The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” according to the author Sybil F. Stershic. With an ageing workforce’s resistance to adopting new technologies and millennials not interested in joining the Field Service Industry, major challenges lie in retaining and recruiting Field Service Workforce. Along with these, training the workforce to use digital tools, document information correctly and in a timed-manner, while managing change are some of the biggest challenges that industry bosses face today.

Author Muge Hizal Dogaroglu | Copperberg

Reading time: 4 minutes

The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” according to the author Sybil F. Stershic. With an ageing workforce’s resistance to adopting new technologies and millennials not interested in joining the Field Service Industry, major challenges lie in retaining and recruiting Field Service Workforce. Along with these, training the workforce to use digital tools, document information correctly and in a timed-manner, while managing change are some of the biggest challenges that industry bosses face today.

Our survey report on Field Service showed that only 12% of respondents feel that their current practices are high in terms of adoption of new technology, usage of new technology, providing feedback on usefulness of new technology and helping other technicians to understand the technology.

Adam Neale, Head of Field Operations at Arqiva states: ‘’We will see a significant reduction in the number of highly skilled Field Engineers. We will be more low-skilled with 3rd line support assisting with technology such as Augmented Reality. Without great employee engagement, you will not succeed. Your employees build your customer reputation, this can be a positive or negative if they are engaged with what your company does each and every day then they will deliver high standards.‘’

To successfully upgrade technology in the workforce, one of the most important issues to address is the mindset, i.e., getting the team to accept the change. More tech-savvy colleagues can help the others which will help in building internal confidence inside the organisation. Also, having a technological road-map to implement the changes will allow the workforce time to adapt to the new technology. One of the important parts of technology adaptation is feedback from the users of these technologies, i.e., the field service technicians. Feedback from the workforce can help the management team in improving their strategies, addressing the concerns as well as organise more training to put the workforce at ease with the technology. The technology implementation has to keep pace with other industries to not be left behind in this digital age. The first companies to effectively implement these new technologies can have a huge competitive advantage for the future.

Our survey further revealed that the biggest priorities when it comes to the Field Workforce in next 5 years is competence development, followed by providing technicians with digital tools and providing real-time expertise to field technicians. 85% of the respondents have competence development as their main priority in the upcoming half-decade while 75% and 80% of the respondent’s rate getting digital tools and real-time expertise to the field service workforce as high priority.

Industry expert, Bill Pollock, Principal consultant at S4Growth has a piece of interesting advice for the industry leaders, ‘’If you don’t outpace the evolution of the market, you will end up well behind the curve. The market is continuously raising the bar, and you will need to constantly improve your offerings to remain competitive.‘’ According to Lee Rawson, Head of Service – Europe, Middle East & North Africa, Komatsu Mining Corp. Group, the biggest challenge he faces is ‘’The Recruitment of the right calibre personnel’, which is seconded by David Windhager, Head of Global Product Division- Customer Service of Rosenbauer International AG.

Ideally, a doctor would never go into an appointment with a patient without having reviewed their medical records and history. This should be ideally the case with the field service workforce too. A technician on the field with access to equipment history, documentation and manuals will have a better chance to complete the job better, faster and in an efficient manner. Given the digitalisation of the workforce and knowledge management becoming efficient through mobile devices, video calling, AR and VR, continuous training needs to be conducted with the technicians to make sure they are using these digital tools effectively by uploading correct information about their carried out task.

Consumer expectations of a seamless, digital experience has impacted the industry greatly as have technology trends, yet a true focus on technician enablement is still spotty. Our “best-in- class” customers bring technicians into the process related to user experience, and how data and workflow changes enable experienced technicians to be hyper-productive and how novice technicians become fully functional, faster. Likewise, the businesses which service a wide variety of equipment, work, or parts need technology that has best-in-class capabilities around artificial intelligence, data model flexibility, IOT, diagnostics, and robust, flexible mobile applications.

Service technicians have become the “single point of failure” in the customer interaction because typical technology, is driven from the CRM and ERP ill-prepares them with a lack of information. Sales and financial systems provide customer and billing information but do not enable a game-changing service. To understand the technologies currently adopted to help the field technicians, Field Service Directors were asked about ‘the technologies they are using/ looking to use’. 72% of respondents answered mobile devices for on-site documentation, followed by video-conferencing 41%, AR and VR 35%, live tracking of spare parts 34% and artificial intelligence 29%. 14% of the respondents added comments about using or looking to use remote program management via IOT solutions, mobile app suites connected to the central system, remote diagnostics, data acquisition and analysis. Other interesting comments mentioned virtual coaching through IoT, voice commands and cloud-based documentation for Field Service Techs.

The Takeaway

Competence management has been a pressing issue in the current field service industry with many manufacturing companies trying various means to address the issue. The top management has to be involved in bringing change gradually but surely through the various ranks of the organisation. With the advent of more digital technologies, regular training of the workforce needs to be carried out while arming the technicians with tools to be able to contribute to the central data system. Over time, the accumulated data can be used to predictively maintain machines creating a good customer experience. Technologies like visual support such as video calling or Augmented Reality can help to bridge this gap of field technicians by bringing expert advice into the customer’s maintenance team through technology or be used to guide new technicians on the field. While a lot of discussions in field service forum today is about supercharging the field technicians with sales knowledge, it seems to be not so high on the priority list for manufacturers. Possible alternates could be soft skill training to be able to handle customer demands rather than in a sales approach.

Interested in learning more about Field Service? Read our article on Digital Strategy in Field Service.