The Emerging Field Service Worker: Young, Tech-Savvy And Collaborative

Field Service Worker

The field service industry has, in previous years, been a subject of concern for having an ageing workforce and the implications this has as those with such great knowledge and experience reach retirement age. However, as the industry continues to evolve, a major trend has been the emergence of young, tech-savvy and collaborative workers. Indeed, according to Aberdeen Group’s latest report, ‘Emerging Workforce in the field: Tech-savvy to technician’, approximately one-fifth of the current workforce is under 30, with the average age of a field service technician being 32 years old.

Field service organisations must therefore recognise what the needs and motivations of this new, up and coming workforce are, in order to keep them for the long haul as well as to attract the next pool of young talent.

Flexibility & Mobility

Technology is overwhelmingly recognised as an aid to achieving key strategic objectives. It is therefore important for organisations to understand how the influx of young workers use, process and engage with technology. A key factor to consider is flexibility and mobility. Tech-savvy workers do not want to be tied down by old, legacy technologies. They want the freedom to engage with the latest advances and utilise technologies they are used to in their personal lives. As a result, the mobile landscape for field service organisations is evolving and the ‘emerging worker’ is helping to speed up this transformation.

There has been much debate in the sector around ‘Bring Your Own Device’ strategies, where employees have the ability to connect their own technical devices, such as smartphones, laptops and tablets, to their company’s network instead of using a company device. BYOD is considered as being the only way forward for businesses looking to compete effectively and offer the most efficient customer service and increased employee satisfaction.

Aberdeen Group’s report found that 62 per cent of the top performing field service organisations have incorporated a BYOD strategy as a result of a more tech-savvy workforce and 43 per cent are more likely to give technicians access to social media and collaborative tools to facilitate knowledge transfer.

Visibility & Collaboration

A major characteristic that the emerging field service workforce encompasses is the ability to be collaborative, and this is a trait that will help transform service and the relationship with the customer. Organisations must therefore capitalise on this by developing the collaborative tools needed to help the workforce perform as experts in the field and resolve customer needs as quickly as possible. Collaborative tools, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops offer users the chance to take advantage of mobile apps. There are a number of bespoke mobile apps on the market today that are tailored to help manage a field service operation and simplify business processes.

Mobile apps offer technicians the ability to share, store and view job data out in the field, providing a virtual link to the back office. Critical information such as daily tasks, customer histories and billing can be accessed on demand. Furthermore, locations of nearby teammates can be retrieved on a mobile device and a real-time connection provided through social networking, enabling them to seek assistance or help resolving a problem, if needed.

By having the tools and capabilities to work more collaboratively, and having access to real-time insight, empowers the workforce to make more strategic decisions. The speed of communication via social and mobile allow them to solve problems more quickly and ensures resolution is not delayed because of lack of information. They can easily recruit help from peers and are better enabled to reach appointments on-time and achieve first-time case resolution, leading to increased customer satisfaction and worker productivity whilst reducing operational costs.

An additional advantage of recruiting workers that are already well equipped to use mobility solutions, such as smartphones and social networking, is that they are well placed to provide teach and learn sessions for other workers. The adoption of mobility solutions can then be replicated throughout the entire workforce.

Evolving With The Emerging Worker

According to the Aberdeen Group, the next generation of workers will be different and when it comes to the evolution of excellent service, they may just be what is needed to wow future customers. It is now widely regarded that customers of today are much more demanding, expecting a quick fix on the first visit and a valued experience as standard. For the field service technician, who is often the only contact a customer will have with the business, there role is therefore more than one of just operational necessity; it is a role of strategic significance. Ultimately, it is they who are regarded as being the hero when job resolution is reached.

Field service organisations seek field workers who have desirable attitudes and attributes for customer service. In particular, there is a strong focus on the importance of emotional intelligence as an enabler to deal with the wide variety of changing customer service relationships and interactions. Aberdeen Group found that the top performing field service organisations outperform their peers in regard to retaining the field heroes that they have, but almost as importantly, they are able to find, hire and train the next field service heroes.

Top organisations achieve this by capturing as much knowledge from seasoned workers before they retire so that they can pass it on to the up and coming youths of the industry. Indeed, 70 per cent of top performing field service organisations are more likely to provide technicians with a knowledgebase of recorded training videos and images. They understand what values/skill sets are required to be a great service technician. 50 per cent have competency profiles in place for service worker categories most impacted by retirement in order to improve the future recruitment and training of the next wave of field service workers.

John Cameron is general manager of Trimble Field Service Management (FSM), where he is responsible for worldwide operations and development. Prior to joining FSM, Cameron was general manager of Trimble’s Spectra Precision Division and before that general manager of Pacific Crest, a company he co-founded in 1994 that was acquired by Trimble in 2005. Cameron also served as vice president of operations and vice president of engineering at Pacific Crest prior to the acquisition. In addition to his recent experience, Cameron has held positions at Applied Materials and Pinpoint, where he was co-founder and vice president. Cameron holds a bachelor’s degree with highest honours in mechanical engineering from UC-Berkeley and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.