The Technology Evolution: Maximizing field services’ productivity and customer service
The building management industry is undergoing a technology evolution that is empowering the work of field service technicians. As part of this technology evolution, buildings are now equipped with advanced systems and equipment that produces more data than ever before, creating a greater need for highly trained field service technicians who can glean insights from that data. Often times, there is an underlying concern that technology will render the human workforce obsolete; in this unique case, advancing technology is complementing and amplifying the work of the field service technician, making them more productive. And with an aging workforce that will be retiring in the next 5-10 years, giving field service technicians the tools to maximize productivity and customer service is critical as the workforce becomes smaller and less experienced.
Interpreting data for proactive maintenance
Building systems, equipment, and technology are more intelligent and complex. Advances in technology that make sensors better and less expensive allow more data to be gathered from the building itself. In addition, integrations are bridging the gap between traditional information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems. These advancements have created an explosion of data that provide insight into holistic building operations and the impact the building has on the enterprise. This data boom, combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, means that the current workforce needs to adapt to a new way of working – by interpreting this information and acting on it. And it has implications for the pipeline of talent that we need to bring into the field service industry and the types of skills and capabilities they will need to develop.
When this data is effectively interpreted and leveraged, field service technicians are empowered to predict and prevent failures before they happen through proactive maintenance. By analyzing the information provided, such as energy usage, equipment performance, and occupancy trends, technicians can identify potential equipment issues. Today, a skilled technician with years of experience must go on-site and physically inspect HVAC equipment – for example, a chiller – to try to head off potential issues that might cause downtime. When an aging chiller does break down, building managers must scramble to come up with the funds for emergency repairs while their occupants overheat or worse, in the case of manufacturing processes or medical procedures that require tightly controlled temperatures. With new advances in field service technology, technicians can review the chiller’s operational data remotely, and leverage the power of machine learning and AI to predict when it will need repairs. Effectively leveraging this technology can be the difference between planned, corrective downtime, and expensive, unplanned emergency repairs. As the existing workforce begins to retire, it can also provide a path for newer technicians to become more effective more quickly.
Technology helps field service technicians to be more productive and informed, and subsequently bolster customer service expectations by providing informed answers and solutions
Creating an elevated customer experience
As technology evolves, so do customers’ expectations. Through technology advancements, the end-user experience has been elevated to an unprecedented degree. For instance, consider the act of ordering a pizza; with a simple smartphone app, a consumer can customize their pie and pay for it, then track their delivery from the pizzeria oven to their doorstep. This consumer experience is now inevitably shaping expectations for B2B services.
Building managers want this same level of transparency and communication from their field service technicians as well. Building services companies and technicians will need to reevaluate how they are delivering this elevated experience in order to remain competitive. For most, this will mean equipping their field service teams with new digital tools and setting new expectations around how they use these tools to communicate with their customers.
Equipping field service technicians with technology
One way companies are preparing their technicians with the tools to deliver this improved customer service is by equipping them with knowledge-enablement technology and more mobile computing power through tablets or smartphones. This provides technicians with access to valuable resources such as solution databases, product information, and case studies. Technicians are also able to communicate and share real-time application videos with other field service technicians or a central help desk for advice and input.
If a technician is stumped by a malfunctioning rooftop unit, instead of having to leave a job and come back once they determine a resolution, they can source information on-site and resolve problems faster. For field services technicians and customers alike, time is everything. When problems are resolved in a single visit, facilities don’t experience prolonged downtime, and field service technicians are able to maximize the time spent on-site. Technology helps field service technicians to be more productive and informed, and subsequently bolster customer service expectations by providing informed answers and solutions. It also provides a path for knowledge transfer from more experienced workers to new entrants in the field, as well as potentially prolonging a technician’s career by transitioning from a physically demanding role to assisting others with their knowledge and experiences.
Advancing technology for improved building outcomes and technician performance
Technology advancements are absolutely a positive for the field service technician; the more powerful their tools, and the more data they can leverage, the greater the outcomes – from more energy-efficient facilities to reduced equipment downtime. And technicians are made more productive, increasing their bandwidth and efficiency. This becomes increasingly important considering the aging workforce and the “brain drain” the field service industry will experience over the next 5-10 years as a generation of highly skilled technicians retires. New digital tools to enhance the customer experience provide building owners and managers with more input and insight into their facilities. When intelligent data is combined with elevated customer experience, field services can transform a building environment, proactively mitigate problems, and increase operational efficiency.