Field force management hints at the future

Field force management’s mobile nature makes the cloud an ideal fit. Field force will likely bring wearable technology into the mainstream.

by Jason Compton

Field force management is a mature discipline, but it has not stopped growing or changing. As such, it’s always worth watching trends in field services as a sign of things to come. Field services were an early and avid adopter of mobile technology in the 1990s, and many of our current handheld and tablet computing customs started in those experimental days.

The following five trends will continue to shape field force management in coming years and gain acceptance in the mainstream.

1. Cloud delivery

The mobile nature of the business makes the cloud ideal for field force management. Traditional client/service architecture was never the most comfortable fit. Instead it complicated delivery and remote communication. But the cloud’s typical advantages of faster deployment and easier updates resonate strongly in the field. Equipment and devices are used extensively, and tight customer appointment windows don’t allow for lengthy downtime to perform software upgrades.

2. Customer experience improvements

Field force management has long been seen as a way to improve customer service and satisfaction. Faster turnaround time, tighter arrival windows, better spare parts availability, and closed-loop communication with customers are all table stakes today for delivering what customers demand.

Today, however, field forces can collaborate with customers to reroute a service professional or team immediately if a problem escalates, and communicate in real-time to allow customers to adjust arrival estimates throughout the day if need be. Text, mobile apps, and self-service portals can give customers much greater visibility into the detailed activities of the service teams they depend on, and visibility is vital to a high-quality customer experience.

3. Tighter integration with business processes

Route optimization and field inventory optimization may have been enough for field service excellence in the past, but not anymore. Now organizations also need unified customer records through tight integration with ERP and CRM solutions to provide customers with consistent, competent treatment from day one.

Field professionals should have access to a customer’s entire history with the company, not just service records and visits. By the same token, contact center and back-office personnel should have a complete understanding of service histories and outcomes.

4. Servicing the Internet of Things

In the Internet of Things, smart devices with self-diagnostics can report a need for repair, replacement, or maintenance. Field force solutions and managers must learn to react quickly to the signals sent by these intelligent devices and help customers understand what their own equipment is saying.

5. Embracing wearable technology

Just as the field force helped bring mobile computing into the mainstream, it will likely do the same for wearable technology. Field service professionals are uniquely well-suited to welcome the introduction of wearable sensors, glasses, watches, and other displays that provide at-a-glance data and automate complicated record-keeping tasks.

When the trucks roll, they haul a surprising amount of cutting-edge technology. The field force discipline will continue to be a quiet innovation leader.

Learn more about AT&T Field Solutions.