Delivering superior customer experience (CX) is the mantra for field-service operations. As companies compete for market share and customer loyalty, technology will play an increasingly important role in the decade ahead. What might we expect in 2020 and beyond?

By Andy Chinmulgund

There are indicators that the service management industry could reach $5.9 billion by 2024. This growth is being driven by the relentless pursuit of efficiency and automation driven by work-order management systems, field service software, and mobile field service apps. From our discussions with manufacturers of field-serviced products, here is Bruviti’s assessment of the top game-changing technologies that will drive innovation and growth in 2020.

1) AI will drive autonomous service models 

In 2020 and beyond, AI will play an increasingly important role in everything from service call-scheduling to work orders to lifecycle management—and even customer communications. Manufacturers are looking to achieve smooth and seamless customer journeys, better diagnostic accuracy, and optimal customer experience. On the back end, AI will supervise data collection and analysis, with an increasing level of all field service work being monitored by some form of AI, driven by Big Data analytics. In conjunction with IoT and connected devices, AI will play a larger role in managing and completing more routine maintenance tasks. This tech will make its way to the apps used during field work: AI will augment in-field diagnostics as part of intelligent mobile apps used by technicians.

2) NLP will power increasingly capable virtual assistants

Natural language processing (NLP) turns unstructured and raw data generated from the internet, social media interactions, and connected devices into actionable inferences that will empower organizations to comprehend and give context to multiple types of datasets. Already the service management industry is seeing adoption of NLP for integrated virtual assistants and chatbots—and research firm Gartner indicates that one-quarter of all organizations will soon incorporate a smart virtual assistant solution in their customer services. These virtual assistants will help organizations deflect repeat calls and calls of low importance to a self-help tool, thus freeing contact center agents to focus on resolving more complex issues. Upcoming innovations in NLP will see a transformative jump in text analytics and speech-to-text analytics, and these will become fundamental components of any NLP solution.

3) Continued evolution from preventative to predictive maintenance

With ubiquitous IoT, more and more equipment is now connected, and machine-to-machine communication and information exchange is providing a gateway to new capabilities. This will accelerate the shift from preventative to predictive maintenance. It is no longer sufficient to intervene quickly to remedy downtime; manufacturers want to ensure there is no downtime. Connected devices can alert field service software when equipment isn’t working properly. Work order management systems will automatically produce work orders and dispatch field service teams to fix the issue before it becomes a problem. Also, look out for customers taking on simple repairs with remote assistance from skilled technicians.

4) Servitization strategies will emerge to boost customer sat and profits

As their customers become less interested in owning assets, manufacturers will increasingly sell ‘outcomes’ rather than products to both drive revenues and assure long-term relationships with their customers based on guaranteed satisfaction. Underpinning this strategy is the creation of attractive and profitable service contracts based on a deep understanding of product performance and assured uptime. At the heart of servitization strategies are decisions informed a wide array of IoT data, product and service history records, and CRM insights.

5) Field-service apps will get smarter

Mobility has always been an essential element of field service management, and so manufacturers adopting field service software that leverages a mobile app to achieve their goals for automation and efficiency. The latest field-service apps do everything for a technician: routing to the next service call; centralized access to all work orders; and access to service history and other information to help them complete calls faster. Looking ahead, expect these apps to play a larger role in diagnostics and to provide onsite technician guidance through augmented reality (AR).