There's no shortage of predictions for trends and technologies for the year ahead. What we don't see as much of is unbiased, solution agnostic predictions based on real experience of what organisations are looking to develop. Don't worry - we've done the hard work for you with our 5 point summary below.
Here are our 2019 predictions:
1. Living the customer experience
Over the past few years customer service and customer experience have been hot topics whatever your industry. This trend will continue for 2019 for sure and be an ever more important differentiator for service organisations. The difference will be in the way it is done.
It won't be enough to pat yourselves on the back that you have run some customer experience journey mapping workshops and changed a few processes. Rather you will need to live every customer interaction through all of your touchpoints and channels. Your technology solutions will leverage informative communication; high levels of personalisation; customer appointment self-service and the ability to harness and visualise your field location data to shape customer expectations of their service appointment in real-time. Field Service organisations will need to understand their customers intimately to provide the right experience; one size no longer fits all.
2. Chatbots become more sophisticated
We've seen a number of service companies piloting or fully adopting chatbots and conversational artificial intelligence solutions in their customer service toolkit. These have tended to be used for social channels or to answer questions that would otherwise have required contact with a call centre agent. Advances in 2018 such as Google Duplex make possible a much more sophisticated form of automation, using AI technology to conduct natural conversations to carry out “real world” tasks over the phone. Google Duplex’s conversations sound natural thanks to significant advances in understanding, interacting, timing, and speaking. It isn't that far a leap to see how the same approaches could be applied to more fully automated first or second line call centre agents.
3. The march of AR and VR continues
There has yet to be a 'killer app' for augmented reality and virtual reality solutions but it feels like the technology has been coming for a long time. Augmented reality and virtual reality are already popular in specific use cases in field businesses - particularly training. Other clients we work with have considered the technologies to provide knowledge information and remote technical support to individuals in the field - for example in fitting a meter or finding a fault on a water pump.
4. Data and more data
Field service organisations need to change to survive – they need to keep embracing 'digital' and leverage the systems, devices, assets, processes and data that they have at their disposal to become truly agile. Most field service solutions today have analytics tools – some quite sophisticated – these tools enable managers to have real-time visibility of their operations and react accordingly while also examining past performance to review opportunities for future improvement.
As more service companies adopt field service software, they will gain access to more useful data. We are hopeful that operational data will be better shared, better analysed and better understood to allow organisations to truly differentiate on 'first-time fix', technician utilisation and customer acquisition cost.
5. IoT and predictive working
In spit of the previous hype we've worked with a number of clients to make the Internet of Things (IoT) a reality over the past few months. The technology is now much more mature, and there are off-the-shelf solutions for processing the deluge of data that can result from sensors. Now is the right time for more organisations to invest in connected technologies and we believe that adoption will grow significantly. By connecting devices in the field to the back office, captured information in the field can provide important metrics enabling organisations to move from reactive to predictive models and become more agile as a result.
With the power of IoT and connected devices, service organisations will continue to look at the automation of field service processes. While some automation has been available through field service software for many years (automated scheduling, dispatch, route optimisation, invoicing, etc.) a significant number of businesses are not using these capabilities to their full potential.
Automation will also take the idea of this proactive service work to the next level with, for example, the automatic creation of service calls by assets and equipment. Knowledge management automation is already enabling service technicians to provide more personal service and be more valuable resources to customers in the field, allowing them to identify customer needs and open up value-add selling opportunities.
Whether you're looking to adopt new technology or just want to keep ahead of the curve, it'll be fascinating to watch how these trends (and undoubtedly others) develop over the coming year.
If you would like help with these or any other element of field service management, operational improvement, customer experience or technology, then do give our team a shout here.