Technology has already transformed how businesses operate across industries — and that includes field service. The growth of technology now means field service engineers can access customer data on the move, easily working collaboratively with other engineers and arriving on-time, every time through GPS-powered map functionality.
Gone are the days of rifling through paperwork and relying on printed maps! Nowadays, the number of field service companies who are still relying on these traditional methods are slim, as businesses recognise the potential benefits offered by technology — and it seems we’re not stopping there!
The latest release to shake-up field service is augmented reality (AR) technology. While you might think the tech is solely reserved for apps and gaming, its day-to-day application is delivering huge benefits to the forward-thinking companies who have implemented the technology to date. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how augmented reality technology is shaping field service:
Augmented reality technology and field service training
Fundamental to the success of any field service provider is its ability to maintain a good first-time fix rate. While multiple factors can influence this, it ultimately hinges on engineers having the skills, knowledge and equipment they need to first identify what the problem is and then fixing it. Training is instrumental to this — and AR technology is changing how this is done.
Traditionally, field service training involves pitting field service engineers against a set number of challenges and scenarios. While these tasks are set to mimic the kind of work they’ll be dealing with on a daily basis, their isolation often means they lack the complexity of real-life problems. AR technology can incorporate these complexities into the training arenas, such as operation types, weather conditions and machine usage.
By making the tests engineers face as part of their training more complex — and therefore more realistic — field service companies are actually indirectly improving their first-time fix rates. Engineers are more aware of unknown variables, allowing them to confidently tackle issues when on a job.
Augmented reality & improving the customer experience
As AR becomes more familiar within business and society, we can expect it to impact more areas than just field service training. Depending on the repair they are carrying out, a field service engineer may need to refer to a handbook. While this can sometimes be in print, more cases nowadays involve electronic versions — and augmented reality could be about to take this one step further.
Through using an augmented reality headset or glasses, engineers can have a digitised version of a handbook or manual displayed within the headset itself. Not only does this allow them to remain focused on their task without disruption, they have all of the information they need to fix an issue right in front of them — which will ultimately lead to greater customer satisfaction.
Likewise, should an engineer require additional assistance, an AR map of the machinery can be sent to senior technicians. This means a resolution can be reached more quickly, which again will benefit the end customer.
Augmented reality and minimising costs
How many times have you sent an engineer to a job to find the issue could be easily rectified? Minor repairs and service calls can be carried out over the phone, but sometimes visual guidance is necessary.
Instead of assigning valuable resources to routine servicing tasks, as well as the associated time and fuel costs it takes to visit a customer in person, field service providers can use augmented reality technology to ‘send’ a virtual engineer to a customer’s premises. The technology is then able to provide step-by-step guidance to clients to action these ‘quick fixes’, leaving your engineers free to travel to more pressing repair jobs.
Of course, a virtual engineer won’t be suitable for all repairs or indeed clients, but it shows the extent of the impact that augmented reality technology can have.
While the benefits of the above applications of augmented reality technology in relation to field service are multiple, implementing the devices can be complicated. Not only will you have to develop and invest in the technology itself, you will have to shift operations accordingly and ensure the correct staff training is in place. Further to this, you may have to overcome customer adoption barriers too.
While there are challenges to overcome, this technology is expected to drive forward the field service industry in the future. Larger companies may start investing in the technology sooner than others but as the success of AR becomes more widespread, we can expect its uptake to significantly increase.