The Connected Field Service Workforce: Past, Present and Future

Face-to-face customer interaction is the best opportunity to build loyalty, immediately address concerns, collect customer feedback and even upsell new services or products. And often, the only employee to ever engage with customers face-to-face at their homes or businesses is the resource sent to provide field services. Whether that person is performing equipment maintenance, delivering a product, or connecting a customer to a new service, it’s vital that field resources arrive at customer appointments with all the tools and information needed to complete jobs correctly the first time, every time. Only field resources that are truly “connected” have the tools to drive an exceptional level of customer engagement. So how can you achieve this level of connectivity within your field service operations?

Connecting the Workforce
In the not-too-distant past, mobile employees could only connect with each other sporadically — perhaps when they dropped in to get the day’s schedule or to pick up equipment at the warehouse. This offered little support and virtually no opportunity for collaboration. Technicians didn’t have the forum to share expertise or ideas. Furthermore, job duration and travel times were a question mark, and tracking down information or materials was time-consuming and troublesome.

However, now all the tools a company needs to have a fully connected workforce are readily available and often already in use, the challenge is to simply connect all the dots.

Consumer devices like smartphones and tablets can catapult the mobile capabilities of today’s field force beyond that of laptops or even specialized portable devices. Increased mobile bandwidth allows the instant exchange of important information, from text messages and documentation to video. HTML5 and browser based applications enable bring-your-own-device capabilities, easing deployment costs while allowing companies to better accommodate third party contractors and seasonal employees. And, advanced data analytics provide real-time monitoring and transparency, which supports business decisions with more accurate and detailed performance data.

Solving the Field Service Puzzle
Today, the connected mobile employee is linked to so many pieces of the customer service puzzle, such as schedules, customer information, knowledge articles, colleagues, supervisors, parts and inventory information. Even more opportunities for connectivity will arise as technology evolves, to drive further increases in collaboration, efficiency and cost savings!

Wearable technology offers intriguing possibilities for field service connectivity — an employee could connect with a colleague or other remote expert to let that person see things just as the field resource is seeing them in real-time. Augmented reality offers the ability to guide employees through a fix or installation; the hands-free operation enabled by wearables will have a major impact on productivity and safety.

And, let’s not forget about the Internet of Things (IoT) — which is connecting machines and devices with each other, with the customer and with the field workforce. In 2014, Gartner estimates that approximately 3.9 billion connected things were in use, and that number is expected to rise by 25 billion by 2020[1]. This connectivity will help service organizations power a new level of field service efficiency. The machines will self identify when they need service, provide diagnostic information on the potential problem, and proactively dispatch the right field service technician to resolve any problems. Field technicians will be continually empowered to complete work faster, while providing better customer experience.

The capabilities of connectivity in the field change how we think about productivity and efficiency. The connected workforce changes — and will continue to change — how we think about field services. Here are a few tips on how you can created a truly connected workforce:

– Empower your field workforce with real-time collaboration tools, accessible directly within the mobile field service solution via their mobile devices.

– Combine the forces of modern field service management technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve response and resolution time.

– Consider how trends, such as wearables and augmented reality, can be incorporated into your field service strategy to provide even greater connectivity and productivity.

Oracle Service Cloud Vice President of Product Management, Stephen Fioretti, shares more on this topic in this Field Technologies article, titled “Creating the Super-Connected Field Service Ecosystem of the Future.”

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