Customer satisfaction, profitability and controlling costs continue to rise up the executive priority ranks in today’s technology-rich and bottom-line focused world, according to a new report we released today. So, why do only 3 percent of respondents say their boards put field service – which they all also acknowledge can be a lever for business growth – near the top of investment priorities? A few things stick as I read through the findings.

It actually doesn’t surprise me that things like security, big data and analytics trump field service in the eyes of business leaders. After all, we’ve all seen how devastating a high profile data breach can be to a company’s reputation; and everyone wants to be the first to dominate the data analytics game. Nevertheless, I do think our survey results point to a bigger story here.

It’s no secret that field service has historically been perceived as a pure cost center — when you sell ‘things,’ you have to service them. It’s essential. But what’s encouraging here is that 73 percent of the 200 IT and field service leaders across the U.S., U.K., Germany and France acknowledge field service has a positive impact on customer satisfaction and profitability. A few years ago that may not have been as apparent.

Growing awareness among field service leaders and practitioners is also the first step in shifting this perception and placing field service squarely on executives’ radar.

The data from our survey shows that a notable 86 percent of respondents expect field service to become a primary revenue driver in the next two years. 86 percent! To me, that clearly indicates we’re headed toward a nascent boom in field service over the next few years. We’re no stranger to this at ServiceMax and have seen its dramatic growth first-hand over the last near decade.

Over half of survey respondents (54 percent) noted that if organizations don’t invest in field service, then their organization risks facing increased costs and 46 percent believe it could cause companies to fall behind competitors. Close to a third of respondents (30 percent) even report that they could experience a loss of customers due to the lack of investment. If increasing customer satisfaction was not enough to entice organizations to invest in field services, then the thought of losing customers altogether certainly should be.

So, what does this mean for the field service industry? Well, I think we’re seeing a customer base maturing, the technology is maturing, and continually we’re seeing customers reap the real business benefits of evolving their field service solution. Our customers are seeing two times the growth in service revenue versus product revenue when using ServiceMax.

We believe field service management will follow in the tech trend footsteps of database of record predecessors like financial management, CRM and ITSM. And when we take this poll in another year or two, I’d fully expect the numbers to look vastly different.

From our report’s findings and my personal field service management perspective, it’s clear that immediate steps need to be taken to close this gap between awareness and investment. The main reason? Field service, when managed efficiently with the help of technology, generates customer satisfaction (not to mention profitability).

People close to field service understand the value of efficient, customer-facing operations. They know that technicians working on machines and field assets play a growing role in dealing with customers and building trust. This report confirms that both elements have yet to make it to the C-suite in a big way across the enterprise.

Field Service as a Testing Ground for New Tech

As I noted earlier, our finding that 86 percent of surveyed companies see field service as their primary revenue driver in the next two years also points to a tech boom. Half of the companies surveyed for our report plan to incorporate wearable technology into their field service management capabilities, 51% plan to use augmented reality, and 49% plan to use connected devices. Despite the huge potential for sensors and IoT connected machines in self diagnosing themselves, the report found that 88 percent of companies say there are challenges to connected devices. A few key hurdles highlighted by respondents featured the report:

The intention to deploy new tech reflected in the report points to more investment and energy spent on transforming field service organizations. While the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented and virtual reality, drones, wearable technology and mobility change the way organizations operate, it is field service that’s delivering the revenue-generating benefits realized from these technologies to customers. As the report’s data indicates, many companies have yet to fully realize field service-oriented technology’s potential.

The main takeaway: Field service will get its investment due over the next few years as long as revenue continues to grow and executive attention turns to departments creating lasting customer satisfaction on a daily basis. Field service management is next in line for complete technological transformation.

To read the full version of our new report, click here.

ABOUT Dave Hart

Avatar photoDave Hart is the former executive vice president of corporate development at ServiceMax. Previously, he was vice president of global customer transformation at ServiceMax, where he worked with prospects and existing customers to understand and unlock the true value their field service organizations. Having started his career as a field service engineer, Hart has decades of field service management and customer transformation experience, most recently leading Pitney Bowes' entire European service organization. During his more than a decade at Pitney Bowes, Hart also managed the international DMT (Document Messaging Technologies) service group, UK GMS (Global Mailing Solutions) group, and national operations of Pitney Bowes Management Services.