How do you define self-service for your service organization? Is it merely the act of a customer resolving an issue themselves? Is it a phone conversation with a support representative walking them through the process?

If you’re leaving your customer there, then you’re leaving your customer behind, and there will certainly be competitors who are ready to take them away from you. Self-service is going to be a key component of maximizing efficiency for the future of field service, so it’s time to start thinking about it now.

Taking self-service to the next level requires a duality of thinking. First, what will you do to actually help increase no-dispatch resolutions? Second, and more complicated, is how will you define the challenges and opportunities that this creates among your technician base? We’ll start with the first.

Increasing No-Dispatch Resolutions

Naturally moving beyond the simplicity of talking through resolutions remotely, organizations have found numerous ways to encourage remote resolutions through smart technology investments. We’ll talk about two comparatively new technologies here: IoT, and Augmented Reality.

Your mileage with IoT will vary depending on the sort of serviceable assets supported. IoT has gained a natural foothold in areas like manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy, while there are numerous areas where IoT’s usability doesn’t align with remote resolution. Nevertheless, connected sensors, when paired smartly with the right equipment, can help organizations mitigate issues through several means.

One scenario is that connected sensors indicate a temperature spike on a machine, which could imply that it’s being used improperly. Either through automation, or a quick phone call, a service organization can inform the customer, thus preventing a breakdown before it happens. This is a win-win, avoiding downtime for the customer, while protecting technicians’ time.

Another scenario is a bit more specialized, and it involves more than connected sensors. In the event of some sort of machine breakdown, remote workers can run power cycles or make firmware updates to keep systems running effectively. Obviously, this requires remote access to the controls of a machine; A step further down the technology rabbit hole.

AR, on the other hand, could eliminate the need for a remote worker altogether. Many AR modules today are designed to walk customers step-by-step through simple repairs. Simply point your phone’s camera at your serviceable asset, and appropriate areas will highlight as it cycles through directions. This way, customers can get equipment up and running without even having to wait on hold.

These are only a few of the myriad of solutions available, and any of these are further scalable through the implementation of automation and other complimentary systems. Nevertheless, these represent ways to put more power in the hands of your customers. But how does it impact your technicians?

The Newly-Empowered Technician

By re-routing simple tasks away from in-person technicians, there’s a sense that the lightened workload devalues a service technician in some way. This would imply a decided lack of empowerment; a move away from the authority that technicians once felt over their service domain. Will technicians even be needed in the future?

With self-service, powered by some of the previously-mentioned tools and a grab bag of others on top of them, organizations can eliminate unnecessary service appointments. Will this lead to the ultimate end of field service? Not with the tools available today alone. There will always be a need for nuanced in-person interactions in service, usually around complex service functions. It’s in these moments, when organizations are struggling with challenging issues, that you want them to see the face of your business.

Some technicians may balk at the infrequency of simpler jobs, meaning their days are more packed with higher-stress, higher-challenge labor, but the fact of the matter is that service organizations on the whole are struggling to hire and train new technicians, so wherever inefficiencies can be eliminated they should be.

For those technicians who go into the field to handle the more complex jobs, there should be, for them, a sense of empowerment. This is true personally, as their skills as a trusted resource are being valued and challenged. It should also happen practically, though, as these technicians, too, can benefit from some of the ancillary technologies created for self-service. IoT can give much greater insight to in-person techs on a job site. Combine that with Augmented Reality, and the future of heads-up displays of system integrity and step-by-step directions for new technicians make the future even brighter. To get those techs on board, though, it’s up to the organization to articulate the value that they bring to the table.

With all this in mind, organizations have a great opportunity to begin to employ some smart technologies to support self-service. The benefits of laying the groundwork today will pay dividends in those direct service gains, but also offer excellent trickle-down opportunities to support technician empowerment as well.

Tom Paquin
Author

Contributor, Future of Field Service