this new tech is determining how and where it should be utilized for the greatest ROI. Fortunately, as knowledge around AI and this new tech increases, so does our success rate, and field service organizations will specifically look to such examples to improve their own practices.

Field service organizations need to be ready for the next big innovation. As soon as drones and other advanced technology hit critical mass, organizations must be prepared to implement and continuously invest. For example, where drones are deemed successful in preventing vegetation overgrowth near electric wires, and smart uniforms offer biometrics that promote driver safety – field service organizations will want to be prepared to adopt this technology to gain a competitive edge.

Sustainability Advantages
In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 lofty goals for creating a better world by 2030 — everything from the end to poverty to the fight against inequality. As we enter 2020, among the several goals field service management can help drive is number 13 — combating climate change.

The advanced technologies powering field services — mobile tools, demand forecasting, predictive analytics, and AI — can also address climate change by reducing emissions due to more efficient routes, a reduction in miles driven and less fuel consumption. These advancements in work planning and scheduling have far reaching benefits including community safety. For example, preventative power outages are managed efficiently and effectively, helping to mitigate wildfire risk.

Field service teams will also review their transportation methods, introducing hybrid fleets that will decrease daily emissions. While working to protect the environment, these initiatives will ultimately benefit the business itself including improved customer experience, increased efficiency, and reduced costs.

Frontline Workers Adjusting to the Digital Workplace
As 2020 approaches, it’s important to prepare frontline workers for the technology that promises to disrupt their daily routines. Field service organizations are beginning to witness real results from tech innovation that didn’t seem possible a few years back, with significant impact on workers’ roles.

Within a Forrester survey, 58% of global services decision makers reported their firm is undergoing a digital transformation, while 36% of digital experience delivery decision makers surveyed felt organizational challenges were the biggest barrier to the successful delivery of digital customer experience projects.

Within the field service industry, the roles of the mobile worker and the dispatcher will drastically change as mobile capabilities and automation gain traction, but others are also impacted including the field manager, the call center agent and the planner. All have to adopt new ways of working and update their skills accordingly. The relationship with the customer is also impacted, and only with the proper technology can field service organizations be more transparent, providing better service and a new means of communication.

Greater Demand for Cloud-like Capabilities Within the Utility Industry
Utility companies have access to vast amounts of new data — from IoT sensors to traditional account information, but this information often lies within on-premise solutions and not the cloud – a growing trend among all other industries. This initiative calls for a change that utility organizations are increasingly keen to undertake and as 2019 comes to an end, we will see a greater demand for capabilities that only the cloud can provide.

Digital Transformation Within the Insurance Industry
Insurance providers are prioritizing digital transformation for a number of reasons, but arguably the most important is around improving the customer experience. Part of this is the application of AI and Machine Learning to make more precise commitments to policyholders when scheduling a visit, whether to a business or personal policyholder. First is understanding whether you have the right number of resources scheduled to meet the anticipated workload, and next is being able to provide as narrow an appointment window as possible so customers are not left to wait around all day. As conditions change, AI helps to reshuffle the day so providers can deliver the service customers expect, when they expect it, while also satisfying organizational business objectives.

Unlike most service planning processes which are highly manual and involve multiple spreadsheets and guesswork, AI has expedited digital transformation for insurance providers, ensuring organizational goals are enforced across the policyholder lifecycle, including fending off competition by delivering a superior customer experience.

While technological progress will also drive change in other areas, the predictions above represent the most likely influences on field service management, as organizations strive to improve efficiency, effectiveness and customer experience.

Paul Whitelam
Paul Whitelam is Group VP of Product Marketing at ClickSoftware, where he works with field service management leaders across a variety of industries. Paul has more than twenty years' experience in enterprise software, working on both the technical and business aspects of many of the areas that are fundamental to field service such as mobility and sensor technology (Nokia), data management (Endeca), and machine learning, SaaS and GIS (HERE).


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