The first time I saw someone use the FaceTime application on an iPhone to make a video call, I was pretty floored. Even though I’d been aware of the technology that makes it possible for several years now, there was still something kind of George Jetson about it. It still seems space-age.

Well, according to John Ragsdale, the vice president of technology research for theTechnology Services Industry Association, it’s time for field service organizations to move into the space age. Ragsdale hosted an hour-long webinar Thursday called “Hot Technology Trends for 2012: Mobility, Video, and Social Collaboration,” in which he outlined the benefits of mobile video technology for field service operations, and highlighted statistics showing that organizations are ramping up their mobile-tool budgets.

“It’s time [for field service organizations] to get over their paranoia about video and start to bring it into their support operation,” Ragsdale said. “I have a saying: Convenience overrides paranoia.”

And with a staff that’s probably already carrying iPhones, iPads, or some other video-enabled phone or tablet, embracing video in the field has never been easier to do. Ragsdale broke the benefits of video technology into three main categories.

Knowledge Management

By uploading video tutorials that can respond to frequently asked customer questions, companies have been able to not only relieve some of their support staff’s workload, but actually provide a useful and timely (and sometimes even kinda fun) tool for customers. When Adobe began putting videos in its knowledge-base articles online two years ago, the number of customers using the self-service feature immediately began to climb.

Ragsdale also pointed to HP’s Support channel on YouTube, which features several video tutorials where customers can often find a quick and painless fix to common problems without involving a customer service agent, and certainly without rolling a truck. “This is definitely a best practice for 2012 and going forward,” Ragsdale said.

Education

The growing ubiquity of e-learning, or distance learning, in the place of classroom training sessions presents another opportunity to incorporate video into an organization’s plans. Video tutorials — either live or pre-recorded — are already fairly common in employee training programs, and only stand to grow.

What’s interesting about video in training, however, is how little employees require in the way of sound editing or professional lighting. “Production values don’t matter,” Ragsdale said. “People respond just as well to screen-cams and webcams.” Also, by tapping internal Subject Matter Experts — an engineer, say, instead of an actor, training videos can gain credibility with employees without any cost.

Support Interactions

Here’s where the FaceTime comes in. A few companies are already toying with the idea of providing video-chat customer service — Salesforce does it for its premium clients. But attaching a face to the voice you hear when you call the customer service line adds a little more intimacy and personal connection to a conversation. Further, smartphone video enables customers (in some cases) to actually show a service tech a broken product remotely, which may lead to fewer truck rolls for simple fixes — and lower costs.

“We’re not going to eliminate emails and voicemails from support, but we need to look for how we can introduce video [communications] to strategic customers, or premier customers,” Ragsdale said. “It’s just one more way to offer that smiling video concierge who’s always there to help in a very personal way.”

MoreHow Much of Field Service Can Be Virtualized? Q-and-A with Denis Pombriant

Click here to download a free whitepaper, “Five Steps to Make Field Service Profitable.”

ABOUT Ian Stewart

Ian is a veteran journalist who has covered sports for various news outlets. Previously, he was managing editor for an electronic-book publishing company and a public relations writer.