Most businesses have a standard presence on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn these days, but how can field service organizations truly utilize social media to better serve their customers? The SmartVan spoke with the Bob Zukis, author of the upcoming book Social, Inc., and CEO of Saaskwatch Systems, about how social technology can boost productivity, the new role of open-source custumers, and why smart service organizations are getting ahead of the curve.

The SmartVan: You’ve said that “social” and field service are perfect bedfellows. What exactly is the benefit for field service organizations, especially ones that aren’t that savvy?

Bob Zukis: It actually sits incredibly well with field service. History has taught us that there are two core benefits to social technology over time. Social technologies make us smarter and more productive, and if you look at the nature of field service, improving customer service is at the top of that list. Improving field service productivity, utilization levels — using field service as a way to generate additional revenues and connecting a very distributed field service organization and making it more productive — fits very nicely with the history of what social technology lets us do behaviorally. It makes us smarter and more productive, and these two outcomes are perfect value drivers for field service.

Are consumers the main impetus for why businesses have to become savvier with social technologies?

Yes, but there are other reasons, too. Employees and investors are all using these tools.  It’s the first time that business is behind all of their stakeholders in adopting a new technology.

There are four behaviors that get impacted through social technology: how we connect, communicate, create communities and collaborate.

These behaviors relate directly to a field service environment and to the benefits of being smarter and more productive. Productivity is the easy one: it goes straight to the bottom line to improve profitability. Our ability to communicate better, faster and cheaper changes how we digest knowledge and how knowledge flows. As field serve reps are out in the field, that distributed community is collaborating together to share information, solve problems, to improve first-call resolution issues, and to make sure companies get the right field service rep on the right problem with the right skills and competencies. Social technologies make that easier, more effective, cheaper, and create a better quality outcome.

What social technologies tools are most important today?

The list is constantly evolving and changing. It’s not about the list; it’s about the technologies that are socially oriented, including mobile. Social technology is a combination of social engagement tools and techniques and mobile devices, so that laundry list of actual products is constantly evolving.

I always try to avoid talking about specific technology, and like to focus instead on the effects and outcomes. The birthplace for all of these things is the tools and techniques of what Facebook taught us to do: connecting in the cloud, sharing, liking. Those bursts of information that Twitter has taught us about. And then it’s the mobile devices that distribute that information in real-time.

This latest version of social and mobile [technology] is eliminating the last mile of distortion. You no longer have time-lags between information flows. That spatial and temporal dimension is something that’s very new with social and mobile, and we’re just beginning to figure out what we can do with it.

Where do customers fit in with regard to social technologies?

There are some that are getting it, but it’s still early adopters that get the bigger opportunity with social. On one hand, Facebook did us all a favor because we’re smarter with these tools and techniques personally than we are in a work environment. But the flip side is that it didn’t do us a favor in the work environment, because we think it’s all about Facebook and only about marketing. And it’s much, much, more than that. Boards are just now starting to understand it. Getting leaders up to speed is where there’s a lot of work to do.

We used to get new technology through the workplace. Now we’re a lot smarter and competent in our personal computing lives than we are in a business environment. Business is playing catch-up, and they have to catch up because they have to move to where the markets, investors, customers, and employees are. It’s this ironic situation where as consumers we’re a lot more sophisticated than we are as employees. It’s the first time we’ve gone through that dynamic.

Through this technology, we can now all participate in what the future of business will look like. It’s not just going to be handed down by a management team. We’re all part of the open sourcing of business management. That’s why it’s revolutionary. That’s why it’s so new. That’s why it’s so different. That’s also why there’s phenomenal opportunity because we’re all a part of inventing the next chapter of business — the social technology-driven chapter.

More: Three Tips to Boost Field-Service Referrals.

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