Published in Field Point 2021
Last year was a pivotal moment in the field service industry. Companies and individuals made significant changes that allowed them to continue providing services during a global pandemic. Fortunately, field service software already existed that made it easier to adapt to the times.
Many of the trends that began last year are set to continue through 2021 and beyond. Unsurprisingly, much of what you can expect to see this year revolves around the use of technology to improve customer service and business efficiency. Let’s look at the top seven trends for the year.
1. Demand for Virtual Services
While field service workers can’t go completely virtual, there is a demand for virtual services where possible. Customers are increasingly working from home offices, which is driving the need for decreasing the number of on-site calls. Remote diagnostics is one area where field service providers can go virtual. Doing so is good for customer relationships and saves the business time and money.
2. Shift to Proactive and Predictive Maintenance
People are spending more time in their homes, making them more aware of how well their appliances are working. It is also having an impact on their utility bills. This is leading to a shift in focus. Customers want to ensure they have fully functional home devices, so they want to stay ahead of potential breakdowns and malfunctions. The Internet of Things can connect household appliances to a service provider’s management software.
The IoT system monitors performance and triggers an alert to the customer and provider when there is a potential or imminent problem. This level of predictability allows for a proactive approach to maintenance. It’s a measure that is becoming increasingly important as more people take steps to make their homes smarter, improving functionality for remote working and socializing.
3. Reliance on Field Service Software
Though field service businesses were already making a move to digital technologies before the pandemic, the crisis led to rapid acceleration. In 2021, providers are expected to continue adopting software to improve business operations and customer service. Companies are increasingly using field service software for:
- Estimates and quotes: Calculating estimates and providing quotes is more efficient when using technology. These estimates can be sent to customers right from the portal, reducing the need for in-person visits.
- Contract management: Software designed for the industry offers an effective way to manage contracts. One program can be utilized to move jobs from service requests to estimates and contracts.
- Work order management: Technology makes managing and keeping track of work orders easier.
- Budgeting: Field service companies are better able to stay on top of their budget and spending for each job and the business as a whole.
- Scheduling and dispatch: Job scheduling software became extremely important during the pandemic. Technology enables providers to be more responsive to day-to-day changes in scheduling and to dispatch the right worker to the job as the need arises.
4. Dependence on Mobile Apps
The field service industry is just beginning to utilize digital apps to improve service delivery. Not every company is prepared to incorporate mobile app functions within their field service management software. Those who do will have a distinct advantage. Mobile applications provide technicians and customers a way to communicate within the field service software program. Field service workers can also use them to report and track progress on a job.
5. Improvements in Self-Service
The self-service trend has been on the rise for a few years now, but it received an additional boost in 2021. The field service industry, like many others, suffered from lockdowns, quarantines and a reduced workforce. With more homeowners spending most of their time in their houses, the need for services increased. At the same time, people who shifted to remote work spent more time on their computers, on the phone and in Zoom meetings. The last thing they wanted to do was wait on the phone to speak to a field service company representative who was already swamped and frazzled from fielding numerous other calls.
Field service management software is being put to use in setting up portals that connect directly to customer accounts and provider services. Customers can submit a request for services, set up an appointment and track the status of their request. Phone apps make the process even more efficient.
6. Move Toward Artificial Intelligence
Computers will never fully replace humans in the field service industry, but they can be put to good use. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping providers with one particular area that causes a lot of grief for the company and customers. It is incredibly difficult to schedule services and provide a timeline to completion when part availability is often unreliable.
An AI system can analyze an error code provided by the customer or the home device to determine what parts are typically needed to complete the repair. The more the system deals with similar issues, the more it “learns.” After it establishes which parts are needed, it assesses part availability. When the AI is connected to a job scheduling software, it can be used to schedule services based on when the part and the right technician are available.
7. Growth in the Gig Economy
The gig economy has been around for a couple of decades now, but it really started to take off in the last several years. When the pandemic hit in 2020, more service technicians joined the leagues of contracted workers. This trend isn’t expected to go away any time soon. You can expect to see an increasing number of independent field service technicians next year and beyond.
The gig economy has benefits for independent workers and companies. Field technicians have the flexibility that comes with contract work, without the stressors of regular employment. Service providers can take advantage of a blended workforce, utilizing the pool of gig workers to expand their territories as well as respond to periodic higher service request volumes. They also do not have to carry as many employees through lulls in business traffic.
Keep Up with The Times
Changes in the field service industry call for providers to adapt. Field service software is designed to help you deliver effective and efficient services to your customers.
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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.