The growing importance of digital technology to the emerging contractor workforce

Field service organizations face increasing competition, declining margin and high customer expectations. But, they also are challenged by new technologies, such as social, mobile, cloud, analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M), and wearables like Apple Watch. Each new technology has potential to revolutionize field service just as field mobility technology did several years ago.

How does the emerging workforce, which is young, technically savvy and collaborative, affect your ability to provide exceptional field service? Let’s look at the following important and emerging issues regarding the technicians in your workforce.

Recruitment

One of the top challenges field service organizations face right now is the retiring workforce. However, according to Aberdeen more than half of field service organizations wait until there is an opening to fill to recruit a new contractor, rather than doing so proactively. While it’s important to find great technicians with the skills required to perform the services offered by the organization, it’s just as important to also understand the needs and motivations of its young (averaging 32 years old), technically savvy recruits, and do so prior to needing to fill a position. To that end, it’s also important to identify what will ensure the highest retention rates with the new workforce.

Technology Adoption

Technology is changing our personal and professional lives. With younger generations, and we’re really talking about Millennials, which in 2015 are projected to surpass the Baby Boom generation as the largest living generation, comes adoption of more and more consumer oriented technologies. Aberdeen says that 62% of best-in-class field service organizations are incorporating some level of BYOD (bring your own device) strategy. That’s happening because these young recruits are helping to speed the transition due to high adoption rates of mobile, connected technologies for personal use. As a matter of fact, in America, two of every five households only have wireless telephones.

Service Evolution

The newest generation of young, tech savvy and collaborative field service technicians grew up with smart devices, social networks, text, email and chat.  It’s how they communicate.

This isn’t a negative for field contractors.  Adoption of these communication methods only improves customer service. As field service management software vendors improve their ability to ensure the tech with the right skills and best knowledge of or proximity to the service location are intelligently scheduled, field technicians armed and comfortable with the latest mobile technologies can tap into the social, mobile and cloud technologies, as well as utilize wearables, to diagnose an issue while onsite, access the documentation or videos and chat or video chat with experts in the office whom can help ensure that the product is fixed in one truck roll. For the customer, further downtime and inconvenience are eliminated. For the field service organization, costs are minimized, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty are improved.

Strategy

Field-based contractors are your face to the customer. They are often the only point of contact a customer has with your organization post sale. So, how do we find the best and brightest field technicians, and keep them?

  1. Proactively identify what your customers want.
  2. The Boomers are retiring. Develop a strategy to attract Millennials to your organization.
  3. Identify how to keep workers engaged with your field service operation.
    1. Train them effectively.
    2. Offer and support utilization new technologies such as wearables, which contribute to their success.
    3. Provide access to the tools, information and experts to make them heroes to your customers
  4. Support social communications
    1. Document how and when to use it for business purposes. A 140 character Tweet can be a huge PR success or a nightmare for your operation.
  5. Encourage adoption of new technologies like route optimization, IoT and M2M and video. The business value of these tools empowers the field technician to create happy customers and make their own day a success!
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