This post is guest authored by Aly Pinder, Senior Research Analyst, Service Management at Aberdeen Group.
What does service look like on paper? A few words come to mind – errors, slow, historical, outdated, and reactive. None of these terms elicit positive thoughts, especially if these terms are viewed in the context of the evolving world of field service. The migration from a paper-based field service team to a mobile workforce has rapidly been taking place across many different industries. Change can be difficult, and putting a tablet or smartphone in the hands of every technician hasn’t always gone without some hiccups. However, top performing service organizations have recognized the tremendous value in equipping field technicians with mobile devices which not only connect to the back office but also to the customer and equipment. As seen in the table below, top performing organizations don’t just look to mobility to hand technicians a cool device, but instead they focus on equipping technicians with intelligence and insight to enable resolution of customer issues.
But with increased mobility in field service comes some fears that weren’t present when technicians walked around with paper and clipboards. The following fears have stopped some organizations from reaping the benefits of mobility, but the Best-in-Class have been able to overcome these potential roadblocks and have built a roadmap for the successful deployment of mobility in the field–
Fear #1 – My field service technicians won’t WANT to change to a mobile device. The leap from the known (i.e., paper) to the seemingly unknown (i.e., a mobile device) can be quite troubling for many who are afraid of change. However, the transformation from a paper-based field service organization to a mobile enabled team should not cause anxiety. First of all, as a result of changing workforce dynamics of the aging workforce, technicians on average are younger than they have ever been. These younger technicians are much more technologically savvy than their predecessors and in many cases expect field service to be mobile. Therefore, the learning curve for the use of apps or smartphones will shrink, and adoption rates will not be stunted by an unwillingness to try the latest tools. Furthermore, the Best-in-Class are much more likely than peers to incorporate front-line technicians in the identification, selection, and deployment of new technology in order to ensure buy-in throughout a mobile roll-out.
Fear #2 – Much of our field work is done in remote areas with no / limited connectivity. Paper is always on, as long as a pen or pencil is close by. This reliability may not always be the case when using a mobile device which must be connected to the network (i.e., Wi-Fi, cellular). However, the Best-in-Class have equipped their technicians with devices and technology that can cache data offline and update once back on the network. This capability allows organizations to use mobile devices even in areas where connectivity may be non-existent or spotty. The top goals for service organizations are to improve field worker productivity and enhance the customer experience. Mobility is a key to this success as it can empower the field with the real-time information needed to resolve issues quickly and efficiently, while also ensuring valuable customer data is lost on a sheet a paper in the trunk of the technician’s van.
Field service is no longer a simple task of just scheduling a technician to visit a customer. Customer expectations have risen, competition is creeping into market share, and the volume of data needed to resolve issues has grown exponentially. This convergence of issues has made mobility a must for service organizations. The fear should NOT be mobility; the only thing organizations should fear is being left behind in an age of the customer and information.