By Mark Wilding is Vice President Global Customer Transformation at ServiceMax.
“Working from home” never used to be an option for repair technicians, but even they have adapted. What’s perhaps more interesting is that the changes taking place in the field service industry today are already shaping how products are serviced in our home in future.
While the pandemic accelerated technology adoption, it also created another animal – rising customer expectation. As so many products and services went virtual, it fuelled an instant gratification gene in people, where the notion of waiting for anything to be fixed suddenly became unacceptable. Most organizations were faced with two choices – shrug (virtually of course) and carry on as normal or try and meet those expectations using new technologies to enable touchless and self-services.
Undoubtedly this has changed a few things. It’s certainly changed attitudes to the value of field service and the on-going challenges it faces. As McKinsey wrote in an article recently, “services matter in every industry, both as a direct source of value and as an enabler of value creation.” The field service role in customer experience and loyalty that has become more prominent.
Virtual first, physical second rapidly became the default service approach for many organizations at the industry level – a policy that remains in place for most. Thanks to technology, remote eyes on the asset enable arm’s length triage so if an engineer is required, they arrive on site with insight and intelligence about the issue. In this way, remote service has significantly enhanced on-site service, rather than being a poor virtual substitute.
Forefront of Change
And it’s trickling down into consumer life. The pandemic accelerated it, but it’s been coming for some time. Field service teams have been at the forefront of changing attitudes, with engineers tasked with customer service roles and upselling, as well, of course, fixing faulty parts and machines. With more homes and offices connected through increasingly reliable broadband, and more wide spread interconnectivity and smart automation all around us, we have seen the rise in IoT devices and in turn, the rise in remote servicing of these products – interestingly, global spending on IoT products is forecast to reach $1.1 trillion in 2023. The challenge now for field service teams, is how to meet the rising expectations of customers in an increasingly touchless world?
As a recent World Economic Report claims, homes are indeed getting smarter – over 130 million households are now home to at least one smart speaker while 77 million have a digital security camera – and with that smartness comes both the need and ability to enable remote servicing. For the manufacturers this also means change at their end as well. Service considerations must be baked into products at the design level. Service cannot be an afterthought.
What this means for field service teams is a rapid shift in how the home market is managed. It’s part of a wider trend, kickstarted during the pandemic, of an end-to-end contactless experience for consumers. Remote service, either augmented or via video calls or even self-service tools will continue to grow in importance but also in capability. The technology is improving rapidly, to enable automated, remote diagnostics, for example. What this means is that more than ever before, field service engineers will have up-to-date data on devices and products in our homes, including breakdowns, required parts and inventory availability – in short, complete oversight of product status and the needs of the customer.
We’ve already seen this in industry. The remote-first acceleration of field service in B2B and industrial services holds the blueprint for how domestic and B2C services are delivered in the home in the next few years. It’s a natural trickle-down effect. Also, given this increasing touchless nature of business relationships with customers, field service teams may be the only person from the company that customers actually meet in person. More than ever before, field engineers will be the public face of brands.
As more items in the home become more connected, we’ll see more proactive interaction from OEMs and more IoT interaction with the user to effectively address technical issues. Consumers will become the first line of service thanks to technology. Soon, almost all products will be designed for service. A manufacturer can help you diagnose the problem remotely, then send you the required part you that plug in while set up is done in the background. This minimizes need for service visits which are most of cost.
This of course impacts required skills and training, as well information sharing and connectivity. Communication will be key, not just to get products repaired but to do it in a way that looks after the customer journey. Professional field service best practice is now spilling into domestic life, and this will continue over the next five years. Field service teams must adapt and use the tools at their disposal to ensure good customer experience.
The advances we’re seeing in field service management today are shaping the future of service across multiple industries and are paving the way for consumer service in our homes. Far-greater network availability and capability will drive broad shifts in the business landscape, from the digitization of manufacturing through wireless control of mobile tools, machines and appliances.
Until then, as field service teams move forward into a continuously remote-first world of high consumer expectations, understanding what does and doesn’t work in the eye of those consumers will become increasingly key to successful experiences.