Where Will AI Really Make a Difference For Field Services?
In a world that seems to revolve around the latest tech trends and social media crazes, it’s sometimes hard to separate the hype from the things that will really change your business. This is especially true for artificial intelligence (AI). Used in the right places and in the right amounts, AI can be a powerful tool. There are, however, a new influx of “experts” in the field of AI who are undoubtedly the modern age snake oil salesmen.
The notion of artificial intelligence is not a new one. We’ve been seeing walking talking robots on the silver screen for decades. The real difference now is that we’re starting to see those silver screen dreams come to life. Boston Dynamics is at the leading edge of robotics and artificial intelligence with it’s backflipping humanoid robots and robot dogs that can open doors for each other. While that is an astonishing accomplishment in many ways, I doubt businesses are lining up to buy a million dollar robot doorman.
Humans vs. Robots
AI has come a very long way in a very short period of time. When compared to humans, robots are still essentially idiots. Robots today are created to accomplish a very specific task. This tends to make them seem much more intelligent than they really are. They are “artificially” intelligent. The definition of intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. An intelligent entity can learn new tasks that they weren’t designed to do. For now, that is strictly in the domain of a human being.
Artificial intelligence experts love to talk about how “AI is going to change your business.” That’s always hilarious to me. How can anyone change your business when they don’t fundamentally understand it? How can AI change a business that is based principally on HUMAN interactions and trust?
Companies like XOi are doing exactly that. As an entrepreneur, if you’re solving any problem of value you’re solving a business problem, not an AI problem. While AI might be the solution, your focus must never stray from the fact that your customer has a business problem. XOi has recognized that a large part of the current landscape of the field service industry is affected by:
- Field service technicians need more time to do the work, not the paperwork.
- The rapidly growing skilled trades gap. Fewer young people are choosing blue collar jobs as the path to their future. And more experienced tradesman – those with the knowledge to keep businesses operating smoothly – are reaching retirement.
- A lack of trust between field service technicians and the end customer. Too many customers have had too many bad experiences with inexperienced field service reps. The result of those experiences is a customer who doesn’t trust your technicians to do a good job.
Intelligent Assistants: A Workforce Multiplier
Artificial intelligence systems are great for taking a single task and getting extremely good at it. For instance, looking at a data plate photo and filling out a form with the serial numbers. Sure a human could do that, but it’s tedious and time consuming. Why not teach a machine to do it for you? This is the basis for a whole host of capabilities called “intelligent assistants.”
Intelligent assistants are AI backed processes that make small parts of our daily lives better. These can include things like:
- Transcribing data from photos.
- Automatically surfacing relevant information for a service call including diagrams, historical information, and how-to guides.
- Collecting data about a service call and automatically sharing that with interested parties.
The goal of intelligent assistants is to become a workforce multiplier. If our workforce spends less time (or even no time) on tedious or simple data driven tasks, then you can have a more productive team.
Intelligent assistants are also great for communication. AI systems can watch for certain types of information and automatically share it. This can greatly reduce the overhead of communicating internally and with customers.
Can you imagine a world where:
- Technicians never have to file a piece of paper.
- Inexperienced techs have the entire combined knowledge of your company at their fingertips.
- The sales team knows exactly what is happening on site in real-time.
- The customer can fully trust the work because they can watch the entire project unfold from their phone.
XOi can and they’re building it!