Streaming video is one of the most impactful innovations ever to hit field service. The appeal is simple: With a mobile device and an Internet connection, technicians can troubleshoot problems with company experts from anywhere.

A recent TSIA report listed video among the top trends field service executives expect will improve productivity and customer satisfaction. But there are important caveats, says Alex Polyakov, co-founder and CEO of video streaming startup Livegenic — who cautions that consumer video technology has big limitations in field service. We spoke with Polyakov about the promise of video in the field, and situations where a FaceTime chat (or a Periscope clip) just won’t suffice.

How can live-streaming video improve field service support?

There are many applications for live video in the field. Imagine eliminating technician dispatch for user errors, reducing problems with failed customer self-installs and improving the triage of service calls by ensuring technicians have the right parts on hand — and that the right tech, with the necessary skills and training, responds to the call. This amounts to significant benefits in terms of time, resources and costs. Armed with a live visual of the problem, technicians can resolve issues quickly and minimize the risks of downtime. Together, these benefits improve the quality of service, customer satisfaction and revenue through increased customer retention.

Are certain organizations better suited to using real-time video?

Any company that dispatches resources in the field can take advantage of enterprise real-time video capabilities. The goal is to improve first-time fix rates by enabling accurate pre-planning and diagnostics for the call so the right parts, equipment and people are made available. What’s more, real-time video enables customer self-help, which has a higher rate of customer satisfaction. The video interaction often makes customers feel empowered — and that is a powerful emotion.

Video streaming tools like FaceTime and Skype already exist. Do they have limitations in a field service setting?

Alex Polyakov

Alex Polyakov

Skype, FaceTime and other solutions are designed for social purposes. They allow two or more known parties to connect. Though they can be sufficient for small field service teams, there are significant limitations applying these tools across a larger workforce. First, they’re difficult to scale. Secondly, field service organizations need centralized communication hubs for customer service, field dispatch and field support. This goes beyond connecting known parties. In addition, service organizations often need features that are lacking in social systems like Skype. These features include recording the video for QA purposes, capturing high-quality pictures and metadata (like GPS coordinates) or integrating live video into existing ERP, CRM or ticketing systems.

Periscope and Meerkat are two trendy video streaming technologies right now. Do these consumer technologies have a future in field service?

Periscope and Meerkat are making a strong social impact. Their biggest value is in changing human behavior regarding the daily use and acceptance of live video. Similar to Skype’s impact on web conference marketing when the company released video communication, we will begin to see growing adoption of live-video communication in business because of the visibility of services like Periscope and Meerkat. The challenge is that until now, the live video applications in business have been internal — between employees or business partners. Now, we are beginning to see adoption of video technology for business-to-customer interactions.

What role is there for streaming video in a world where products are smarter and more connected?

Smart devices report back on what they sense and alert companies when maintenance is necessary. The issue, however, is that the equipment is getting more complicated and we, as humans, are the ones who make most of the mistakes. Plus, there will always be times when the device does not communicate properly.

Let’s use a “smart grid” concept as an example. When electricity goes out, the smart grid knows where the power is out, but it doesn’t know why. Dispatching a truck to investigate what went wrong rarely fixes the problem right away because the technician doesn’t have sufficient information. But most of the time there are already people on the ground — customers, first responders or the police — would could provide that information. These people already call power companies to report repair needs but, with live video, they could also show them what’s wrong.