Pardon the pun: field service is an ever-widening playing field for MSPs. But what’s on field service players’ technology hotlist at the moment? Here are a few sure bets.
Internet of Things (IoT) functionality.According to Gartner, 26 billion devices—not counting smartphones, tablets, and computers—will be connected via the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020. This is a big deal in this particular market, because connecting field service technicians’ mobile devices with the back office is critical.
Your field service clients want IoT functionality so that they can become proactive. For instance, with this functionality in place, machines being monitored through the IoT can be programmed to issue alerts about problems or parts replacement needs before they become urgent. Preemptive reporting streamlines operations, eliminating unnecessary trips, keeping small repairs small and, in turn, bolstering the bottom line.
Cloud-based platforms make it easier for field service organizations to harness IoT functionality. These platforms allow users to put a tracking mechanism—think, a QR code or barcode—on the equipment whose maintenance and repair they handle. Then, when they require assistance, customers of these operations can request a service visit by scanning the tracking mechanism with their smartphone, in essence using the device as a “bridge” between the equipment and the service provider. Aside from the faster service scheduling that may be possible by telephone or via a web page, an IoT-enabled interface can, if properly programmed, give service providers insight into the equipment’s maintenance history and what they problem with it may be—before they arrive on site. The end-result: increased potential to complete any necessary work in a single visit, plus labor, fuel, and time savings.
Smart software. Field service management software that only allows technicians to enter service information no longer fits the bill with customers in this market. End-users demand solutions that provide technicians with extensive background and product information and equip them to solve problems when arriving at the customer site the first time around. They also want solutions whose configuration lets them store warranty information, billing information, customer histories, and part histories in one place and all the information they need.
Also high on the hot list is field force management software that lets end-users know which of their field technicians with a particular skillset are available to handle a particular job, who is within physical proximity to arrive at a site within a prescribed time window, and whether a certain vehicle is carrying the right parts to perform the service needed. It’s all part and parcel of field service organizations’ goal to meet customers’ expectations—and that’s difficult or impossible without this information in hand.
Easy interface with other systems and peripherals. In addition to the ability to transmit data from the field to the back office in real time, end-users are placing higher priority on the option to interface field service management solutions with accounting, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and other modules. Customers know that the more information flows automatically from the field service management side to accounting, ERP, or what have you, the greater the accuracy and back-office efficiency because they have eliminated the need to re-key invoice data, parts usage data, and” the like.
Seamless interface with mobile printers has become an important consideration as well. If you sell hardware, you need to work with vendors or take other steps to ensure complete compatibility between mobile printing technology and field force management solutions, and to be sure that that the format of all documents to be generated in the field matches the format in which the printer can print.
These are just a few of the technology “must-haves” on field service providers’ list, and customers will no doubt be looking for others. However, as long as you provide them, you should be in a good position to cultivate opportunities in the field service market.