Written By:
Aaron Salow

Averting Crisis: The Future of Field Services

One thing I consistently hear in field services is that the old guys are retiring and the young guys are morons. At first the comment really got to me. But then I realized, that those CEOs that made these statements didn’t literally mean that every young person that works in field services is a moron. But the reality is, we have a knowledge problem.

10,000 Baby Boomers Per Day

The incredibly large skills gap that’s only increasing is creating problems for companies of all sizes in the field service industry. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates there were 800,000 unfilled skilled trades jobs in 2016 – that’s predicted to rise to more than 31 million by 2020. And with 10,000 Baby Boomers per day retiring, more than half of the incoming workforce has no interest in skilled labor positions.

We taught our young people that working with your hands, working in blue collar positions, isn’t cool. It’s dirty, and doesn’t pay well. We’ve taught them that  in order to succeed in this life, they need a college degree.  It’s the only way. We bought the lie and taught Millennials to turn their nose up at the really hard work.

These kids go to college and rack up a $150,000 bill to get a degree in Liberal Arts, but they come out of college making $28,000 a year in a position that doesn’t have a whole lot of upward mobility. It’s not the meal ticket anyone was expecting.

For the field service industry, that means not only is there a huge gap in the number of people available to do existing jobs, but the future looks challenging, too, because the skilled trades gap is impacting how companies grow.

Our Economy is Booming.

There are huge opportunities and kids coming out of a tech school in the right city can earn double what they might with a college degree. There are plenty of well-paying jobs to go around, but the reality is, there just aren’t enough people who want to fill these jobs.

Knowledge is root of this problem.

The old guys are retiring, and the new guys might be morons. But they wouldn’t be if they had access to the right knowledge, at the right time.  The skills gap – and the real problem we face as an industry – is only bridged when we can capture and transfer that knowledge.

52 Percent Cling to Manual Processes

According to Salesforce 52 percent of field service companies still cling to manual processes for managing their field service activities. You have 30-year guys that know the ropes, and 4-year guys that still wet behind the ears.

The key to succeeding in the future is to find a way to capture the knowledge your 30-year guys are carrying around and share it with your 4-year guys. So, how do we address that in the short term and in the future?

Use Technology to Capture and Share Knowledge

According to the Aberdeen Group, 92 percent of executives polled in a survey believe that organizations need to change to keep up with the demands of their customers.

To do that you need to allow field service techs to communicate more effectively, and build a long-term knowledge base of tools that help your techs solve problems.

In the short term, techs can leverage telepresence tools and near-live support to gain access to knowledge they might not have. In the long-term, the same tools can be used to capture images and videos, and combine them with other content such as wiring diagrams and schematics. Then, when a tech needs help, all the answers are in one, easily accessible place.

Knowledge shouldn’t live in just one person’s head.

It should be shared across the organization. The information should live in a knowledge base, tagged using natural language processing, so any tech is in the field can search for and find the answers they need.

What Do Customers Want?

Once you’ve captured it, then you can use that knowledge to answer your most important  question: What do customers want? What do they need to trust your company is providing the best quality and speed during repairs or services?

The Future of Field Services

It all comes down to effective communication. What’s the real problem, and who is the best tech for the job? About 40 percent of the time, companies send the wrong field service tech to a job site.

When that tech looks at the job and figures out they can’t do, they call dispatch to find someone else to send. Best case scenario, the customer’s downtime is extended to accommodate rolling another truck. Worst case scenario, the job can’t be completed and has to be rescheduled. The customer is pissed and it’s expensive for the field service company. That has to change.

Successful companies in the future will look at knowledge differently. Successful companies will find a way to effectively answer the question:

How can you leverage knowledge to get the right people to the right place at the right time?


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