Written by – Shyamala Gowri
The field service industry is evolving rapidly, and if you want to stay ahead of the competition, you need to keep an eye on the trends that will shape how you do business in the coming years. The new year comes up with disruptive technologies emerging at breakneck speed. Before you know it, artificial intelligence, automation, and self-service tools will transform field service operations. Independent contractors and mobility will change how you manage your workforce. And data-driven predictive maintenance will optimize how you service customers. The future is coming fast, so buckle up.
The rise of AI, IoT, and ML in field service
AI-powered software will handle many routine tasks, freeing up your team to focus on high-priority issues. Intelligent scheduling algorithms will create optimal routes and match technicians to jobs based on skills and availability. Chatbots will handle basic customer queries, and predictive analytics will spot maintenance needs before problems arise.
IoT-connected devices will provide real-time data to enhance monitoring and enable proactive service. Smart sensors will track system performance, notifying technicians of any irregularities so they can make repairs before customers are impacted. Virtual models that mirror physical assets for complex operations will allow for in-depth troubleshooting without costly downtime.
Knowledge management platforms will make capturing and sharing information easy across your organization. Technicians will have fast access to documentation, video tutorials, and an archive of resolved issues. This boosts productivity, reduces repeat calls, and ensures consistent service.
While technology will transform field service, the human element remains essential. Investing in your team through ongoing training, competitive pay, and supportive work culture will be key to staying ahead of the trends in this new year and keeping your customers happy. The future of field service looks high-tech, but at its heart, it’s still all about people.
Leveraging AR and VR
AR and VR training modules allow new technicians to gain experience in a simulated, low-risk environment. They can practice repairs and troubleshooting on virtual equipment, vehicles, or systems. This hands-on learning helps technicians build confidence and muscle memory before working on actual customer sites.
With AR glasses or a VR headset, technicians will be able to get the necessary information to help diagnose issues. AR overlays can highlight components, display stats, or offer step-by-step guides. In VR, technicians can see a digital twin of the equipment and get an inside look at how systems interconnect. Spotting problems is faster, and fewer return visits are needed.
Virtual simulations give technicians opportunities to make – and learn from – mistakes without consequences. They can try different approaches to find the optimal solution. Fewer errors mean higher customer satisfaction, lower costs, and less risk to employee safety.
Recordings of AR/VR training sessions and real-world troubleshooting can be invaluable for ongoing learning. Technicians can review their own experiences or access a company’s library of examples. The knowledge that once resided in the minds of experienced technicians can now be systematically captured, organized, and shared with anyone in the organization.
Empowering customers with self-service tools
Customers today want convenience and self-sufficiency. Field service companies will provide more self-service tools to meet these needs and improve productivity. Customers can handle basic tasks themselves, saving time for your business and allowing customer service reps to focus on complex issues. While self-service isn’t for every customer or situation, most see it as convenient. Studies show three-quarters of people consider self-service convenient, and over two-thirds prefer it over calling a representative.
In 2024, field service companies will offer more self-service tools like:
- Self-service appointment scheduling: Let customers schedule available days and times based on your technician’s schedule.
- Knowledge bases and FAQs: Provide information on technical details, manuals, best practices, and common questions customers can search.
- Customer self-service portals: Allow customers to view upcoming or past visits, estimated arrival times, and pay invoices.
Self-service tools significantly cut costs compared to live service and free up representatives to handle more complex work. As labor shortages and costs rise, self-service becomes crucial.
Field service management software adopts self-service features like appointment scheduling bots, automated messaging for common workflow steps, and generative AI chatbots to answer basic questions. While self-service can’t replace human connection, it empowers customers and improves productivity when implemented thoughtfully. The future of field service includes self-sufficiency and convenience through self-service tools.
Increase in independent contracting
The number of freelance field technicians and independent contractors is on the rise. By 2024, over 40% of the total workforce will be independent contractors, freelancers, or gig workers. For field service companies, this trend presents both opportunities and challenges.
On the one hand, independent contractors provide flexibility and help address labor shortages. They have specialized skills that can supplement in-house teams. Independent contractors are also paid only for the work they do, reducing overhead costs.
Also, independent contractors can be more difficult to manage. They typically use their own tools and set their own schedules. Quality and safety standards may differ from your company’s guidelines. There is also a risk of over-reliance on contractors, which can impact knowledge retention and customer relationships.
To leverage independent contractors effectively in 2024, field service companies should:
- Provide initial onboarding and ongoing training to ensure contractors meet your standards.
- Use scheduling software to coordinate contractor availability with customer needs efficiently.
- Give contractors visibility into upcoming jobs so they can properly plan their time.
- Build strong relationships with high-performing contractors.
- Offer incentives for them to continue working with your company.
- Provide opportunities for long-term or repeat work.
- Maintain a balance of in-house technicians and contractors.
Increased usage of mobile technologies
The use of mobile technology has transformed field service operations. In 2024, mobility will be essential for productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. Equip your technicians with mobile devices and software that provide access to schedules, job details, customer information, and knowledge databases while on the go. Mobility allows technicians to:
- Receive job alerts and updates in real-time: Technicians can get notified of schedule changes, receive details about new jobs added to their schedule, and access information about the equipment or location they are servicing.
- Access customer information: Technicians can review details about the customer and their service history to provide personalized service. They can also update customer records with details about the work completed.
- Complete and submit digital forms: Mobile devices allow technicians to fill out and submit forms electronically instead of paper forms. This improves data accuracy and allows the information to sync directly with your field service management software.
- Provide proof of work: Technicians can take photos to document work completed and capture signatures on mobile devices. The photos and signatures are attached directly to the job record.
- Improve productivity: With mobile access to schedules, job details, customer information, and knowledge databases, technicians spend less time traveling back and forth to the office and can complete more jobs each day.
Automation in field service with the help of field service management software
Automation has transformed field service operations, and the trend will only accelerate in this upcoming year. With field service management software, many routine tasks are handled automatically, freeing up your team to focus on complex, high-value work.
AI-powered scheduling is a game changer. Rather than manually building schedules, dispatchers can rely on AI to generate optimized routes and schedules based on factors like job urgency, employee qualifications, and travel time. The AI learns from historical data to improve over time.
Predictive maintenance uses IoT sensor data to detect issues before they become problems. By monitoring equipment performance in real-time, the system can alert technicians when a machine needs service. This proactive approach reduces downtime and ensures optimal performance.
Customer self-service tools, like chatbots, provide 24/7 assistance. Chatbots can answer basic questions, schedule appointments, and handle billing inquiries. For more complex needs, the bot transfers the customer to a live agent. Self-service options give customers more control while reducing call volume for your team.
Knowledge management systems organize and share information across your organization. With a centralized knowledge base, technicians have on-demand access to resources like product manuals, customer data, and standard operating procedures. Updated in real time, the knowledge base ensures your team has the latest information to complete each job efficiently.
Heading into 2024, field service operations should evaluate how to best leverage field service management software and knowledge bases to streamline operations, improve the customer experience, and enable a highly-skilled workforce. The future is automated, but humans are still at the heart of great service.
More emphasis on predictive maintenance
In this upcoming year, more field service organizations will implement predictive maintenance programs. Sensors installed on equipment will collect data on operating conditions, usage levels, and performance. AI systems analyze this data to detect anomalies and predict when parts are likely to fail so technicians can perform maintenance at the optimal time.
Predictive maintenance benefits both customers and field service companies. Customers experience less unplanned downtime and lower costs due to fewer emergency service calls. Field service companies can optimize their technician schedules and parts inventory since they know in advance what maintenance will be required and when. Technicians arrive on site with the necessary parts in hand, enabling them to complete jobs efficiently on the first visit.
The key to success with predictive maintenance is having a system in place to collect, analyze, and act on data from connected equipment and IoT devices. Many field service management software like Zuper provides predictive maintenance features, including:
- Connecting to sensors and IoT platforms to access equipment data
- Using AI and machine learning to detect patterns, spot anomalies, and predict failures
- Generating predictive maintenance schedules optimized around business KPIs like cost, uptime, and customer satisfaction
- Providing alerts and notifications when predictions indicate service will soon be needed
That covers some of the major trends shaping the future of field service management in this upcoming year and beyond. By investing in the latest technologies, optimizing processes, and enhancing customer experience, your field service business can achieve significant growth in the coming years. The future looks exciting, with more innovations on the horizon to boost productivity, reduce costs, and transform field service operations. You now have insights into what’s coming down the pipeline, so you can start planning how to best leverage these trends to future-proof your business.
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TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.