“Field service is hot.”

That’s how ServiceMax CEO Dave Yarnold kicked off Maximize 2016, the company’s annual user conference. It was a sentiment woven throughout his opening keynote — and the entire conference.

What a welcome change for service managers who remember the days when service departments were an afterthought at best, a lamentable money drain at worst. But that’s clearly no longer the case. Business leaders are looking to service to boost revenues and customer relationships. And they’re opening the company checkbook, investing in new technologies like the IoT and augmented reality tools to drive those gains higher.

Service leaders might still be getting used to their emerging clout (and the investments that come with it) — but it was clear at Maximize 2016 that they haven’t forgotten why it all matters: customers. Keep reading to learn about the strategies and tools smart field service pros are using to improve their customers’ experiences.

Couldn’t make it to San Francisco for Maximize 16? Check out Maximize Tokyo (October 16) or Maximize Europe (November 8-9, Amsterdam) later this year.

More Money, More Respect

Forget product sales. Services account for among the highest margin revenues in business, more than 10 percent higher than equipment margins. That helps explain why traditional manufacturers are doubling down on service.

The Ultimate Goal? Happy Customers

Field service’s value goes well beyond it’s revenue contribution. Service is one of the best levers businesses have to gain a competitive edge. But that’s not to say there’s a one-size-fits-all method to delight customers. During ServiceMax COO Scott Berg’s customer panel, service pros from Schneider Electric, GE Healthcare, Accenture and BD discussed various strategies. The trick? Knowing your customers and their unique needs.

High-Tech Toolkits

Not only is service more important than ever, it’s also fun — thanks to cutting-edge technologies like drones and augmented reality that promise to transform how work gets done. It was great to see how disruptive technologies are already impacting service, proving (once again) that field service is a perfect fit for AR, drones, the IoT.

Making Time for Fun

The conference wasn’t all business. There were awards, a rooftop party and the latest issue of our “Field Service” magazine.