Disrupting Disruption with Connectivity and Data in Field Service

When the word “disruption” is mentioned in the technology industry, it’s frequently referring to a new solution or company that significantly changes how the world solves a particular problem. More often than not, this kind of disruption has a positive correlation.

For others, disruption is a challenge to be avoided and to be proactively managed. I’m referring to service providers, equipment manufacturers, utilities, and any other business whose product is directly related to uptime. More and more in today’s experience economy, when products or services suffer a disruption in performance, providers realize a negative impact on financial performance and market share.

Fortunately for field service teams in industries where mitigating disruption is critical, the emerging availability of real-time data provides new avenues to elevate the customer experience in both B2C and B2B scenarios.

Machines have always been speaking to us — only now we’re able to listen differently and respond more intelligently

When I was a child, my grandfather owned an automotive service garage. I vividly remember watching him stick his head dangerously close to a car engine and telling one of the mechanics on his crew to “crank it.” He was trying to detect any audible anomaly coming from the engine that would indicate an issue preventing the car from running properly. He was listening to the machine in a very literal and low fidelity fashion.

In his shop were these massive diagnostic machines that had several wires and cords that could be connected to a car’s engine, listen to it operate, and receive an analog readout of what was going on with it — this seemed futuristic in the late-1980’s. 

In both those cases, the limiting factor was that you had to schedule a time to take the car to a specialist to find out what was wrong. From a customer experience standpoint, this was certainly a lengthy disruption.

Fast forward thirty-plus years and my new car has an app that gives me real-time information across many categories. Recently, when I suffered with a flat tire, the app notified me first that my tire pressure was dangerously low. 

As the customer, it was very beneficial that this auto manufacturer has a system built to listen to my car via a real time data feed and proactively alert me before I had a massive disruption on the road. Moreover, it asked if I wanted to be connected to my dealer’s service center from the app to schedule service or have a tow truck come to my home. 

In less than 24 hours, without leaving my home, my car was picked up by a tow truck, delivered to the service center at my dealership, inspected, fixed, and returned to my home. I was even able to authorize the service and complete the payment process digitally. I was impressed at the sophistication of this customer experience, and the disruption to my life was minimal at most.

Field service teams use similar tools to listen, predict, and proactively prevent disruption

Today, in almost every instance where machinery, assets, and devices are deployed to perform a task or service, there is some level of network connectivity. And, as next gen 5G networks come online globally, connectivity will become the standard.

Connectivity enables access to mission-critical data. Connectivity enables humans to speak to devices. Connectivity creates networks, empowers machines to learn, and creates opportunities for businesses to predict and prevent issues from impacting customers (thus protecting revenue.)

Here is a real-world example of how this works:

  • A manufacturer of industrial HVAC systems receives real-time signals from equipment deployed at its customers’ physical plants and learns that one of its units is nearing failure due to a mechanical issue
  • Guided by pre-defined rules tied to the service-level agreement (SLA) that the manufacturer has in place with its customer, an emergency work order is created and sent to their field service management system
  • The scheduling and routing engine ingests this work order and analyzes the current service schedule in that geographic region. It then identifies the field technician with the appropriate skills or certifications, equipment, and availability to service the unit before it fails and creates a disruption
  • The event is created, and the system automatically optimizes schedules across the entire mobile workforce, mitigating any cascading impact of adding emergency work to that day’s work plan
  • The field technician is notified of the update to their schedule while the customer is notified that service has been scheduled at their plant
  • As the field technician arrives on-site and prepares to complete the task, they access information about the customer account, previous work orders, worker safety, equipment, contracts, and any other data needed to resolve the issue the first time in their field service mobile app
  • If needed, the technician can access in-app collaboration tools to connect with colleagues in the field or the service center and use knowledge base, digital assistants, and augmented reality (AR) tools to help diagnose and fix equipment issues
  • When the job is complete, the technician debriefs the customer and captures required information and signatures in the mobile field service app on-site. A receipt is automatically sent to the customer via email
  • The self-learning field service management system captures multiple data points from this entire event so that it can be even more efficient in scheduling and routing future work orders
  • The next day, a survey is sent to the customer to collect feedback

Want to see a similar workflow with screen views in Oracle Field Service? Click here for a quick product tour.

Innovative field service will be a key driver in setting the new standard for CX

We know customers gravitate towards vendors that provide innovative and connected digital and physical experiences. The example above is a fairly straight-forward illustration of how data, connectivity, and software converge to elevate the customer experience.

As you consider how to establish a new standard and minimize disruption to your customers by implementing a predictive, proactive approach, ask yourself:

  • How well are you listening to the data from your customer assets?
  • Are you able to predict disruption and automatically trigger service events?
  • Are you able to pivot immediately to prevent disruption without impacting your field teams or other customers?
  • Is your mobile workforce empowered with modern tools needed to resolve problems quickly?
  • Are the systems your field, front-office, and back-office teams using unified to ensure data consistency and transparency across the enterprise?

If you find yourself needing help, we’re here to partner with you. Let’s talk through how your field service organizations can collect real time customer signals, understand them, and most importantly, use them to avoid disruptions, be proactive, increase retention, reduce costs, and drive revenue opportunities. I’m confident that’s the positive kind of disruption both your customers and internal stakeholders will benefit from.

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