Mobile is certainly still a field service buzzword — perhaps the buzzword. Field service organizations of all sizes, from the smallest mom-and-pop shops to the largest organizations, are at least thinking about what mobile tools their technicians should be using to provide the best service possible. Customer satisfaction is the currency in field service, and organizations can’t afford to fall behind.
Sumair Dutta, a field service research analyst at the Aberdeen Group, has studied mobile adoption among service organizations for several years now. Dutta’s recently published report, “Field Service 2012: Mobile Tools for the Right Technician,” looks at why field service organizations are adopting mobile tools, the pressures that compel them to adopt mobile technology, which tools they’re choosing, and why a surprising number of field service organizations don’t use mobile devices at all.
Dutta and his team at Aberdeen found two primary pressures forcing field service businesses to adopt mobile tools. First, businesses want to provide better customer satisfaction, faster service, and better first-time fix rates for their customers. They turn to devices such as smartphones and tablets to help. First-time fix rates, it turns out, are customers’ main complaint about field service. Sure, they’re frustrated about how difficult it is to schedule an appointment, and they get angry when a technician doesn’t arrive on time. Once they’re jumped through those hurdles, they have little patience for technicians who aren’t able to get the problem fixed.
Competitive pressure is the other major motivator. As businesses equip their field technicians with mobile tools, their technicians are able to provide better, faster service, forcing other businesses to follow suit or risk falling behind.
A lot of the chatter, though, centers on not why service organizations are adopting mobile tools, but what type of device they’re choosing. Is it an Apple or an Android or a Windows phone? A consumer or a rugged tablet? Dutta admits that these are important decisions but that at the end of the day, the type of device is less important than what it can do.
Dutta and his research team found that several features stand out above the rest. Offline capabilities are important, as is data integration, or the ability to capture data in the field and quickly share it through the system. Functionality trumps the “coolness” factor, and technicians (and their managers) want devices that will get the job done, regardless of the brand.
Dutta has studied mobile adoption in field service for several years now, and while the tools are constantly changing (tablets, at least the consumer variety, didn’t even exist two years ago), he sees as strong a demand as ever for mobile devices in field service.
He says interest is as high as ever, though he’s surprised that not every organization is using mobile tools.
“We find that only about 50 to 60 percent of organizations use mobile applications in field service,” said Dutta. “I’m a little surprised by that because you would assume that field service inherently means that people are mobile.”