What does 2013 hold for mobility and field service?

Posted by Rachael Pullen on January 23, 2013

At the start of a new year, everyone makes resolutions and looks forward to what the next 12 months might bring, and businesses are no different. In fact in 2013 being ahead of the curve could be the most important thing for an organisation. So, to try to get some answers for you, I met with our residential experts and regular thought leadership bloggers Dave Hughes, Operations Director and Ross Coundon, Head of Enterprise Mobility to find out what they believe is in store for mobility and field service organisations in 2013.

So guys, Happy New Year!

DH&RC: Happy New Year!

Now the Christmas break is over, and everyone is back into the swing of work, I’m interested to know, what you think will be big news in 2013? What trends do you see emerging with your customers?

Survival of the Fittest

DH: I think the biggest thing customers are going to find is that austerity means survival of the fittest. Just like in evolution, austerity is the mother of innovation. In these recession-ridden times, to survive in business, to stay relevant and to grow, businesses must innovate. Getting more out of the physical assets and the human assets they have in order to steal a march on the competition is key to staying in business. The penalty for lack of innovation is going out of business. It is truly survival of the fittest and fittest often means the most agile.

Big Data > Big Information

RC: I agree, and data is certainly an area that businesses will need to focus on to stay efficient and agile. One of the topics I hear many of our customers talking about is Big Data but I think the focus should be different; they should be talking about Big Information. What I mean by that is that the key is turning big data into consumable and valuable information. Service companies are going to need to get savvier about capturing and making sense of data — and using that information to increase productivity and sales. Organisations need to make sense of the increasing volume of data and then turn that data into information.

DH: Absolutely, and I have heard a lot of customers talking excitedly about SAP HANA. As Ross mentioned, once companies have this data they need to figure out what they can do with it and how they can share it across the organisation in a meaningful way, SAP HANA gives organisations the ability to do this in real time across a number of platforms. Basically, SAP HANA allows organisations to capitalise on spotting trends in large volumes of data across a multitude of data sets.

Delighted Customers

So how about customer satisfaction? We recently blogged about a less than satisfactory experience that I had with a service organisation – do you think customer service is going to continue to be a theme in 2013?

DH: Yes I do, there are still organisations out there that are getting this wrong. Offering all day appointments in this day and age is unacceptable and customers just won’t put up with it – you will lose sales.

RC: That’s right – In this day and age there is no excuse for poor customer service. Companies should be aiming to delight their customers. Through working with our customers to help them achieve outstanding customer service we have developed Leadent Messenger, a system that will help service organisations to make that step to a more social, interactive customer experience. Simple things can make all the difference – imagine how much easier life would be if customers got reminders by SMS for an upcoming appointment and were then able to rebook that appointment also via SMS if it’s no longer convenient. Your no-shows get reduced and the customer doesn’t forget their appointment – everyone’s a winner – and it’s all possible with Leadent Messenger.

DH: A tailored, quality customer service is still key to customer retention, despite times of austerity I strongly believe that customers will still pay extra for a better experience and remain loyal.

RC: We also see power moving to small businesses – mobile technologies will allow them to apply the personal touch through real-time, mobile engagement. Also, as mobile browsing and shopping continue to skyrocket, in 2013 mobile friendly websites will become the norm, not the exception.

Harnessing the power of the humble SMS

Interesting, so how do you think companies can improve real-time, personal customer service easily?

RC: Staying on the mobile topic, I believe that SMS will continue to be big in 2013. Dave and I are seeing a lot of interest in this and how it can be used as a powerful tool for mobilizing workflow. Imagine if you could integrate your subcontractors into mobile workflow without needing to buy them a device? SMS can be used to exchange information regarding multiple jobs in your workforce management system with those resources. This gives your organisation full workforce and job progress visibility at a very low cost.
What people need to remember is that SMS doesn’t require a complex mobile device – just a smartphone – the “lowest common denominator” Just think about the scale of SMS – 8 trillion text messages are sent every year and that number is continually rising.

DH: It’s a good point Ross, and of course it allows low cost integration of contractors and customers into the service chain.

Driving forward Document Management

Who knew that the humble SMS could provide such a powerful business tool! So we have talked about Big Data and how organisations need to be agile to stay ahead of the competition, what about Document Management? This is something I have noticed is becoming a big topic, particularly in the field service arena…

DH: Yes this is an area that we have been working with a number of customers on. Field engineers in asset intensive and regulated industries need supporting information to do the job, maps, utility drawings etc. which don’t always easily fall out of a job dispatch solution. Until now limitations in network bandwidth and systems have made this a disjointed process. We have been seeing a lot of interest in streamlining this to arm the engineer with all the info they need.

RC: You may have read about our recent project at Anglian Water with OpenText. This was an example of an organisation which had massive amounts of documentation but no system to streamline and organise it. As you know Rachael, we worked with OpenText to create, and implement the first Enterprise Content Management system in Europe to be integrated with SAP and Microsoft SharePoint something I feel we’re rightly proud of!

To the Cloud and Beyond

Dave, do you think that the “Cloud” is going to continue to be a big thing in 2013? It seemed as though in 2012 we were all being told to move everything to the cloud!

DH: Yes I think this will continue to be a trend in 2013 because the cloud turns the whole sales model on its head! It means that there is no longer a big up-front purchase that customers make with huge service contracts to go with them. With the cloud, customers buy based on consumption. I think service executives should be asking themselves, “How do we understand how our customers consume?” Field engineers can naturally get a lot of that consumption data without coming across as trying to sell something. Field engineers can easily get information and data out of customers so the executives can understand what features are used most, which are falling by the wayside and how to invest most appropriately. Just 14% of organisations used cloud based services in 2010 it is predicted that by 2014 this will have risen to 41%.

RC: Data security was one of the main reasons why companies held back from adopting cloud solutions. Critical mass of adoption is now being reached, we’re past the early adopters phase and it’s becoming the option many businesses are choosing to get access to enterprise quality software in a far more achievable way – particularly for smaller businesses. We ourselves at Leadent Solutions are 100% cloud based for in-house business operations solutions, and customers are talking to us about how they too can embrace the cloud.

Ok so, what about cloud based scheduling tools – are these going to feature heavily in organisations purchases in 2013?

DH: Absolutely. Economic recovery is starting – but lean, efficient, customer focused companies will be the ones to survive, as I said earlier companies need to keep being efficient and agile. The great thing about cloud based scheduling tools is that they require little upfront investment and are able to be deployed across an organisation rapidly.

RC: And they are easily tied in with mobility tools also. Cloud based scheduling tools in conjunction with mobile tools in the field will allow organisations to get real time data to and from their engineers in the field. But as we mentioned earlier – this is only useful if they can do something with it.

The Next Big Gadget

And I know one topic that will be on everyone’s minds as we begin the New Year – what new technology and gadgets will there be?

RC: I think 2013 will be the year that businesses adopt the gadget. I think more companies will adopt tablet devices such as the iPads, Android and Windows tablets. Last year and even the year before, the trend for adopting new mobile technology into the core of everyday business started to take root and I can only see that trend accelerating. I should add that it’s important to pick the right device for the job but keep an open mind. If you’re in field service, don’t just choose an expensive ruggedised device because that’s what you’ve always done, evaluate with an open mind. So called ‘prosumer’ tablets and smartphones may not be right for every situation but they should be evaluated objectively.

DH: Yes and I think field service organisations will also buy into other devices such as the Panasonic ToughPad. And of course we have to see what Apple bring out in the summer as I’m sure there will be a storm around that as well!

Well thanks chaps, 2013 sounds like it is going to be a significant year for service organisations and businesses alike and it seems like technology will be at the forefront of that change. Meet again in 2014 to see if your predictions come true?

To keep up to date with Dave and Ross’s thoughts and predictions as 2013 progresses visit our websitehttps://www.leadentsolutions.com/leadingtheway.php