As the world begins to tentatively emerge from the pandemic, it’s possible to now determine what has and hasn’t worked for business. We can start to build a picture of what a post-pandemic future may look like. Uptime has always been important but avoiding downtime during the pandemic was never more critical, especially for the healthcare and supply chain industries. Out of necessity, the pandemic moved the needle in the way we service our equipment assets and support the customers dependent on them.
For field service technicians – who perform repairs, maintenance, installations and deliveries on-site, either alone or as part of a crew – the ‘office’ is typically various locations throughout the day in the outside world. Working at home wasn’t really an option.
Before the pandemic, field service had already been evolving with digital tools and platforms, but like every other industry, the pandemic accelerated adoption of technologies to maintain services and assets, if only to keep the lights on. As organisations now look to the future, the question is how to build on what has worked well and create more dynamic, data-driven, connected and efficient processes for field service teams in the coming months.
As Ernst & Young reports, “With emerging technologies, your workers can be safer and more productive on the job, with better results long after the pandemic has ended.” The need to adapt and stay connected will be more readily accepted and expected, especially as COVID is likely to persist well into 2022.
This in itself has redefined the working relationship between the field service technician and the equipment asset. Demands for touchless functionality and associated solutions will become more widespread and more data will flow as a result of expanded services, such as remote diagnostics, remote control, automated monitoring, enhanced predictive and remote maintenance and more intuitive and context-driven user interfaces.
What this all means is that the rapid change we have experienced in field service will be permanent change. There is no going back and any businesses that have already invested in remote connectivity will emerge from the pandemic even stronger. And those who understand the transformative power of servitization and outcome-driven revenue models will be at a significant advantage. Now is the time to truly inject remote capabilities into the organisation’s DNA.
AI-Driven Touchless Service
The use of leading technologies, such as AI, can really help on this front. For example, using AI to analyse historical service data to help service organisations identify cost-effective solutions and avoid unnecessary truck rolls, is just one way in which remote triage can be applied. The result is a significant reduction in costly truck rolls and a more accurate insight into job requirements. This means that solutions can be determined quickly (including the identification of required parts) and ranked on the basis of likelihood of success or cost-effectiveness.
While this helps to inform decision making, it also means that as more and more data is collected in a closed loop, the solution improves with use and drives customer outcomes along the entire service delivery chain. It also provides a platform on which remote services can be built, giving organisations scope to focus on monetising remote services and developing contracts and entitlements specifically on remote support.
The remote mode of connection with customers will also spur new engagement ideas and offerings while raising interesting concerns around liability and compliance. From the workforce perspective, it will also enable greater emphasis on the organisation and management of remote experts to drive improved reach and scale.
Those who haven’t invested or are yet to recognise the untapped value of remote service delivery and servitization are going to need to catch up in 2021 and be ready for a different operating future.
While many companies have pivoted to touchless service out of necessity, there is an opportunity to build on this and other longer-term strategies to consider. The goal is to remain just as relevant after the pandemic ends so organisations can not only improve operational efficiency but strengthen how, when and where they deploy service talent. The opportunities for operational efficiencies are enormous.
Kieran Notter is Vice President Global Customer Transformation for ServiceMax.