It’s springtime — at least here in the U.S. — which means the field service industry conference circuit is heating up. These annual gatherings give service leaders a chance to break out of the day-to-day grind and take note of what’s happening in the industry, how their own organizations stack up — and learn a thing or two from their peers.

Ahead of the next big industry confab, Field Service USA (April 25-28 in Palm Springs, Calif.), we sat down with Jolt Consulting Group President and CEO Jeff Oskin to talk about the biggest industry trends on his radar. A 20-plus-year veteran of the service industry, Oskin will chair the “Service Innovation and Technology” track at Field Service USA. Keep reading for a sneak peek at the issues Oskin and his fellow panelists will discuss at this year’s conference.

What do you see as the biggest trends shaping the field service industry?

At Jolt, we see several trends affecting client service organizations today, namely:

  • A strong desire on the part of service organizations to include — and even proactively inform —the customer of the progress of their service request. It’s like the Uber model for service.
  • Larger enterprises are beginning to dabble in the Internet of Things space, which will collapse the service life cycle. This is still in its infancy, especially for mainstream service organizations, but early adopters are starting to set the pace.
  • A focus on solving the labor and knowledge shortage. Many service organizations are faced with an aging workforce and are struggling to transfer all of their acquired knowledge to new workers, while still performing their daily jobs. Wearable and remote diagnostics technologies are emerging that allow more skilled workers to support multiple, less experienced technicians from a central location.

Technology leads the way for many of these trends, but it is important that service organizations consider their ability to manage change within their organization. Preparing a well thought out and thorough implementation plan can make or break the chances for the successful adoption of new technology.

What are the common business challenges service leaders face — and how can they best combat those?

Jeff Oskin, Jolt Consulting

Jeff Oskin

Despite big changes in customer expectations and technology, common business challenges haven’t changed that much. Organizations are focused on getting the right technician to the customer, with the right information, at the right time — the first time. They are interested in moving from a reactive, break-fix service model to a proactive one. And they want to use the latest technologies available to meet customers’ changing expectations.

Consider a modern field service management platform. At a minimum, the platform should provide scheduling assistance and, ideally, scheduling automation. Those platforms also include mobility that provides real-time views into technician locations, an ability to change work assignments on the fly, and better connectivity with the end customers (again, think Uber).

Some service companies simply choose the service technology solution they believe is best for them, but this falls short of the value technology can deliver. Organizations should first identify their business objectives, redesign and align future business processes to these objectives, and then ensure they select and deploy technologies that enable the desired business processes.

What big technological shifts should service leaders expect in the coming years?

Technologies that enrich the customer experience will always find long-term success in the service space. Service organizations are striving to bring mainstream technologies and experiences (e.g., Uber, social media) to the service industry to keep the customer informed. Longer term, we’ll see the widespread adoption of connected devices. We are seeing more and more consumer-oriented products that allow consumers to control devices at home with their mobile devices. The next evolution will involve service organizations getting plugged into that infrastructure so that they can better monitor and serve their customers.