Science fiction scriptwriters relish in giving machines a voice. Just look at 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars and Interstellar. Their movie robots are know-it-alls, quick to voice opinions, and act as foils, usually in the midst of a life-or-death repair.
It's a good thing real machines aren’t as villainous as Hal the supercomputer. Today, the opposite is true: machines are do-gooders, more likely to make users happy. In a recent survey, 85 percent of IT decision-makers say they believe machine-to-people interactions will positively transform the customer experience.
But it’s not only customers who stand to benefit. When you give machines a voice in field services management, you create a world of possibility, from more efficient scheduling to opportunities for new revenue streams. Here are just a few of the ways giving machines a voice will transform the industry.
- A chatbot solved my problem. The 80/20 rule applies to field services management: your teams will spend 80 percent of their time on 20 percent of repairs. But you can flip that rule with artificial intelligence. For example, the first place customers turn for help is your website. By offering chatbots as the first line of support, you reduce the need to dispatch a representative. Using artificial intelligence, chatbots are able to diagnose and resolve routine issues without the need to involve a human.
- R2-D2 to the rescue. Remember how the little robot is always alerting Luke to engine fires and other mechanical breakdowns? Today, sensors can assess conditions and detect problems early. The Internet of Things makes it possible for machines to dispatch a technician before the customer is even aware of the issue. With machine learning, the mechanism may even be able to repair itself.
- Traffic jam ahead. Rerouting. With GPS integrated into your field service management app, a technician has real-time access to optimized directions, speeding his journey to the customer site. The machine provides the most direct route and helps the tech avoid accidents, construction and other obstacles.
- Give me context. Artificially intelligent contact centers, with CRM applications integrated, provide mobile field service teams with customer history and contact details. Service is streamlined further if you use APIs to integrate inventory management applications. The technician now has a real-time view into the availability of replacement parts. He can also upload an image and use artificial intelligence to identify the part and order it.
- Dispatch made smarter. Machines can find and dispatch technicians using criteria such as location and skillset. The ability of AI to synthesize a wide variety of data points will be transformative for field services. “This disparate information — weather, traffic, skillsets, customer needs — will, when crunched by AI, improve field-service scheduling. The right technician can show up at the right place at a precise time, rain or shine,” Salesforce’s Michael Chou wrote in VentureBeat.
- My truck is my office. Field service workers spend more time in their trucks than they do in the home office. By embedding communications into their field services management app, you can simplify the entire process. For example, with the ability to upload images on-site at the customer’s location, the field service technician can have a productive conversation with an office-based subject matter expert about how to complete the repair.
- Mystery solved. When technicians face a problem they haven’t seen before, they ask a virtual assistant for help by speaking into their mobile phone. AI software can find the answer quickly by tapping into a database of problems and resolutions.
- More than service, it’s sales too. “There are also revenue opportunities emerging as what was once was a post-sale service contract is rapidly becoming the platform for new business models,” wrote Michael Alcock, Director-CIO Executive Programs & Content, Microsoft in CIOReview’s Artificial Intelligence Special Edition. He points to elevator manufacturer ThyssenKrupp, which sees a significant revenue opportunity in using its recent enhancements in IoT and maintenance predictive algorithms to service all elevators in the marketplace. “Examples like ThyssenKrupp show a trend where goals are shifting from simply selling the product over to servicing a solution end-to-end, regardless of which product is being used,” said Alcock.
It’s no wonder 95 percent of IT decision-makers see customer experience improvements as an important part of the digital transformation. In field services management, giving machines a voice is about more than team efficiency. Opportunities abound for increasing both customer satisfaction and revenue.