Karo Kilfeather | 07.25.17
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With the 24-hour news cycle, and constant state of connection most of us now live in, it can feel like there are new trends every time you raise your head to take a break. But while the pace of change is certainly rapid-fire, keeping up is well within your reach. In this post, we focus on the workforce trends that are sure to reshape the future of field service.

Today's service workforce is a blend of boomers, millennials, and soon, gen Z. As a growing percentage of the population becomes comfortable working in non-traditional arrangements, your organization must adapt to accommodate new working scenarios, worker behaviors, and habits. Read on for three service workforce trends, and methods for remaining relevant in a quickly changing field service landscape.

Trend #1: The Gig Economy Expands

Driven by the availability of new technology, applications, and services, a growing number of professionals desire situations allowing them to work outside of traditional offices. According to PwC, over the past 10 years the number of mobile employees grew by 25% and is likely to grow another 50% by 2020 — further proof of the gig economy’s rise.

Apps like Uber, websites like Upwork, and services like Airbnb have rapidly transformed entire industries, opening up new markets and redefining the relationship between employer and worker.

As people work in new ways, more are open to both virtual work and short-term assignments. As a result, the service organizations that are geared toward vetting and picking talent for part-time “gigs” stand to win big.

According to Forrester, a full 40% of all service tasks will be handled by contractors by 2020. It’s no surprise then that two in five organizations expect to increase their use of the contingent workforce.

With a large portion of tomorrow’s technicians fitting into the contractor category, your business must prepare itself accordingly from a legal, operational, and technical standpoint. By positioning itself to support and enable the modern worker, your organization can establish ongoing relationships with valuable talent and thrive in the gig economy.

Consider geographically dispersed seasonal service businesses, such as those catering to consumers on summer vacation. Access to an extended workforce with needed skills helps ensure geographic coverage. Rather than scramble to hire seasonal workers, these businesses can rely on contracts with contingent workers to confidently and nimbly staff up and down as needed.

Trend #2: Tech Habits Evolve

As field technicians, millennials, and consumers at large adopt new behaviors surrounding new technology, your organization must evolve to keep pace. New consumer tech habits are changing fast surrounding dozens of technologies including voice-activated in-home devices, augmented reality, wearables and more. To succeed, you must strategically balance customer and workplace needs. This requires a keen understanding of customer technology preferences.

For example, do your customers show a readiness to adopt the latest technologies? Does the interest vary by demographic? Arriving at these answers will involve surveying your current customer base and perhaps even some deeper research.

In addition, your technicians must be prepared to perform maintenance on new consumer and enterprise devices that are poised to optimize home climates, operate dams via sensors, and so much more. To prepare them for this, your field service organization must understand the technology landscape as it applies to your customer base. Then you must educate and train your field service technicians with the necessary skills.

At the same time, your organization must embrace IT transformation. Rather than simply using devices because they are trendy, take a practical, considered approach to the technologies that will best enable your workers. You can get on the right path by surveying your employees to understand technology needs and preferences, and recruiting a subset of workers to vet and test selected tools.

Trend #3: On-Demand Professional Services Thrive

People have come to expect lightning-fast Uber-like experiences across the entire spectrum of daily life. Take buying groceries as an example. Companies like Peapod and Blue Apron are redefining how we cook, while bigger players like Amazon are shooting to reinvent the modern grocery chain (as evidenced by their recent purchase of Whole Foods).

We are also accustomed to calling upon experts as needed in other areas of our daily lives. Just look to the Apple Store Genius Bar, Geek Squad from Best Buy, and TaskRabbit for proof.

We must look to the future, and decide how service organizations can meet customer needs faster.

One approach has been leveraging third parties for field service fulfillment. In fact, The Service Council reports 76% of service organizations have already used third parties for service delivery. Leaning on third parties and expert contractors to satisfy needs beyond your organization’s current in-house capabilities is a perfect way to get started in the gig economy.

Imagine an all-too-common service situation; the need to inspect a client’s inoperative equipment in a remote area. A certified, local third-party contractor could handle the inspection and upload findings via an application. Your organization would save greatly on travel expenses while quickly addressing your client’s localized needs. And it’s hard to beat the combination of cutting costs while boosting client satisfaction.

While this opportunity is tantalizing for some, the majority of field service organizations fear going this route. In the same Service Council study featured above, a full 64% of respondents were hesitant to outsource this type of work for fear of, “lack of control over service quality.” But the truth is in order to deliver quality service, you need to be capable of delivering service in the first place. We believe with the right communication tools in place, tapping third-party service professionals poses an amazing opportunity.

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