What Role Does Field Service Management Play in the Age of Customer Experience?

When we at CSG read the 2021 Gartner® Magic QuadrantTM for Field Service Management, our first reaction was pure satisfaction at being included in it.

Our second reaction? Validation in what we perceived as Gartner’s focus on customer experience.

One of the first things Gartner mentions in the report’s Market Overview is that field service management (FSM) capabilities that improve customer experiences have gotten better over the past year. This includes capabilities that improve what Gartner calls the “four pillars of great customer service”: getting connected, process orchestration, knowledge and insight, and resource management.

This tracks with what we at CSG have observed in FSM, and in commerce as a whole: customer experience (CX) is the new currency of competition. So as more companies understand that winning on CX is top-priority across their enterprise, including in their field service operations, it behooves FSM vendors to follow suit to enable those CX improvements.

WHY COMPANIES HAVE TO GET THE SERVICE EXPERIENCE RIGHT

Field service operations are playing a growing role in companies’ CX goals. That is not only true for companies where field service is their primary function (e.g., HVAC repair service, pest control, etc.) but also where it is an essential business process, important secondary activity, or tertiary function (e.g., cable and telecom, utilities, etc.).

Here is why.

Face time has become precious—it can make or break your brand or value proposition

Communications service providers (CSPs) have long understood how much of their brand promise depends on their field service operations. For cable companies, the field technician visit might be the only in-person interaction a customer ever has with their company. So, among their other responsibilities, field technicians often serve as the face of the brand.

Field service professionals will bear even more of this “face of the brand” responsibility going forward, regardless of industry. As consumers rely on more e-commerce or digital self-service to accomplish tasks, they will encounter less human interaction from other areas of the brand, like sales associates or contact center agents. Accordingly, the touchpoints that require someone to be dispatched to a home or business are becoming more memorable for customers—for better or worse. Brands must ensure it is the former.

Fixing a customer’s problem creates a powerful, lasting experience

Because the most common service journey is about solving a problem, field service operations are tasked with converting unhappy situations into good outcomes (e.g., a broken cable box into a customer upgrading for more channels). Think of a mobile claims adjuster coming because the customer’s car is wrecked, or a repair technician coming because the customer’s refrigerator is broken.

These are often situations where the customer is a churn risk. But on the other hand, “flipping their frustration” into relief by solving the problem leaves a powerful impression on a customer. And they might associate that impression with the brand even more strongly than the issue that needed fixing.

Field service is taking on more CX functions

One of the trends we are seeing is companies turning their field service operations from a cost center into a revenue generator. They are doing this by enabling their mobile employees to upsell or cross-sell to customers while on-site.

Suppose a consumer is having their internet service installed and activated, and during the appointment they decide they want to bundle a home security system with it. Rather than schedule another truck roll for another day, the field technician could accept the customer’s payment for the additional service right then and there, and then install the security system in the same visit. (This requires mobile POS payment capabilities)

For this upsell/cross-sell strategy to truly generate more sales, the field service experience surrounding the sales interaction needs to wow customers.

EXCITING CX TRENDS IN FSM

You can see why companies are willing to invest in improving their field service experience right now. But how can they do it?

The Magic Quadrant report lists FSM trends for improving CX. I won’t list all of them here, but rather point to a few that we have found most impactful for our FSM customers.

Trend 1: AR Collaboration

The COVID-19 pandemic made augmented reality (AR) indispensable last year as companies needed to provide no-touch service and guide customers through equipment installations or fixes from outside their homes. And in our experience, AR tools don’t just enable contactless field service; they can prevent truck rolls altogether (by 57 percent in one case) when you put them in the hands of your contact center agents.

Trend 2: Customer Engagement Platform Integration

Seamlessness is a virtue in FSM solutions, and that is what makes built-in platform integration so important. It is a must for FSM platforms to plug into your customer communication systems to send notifications over text, email, voice messages and other channels. By automating appointment confirmations, estimated time of arrival and other key messages, field technicians can cross those communications off their to-do list, and customers are better informed when they arrive.

Trend 3: Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing

Gartner calls out the machine learning (ML) use case of scheduling optimization, particularly in using work order data. ML can predict the parts needed for a job and assign work orders based on that information, and it can also predict the job’s likely duration. As ML draws in more data sets and factors, scheduling will become increasingly precise, and the result is that customers get increasingly predictable appointment times.

While the Market Overview does not mention conversational AI specifically, that is also a game-changing application of natural language processing in FSM. The AI can be deployed as a virtual assistant to interact with the customer, helping to schedule the work and gather information that gets fed into the work order.

Trend 4: Mobile Extensibility

When you make your field technicians’ lives easier, it can likewise improve CX. (This is part of the principle behind the total experience.) Few technologies have a bigger impact on your employees’ day-to-day than the mobile platform they use.

Companies are increasingly using low-code, AI-powered mobile applications that perform sophisticated FSM functions without having to integrate with their back-end systems (CSG provides one like this). Not only is an intelligent low-code application useful for field service operations on its own, but it can also help ease the transition for companies that are switching FSM platforms. The mobile application can plug into the legacy platform, and then work seamlessly when companies implement a new FSM platform; the app’s field service users will hardly notice a change in the back-end system. That is just one example of the efficiencies you can unlock with a modular mobile solution.

If customer experience is the new currency of competition, then think about your business this way: what are your “cost centers” in CX? You can help ensure field service is not one of them—and is instead made to be a “value generator”—by implementing FSM capabilities that prioritize customer engagement.

You can read more about CX trends in FSM in this year’s Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management, which you can download for free.

 

Gartner®, Magic Quadrant™ for Field Service Management, Jim RobinsonNaved Rashid, 31 August 2021

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