2013 has been a year of big changes in field service: from exciting technologies (Google Glass!) that hold a lot of promise to widespread adoption of existing technologies such as the cloud and video. Technology is only part of the story, though — the industry is changing and technicians’ roles must change to keep pace.
Here’s a look back at the big field service stories in 2013:
Cloud and Video Go Mainstream
Two of the biggest technology trends this year shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. For one, as John Ragsdale points out, field service companies of all sizes are using the cloud. This isn’t new for small and medium-sized companies, who were among the first companies to move toward the cloud. What’s new, however, is how many large companies are making the switch.
“Small and medium-sized businesses were early adopters of cloud applications,”Ragsdale writes. “This year I’ve talked to service executives from some the largest tech companies in North America and Europe who were in the midst of a migration from a legacy customer relationship management (CRM) system to a lower cost cloud suite.”
Video, too, made headway in field service in 2013 as companies realized the potential to better interact with customers — and to improve communication within the organization. Video offers a window into customer problems without always sending a technician into the field and, as a result, promoting remote customer service. What’s more, video allows technicians in the field to troubleshoot customer problems with fellow technicians or managers back at the office.
Whether Rugged or iPad, Mobility Is Here to Stay
Field service isn’t the only industry being reshaped by the mobile revolution, but it’s one of the most interesting. Field service is inherently mobile, and mobile technologies — whether tablets or wearable technology — have already made their mark.
Not all companies are drinking the mobile tech Kool-Aid, as Field Technology Online’s Sarah Howland found, but the potential of tablets are just too compelling for most field service organizations to ignore. That’s not to say that earlier generations of devices (think handhelds and laptops) will disappear from service vans any time soon, but we’re only beginning to see the impacts of tablets and other mobile devices.
The Importance of Selling Through Service
Selling is now part of the technician’s job description — and for good reason. Technicians are often in the best position to sell customers on upgrades, new products or extended warranties because of the goodwill and trust they’ve built, face-to-face, with customers.
No, this isn’t the kind of selling that carries bad connotations. As sales consultant Alex Alexander told SmartVan, “… selling is not evil. If done professionally, there’s no difference between selling, servicing, advising and fixing. It’s all the same and is aimed at making the customer more successful. That should be the definition of selling.”
Or, as customer service expert Shep Hyken put it in a Twitter chat hosted by SmartVan:
Need to Hire for Soft Skills
These days, it’s not enough to hire technicians who have great technical skills. Those hard skills will always be important, but technicians must also be able to sell and deliver great customer service. And that requires soft skills. Field service organizations have taken notice and are working to develop more well-rounded technicians that have the technical chops and the appropriate soft skills. In 2013, this became clear especially clear to companies, but it’s often easier said than done.
The Fleet of the Future
Lastly, we can’t ignore the cool vans that debuted this year. Ford’s redesigned Transit Connect, named “International Van of the Year 2014” by COMTRANS, will give the classic E-Series a run for its money. Electric models such as Nissan’s NV200 and the $150,000 Navistar eStar make it clear that fleets are moving toward energy efficiency — without sacrificing the workhorse capabilities that field service organizations demand from their vans.