This interview with XOi CEO, Aaron Salow, was originally conducted and published by Tech Company News on January 11, 2019.
Q: Aaron, could you tell us something more about the company and your software?
A: XOi Technologies is the creator of Vision™, a software that was built for field service contractors who are looking to do more work with your existing technicians at a higher quality. We accomplish that by empowering technicians to provide better visibility on-site, and virtually bring the office and their customers to the job site.
The communication needs of a company can include a safety person, a supervisor, sales manager, a service manager. Of course bringing the customer to the job site, it has big advantages as well. We help customers do exactly that.
Our software helps contractors in three key ways: create, consume, and collaborate.
1. Create: we enable technicians to create content (photos and videos) within our mobile app which is automatically identified and automatically shared with the people that need it most (your team and customers).
2. Consume: we enable technicians to consume relevant information. XOi houses over 50,000 pieces of content including training videos, manuals, and wiring diagrams that can be accessed through the knowledge database. Essentially, we’re providing them the knowledge they need that they don’t have access to on a job site.
3. Collaborate: Our proprietary live video platform allows you to have eyes on site, virtually putting your most experienced technician on every single site. You can see what your technician sees, hear what they hear, and talk with them about the service in real-time.
Q: Why did you decide to focus on creating technology for the skilled trades, such as mechanical contractors?
A: When we started XOi, we were looking at a variety of different industries. We had pilots in healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, automotive, in a variety of different places. What we really found is that the skilled trades gap is very poignant in the field service space.
The reason for that is that men and women working in field service are almost always on an island. Meaning… they’re by themselves. If you think about the skilled trades gap, obviously the largest problem there is a disparity of knowledge. And when you have someone alone on a rooftop, that disparity is much stronger than somebody inside of a manufacturing facility, for example. They simply don’t have access to the resources they need.
Q: Tell us more about the Vision™ platform. How does it work? What makes it unique?
A: What makes it unique is a large part that it has been purposely built to address the needs of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing space. We have built our software solution in a way that it addresses the needs of a technician in the field working on an HVAC system.
For example, Vision™ allows a technician to take a picture of a data plate on an HVAC unit, and our software can extract to text the make, model, and serial number, and a variety of other pieces of relevant information that a technician might need. And the reason we can do that so well, is because we have looked at more HVAC nameplates than any other company.
Vision™ also has a feature that we call natural language processing. For example, what that does is give technicians the ability to be able to record a training video and then Vision™ will extract keywords from that video that are relevant to the industry we’re serving and tag that content so that it can be accessed by others.
Our uniqueness is in our data. The fact that we’re so focused and disciplined in the markets we serve allows us to continue to serve those more effectively than anyone else.
Q: What are the benefits for companies using Vision?
A: As I previously touched on, the advantage to using Vision™ is virtually bringing our customers, their end customers, and the office to the job site.
The advantages and the value that you see as a result of that is improved communication and an automation of communication that wasn’t previously available. That means technicians can communicate more effectively with sales and that sales has better information to quote with, which ultimately results in our customers having an increase in sales quote close rates of 25 to 30 percent. Instead of technicians sending pictures via email to sales, they now have an automated, structured workflow process that allows them to use videos and share with the appropriate salesperson automatically, all with the simplicity of a URL link.
As you look at other pieces in the business, because of the skilled trades gap, we have a younger, and younger, and a more, and more inexperienced skilled trades staff going out into the world.
So we believe another huge benefit of our software is the ability to empower inexperienced or junior technicians with the right information while also giving them a live video option to connect back to a more senior, seasoned technician. And because of that, we have seen a reduction in second truck rolls and callbacks by as much as 20 percent for our customers.
Q: In what ways does it help field service technicians in their work?
A: That is a good question to delineate the value to the company relative to the value of the technician. I think it’s important to note that our background as a company in in blue collar trades, such as construction, manufacturing, etc. We really have a strong desire to make sure the technician is seeing value in leveraging the system. We also know it’s an important piece of getting change management and buy-in for new technology, and for industries that may be underserved. Or, who tend to look at technology as a pain.
When you look at Vision™ from a technician’s perspective, a few of the things we do amongst many, that help technicians includes optical character recognition, natural language processing, and covering your butt. I mentioned both of those earlier but not why they are beneficial for the technician.
Something that technicians are usually asked by their supervisor is get that information that is located on the data plate because asset control is really important to companies. So the ability for the technician to simply take a picture and move on, rather than writing out the make, model and serial number on each job is a big advantage.
Technicians are also often asked to take detailed notes about the service call. With natural language processing, we can listen to a video that’s created by a technician and pull their words off of that video and turn them into recap notes.
Lastly, a large advantage is simply using Vision™ to cover your butt. In this industry, there are opportunities for attack – and a lot of times there is some he said, she said with the customer. It’s nice to be able to have the job site documented for every technician where they can show, “I was here like I said I was going to be, and I did what I said I was going to do.”
Those are the three big advantages that I personally have heard from technicians that have used the technology for some time. And it gives them a level of comfort with leveraging the rest of the technology stack.
Q: How does Vision interact with Field Service Management software?
A: Our partnerships with Field Service Management software programs are really important to our customers. The reason for that kind of alludes to what I said in the last question, user adoption and change management.
A lot of men and women that come into this field would say, “I came in this field to work with my hands, not to use a bunch of technology.” Although, most acknowledge now that’s kind of an important piece of getting your job done and doing it more efficiently. It’s having a layer of technology involved.
We want to make sure that burden to the technician is as low as it possibly can be. When they already have a Field Service Management solution that we partner with to make the onboarding process and the training and deployment of that technology even more seamless. It gives them an opportunity to tie in and leverage our system directly with what they’re familiar and comfortable with using every day. It has been a big advantage for our customers and it will continue to be a strategic objective for XOi as well.
Q: The next question relates to ACCA. How did that partnership start? Where do we see the relationship going?
A: We obviously were very familiar with the organization as a whole, but recently were recommended to ACCA from a current customer and a fellow software vendor who recommended partnering with ACCA.
We knew that it was an organization that was really focused on contractor excellence and driving that forward and because of that, we’re excited to continue that partnership.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: We started this company with a lighthouse in mind, which is to address the skilled trades gap. That hasn’t changed. That is guiding and dictating our decisions for the future.
When we think about continuing to solve that problem, data is really a key answer. Within a day, the solution to the skilled trades gap is knowledge. Whether you’re providing that solution with a strong data set that’s been curated so it’s useful for a technician or connecting over a live video, that’s going to continue to be a focus for us as we continue to build a database that’s truly unique. That will be the foundation by which we continue to solve this problem for contractors across the world.
Imagine a world in which a technician is able to walk up to a piece of equipment, take a picture of the data plate. A system looks at that and says, “Great, I’ve got three training videos, a wiring diagram, a manual, and the two parts I need are 1.3 miles away at Home Depot. If I need any help, I can hit the call button and I’ll be connected directly to an expert that has done this exact thing before.”
I believe that’s the world we’re creating at XOi. Instead of a difficult phone call, or an email, or a text message, we have an interactive experience with the software and the technician. They effectively have a personal assistant on-site, which is where we’re headed.