The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to adapt to the rapidly changing world. The businesses functioning in the field service industry were no exception. As per a report, the plans of the businesses in the field service industry had dramatically changed due to the pandemic. Besides restrictions and supply chain disruptions, the industry had to face several other challenges unique to the field service industry. Let’s look at those challenges and the measures taken by the industry to remain functional during and after the pandemic.
Challenge#1: Employees’ and customers’ health and safety concerns
Post-covid-19, ensuring employees’ and customers’ health and safety became the number one priority for the businesses in the field services industry. The field services industry includes services such as conducting installations, testing, performing medical care, routine maintenance, and delivering products. This is an industry that cannot entirely avoid all contact while performing its services, so they had to look for ways to limit the spread of the virus. A number of challenges appeared before companies – from equipping the workers with safety equipment to minimizing human-human contact duration to reducing the need for follow-ups. Below approaches were adopted to overcome the industry-specific challenges:
- Several service providers augmented these practices through innovative mobile apps and digital transformation projects that eliminate paperwork or other types of contacts, enhancing the safety of both customers and workers.
- The technicians were provided with digital checklists, documentation, and maintenance instructions, which eliminated the need for printed manuals.
- The customers were provided with a user-friendly, intuitive digital experience to share their digital assets.
- The remote support model was also adopted by the industry, in which video calls were used for diagnosing issues and providing assistance for fixing them remotely. For those that needed physical visits to doctors, safe and ‘contactless’ ways of delivering services were devised to minimize risks.
- The use of barcodes and QR-codes was enhanced in the healthcare sector for check-ins and workflows.
Challenge#2: Fulfilling the demands despite reduced workforce
Another big challenge field service businesses were faced with after the pandemic is increased demand during the pandemic and reduced workforce due to the employees getting sick, quarantine requirements, or company layoffs. For these reasons, companies had to maximize their efficiency while ensuring their safety.
Field service automation proved to be a great enabler during such times. Automation software can easily perform several tasks, like improving delivery times, routing optimization, and increasing transparency of field operations. Several companies used remote assist technology to enable real-time collaboration between field technicians and back-office support. Hitachi’s Remote Assist Quick Start is an example of this technology.
Using field management software have several other advantages, such as:
- Using Field service solutions, technicians can enjoy a comprehensive view of the equipment they are servicing using just their smartphone.
- Dispatch centers can gain better visibility into the specific requirements of each service request.
- Technicians can easily access customer contracts and SLAs from their smartphones to see different billing rates.
- These solutions allow companies to keep track of the parts they need to have in stock at all times.
Challenge#3: Maintaining high-quality despite the challenges
Despite the difficulties, maintaining quality standards is crucial to be successful in the long run. But superior services require the coordination of a large number of processes. By adopting a data-driven approach and tracking different metrics, such as – mean repair times and customer satisfaction rates, businesses were able to gain insights on how to maintain or improve the quality of their services.
Using checklists, they ensured that their workers followed the guidelines and did not miss any steps. In times of social distancing, customer feedback also served as a great source of information for improving their services.
Challenge#4: Accurate inspections and verifications
With the help of Artificial Intelligence, pixel-by-pixel comparisons of photos can be made, which can be very helpful both before and after service delivery. Before the service, AI can help determine what exactly needs to be fixed and what component might be required, and after the completion of the task, the technician can take photos in the field and use AI-supported analytics to verify that the installations or service has been completed properly.
Challenge#5: Keeping track of the safety of assets
During the pandemic, it was not possible for workers to check on customers’ assets. Remote monitoring eliminated the need for human workers. Security cameras, IoT devices, advanced sensors, and thermal imagery were used to determine if the equipment had surpassed certain thresholds. AI was used to monitor data on vibrations, viscosity, pressure, or other factors.
Challenge#6: Ensuring the safety of the delivery trucks
Despite the worldwide restrictions, truck rollouts in the field were absolutely necessary. With the help of automated material tracking, the safety of the employees was ensured. Technicians could scan barcodes to track the truck’s inventory in real-time.
Digitalization and the implementation of new technologies offer new, sustainable ways to minimize human contact without negatively affecting customer satisfaction. Even after the world has conquered the malicious virus, these technologies, data-driven approaches, and process automation will have staying power.