What a year it’s been here at the SmartVan. From trying to track the light-speed progress being made in mobile telecommunications technology to keeping an eye on trends in vehicle fleet management and best practices in the field service industries, there’s certainly been a lot of ground for this van to cover.

So before we get too ahead of ourselves planning for ways to make 2012 even better, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the most popular stories we ran in 2011. Following are the SmartVan’s five most-read stories of the past year, by page-views.

The Van learns how to rig a slot machine (not really).

We already knew field service techs find themselves in some pretty wild places — from oil rigs in Alaska to flight decks in Afghanistan. But Paul Helt can claim to have one of the more interesting jobs in field service: He fixes slot machines on the Vegas strip. Sara Suddes caught up with Helt to ask what it’s like to prowl the strip bailing casinos out of sticky situations. Unfortunately, no insider advice on how to come up with triple-7s on the penny slots.

A Zen HVAC repairman’s rules to live by

Patrick Peterson, the author of the ZenHVAC blog, offered up his nine lessons for all field service workers — from the need to communicate with customers in layman’s terms, to always asking where to park the truck (or van). “Companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on business cards, custom printed invoices, truck lettering, and uniforms, then hope the guy in front of the customer doesn’t drop the ball and ruin it all. I’m not just talking about the easy stuff like having a clean uniform and truck, or keeping the shirt tails tucked in. If this is your idea of a breakthrough in customer service, pull up a chair because we need to talk.”

Look out Ford, GM: Nissan’s got a van, too

When Nissan last spring entered the U.S. service van market for the first time with its 2011 NV, the Japanese automaker introduced a few unique details that may prove to be game-changing. With a rear space tall enough to stand up straight in and a strange-looking-but-efficiently-spacious, boxy configuration, the NV’s release raised a few eyebrows, but definitely moved the needle.

The Van gets schooled in customer relations

As our economy continues to move away from a manufacturing-based one, and toward a service-based economy, the need to focus on customer service has become crucial. So why is it that so many field service firms seem not to have considered the end customer’s experience? James Rock, the managing director and chief business designer for Cultivar Consulting Limited, explained what “service design” is all about, and why it’s the most important discipline field service companies don’t know about.

The iPad flying sky-high, literally

Consider it a sign of the times that just before the end of 2011 Apple’s nearly ubiquitous iPad tablet was cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration for in-flight use on airplanes, meaning that there are now virtually zero places people can’t play Angry Birds. The move started in the spring as a test project for Executive Jet Management to help cut down on the paper flight plans, but by December, the FAA went ahead and gave the iPad its general clearance for lift-off.

ABOUT The Editors

Avatar photoField Service Digital is the premier destination for field service executives who are leading the 21st-century service economy. Our digitally native publication, published by ServiceMax, features expert analysis on the field service industry with a sharp focus on emerging technology trends, management best practices, analyst insights, and more — everything field service pros need to lead in the field.