The Future of Remote Collaboration: Sharing Knowledge Faster And Efficiently
The delivery of remote-enabled field service is dynamic, growing, and changing based on digital transformation and newly available technologies. Virtual collaboration is increasingly becoming the marketplace standard as people become more comfortable with new tools and apps, as well as the latest smartphone capabilities.
End clients embrace remote-enabled field service management when they understand the value. For example, rather than waiting two business days for a technician to come to their location, a user experiencing internet issues could work with a contact center representative to resolve the issue real time in a matter of minutes. It is also essential that virtual collaboration is easy for end users to participate in virtual collaboration: no need to download an app or go through multi-step authentication — just tap a link on mobile device and join the session.
Knowledge Sharing for Added Efficiency
Remote field service options enable more efficient use of resources for the field service provider, as well. Consider a hard-to-reach area, like a flood zone: an insurance adjuster needs to inspect flooded trucks but cannot physically reach the location. Junior technicians, piloting drones, can go on-site to “get eyes on the issue” while collaborating remotely with more senior technicians. This extends the reach of an organization’s most knowledgeable technicians and provides valuable training opportunities for junior technicians. Often, multiple junior technicians can simultaneously learn from the same senior technician.
Virtual collaboration calls can be automatically recorded and edited down to create powerful knowledge base articles and training video clips. The drone pilots, for example, can revisit required viewing angles and get advice from senior technicians the next time they fly over a disaster site — saving additional flyovers or truck rolls, in addition to reducing “ramp-up time.”
Preserving Senior Field Technicians’ Knowledge
Human intervention in creating this knowledge base is mostly limited to analysis (e.g., identifying gaps). Day-to-day field service operations can be automated with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) to drive optimal results based on the work type, location, time of year, and available assets. Additionally, consider that the senior technician does not have to be a full-time employee and/or could work from home. This is extremely valuable in an industry struggling with an aging and retiring workforce.
To help overcome the difficulty in hiring and retaining talent, it is critical to promote technician satisfaction by helping them to perform their best, to have more positive/meaningful customer interactions, and to maximize their personal income by completing more field service jobs in less time (i.e., many organizations pay techs by the job). Additionally, onboarding and training technicians more effectively empowers them to ascend more quickly within their organizations.
Remote Solutions will Define the Future
Moving forward with the digital transformation, we can expect to see even more connected machines, enabling field service organizations to perform remote diagnostics. Users will be able to identify, analyze, and (in some cases) rectify issues without the customer having to reach out. The need for on-site technicians will decrease further as remote inspections are better facilitated by drones and/or end customers become more adept in resolving their own issues with field service provider support.
We also expect wearable usage (e.g., RealWear headsets or Apple’s VisionPro) to become more prominent. These devices can be used for knowledge-based training and/or the execution of field service jobs, with the significant advantages that the field technician/customer will have both hands free (versus remotely collaborating using a handheld device) and be able to use, for example, a virtual overlay to guide their tasks.
Ideally, all issues could be resolved remotely, but in many cases, there is no substitute for the skill and experience of an on-site technician, particularly in the execution of more complex jobs. Still, a brief call with the customer to get eyes on the issue helps the field service provider to be that much more prepared, sending the right technician with the right part — driving up first-time fix rates and overall customer satisfaction while minimizing truck rolls.
Ultimately, most organizations prioritize total cost of service: how a job is completed is secondary to the work being performed to a high quality standard and exceed customer expectations. Decreasing overall job durations, travel time, and fuel costs — plus resolving some issues remotely — achieves this goal through more effective technician utilization. Enabling this efficiency through calculated application of technology also enables field service organizations to reinvest those savings elsewhere, including more strategic customer experience, better training, and the ability to maintain lower rates.
Elliott Kim is a Field Service Management evangelist, spending the past 7+ years in Solution Engineering for companies such as ClickSoftware, Salesforce, and OverIT. His focus has been working with Field Service organizations in mission-critical industries including utilities, energy, manufacturing, and telecommunications to help them achieve the Field Service-led Digital Transformation Journey.