Why the Future of Field Service Is Connected

By Karen Mehal
 
 
 

On stage at a conference recently, I asked the audience, “How many of you connect your field workers to a 360-degree view of your customers?” Out of hundreds of people, only one person raised his hand. Ouch.

Customers expect field service to have up-to-date information and be connected to your business via mobile in case any questions come up. Case histories should be accessible by everyone involved in the service experience, including mobile workers, to ensure a successful visit. And yet, many field service workers still rely on paper and calls to the office to do their work. Real-time data has permeated almost every aspect of every industry except B2B field service. Why is that? Shouldn’t B2B organizations provide service that is at least comparable to what customers get with B2C? If I can see when my $7 pizza will be delivered by looking at my phone, why can’t I see when my $4,000 air conditioner will be delivered?

Mobile devices are increasingly becoming part of the business world. Field service can benefit, but there seems to be a lack of consensus on the subject. How can leaders like you achieve greater alignment throughout your organization around the importance of a complete view of the customer on a mobile device for field service?

New Expectations and New Perceptions

In the B2C world, people can order items on Amazon or track a package on FedEx using their mobile phone. This increased consumer expectation has driven changes in field service. People now expect field service workers to be capable of resolving issues and accessing real-time data on the go, from a mobile device, just like your customers do with their own smartphones. 

When customers see field service using outdated technology, it tends to create a negative impression for your brand — especially when they can’t complete a job on the first site visit. Without mobile access to up-to-date information, mobile workers lose the opportunity to troubleshoot online and deliver a solution to customers face to face. 

Field service is the face of your company. That’s why it’s so important to give mobile workers the ability to solve problems quickly so they have more time to build customer loyalty through great customer experiences. An old clipboard says to customers that your company isn’t all that innovative. How do you show customers that your company is the amazing company you know it to be? One way is to make sure your mobile workers are connected. 

What Connected Field Service Looks Like

Meet new expectations by empowering your customers. That means giving them access to information they didn’t have before and providing them with greater self-service options. Customers should be able to book an appointment, see when scheduled maintenance is coming up, and understand who's coming and what time they’ll arrive. Add even more convenience by giving customers some diagnostic tools and the ability to open a service ticket without having to call anyone. 

Differentiate your business from your B2B competitors by connecting to your customers the same way a delivery service or a ridesharing service would connect to a consumer. When you get into a Lyft car, the driver has a mobile device that’s linked to your information. They know what your expectations are. Your business benefits when field service workers have the same kind of mobile access to the bigger picture at your company. If a customer calls a cable company and says they need the technician to run 30 feet of cable, the field technician needs to have full visibility to ensure that request gets fulfilled.

Start Getting Executive Alignment

I often see our customers struggling with the issue of a connected workforce, not from a technology point of view, but from a change management point of view. If you’re having trouble getting buy-in, make a point of gathering customer feedback after field visits and ask the people on your leadership team to do a ride along with your field service workers. When executives see firsthand how people are working in the field — and how customers are reacting — they’ll be more likely to see the value of building a connected field service team. Once there is alignment around the value of fully connected teams, it will be easier to get resources allocated to bring field service up to date.

Connected Technicians and Loyal Customers

Here’s what I’ve noticed in my ride alongs: Mobile workers often rely on paper forms and have to pick up the phone and call co-workers for help. I see a lot of complexity slowing down mobile workers and preventing them from completing jobs quickly. They often use some combination of six, seven, or even eight different applications, some of which might be on a tablet, a laptop, or a smartphone. This is happening even at companies that have a single CRM platform that enables other teams to go paperless. That’s why it’s so important to include field service when integrating your CRM with critical systems like enterprise resource planning, custom solutions, and so on. 

When your field workers are connected to the right customer information and use mobile technology to the fullest, it increases your credibility and helps your company build strong relationships with your customers. 

Instead of providing a service level that’s commonplace for B2B organizations, a connected field service team helps you stand out from your competition, giving your company an edge and your mobile workers an opportunity to really shine.

 

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