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The global field service market is continuing to grow at a quickening pace. In 2016, the field service market size was estimated to be $1.78 billion USD, and now that number is predicted to hit $4.45 billion by the end of 2022an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.5 percent.1
Much has changed since 2016. Say farewell to the days of disjointed, paper-based systems as those days have long sunset. Technology has forever positively changed field service managementfrom automating work orders and AI-driven analytics to harnessing the power of mixed reality to complete a job. And the evolution of field service isn’t even close to being over.
Many of the current trends are further improving the delivery of field service. Customers are often driving this change as expectations of what constitutes exceptional service continues to rise. To deepen customer loyalty, field service organizations will need to listen, stay nimble, and continue to innovate to meet these ever-changing, always rising customer expectations.
With that in mind, there are a number of trends affecting the field service space. Some of these trends may be pivotal to whether some field service brands will flourish or fail.
1. Contact-free or remote service
According to one study, field service organizations will continue to explore contact-free or remote service as a whopping 75 percent of consumers dislike the idea of having field technicians in their homes amid the pandemic unless absolutely necessary.2 The idea of contact-free or remote service is not new, but it has quickly become a customer preference due to the pandemic. Field service organizations and their technicians are pivoting to accommodate customer expectations. What is new is that IoT, AI, and mixed reality have helped advance contact-free service, not to mention the added benefits of lowering service operations costs, travel time, and vehicle expenses. Plus, contact-free service promotes the health and safety of techniciansa valuable employee benefit.
2. Shift to automation
It’s not uncommon for field service operations to become bogged down in manually intensive processes. This means administrative workers are often tasked to handle the additional workload or frontline workers are faced with spending less time on critical service tasks like building relationships with customers. Backoffice operations can become overwhelming with managing customer expectations, parts inventory, juggling schedules, confirming appointments, submitting invoicing, plus fitting in that last-minute emergency service call.
This is where field service management software becomes a life ring to administrative workers. Jobs can be automatically scheduled and assigned to technicians by leveraging AI and rules. For example, the closest, most experienced technician can be automatically booked and dispatched without causing excessive disruption to existing schedules. As more and more field service organizations are faced with an aging workforce, optimizing scheduling is becoming even more paramount with fewer experienced technicians to dispatch. This trend in automated scheduling is expected to continue to optimize operations as more technicians retire creating a quickly shrinking talent pool. 70 percent of service organizations surveyed stated they would be burdened by the knowledge loss of a retiring workforce in the next 5 to 10 years.3
3. Proactive, predictive maintenance
Predictive maintenance uses AI, machine learning, and analytics to predict device failures before they happen. Predictive maintenance helps you take appropriate preventative measures to avoid device failures while decreasing maintenance costs. Predictive maintenance relies on predictive analytics, which uses historical data to match current behavior and make an assessment. Technicians can use IoT-enabled tools to proactively monitor equipment health, create alerts, and follow protocols to mitigate potential damage. If the same circumstances are occurring, the device is likely to fail again so a work order is automatically created and service is scheduled. Customers can opt for remote service and self-healing initially or can have a technician dispatched.
More and more field service organizations will move to predictive maintenance solutions as it anticipates client needs, reduces outages, and significantly decreases costs for the field service organization and the customer. It can also predict when it is the safest and most optimal time to perform the work, which is important when scheduling device downtime to coincide with off-peak working hours.
4. Self-service portals
Clients continue to demand greater transparency into their work orders and service requests. They want instant access to appointment calendars, the ability to track the technician enroute, and any other information to ensure operations are running well so they are well-informed. To this end, client self-service portals will continue in popularity by offering 24/7 online support, especially when a knowledge base, FAQ, and other resources are also accessible by the customer. Even now, 70 percent of customers expect a company’s website to include a self-service application.4
With self-service portals, clients can create service requests and share critical information regarding the device in question. The client can also view past service calls, including the technician who performed the fix, and get simple and routine questions answered without engaging a technician. Customers can even resolve issues themselves without needing to schedule a service call. Self-service portals empower the customer and this increases customer satisfaction, while reducing field service organization costs.
Technician access to mobile technology is now an essential tool rather than an option. Around 75 percent of field service organizations with 50 or more users have deployed or plan to deploy mobile apps in the future, and 60 percent allow employees to bring their own devices to work with them; however, only one fifth are currently using mobile devices in the field with the vast majority of field service organizations stating increasing mobility as a top or growing investment priority.5
With field service-specific mobile apps, technicians can get their schedule while on-the-go and receive turn-by-turn directions to the client’s site, avoiding traffic congestion and other delays. They can review the customer’s information and service record, and access knowledge articles, product guides, and other company resources to expedite the repair. Technicians can even use Microsoft Teams or other communication apps to reach out to more experienced colleagues for assistance, thereby increasing first-time fix rates. After the repair is completed, a field service mobile app should enable the customer to electronically sign off on the work order in that moment so the work order can begin being processed. Mobility drives technician efficiency in a manner that isn’t possible using pencil and paper. Watch this space as the importance of a mobile app with robust capabilities will continue to grow.
6. Mixed reality
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the growing use of mixed reality within field service. Mixed reality has grown from science fiction entertainment to a versatile and necessary tool. Its influence and use can now be traced from onboarding and training new employees in a safe, virtual environment to reaching out and collaborating with more experienced technicians for guidance on a difficult service call. Mixed reality can even ensure the safety of technicians by conducting virtual fixes using digital twins, virtual inspections, and device audits.
As an example, Microsoft customer, Burckhardt Compression manufactures and services massive gas compressors. Maintenance is critical, but ships are often in remote locations and difficult to reach. Burckhardt Compression now uses Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist so engineers can use mixed reality to quickly collaborate with ship technicians and provide specialized mechanical expertise. The company has successfully reduced costs, decreased its carbon footprint, and can now respond to customer needs in mere minutes instead of days.
Mixed reality app Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, complemented with a HoloLens 2 headset, provides hands-free capabilities, letting technicians access customer details, device information, and repair history using voice commands and hand gestures to navigate data presented in holographic form. For technicians in remote or dangerous locations, this functionality is particularly useful as the technician can resolve issues without having to hold onto physical mobile devices.
More experienced technicians can share their skills and provide guidance via shared holograms, but knowledge management is just one of the benefits. Mixed reality is a gateway to information about the resolution of the most common issues, with product guides available in hologram formats. Mixed reality can help better train new technicians, accelerate first-time fixes by tapping into the experience of more knowledgeable technicians, and promote better health and safety for front-line personnel. Imagine the direct impact mixed reality could have on customer experience and satisfaction, while boosting your organization’s business performance in an ever-increasingly competitive market. And I’ve only touched on a few of the advantages of using mixed reality.
The possibilities are limitless
These are just a few of the trends affecting change within field service. No other software arena is as exciting as this space as the possibilities are limitless. Each of these trends are customer-driven, yet each trend also impacts another to create an avalanche of technological change that will benefit the customer to meet their ever-growing demandsall the while differentiating field service organizations of tomorrow.
Field service management software like Dynamics 365 Field Service is leading the way by leveraging AI, IoT, and machine learning to deliver one of the most robust and innovative applications available. We continuously design and refine features to meet the needs of your field service organization and help you exceed customer expectations, increase loyalty, and revenue.
Learn more by visiting Dynamics 365 Field Service.
Read more on mixed reality and Dynamics 365 Remote Assist.
Brought to you by Dr. Ware, Microsoft Office 365 Silver Partner, Charleston SC.