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With all that’s happened in the past couple of years, one thing’s for sure: field service has forever changed — and, in my opinion, for the better. Why? Well, perhaps never before have we seen service organizations innovating and accelerating the use of new operating models and advanced technologies that allowed field service to not only survive but to thrive.
Investments in automation, cloud, AI and machine learning, IoT, and other digital technologies accelerated during the pandemic, as were initiatives to support product-as-a-service (PaaS), predictive maintenance, and other outcome-based field service models. These modern tools all helped field service companies continue to serve customers and strengthen relationships, while also optimizing operations, enhancing products and services, and boosting revenue.
Now post-pandemic, the field service industry continues to grow — bolstered by the popularity of digitization, technology, and other trends taking hold worldwide. According to Facts & Factors, “the field service management market was valued at around USD 3,172.5 million in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 6,161.9 million, by 2028.”
Below are five key field service trends we feel are helping fuel this growth in 2023.
1. Direct-to-Home Service
Many companies pivoted to contactless options (such as self-checkout, curbside pick-up, and home delivery) to continue to service customers during the pandemic. This maximized the health and safety of employees and customers while minimizing impact on service delivery. Now many customers prefer — and even demand — these convenient options and the providers who offer them.
To meet these customer expectations, manufacturers and field service companies will need to continue providing touchless and virtual services, as well as extending service direct to the home. Offering equipment/auto and tire services at home instead of at a shop is a good example of this.
Having the right infrastructure and solutions in place to seamlessly provide these services and minimize technician time on site without negatively effectively service delivery are key to doing this successfully. This is a trend that we see continuing and maturing going forward.
2. Enabling Mobile Technicians
We’re seeing companies invest even more to help ensure the most effective and efficient technician experience is delivered in the field. Ultimately, field service technicians are the face of your company and brand at the moment of service. Their capabilities in the field are critical to delivering on your brand promise and can make or break the customer experience.
Empowering your technicians with the customer-centric tools and resources they need to do their best work in a remote setting is a must to be efficient and deliver the personalized experiences today’s customers expect. Collaboration, connectivity, knowledge bases, AI, and AR are just some tools that enrich, guide, simplify, and speed technicians in the field — ensuring responsiveness, continuity of service, resolving issues sooner, and making them more productive and cost-effective.
Also, ensuring the back office is connected and coordinating with field technicians in real-time is vital to increasing efficiency, reducing errors, and improving customer service outcomes.
3. Predictive Maintenance
While predictive maintenance concepts have existed for many years, the recent acceleration in sophistication, scope, and sheer ambitiousness of predictive maintenance programs is a significant trend to watch. Unplanned downtime can cost companies hundreds of thousands — even millions — of dollars. A six-hour Facebook outage in 2021 cost them nearly $100 million in revenue! And the ripple effects can be devasting to their customers.
This is why it’s critical to ensure all equipment functions at optimal performance levels at all times. Fueled by advancements in modern technology, predictive maintenance burst onto the scene — gaining popularity and replacing traditional break/fix and preventive service models.
Predictive maintenance leverages IoT, AI, and ML to monitor system performance for potential issues. Technicians are notified ahead of equipment failure ensuring a quick response — often before a customer even knows there’s a problem. Also, the data that is collected can be used to provide insights into how equipment works and when it might fail. This is invaluable, saving time, money, and resources. There’s a wealth of other benefits, too, including:
- Reduces unplanned outages and downtime, extends machinery life
- Speeds problem diagnosis and resolution
- Improves service quality and customer satisfaction
- Helps monetize services and create new revenue streams
At Hitachi Solutions, we’ve helped customers build data-driven service solutions for several years. For Clean Energy, we created a proactive maintenance program that makes fueling faster and more efficient. For one manufacturer, we built a machine learning algorithm that uses historical data to predict faults and parts required. For another company, we used IoT data to determine if repair visits could be deferred to the next scheduled maintenance window — saving them more than $7,000 per visit!
The global predictive maintenance market is expected to reach US $45.5 billion by 2032. It’s a competitive advantage that every field service company should be looking into today.
4. AI Enhanced Field Service
We’re seeing explosive growth of AI in field service and it’s absolutely transforming the way companies work. It is a trend we expect to explode in areas we’ve not even explored yet. From automating to streamlining, to connecting, to predicting, and more, AI simulates human intelligence to automate and optimize operations and enhance service delivery.
The top ways AI adds the most value for field service organizations include:
- Simplifying tasks — AI automates complex, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks. It can also suggest knowledge and provide recommendations that simplify tasks, reduce guesswork and errors, and speed service.
- Increasing productivity — AI allows for smarter, data-driven systems that can automatically identify the right technician to do the job, recommend the best routes, predict needed equipment and tools, suggest the next best actions, and more. All of these help staff do their jobs more effectively and improve efficiency and productivity, in the field and in the office.
- Enhancing operational capability — With AI you can intelligently schedule and assign work to optimize resources, automate and streamline processes to improve accuracy and reduce employee workload, and leverage real-time data to gain insights to predict and recommend actions for continuous improvement. Optimized operations reduce costs and improves customer experience.
Harnessing the power of AI should be an important component of your field service strategy moving forward.
5. Mixed Reality Maturity
Traditionally, mixed reality (virtual reality and augmented reality) field service applications have focused on technician learning and training — replacing bulky manuals and handheld devices with immersive, wearable experiences and hands-free abilities. During the pandemic, it gained popularity because it made it possible for technicians to remotely service customers. Today, mixed reality has become a valuable and versatile tool for field service companies. We expect mixed reality to expand from core internal use cases to include customer assistance, to remote diagnostics, to guided experiences.
More and more field service companies are using mixed reality for technician collaboration and guidance to be more responsive and provide better service. Mixed reality can also be combined with AI, IoT, and digital twin solutions to help technicians safely and effectively inspect, audit, diagnose, and repair large or complex equipment virtually. For customers who are demanding more virtual services, mixed reality allows you to offer a host of remote assistance, self-service, and concierge services.
The benefits of mixed reality are exciting and include:
- Onboarding and training new technicians
- Allowing more experienced technicians to share their knowledge
- Accelerating first-time fixes and boosting technician efficiency
- Improving employee safety
- Enhancing customer experience and engagement
Soon, more than half of all field service management deployments will include augmented or virtual reality. And, when combined with data and predictive solutions, the benefits will only continue to grow.
Explore the Possibilities
Although many of these trends were triggered by the pandemic, they continue to reshape the industry and create opportunities for field service companies to meet evolving customer demands. Technology is the common key.
Hitachi Solutions has been helping field service companies optimize operations and elevate the customer experience for nearly two decades. Reach out today to learn more about our leading Microsoft capabilities and award-winning services.
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