Our phones, tablets and other devices are full of apps to help us communicate at work and in our personal lives. But off-the-shelf texting and communication apps lack features that service technicians need to get work done. On the other hand, most enterprise communication apps don’t offer the UX and ease of use that technicians are looking for.

“Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams have taken off with ‘desktop’ workers, but they are too complicated and not optimized for mobile, real-time communications,” says Zinc CEO Stacey Epstein. Zinc works with companies like Vivint Smart Home and DISH Network to give their deskless workers a secure way to message, talk and video chat in the field.

Following ServiceMax’s recent acquisition of Zinc, Field Service Digital caught up with Epstein to discuss what’s next for both companies — and why mobile need not be an insurmountable hurdle in field service. And she would know: Before joining Zinc, Epstein was ServiceMax’s CMO, so the acquisition marks a full-circle journey for Epstein.

Mobile is ingrained in our lives, so why is mobile communication still a challenge for field service leaders to solve?

Stacey Epstein, CEO, Zinc

Stacey Epstein: It’s actually not a challenge for service leaders to solve, they just don’t realize there are good solutions they can utilize. I think most service leaders have tried to solve communication issues with tools that are not built for field service teams. Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams have taken off with “desktop” workers, but they are too complicated and not optimized for mobile, real-time communications. So, field workers simply won’t adopt them and instead turn to their favorite consumer app like WhatsApp or iMessage to get the answers they need. These tools are great in our personal lives, but they are not safe for work because they aren’t secure and can’t be managed. Zinc can solve both of these issues, but as a smaller company, many service leaders haven’t heard of us. That has now changed as a result of this acquisition, and we’ll start seeing more service leaders leveraging the power of real-time communication in the field to drive results.

There’s certainly overlap with ServiceMax and Zinc — your shared history, overlapping customers, an existing partnership and integration. What’s next for both companies?

ServiceMax really pioneered cloud-based field service management and disrupted the industry. With the Silver Lake acquisition and investment, I think ServiceMax will aggressively broaden the feature set and focus more broadly on Service Execution Management. Zinc is a part of expanding and delivering on the vision that service execution starts with great field service management, but it includes other innovative areas like communication and collaboration. In the future, we will continue to innovate in areas like AI and AR to continue to bring modern effective technology to service teams.

Zinc works with companies like DISH and Vivint that have high-volume service operations. How will Zinc benefit ServiceMax’s customers and prospects that service more complex equipment, such as medical devices and oil rigs?

We’ve had success in those areas, mostly as a result of sales and marketing focus, not necessarily because we aren’t a fit in other areas of field service. The technician for a medical device company or on an oil rig needs access to company information and tribal expertise just as much as the DISH Network technician. The acquisition is fresh, but we are already starting to see significant traction with Zinc in the existing ServiceMax customer and prospect base. And Zinc can open doors into new industries for ServiceMax, as well.

Are there any macro trends or technologies in service that you’re particularly excited about?

Blockchain for sure (just kidding). I think the service use case is a great one for AI. A bot that can help technicians find the right solution, or lead them through a debrief process, could dramatically increase the organization’s effectiveness. And the conversational UI of Zinc is a great way to deliver this information to a field technician. I think we’ll definitely see some cool AI innovations for field service in the not-too-distant future.