You’ve heard the phrase “the new normal” many times over the past several months. You know that many things about your life and your work will be different, for a long time to come. But what exactly does this new normal look like?
My crystal ball is fuzzy about most things. I can’t tell you whether we’ll be going to the movies again anytime soon (although I’ve heard about interesting experiments transforming parking lots into drive-ins and creating sail-in movie nights on the water. Some activities will come back in time, some will come back in a new form (hair salons in California could become outdoor-only businesses), and some will fall by the wayside.
But in the realm of field service, my crystal ball benefits from seeing all of the experiences of our customers and partners. And that gives me some confidence to offer some observations about how the new normal for field service is shaping up.
In a word? Resiliency.
And in another word? Urgency.
Those are two very different attributes of a company or of the people shaping that company. But the two words are closely related.
Business Continuity Through Agility
Let’s start with resiliency. There’s a good reason why the companies exemplifying the future of field service are resilient: because the ones that aren’t resilient will find it hard to thrive, or even to survive. That may be a harsh statement, but it’s a reflection of harsh circumstances.
Many field service operations are in industries that have a history of exponential growth and dramatic success. Industries like telecommunications, energy production, and other infrastructure that developed from a radical new idea to something that blanketed the planet practically overnight.
And even in boom times, high-growth industries grow accustomed to rapid change. Today, for example, the telecom industry is moving into a new phase in its evolution with the emergence of 5G which will soon displace the previous generation of cellular networks.
Sometimes one company (or one faction) will make a big bet on an emerging market segment or key technology while their rivals make a different bet. Both factions may be moving rapidly, but they can’t all come out on top. Sometimes a market leader goes on an acquisition binge, which shakes things up in a different way. And industries that have been through boom times also know that there’s always a potential bust cycle looming around the corner.
Many companies accustomed to rapid growth develop good habits to maintain their momentum. And on the flip side, companies that don’t have those good habits simply fade away.
When the pandemic hit, how did resilient companies respond? They promptly took stock of the situation and hit the reset button. They set the status quo aside and figured out how their operations needed to change.
At Zinier, we’ve seen many customers who have developed new modes for delivering touchless field service. They developed ways to conduct transactions via a mobile app, or used mobile to reassure customers that technicians were properly masked and following social distancing protocols.
Some companies are even taking the “touchless” concept a step further and finding ways to deliver what you might call “field-less” field service protocols in which customer service teams are integrated with field service to provide do-it-yourself guidance for customers to perform some tasks without the need for an in-person tech call.
When Every Second Counts
Which leads to the second word: urgency. When the ground rules are changing quickly, being open to reinvention isn’t enough. You need to be committed to implementing those changes as fast as humanly possible.
That doesn’t mean acting impulsively or diving in without due diligence. But it does mean establishing aggressive timelines to decisions about implementing new approaches and deploying the systems you’ll need to support them.
Many organizations are adept at bouncing around new ideas, but have a hard time pulling the trigger on any of them. They evaluate plenty of new concepts but ultimately table any decisions about them. Do any of these phrases sound painfully familiar to you?
- Let’s put a pin in that for now.
- Great idea – let’s move that to the parking lot until next quarter.
- Maybe we can find someone to do a deeper dive on our options.
If you’ve heard (or said) any of these recently, I’d encourage you to think about how you can help spark a stronger sense of urgency within your organization.
Looking a bit deeper into the future, we can see signs that field service providers are already extending the concept of touchless field service even further. They’re looking for ways to use field service automation to reduce the time and resources that are squandered by old-school practices. For example, why send out a large crew out for a job that could be done by a single technician? Annualized maintenance for systems and components will increasingly be migrated to on-demand predictive maintenance performed on a just-in-time basis based on recommendations from a field service automation platform.
The ultimate goal is to make the jump to an automated future that’s not merely touchless, but is also riskless and frees up field service technicians to focus on challenges that leverage their talents and experience. Of course, doing that requires having the right tools at your disposal, tools built on powerful core technologies that can adapt as rapidly as you need it to. We’ve been excited to work with and learn from our customers that are doing just that.
TCS and Zinier have partnered to produce a bundle of applications that work with the Zinier platform to provide functionality to help adapt to new requirements driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more here.