This piece originally appeared in the March 2022 edition of DS News magazine, online now.
The year 2021 solidified new work practices and operational changes that were created because of the pandemic. Companies across the world have now built thriving remote enterprises and individuals are spending more time at home. These changes have reestablished the need and increased the demand for field services, be it for commercial and residential property repairs, remote insurance claim coordination, or utility maintenance to meet demand for increased usage.
These needs for field service correlate to an increased urgency for providers to implement the proper technology to meet demand and improve service quality. In fact, with a forecasted CAGR of 11%, the field service management market is estimated to reach $5.1 billion by 2025. As we look to the new year, we can expect rapid digital transformation and an increase in product complexity to meet evolving customer expectations. Here are a few trends to look out for in the coming year.
Deployment of Parts Prediction and AR Technology for Quality Service
Over the past year, field service providers implemented technology in a whole new way to increase capabilities for remote service. This change will be a main focus in the new year as servicers innovate conducting diagnostics in virtual settings. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR)-powered support tools allow technicians to have real-time video conferencing that offers spatial orientation and virtual markers so that workers can identify problems and communicate with customers remotely.
Additionally, the adoption of AI and machine learning to automate processes allows for smarter systems that can reference service history to predict necessary parts for repair while updating accurate part availability.
Predictive systems can ensure inventory levels are constantly maintained so that key parts are available to improve first-time fix rates. By 2025, over 50% of field service management deployments will include mobile AR collaboration and knowledge-sharing tools, compared to less than 10% in 2019. We can expect to see rapid integration of these tools in the coming year as predicative technologies become more advanced and the demand for remote service continues to grow.
Continued Investment in Customer Self-Service
Consumer portals make scheduling service visits easy for customers by giving them more control over the experience. As client relations pivoted to accommodate social distancing considerations and remote service, the lasting effects of this transition will continue into the new year with a reaffirmed commitment from service providers to involve the customer in the service experience. This is evident considering 70% of customers now expect a company’s website to include a self-service application.
By offering customer-centric communication tools as part of the field service experience, organizations can decrease customer effort and increase their control. Consumer portals offer one central location for customers to communicate directly with field technicians, track estimated time of arrivals and receive real-time notifications from their servicer for enhanced two-way communication. They can also upload relevant photos and equipment information based on their repair request and view their service history and product details online. As customers expect more involvement and personalized service experiences, field service providers will prioritize client communication tools to enhance the service experience for each end-user.
A Greater Focus on Predictive Maintenance to Inform Service Repairs
As individuals have come to rely on home devices for both personal and professional needs thanks to increased remote employment, the functionality of home equipment and digital devices is crucial. Predictive maintenance uses IoT triggers and AI to monitor system performance and flag any potential errors or impending shutdowns. This technology can preemptively notify service technicians ahead of equipment malfunctions and ensure a quick response for uninterrupted service. Predictive maintenance not only enables remote business to continue to operate smoothly, but it can also help utility companies make sure systems are running accordingly ahead of a major weather event or predicted peak demand. In 2022, only 30% of field service providers will be ready to deploy AI-based decision support in their field service management platforms for competitive advantage, despite robust capabilities being available by then. Therefore, we can expect a continued focus on predictive maintenance integration to help facilitate and quicken service response, save costs, and increase data-driven decision-making in the new year.
Higher Recruitment and Use of Blended Workforces to Fight Labor Shortages
A problem that the field service industry has always faced is a lack of skilled labor capable of performing the technical task the industry requires. There is high attrition in field service technicians as older workers retire and novice employees lack experience.
This past year has been hailed as “The Great Resignation,” and companies will see the effects of these labor shortages continue into the new year, highlighting the need for contractor recruitment and a dependency on third-party workforces. Despite personnel constraints, federal stimulus payments increased personal income by more than 21% this year boosting consumer spending. More individuals continue to spend on goods, resulting in higher demand for installation and repair services down the line. Field service providers will employ blended workforces that diversify personnel among full-time employees, long-term contractors, and on-demand workers to maintain the flexibility and capacity they require to perform to meet this demand.
The next year will provide further opportunity for field service providers to implement cutting edge technology to meet evolving customer and industry demands.
Legacy practices implemented throughout the pandemic will continue to shape the service landscape, offering areas for industry growth with AR and AI integration. However, mainstays of field service like customer centricity and diverse workforces will remain a priority as providers look to offer seamless end-to-end service to customers throughout 2022.