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Sparking the Real-Time Communications Conversation at Field Service USA

 

In an industry at the intersection of technology adoption and "tried and tested" person-to-person interaction, Field Services USA showed attendees how technology can drive productivity and incremental profitability to notoriously low margin field service businesses. Field Services USA has developed a reputation for showcasing vertically aligned technology, including a new idea that emerged at this year's event—the idea of embedding real-time communications into field service management mobile apps to drive the next productivity wave.

During the three day event in sunny Palm Springs, California, a wealth of field services experts, managers, vendors and technology providers came together for a vibrant, exciting, educational and entertaining event. There wasn't a moment that went by without a presentation, message, metric or conversation lined with productivity, efficiency, return on investment, and the humanistic side of technology adoption. It was a melting pot of field services professionals, with a uniting drive, to serve and meet the challenges and expectations of their customers.

With any event, the lightning rods are the customer success stories. The stories heard on stage, at invite-only events or in conversations with new found colleagues while networking. The stories of businesses facing challenges and successfully leveraging technology to solve a problem, serve a customer and or drive the next wave of growth for their organization. 

From service provider to valued consultant

First was a well-known air conditioning manufacturer that transformed their business from "repair and fix" to "energy management" with the use of available data from their equipment and their clients’ businesses. They set a vision to be an energy management company. Then they were challenged with transforming their commercial approach from a fee per hour for on-sight service to outcome-based commercial terms for minimizing energy use. By proactively managing energy usage through the use of data analytics, service technicians were on-site less often, making their services less visible. But, in order to deliver value, they were forced to transform everything in their business to deliver the outcome of minimizing energy utilization. 

Driving better safety and ROI

Next was the story of a large fleet trucking company that implemented fleet tracking and location diagnostics to create a driver safety program with a significant return on investment. As it turns out, safer driving lowers accidents, reduces fuel consumption and reduces maintenance of vehicles (less wear on parts) as well as numerous other positive impacts for the company.

Location becomes both more and less relevant

There were numerous stories of companies using mobile devices, wearables and eye-glass technologies to drive complex remote service jobs with experts in the back office. There were also stories of virtual reality and augmented virtual reality driving the field service implementation. So, where should the experts be? In the field facing customers or in the office supporting a group of field service workers using wearable technology to transmit problems from the field.

The technology dilemma of could vs should

A common story at the event was the dilemma facing many field service organizations looking to optimize their already productive, reliable and entrenched field service workers. Where is that line between encouraging employees to co-operate and drive productivity for your business versus the field employee’s loss of privacy. Will the perception of "big brother" drive a wedge between field employees and management? A careful balance seems to be the best answer anyone has to date.

Layering a new strategy for productivity gains

And finally the emerging story of the event.  The story of mobile real-time communications. Cross Refrigeration shared that aligning the implementation of field service management (FSM), customer relationship management (CRM), and accounting systems is the secret to their field service efficiency. Michael O'Leary, CEO, spoke of their multi-year company-wide implementation of data collection, field alignment and controlled analytical measurement and how it has driven significant success for their organization. 

The fourth leg of the strategy, embedding real-time communications into mobile field applications, promises the next wave of productivity gain, according to the refrigeration company. The company expects that this move will:

  • Minimize time delay within the field service workflow through auto SMS notifications to field techs and clients.
  • Use intelligent dispatch to get the right tech in the right location at the right time.  
  • Use kills-based routing technology and mobile presence technology to find the right experts in their organization to fix issues on the first try.

And given all communications are embedded in their field services mobile application, all critical business communications are captured within the service record, providing records and information for post-service analysis.  

Interestingly enough, given our cloud and mobile communications capabilities at Mitel, we’re actually rather well placed, with our partner FieldAware, to deliver that fourth leg of the strategy and drive the next wave of productivity gain for companies like Cross Refrigeration.

Closing thoughts

I definitely enjoyed Field Service USA.  It was a perfect combination of great people, great stories and a great position for us at Mitel to move the productivity needle for field services organizations.