For years, field service leaders couldn’t help but feel like Rodney Dangerfield: Respect wasn’t always easy to come by. But that’s changing fast as service teams become integral to keeping customers happy — and revenue flowing.

That much was obvious last week at ServiceMax’s Maximize 2015 event in San Francisco, attracting more than 600 field service leaders from around the world. (Field Service Digital was the official media sponsor.)

Attendees represented a diverse collection of companies and industries, from giants like Coca-Cola Enterprises to regional players like McKinley Equipment, and everyone spoke about driving profits and customer satisfaction through great service. Fitting, given the event’s tagline: “Elevate Field Service.”

While there’s more excitement about field service than ever before — among both service pros and their colleagues in sales, marketing and finance — there are still some significant challenges ahead. How can we hire the next generation of techs? And how should we react to technology shifts like the Internet of Things? Smart companies that address these challenges will find opportunities to parlay that success into even more attention (and respect) among their C-suite colleagues.

Service Creating Serious Profits

Take Coca-Cola Enterprises, for example. VP of Cooler Services Nick Collins and his team maintain more than 600,000 Coke dispensing machines throughout Europe. By using mobile and cloud technologies, the company has turned what was a complimentary service (fixing the dispensers and fountain machines its customers received for free) into a money-making service operation.

Coca-Cola Enterprises wasn’t alone. Leaders from Pitney Bowes, Tyco, Fluid Management and more discussed how they’re using technology to create a modern, profitable service business.

The Connected Tech Effect

Technology has been a huge asset to service, but the biggest changes are on the horizon — and none are more important to field service than the Industrial Internet, said Vince Campisi, CIO at GE Software.

It’s effect on how we live and work will be even greater than the consumer Internet revolution, which launched businesses like Netflix, Amazon and Twitter. No matter how many tweets or Chatter messages people send, they’ll never match the amount of data that connected machines can produce in a day — or a second. Those machines are eager to speak and collaborate, Campisi said, and it’s up to service leaders to listen.

Those who ignore the data are bound to be the next Borders or Blockbuster, said management expert and keynote speaker Gary Hamel.

But productivity and revenue aren’t the only reasons to adopt technology. Modern tools, from iPads to service management software, are essential for recruiting the next generation of service technicians.

Needed: Innovative Service Leaders

But technology is not a panacea, as Gary Hamel warned the crowd. Open-mindedness and creativity are the root of innovation.

It’s a lot to take on, but executives who do it well and get their teams to buy into a vision for modern field service will lead businesses that “point north,” as McKinley CFO Kevin Rusin’s exercise showed.