Post-COVID-19 Changes in Field Service Management
2020 is over – but its legacy remains…Watching the global news, we cannot say that we are yet in a post-COVID-19 era. Still, we can, and must, perform a brief check on what has already changed in the field service domain. And there are some important trends to be observed.
Time to make new priorities
I believe that the biggest change we saw in 2020 was connected with reprograming the priorities of field service tools and features - placing the most crucial ones in the front line and moving on from the obsolete. We, as key field service stakeholders and contributors, have not reinvented much. Instead we have focused on capabilities that really matter. Have in mind though, that this is my personal take on how the new reality changed the field service tools landscape.
Self-service becomes a must
First of all, self-service has never been in such demand. It’s not that we don’t want technicians to come and help us on-site. There’s more to it than that. Social distancing and self-isolation pushed us into making certain changes.
Let’s take a look at the domains of troubleshooting and external service requests.
If something is not working, connected devices can inform us of problems in almost real time. Solutions to these issues can sometimes be very simple, so an FSM system with a good knowledge base should support end-users with appropriate tutorials. If this is not enough, customers can be assisted with troubleshooting functions based on mixed-reality via a smartphone camera. Our pocket devices are now powerful enough to enable the exchange of data with an FSM database in the cloud, which can quickly recognize the device and potential problems with it. Simple and brilliant!
If the customer cannot carry out self-repair, they can always call for help. In this case, customer portal capabilities play an important role in the customer service process. And that leads us to the next key 2020 FSM trend…
Last year pushed “uberization” to the forefront of many industries. At the same time, 2020 saw a decrease in the importance of call center agents/dispatchers, providing direct communication between the service ordering party and the executor.
Customers are now getting used to having quick responses when ordering a cab or changing their tariff plans. FSM has to adapt to that trend as well. Customers and technicians want to see the result of enquiries within seconds. Modern FSM platforms can respond rapidly to service demands requested by customers through a web portal or a dedicated mobile app, and assign technicians in real time.
FSM solutions can act as a broker between technicians and customers, in exactly the same way as in the very popular ride-hailing app, where the executing party can be informed about a new order and respond to the request immediately.
The year 2020 shook up many social relations and practical knowledge sharing. Before the pandemic, every new team member was onboarded by an expert, guided by hand (sometimes even literally) during their first assignments. Not anymore.
These days, the onboarding process is often limited to video chats. This is a huge problem right now - as experts, usually being in a high health risk group, work from home or alone in their offices. Organizations cannot take the risk of exposing them to threats such as COVID-19.
Modern FSM tools have a solution for that situation, called assisted video calling, where the expert keeps their eyes on a junior worker’s hands via a smartphone camera. Real-time annotations are placed with finger pointing. It’s still not quite as effective as traditional, in-person onboarding, but that’s an acceptable trade-off for keeping the experts safe.
Mitigating the risk of virus transmission requires smarter field task visits and limiting them to a minimum. But what if we still have to maintain infrastructure, especially in urbanized, densely populated areas? Dispatchers have to make sure that each site visit is truly needed. These decisions require input data from connected devices.
In recent months, we have observed an increased effort by organizations the the area of retrofitting old devices with monitoring/connecting modules. Connected devices can report their status to the FSM system, inform about the level of supplies, and request action when needed.
Connected devices bring one further benefit. Set thresholds in the FSM system can automatically trigger actions and inform a technician at the optimal moment, for example when they are already near or are scheduled to be in the locality. AI/ML-driven preventive maintenance mechanisms support this process effectively, and when integrated with devices they can bring many savings to organizations and mitigate virus transmission among field workers by decreasing the number of visits.
All in all, while 2020 did not bring much innovation in the field service management market, it did accelerate the adoption of some new ways of working. Looking for positive aspects, we can definitely say that 2020 boosted our flexibility, and now organizations are about to transform much faster than before.