I was asked to be interviewed recently on a podcast titled Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work, which is a podcast intended for those responsible for educating and preparing the next wave of field technicians. It was a lot of fun to participate, and when the episode goes live I will share on social as well as Future of Field Service. In the meantime, I wanted to share a snippet of a question asked of me on what I see happening from a technician standpoint over the next three to five years. Check it out below and I’d love for you to share your thoughts with me! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I want you to take out your crystal ball. What are you seeing as the main drivers or challenges in the upcoming years? Think “three to five years out.” I mean, are Field Service Technicians going away and being replaced by apps? Or what do you see out there? Say three to five years. What do you think?
A few things come to mind. The first is, I think we will continue to see a real emphasis on the customer experience, customer centricity, and really expanding on that. And I say that because I think that we’re at a point in this industry where companies have recognized — and even embraced — the fact that they HAVE to become truly customer-centric to succeed. But I think we’re still at a point where some companies kind of know the steps they want to take to do that, and others are still wondering exactly what that looks like for them. So, I think that’s going to be a continued focus.
We talk a lot about servitization or the outcomes-based economy. And that ties back to looking at the customer journey and really understanding, from a field technician perspective: when you send someone in with some sort of technical skill to fix a point-specific problem, that used to be acceptable. But the reality is that needs to be tied in with the whole customer journey. And there are other aspects of that journey that that technician can address. And so, shifting from delivering a service, a break-fix type service, to delivering more of an experience and more outcomes is something that I think companies will continue to embrace.
Along with that, we see companies, service organizations, really looking at how to take that customer journey and find ways to leverage it to create additional revenue streams. So, that, maybe—I could use for example Dish Network. Dish Network historically has been a company that provides, and installs, and services satellite TV equipment. And they’ve branched out now to where their technicians are also installing equipment from Samsung and different companies. So, they’re really taking their traditional service model and sort of “turning it on its head.” And with that comes the need for a significant amount of flexibility among the workforce. Because that workforce is going to be asked to do different tasks than they have before. And wear more hats than they had before. And so that’s something that I think will continue.
Another is, I think, we will certainly see increased use of AI and augmented reality. Augmented reality, I think, has some significant value propositions for service organizations in a couple areas. One, related specifically to the aging workforce. So, as you have workers that are nearing retirement age, that maybe don’t want to be out in the field day to day to day servicing equipment, or what have you. Using augmented reality, you can have an incredibly knowledgeable worker sitting in the back office that may use AR to interact with three, four, five newer technicians in the field, and really provide that hands-on training and support without actually being with them. And I think that that’s hugely valuable for companies. Particularly when you can capture those interactions in most augmented reality solutions and sort of build a knowledge library from them. So, at the same time as you’re training newer technicians, you’re also capturing the tribal knowledge of some of those older workers.
I certainly don’t see technicians being replaced by AI, or robots, or an app, or anything else. But I do think, as I alluded to earlier, we will continue to see the automation of non-value-added tasks. So, some of the things that can be automated, will. And that will free up bandwidth from those technicians to focus more on some of the aspects of the job that are going to become more important.
So, as I said, the higher technology used, the higher touch things need to be with the customer—to sort of balance that out. And so, I see AI as a way to give the technicians time back to do more value-added service tasks.
And finally, also related to those tasks becoming automated, I think as that happens, we will also see some re-skilling and up-skilling of the technician workforce. And that could be in a lot of different ways. It could be in more consultative positions, as I mentioned earlier. It could be training. It could be related to making use of that data. It could be related to product development. Or really just back to how the role will evolve, and just focusing more on the human experience, and being more people centric. But I think that there is no denying the fact that the role is going to evolve as we head into the next three to five years. And I think it’ll be very, very interesting to see exactly what that looks like.