Features, PublicNet: 6 March, 2015

John Cameron looks at the changes taking place in field service as a younger generation moves in.

The field service industry has, in previous years, been a subject of concern for having an ageing workforce and the implications this has as those with such great knowledge and experience reach retirement age. However, as the industry continues to evolve, a major trend has been the emergence of young, tech-savvy and collaborative workers. Indeed, according to Aberdeen Group’s latest report, ‘Emerging Workforce in the field: Tech-savvy to technician’, approximately one-fifth of the current workforce is under 30, with the average age of a field service technician being 32 years old. Field service organisations must therefore recognise what the needs and motivations of this new, up and coming workforce are, in order to keep them for the long haul as well as to attract the next pool of young talent.

Flexibility and Mobility

Technology is overwhelmingly recognised as an aid to achieving key strategic objectives. It is therefore important for organisations to understand how the influx of young workers use, process and engage with technology. A key factor to consider is flexibility and mobility. Tech-savvy workers do not want to be tied down by old, legacy technologies. They want the freedom to engage with the latest advances and utilise technologies they are used to in their personal lives. As a result, the mobile landscape for field service organisations is evolving and the ‘emerging worker’ is helping to speed up this transformation.

There has been much debate in the sector around ‘Bring Your Own Device’ strategies, where employees have the ability to connect their own technical devices, such as smartphones, laptops and tablets, to their company’s network instead of using a device owned by the company. BYOD is considered by many as being the only way forward for businesses looking to compete effectively and offer the most efficient customer service and increased employee satisfaction.

Aberdeen Group’s report found that 62 per cent of the top performing field service organisations have incorporated a BYOD strategy as a result of a more tech-savvy workforce and 43 per cent are more likely to give technicians access to social media and collaborative tools to facilitate knowledge transfer.

Visibility and collaboration

A major characteristic that the emerging field service workforce encompasses is the ability to be collaborative, and this is a trait that will help transform service and the relationship with the customer. Organisations must therefore capitalise on this by developing the collaborative tools needed to help the workforce perform as experts in the field and resolve customer needs as quickly as possible.

Collaborative tools, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops offer users the chance to take advantage of mobile apps. There are a number of bespoke mobile apps on the market today that are tailored to help manage a field service operation and simplify business processes.

Indeed, mobile apps offer technicians the ability to share, store and view job data while out in the field, providing them with a virtual link to the back office. Critical information such as daily tasks, customer histories and billing can be accessed on demand. Furthermore, locations of nearby teammates can be retrieved on a mobile device and a real-time connection provided through social networking, enabling them to seek assistance or help resolving a problem, if needed.

By having the tools and capabilities to work more collaboratively, and having access to real-time insight, empowers the workforce to make more strategic decisions. The speed of communication via social and mobile allow them to solve problems more quickly and ensures resolution is not delayed because of lack of information. They can easily recruit help from peers and are better enabled to reach appointments on-time and achieve first-time case resolution, leading to increased customer satisfaction and worker productivity whilst reducing operational costs.

An additional advantage of recruiting workers that are already well equipped to use mobility solutions, such as smartphones and social networking, is that they are well placed to provide teach and learn sessions for other workers. The adoption of mobility solutions can then be replicated throughout the entire workforce.

Customer service excellence evolves with the emerging worker
According to the Aberdeen Group, the next generation of workers will be different and when it comes to the evolution of excellent service, they may just be what is needed to wow future customers.