Every New Year brings with it an abundance of predictions for the twelve months ahead: some realistic, others more far-fetched. We’ve brought together the best of them to create a round-up of field service trends you need to know about in 2017.
One of the most widely reported trends was a new (or renewed) focus on the customer. Service companies that invest in aligning themselves with their customers can expect increases in revenue growth: one source says a 6 percent increase is possible, others say as much as 15 percent. Given that research shows that 76 percent of field service providers are struggling to increase revenues, the focus on anything that will promote growth is understandable. This is linked to the trend of ‘servitisation’: the drive towards increasing the service element of products. Manufacturers, in particular, can no longer differentiate with products and instead will seek to deliver not products but ‘outcomes’ that support customers to achieve their goals.
A related trend is personalisation, which is all about listening to customers, understanding their needs and providing a service that feels individual. When 73 percent of consumers say valuing their time is the most important element of good customer service, it makes offering same- or next-day appointments in smaller time windows a priority for service companies this year.
Personalisation wouldn’t be possible without great customer data, and 72 percent of best-in-class field service companies say they use customer feedback to measure service and employee performance. This brings us to the next widely reported trend. When 80% of service providers say they “proactively use less than half of their available data”, it is not surprising that companies will be making better use of data in 2017. Service companies will be using advanced analytics tools to gain better visibility of the field operation, integrate data from different sources, and examine past performance for opportunities to improve.
Better analytics will also enable the trend towards a predictive approach to field service. A linked trend is the Internet of Things (IoT), which has been reported as a field service trend for some years now, and is becoming increasingly important. Gartner predicts that by 2020, there will be 26 billion IoT devices other than smartphones, tablets and computers; this will also support a predictive approach to maintenance.
Some more niche trends that will start to have an impact in 2017 are the growth of wearables such as smart watches and smart glasses, which will be used to help with diagnostics, enhance safety, and give technicians access to experts whilst working on equipment. This is linked to the increase in the use of augmented or virtual reality to facilitate remote working, or support hands on learning in the field.
Less widespread, but certainly on the rise, is the use of 3D printing, enabling technicians to print parts when on site. And not quite there yet, but a vision for the not too distant future is driverless cars, potentially enabling field technicians to send their vehicles to pick up parts whilst they carry on with work.
These are the trends that we think will be affecting your business in 2017. Are you already adopting some of these approaches? Or are they just hype? Let us know what you think.