by Sarah Nicastro, Field Service Evangelist at IFS
I think not. But the role and responsibilities are undoubtedly changing and will continue to do so. The good news, for your technicians and for you, is that this world of automation and intelligence frees them up from manual, preventable tasks to do more value-added work.
The challenge is, this often isn't a shift that comes naturally. In addition to the proliferation of technology, the entire field service ecosystem is changing. Customers have new and more sophisticated demands, companies are competing less on product and more on service, and data is now our most valuable resource.
With all these changes at play, it is time for you to consider the ways in which you need to upskill or reskill your technicians as their time is freed up in a way that will offer you a competitive advantage or impact your bottom line. As you incorporate tools like IoT, AI, and ML that reduce the drain of manual tasks on your workforce, consider these three areas in which it might make sense to upskill or reskill your talented technicians.
1: Hone their people skills
As customer focus becomes prioritized every field service operation, one of the biggest challenges I hear tell of is the need for more soft skills. Technicians that are highly skilled and knowledgeable in repairing a certain product may not have historically needed to be all that people-friendly. Those times have changed.
Today, service is the frontline of your brand - it is the impression that will matter most in how you are viewed in the eyes of your customers. It is a, if not the major differentiator for organizations today. Therefore, you need to focus on improving the people skills for all your frontline workers.
These skills include communication, empathy, problem-solving, empowerment, engagement, and confidence - as well as a solid understanding of how to be respectful of someone's time and property. Going beyond those basics (which, believe me, many need work too), you will want to consider how to equip your technicians with the skills and ability to be consultative, to suggestively sell/cross-sell and to become an expert at providing real-time insights.
2: Harness their knowledge to train and educate
When you find yourself successfully leveraging technology to the point you've reduced your demand for field visits, and you will, you'll want to think about how you can re-deploy some of your most skilled technicians in an impactful way.
One avenue is to mold your technicians to be master trainers and educators. There are several applications for this - you could use expert technicians to train new field talent, you can enlist their customer-facing knowledge to educate product and sales teams, and you can even look to use skilled technicians to train and educate your customer base.
3: Develop their data analytics abilities
Data is the foundation that the future of field service is being built on. Service organizations that are embracing Servitization and outcomes-based service are determining not only how data can be utilized internally to provide more predictive service, but how data can be used to create new offerings and revenue streams with customers.
If you are collecting data from assets, you are undoubtedly sitting on a wealth of insights that your customers would likely be willing to pay you for. The hard part is finding out exactly what those offerings are, how to deliver on them, and how to monetize and market them. This is where businesses are really evolving, and this evolution necessitates more masters of data. Depending on your industry and their skills, your technicians may be able to be leveraged in analyzing and creating intelligence from data or in aspects such as determining what insights your customers would be willing to pay for, how those insights could or should be delivered, how best to market and sell these new offerings.