The Future of Field Service Technology
Field service technology is one of those roles that has benefited immensely from modern Wi-Fi networks and other technologies. Your employees in the field, whether agents or technicians, aren’t necessarily thrilled about new technologies, but they’ll welcome anything that provides better and faster information and makes their jobs easier.
From the opposite perspective, they’ll resist any technology that adds to their duties or introduces errors to already proven practices. But with constant technical change, it’s important to understand where today’s field service technology is heading and start planning its integration.
Big data fed by internet activity and the growing Internet of Things (IoT) were traditionally seen as back-office tools that benefited the company rather than the field service employee. However, analytics are more affordable, accessible, and user friendly. There’s no reason why field agents can’t leverage it over their mobile devices. As smart devices improve and expand, whether it be tools or robotic software, field agents will be generating their own data that can specifically benefit them.
Services certainly aren’t limited to analytics. Software as a service (SaaS) is now one of the main features of cloud computing. Cloud providers, and mobile companies, are offering a wide variety of productivity apps like spreadsheets, document editors, or photo editors that you can use anytime, anywhere.
Modern devices have brought us to the point where you can have emails and text messaging wherever you are and whenever you like. This especially benefits your mobile workers. But what most people fail to realize is that messaging has become a huge and robust industry by itself. Billions of users are accessing Facebook and the other major social sites to post comments or photos. Online storage is making it possible to share and synchronize documents and receive alerts when they’ve been updated.
Companies like HipChat are developing comprehensive networks that incorporate both of these ideas, but tailored to enterprise environments. Even instant messaging is not impressive; add video chat and streaming to these services and you’ll soon see a variety of companies providing truly immersive and flexible experiences for all communication.
But the real news is that communication no longer has to involve human beings. It’s easy now to communicate with machines as voice-recognition software lives up to it’s potential; it’s now called “natural language processing”. Many companies are now embracing chat bots, an interactive customer service approach that’s much more appealing to customers than the frustrating phone menus. Chat bots can mimic simple human conversation so effectively that customers may not even realize they’re speaking to a machine.
Products like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri allow users to verbally ask questions and listen to answers, whether it’s the population of Juneau or a rundown on the latest national headlines. But you may not have to be accessing the services of tech giants. As the technology becomes more mainstream, you’ll see solutions that allow you to ask the same questions of your own company’s digital resources from a mobile device. You can listen to all the information essential to your next client appointment without taking your hands off the wheel or stopping to read a file.
And we already have business applications for monitoring scores of agents in the field. Service software generally includes built-in scheduling apps, interactive calendars, messaging, and file sharing. GPS locators in mobile devices or fleet vehicles can tell you where every field agent is at all times, even how fast they’re driving and in which direction they’re headed. This kind of tech is now being used by most trucking companies, and the same technology can be used for field service management.
This is really another example of the IoT. Data can be fed into analytics systems for feedback that will help to make better management decisions. More efficient routes, reductions in down time, fuel savings, lowered insurance costs, and other improvements are motivators for adopting service management software that tracks what’s happening in the field service technology.
As technology becomes more flexible and sophisticated, field service teams will never be out of touch with clients or management. Information, guidance, and personal connections are becoming more accessible; literally, on demand.