Five Ways Artificial Intelligence will Have a Greater Impact on the Mobile Workforce

Marne Martin, CEO – ServicePower

Needs are changing for the multitude of important services delivered in the field, such as broadband installation, boiler/HVAC replacements, pipeline maintenance or the building of utility infrastructures. There’s a constant push for the mobile workforce to be more efficient in order to meet the needs of demanding customers who expect real-time updates and trackable deliverables. This leaves the ever-shrinking pool of qualified field service engineers with the massive need for smarter, faster technology to boost productivity.

Between 2011 and 2016, the field service management software industry has grown 12.6% annually, according to IBIS World. This growth is much needed, as is evolving technology to simplify project management. As workforce management technology continues to progress, artificial intelligence (AI) will play a greater role in helping mobile teams meet productivity goals, increase revenue and ensure customer satisfaction more than any technology before it. It’s paving the way for success by enabling companies to:

IOT-11. Develop Proactive Business Strategies
Field service jobs can be complex and unpredictable. Keeping track of resources like fleets, mobile engineers and project statuses can get complicated quite quickly. This can result in repeated mistakes or duplicated work.

By utilizing big data and IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) can analyze trends to create the best project or service plan possible. For example, to manage a pipeline repair, AI-backed software can recognize previous service events and suggest an appropriate plan, while locating the best resources for the job. Then, it can send a message to the appropriate engineer to coordinate the job’s next steps. This saves time on creating the service plan, contacts the most qualified available technician and provides instant insights to ensure project success.

2. Optimize Appointments
The mobile workforce relies on scheduling software to coordinate day-to-day projects and keep their customers happy. Quantum annealing is a step change in scheduling; it uses quantum computing algorithms for optimizing solutions to problems by quickly searching over a space and finding the best answer more quickly. It can help companies deliver significantly better customer service by offering truly optimized scheduling. 

Because it can be delivered across the cloud, Quantum annealing can empower any size of field service enterprise to benefit from the same benefits that traditionally are only affordable to large, global enterprises.

Most importantly, quantum annealing gives companies the power to include millions of variables that come with moving assets in the field, like engineers’ skill sets, the best route to the job, the equipment needed and its availability, to better optimize operations. 

3. Improve Customer Service
Providing a satisfying customer experience has the potential to boost revenue by up to 15% percent while lowering cost of serving customers by as much as 20% (McKinsey & Company). To ensure a positive customer experience, companies are taking a two-fold approach – providing 24-7 support and proactively notifying customers of potential issues, like utility outages.

Let’s take a closer look at these. To provide the customers’ desired anytime-anywhere access to support, more companies are relying Virtual Reality (VR).  VR enables field-based technicians to communicate in real time with both company resources as well as the customer. This provides real time, two-way communication which improves the technician’s ability to grasp the issue at hand and determine the best way to solve the problem immediately.

These tools equip the field team with what they need to provide more immediate service, thus reducing costs and providing high quality customer care. 

4. Adapt Field Operations to Uncertainty
Historically, project management software has been very linear. This is a problem for service management as it is such a dynamic proposition. A number of variables, such as client availability, assets, parts, technician availability, skills, even weather can impact a service call. Change one element and the whole picture shifts. For rules-based software, new situations that arise can be difficult to manage. However, artificial intelligence can help systems learn and adapt on the fly.

Artificial intelligence suggests strategies based on past successes and failures held within big data. It has the ability to use information to recognize potential problems and provide resolutions before issues even arise. Once a situation is analyzed, the software can put out service calls, routing jobs to the proper technician to ensure issues are addressed before the customer even notices.

5. Improve Productivity of Mobile Workers
In 2016, 46% of field service technicians surveyed by The Service Council reported that paperwork and administrative tasks were the worst aspects of their day-to-day responsibilities. This is likely because they are over-qualified to perform a number of admin tasks and are slowed down by paperwork, much of which is duplicated information that they’ve recorded on job logs. Software using artificial intelligence has the ability to manage increasingly complex administrative tasks much faster than its human counterparts, all in real time.

For instance, it can use a wealth of data points to complete an operational picture of a “week in the life” of a service technician. This could include matching GPS coordinates on a technician’s mobile device to the location of customers or even individual assets. This information could then be used to pre-populate a report with information like which client a technician visited, to fix which asset and how long they were on site. The technician would then confirm or change details. With so many clients and so much travelling to different sites, this relieves technicians from a huge administrative burden. It also provides the company with an audit trail of activities.

By consolidating the functions of planning and execution in one platform, companies simplify the tools available for their field teams and enabling technicians to focus on delivering quality frontline services.

Marne Martin, CEO at ServicePower
Marne is an experienced international executive leading transformation and growth for companies in the technology and telecommunication industries. She serves as CEO for ServicePower which helps field service organizations with innovative, effective mobile workforce management solutions. 

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