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3 Key Trends Driving Digital Transformation in Field Service

Leading field service managers lean into software that facilitates collaboration, business agility, and workflow automation.

A photo showing a field service technician on the job.
Your field service workers expect the latest digital tools and will pursue other opportunities if they don’t feel set up for success. [Credit: Sturti/Getty Images]

As a field service leader you have your work cut out for you these days. The reason? Field service management has grown in scope and complexity. 

Field service leaders must navigate changes in customer behavior and digital technologies to improve employee engagement and customer service. Such actions simplify the customer journey and generate greater revenue.

Leading field service organizations use software to enhance collaboration and drive greater agility for mobile workers. Service leaders also implement workflow automation software to streamline routine tasks.

So what does that look like?

At Dreamforce 2021, thought leaders from Salesforce and The Auto Club Group — AAA discussed how digital technologies are transforming the future of field service in the “Transformational Trends in Field Service” session. Here are some of their key insights.

Customers and employees demand digital technologies

Customers today order anything from coffee to cars with a few taps on a smartphone. They expect the same experience to log help requests, track technicians’ routes, and change service appointments.

In fact, 88% of customers expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives, according to Salesforce’s latest “State of the Connected Customer” report. 

Your field service workers also expect the latest digital tools and will pursue other opportunities if they don’t feel set up for success. Don’t forget — it’s easier than ever to switch jobs during this Great Resignation

If you’re not providing your employees with these digital capabilities, they’ll go elsewhere. You can’t retain the best and brightest talent if the tools that you’re asking them to use are subpar.

Paul Whitelam, salesforce

“If you’re not providing your employees with these digital capabilities, they’ll go somewhere else,” said Paul Whitelam, general manager of Field Service at Salesforce. “You can’t retain the best and brightest talent if the tools that you’re asking them to use are subpar.” 

Your mission as a field service manager: Provide a mobile experience that meets the demands of every customer while empowering employees to provide consistent, timely service.

Collaboration complemented by visual remote assistance

The first step is ensuring collaboration, which is essential for solving problems quickly in the field. One way to do this is with visual remote assistance. If a mobile worker needs help solving a problem in the field, a subject matter expert (SME) can use a live video session to remotely guide them through preventive maintenance, repairs, or diagnoses. This is done with augmented reality (AR) software, which displays on-screen graphical information over the object that needs service. The SME provides targeted, step-by-step directions with annotations on their mobile device. Similarly, a contact center agent can also help customers troubleshoot some issues via remote assistance, eliminating the need for an in-person visit.

“It enables field service technicians to get expert help when they’re solving the problem, but it also enables customers to be able to alert a service organization to a problem without that service organization having to respond physically to investigate,” Whitelam said.

Mobility fuels agile field service 

Business agility is imperative at a time when 81% of service leaders say they’re accelerating their digital initiatives, according to Salesforce’s latest “State of Service” report

You can cultivate mobile devices and software to put information at the fingertips of employees and help them make better decisions.

Chad Barbour, Salesforce

“As a service leader, you can cultivate agility using mobile devices and software to put information at the fingertips of employees and help them make better decisions,” says Chad Barbour, director of Salesforce Field Service product management. 

Consider a senior air conditioning technician assessing an HVAC system. They notice a part that may not have been installed correctly. The tech can jump into a direct messaging channel to ask colleagues for help and share photos of the unit for additional context. 

Enabling employees to set up a new workflow, embed a sales process, or integrate with a financial system is invaluable in the field and allows technicians to respond immediately to changing scenarios, Barbour says.

“When a decision requires collaboration, time becomes a hot commodity,” Barbour says. “Getting the right data to the right individual at the right time can expedite informed decisions.”

Workflow automation, at your service

Employees always try to get more done in less time. This is especially true in field service, where customer expectations are soaring. 

Service leaders can increase productivity and innovation by automating workflows.

Shilpa Ramaswamy, Salesforce

Service leaders can increase productivity and innovation by automating workflows, says Shilpa Ramaswamy, director of Salesforce Field Service product management. For instance, organizations can offer employees task checklists via mobile devices and set up self-scheduling for customers. 

Such workflow automation has helped 70% of IT leaders improve efficiency by four hours per employee per week, according to a Salesforce survey

“The organizations that are able to stand apart from their competition are the ones that are able to do all of those things and have elevated the customer and the employee experience,” Ramaswamy says.

How The Auto Club Group – AAA is evolving its field service business

Leading organizations capitalize on transformational trends. The Auto Club Group – AAA uses collaboration, agility, and workflow automation to handle 6 million road service events each year.

Members use a field service mobile app to request service where and when they need it, says Jud Patterson, director of Automotive Business Technology and Analytics, The Auto Club Group – AAA. If a member’s plans change they can easily alter their service request. 

This enables AAA to provide convenience and predictability for members experiencing anything from dead car batteries to more complex motor vehicle issues, Patterson says. The mobile app also helps AAA field service technicians spread out their daily workload.

We’re taking that consumer experience that is simple, easy, and intuitive on mobile devices and building that into our employee experience.

Jud Patterson, The Auto Club group – AAA

“We’re taking that consumer experience that is simple, easy, and intuitive on mobile devices and building that into our employee experience,” Patterson says.

Get started with collaboration, agility, and workflow automation 

Service leaders can follow these tips to realize the benefits of collaboration, agility, and workflow automation:

  • Identify critical tasks and provide employees the software they need to complete work orders. Implement remote assistance tools to give technicians access to relevant resources who can help in real time. 
  • Choose a field service solution that supports a mobile workforce and includes real-time messaging mediums. 
  • Identify processes within your business as well as points along the customer journey that would benefit from automation.

Clint Boulton is a writer based in Connecticut. He has spent the last 10 years writing about IT leadership topics for IDG's CIO.com, as well as The Wall Street Journal's CIO Journal. Clint is a graduate of the University of Connecticut's undergraduate journalism program and Fairfield University's graduate school of education and allied professions.

More by Clint

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