Real-Time Communication for Deskless Workers

Field service technicians, utility crews, factory workers, delivery drivers, construction workers, hospitality staff, store clerks, home healthcare providers — deskless workers are all around us and have been for ages. But while office-based desktop workers have seen rapid advancements in technology, with new tools to make their jobs easier cropping up every day, the same isn’t true for deskless workers.

Deskless workers don’t sit at a computer to get their work done, instead, they are on-the-go, working on equipment, or working directly with customers. Despite being 80 percent of the workforce, deskless workers have been forgotten and overlooked by technology providers— Emergence Capital reports that only 1percent of software venture funding is going towards technology serving this segment of the workforce.

Luckily, the tide is turning. With the proliferation of mobile devices, new computing platforms and software are being developed to meet the needs of deskless workers and companies are beginning to see that cutting-edge technology can be as important to their deskless workers as it is to the rest of their employees.

Starting with the Basics

One area ripe for improvement is communication. Communication is not only an essential part of the business but also presents a huge opportunity for improving business metrics. When service technicians can access tribal information and reach out to experts for answers in real time, it translates to improved metrics like first-time fix rates, job duration, mean time to repair and repair rates—all the things that companies traditionally look toward operational software to improve.

Emergence Capital research; real-time communication for deskless workers

Emergence Captial Findings

On top of this, effective communication has a profound effect on employee engagement and retention. When deskless workers are connected to each other, consistently informed on what’s happening at the company, and fully supported with instant answers and information while on the job, they feel confident in their abilities and valued as employees.

Vivint Smart Home, an early adopter of real-time communication, saw employee engagement rise 50 percent after deploying Zinc Real-Time Communication to the field service team. With deskless industries having some of the highest turnover rates, this is a welcomed change.

In order to realize the transformative power of real-time mobile communication, companies have to find the best-fit solution and implement it effectively to ensure adoption and ROI. The following tips will help you get on the right track.

Assessing Real-Time Communication for Deskless Workers

Your field teams’ days are probably pretty packed. Installs, service appointments, travel, team meetings and more. Taking time to learn new technology is an investment, so look for apps that provide a simple, intuitive experience that teams can pick up and use immediately.

At the same time, the solution needs to be enterprise-ready. Central administration, security, and compliance are not just necessary to keep company IP safe, but also to ensure that the solution is scalable and gives employees access to everyone in the organization.

And most importantly, remember that the solution should make deskless workers’ jobs easier, not more frustrating. Rather than using 6 six different apps to cover all the different modes of communication, look for an all-in-one solution that can act as the central brainpower for the service team.

Use this checklist to narrow in on your search:

  • User-friendly: Your company most likely employs people of various age-groups, each with their own technology comfort levels and work habits. For employees to adopt the solution, it needs to be easy to use.
  • All mode: Deskless workers want a seamless experience. Bouncing between messaging apps, video chat apps, native phone apps, email, and workflow software creates a fragmented experience that slows down work and prevents continuous tribal knowledge sharing.
  • Integrated: Creating that seamless experience also means finding an app that integrates into different business and workflow apps so that employees can communicate within the context of the work that’s being done.
  • Built for deskless: Not all mobile apps are created equal. Look for a solution that was built for deskless workers and serves the need of your industry.
  • Secure and compliant: Even though popular, consumer apps are not an option for the enterprise. Consider your security, privacy and compliance requirements — things like HIPAA compliance, SOC 2 compliance, GDPR and data ownership.
  • Managed: Central administration that allows IT to easily manage and provision users is crucial. This includes a way to immediately remove all access to the app and it’s data when employees leave the company.

Managing Change to Ensure Success

Implementing new technology is a disruptive process, even if the technology is highly intuitive. Employees will have to learn new processes as well as learn how to use the actual app. For some, this will be a welcomed change, but others might resist.

Once you’ve found the right real-time communication solution, it’s imperative to create a change management plan to introduce the new technology to the workforce. The plan should outline a strategy, objectives, tactics, and timelines. The vendor you choose may be able to help you with much of this process.

Key components to include:

  • Explain why you are rolling new technology, including the goals and benefits
  • Advertise and create hype around it – point out how it will make employees’ jobs easier
  • Mandate usage to drive high adoption and provide best practices where applicable
  • Provide continued training and education

Many companies utilize video content to get this process started. These “Hype” and “How to” videos are a fun and engaging way of keeping everyone in the know and excited about the ways their jobs will become easier because of the app.

No Longer the Neglected Workforce

Today over 77 percent of all Americans own a smartphone. Instead of keeping deskless workers in the dark, companies need to leverage the rise of mobile devices to transform the way they’ve been communicating with employees.

While it’s just the beginning, more and more companies are already taking advantage of the immense opportunities to drive business results by equipping deskless workers with mobile communication technology.

ABOUT Kristen Wells

Kristen is the senior manager of corporate communications at ServiceMax and editor of Field Service Digital. She is passionate about elevating the stories of women in field service and improving communication between the field and the office. Prior to ServiceMax, Kristen held content marketing roles at startups such as Zinc and cielo24. Kristen holds a B.A. in Communication with an emphasis on Professional Writing from the University of California, Santa Barbara.