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Enter the Social World of Field Service, Don't Be Afraid of the Connection

By Aly Pinder Jr, Senior Research Analyst Service Management Practice, Aberdeen Group

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Aly Pinder Jr, Senior Research Analyst Service Management Practice, Aberdeen Group

When you think of field service, what comes to mind? Technicians, Schedules, Wrenches, or Mobile devices?

If any of those were your answer, you wouldn’t be wrong. But when I think of field service in 2015, the first word that comes to mind is the customer. The field service world is no longer just about ensuring a service technician reaches the customer site within four to eight hours. Customers now have the influence and information to demand better service from organizations.

As a result of advanced technologies, empowered customers, and increased competitive factors, service must not operate solely to meet operational goals but for the purpose of enhancing customer experiences. Key to this transformation is the ability for service organizations to ensure technicians have the skills, tools, and information at the time of service to resolve issues the first time. More and more, this is leading top performing organizations to create technician communities which allow technicians to communicate with each other, the back office, and the customer in real-time via social collaborative tools. But change has not come easy for many organizations as service leaders have been skeptical of the value of social in the field. A few trends have come to the forefront as those top performers have begun to maximize the opportunity in social collaboration.

Invest in the infrastructure which empowers a remote team. In past Aberdeen research on field service (August 2015), eight out of ten organizations (82 percent of respondents) stated a priority to invest in mobile technology in the coming 12 months. Ensuring that the field team has access to the tools which enable information and communication capabilities at their fingertips in real-time is key to service execution. Products and equipment have gotten more and more complex, and the answers aren’t always known. Many organizations are facing an aging and retiring workforce, and thus equipping the field with tools such as mobility and social ensures that regardless of tenure a technician will have access to insight at all times.

Embrace innovation and new channels for information. The field service world is a slow moving industry, reluctant to change too quickly. Tried and true processes and practices are tough to break especially when there isn’t competition to make lackluster performance visible. Unfortunately, for some, competition is coming to field service. With added revenues and profitability growth, more companies and C-level executives are seeing the opportunity in service offerings. As competition begins to eat away at margins, savvy service organizations will understand the need to innovate both products and service. This innovation shouldn’t only be about creating new service offerings, but also about how service is delivered. Social tools have the capability to connect the technician to customers, building partnerships which are tougher to break by a competitor solely lowering a price. Updates on a work order, notification of a pending service visit, and channels for delivering feedback are all ways that social can connect the customer to the technician and ultimately to the service organization.

Social is more than a consumer tool for distraction. Social collaboration and tools are not solely about the consumer worlds of Facebook and Twitter. Social channels such as chat, IM, forums, and online video all have the ability to connect internal service teams to each other and to the customer. As seen in Aberdeen’s Social in Field Service: Collaboration on the Fly report (March 2015), more than two-thirds of top performing organizations plan to increase their investments and use of social tools for field service in the coming 12 months. Service technicians have a lot on their plate - they have to efficiently get to a customer within a stated appointment window, diagnose the problem, figure out the solution, and then actually solve the problem all while a customer is eagerly waiting for a return to productivity. This environment can be stressful, and nothing is worse for a field service technician who is not being able to solve a problem for their customers. Social tools help to provide service technicians with the answers to difficult questions without the need for a second truck roll or a return to the office. Creating an environment where tribal knowledge can become collective intelligence is game changing for service, and has the ability to revolutionize how service is delivered.

Don’t miss out on the voice of the customer.

Social channels have historically been viewed as a B2C (business-to-consumer) channel of communication. This view is a remnant of the past. Even in B2B environments, organizations have a voice. Revenue streams no longer solely come from the purchase of new products; organizations are finding profitable growth opportunities through up-sell, cross-sell, and referral business. For this reason, the customer is more empowered than ever before regardless of the model (i.e., B2B, B2C). Organizations across a variety of industries need to not only listen to their customers with the channels which are being used; they also need to empower their service team to communicate in these channels when appropriate. The fear of technicians going off brand pales in comparison to the opportunity for service organizations to empower their field teams to interact and provide information to customers as to job status via social channels. No one want technicians on Twitter or Facebook all day as opposed to turning wrenches, but the value of social to listen, interact, and service customers in real-time is an opportunity which must be explored in 2015.

Social channels and tools are no longer solely for the world of the consumer to read reviews about restaurants or to post pictures on vacation. Social tools have the opportunity to spark innovation, communication, and resolution for the field service team. Too often, field service technicians are off on figurative islands attempting to solve complex problems. The real-time nature of social tools allows technicians to find answers to problems faster, ultimately solving customer issues the first time. In 2015, customers have options for service, and organizations need to use all of the technology tools available to them in order to excel at service delivery and resolution and social is one channel which is gaining steam in the field.

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