The ClickSoftware team recently commissioned a global research initiative to understand the evolving expectations of consumers in a field service context. We also looked at how industry suppliers understand and cater to these expectations.
It’s safe to say there were some interesting findings, as consumer expectations are on the rise across the globe. This is a trend driven by mobile technologies and the added communication and convenience that they offer.
With this in mind, we looked at suppliers’ ability to deliver to these rising expectations. We identified a pan-geographic gap that exists between what consumers are demanding, and what suppliers can deliver.
Here is an overview of our findings:
Great Expectations vs. Reality
More than 2,000 consumers polled across seven countries—Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US—now expect their field service providers to prioritize customer convenience and real-time communication with mobile technologies. Despite this, suppliers in Australia (55%), the UK, and US (both 51%) identified achieving "automatic communication between machine and suppliers using IoT" as a key priority over the next five years. And while the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to benefit the field service industry from both a consumer and supplier point of view, this focus on emerging technologies is causing more immediate, and more achievable, customer demands to be neglected.
Consumers were asked what makes for a good field service experience. "Ease of booking" and "providing up-to-date, real-time communication" were rated as the two most determining factors. And, despite 61 percent of suppliers citing "customer satisfaction" as their top measure for success, findings showed that suppliers across the board are still struggling to meet these basic consumer demands.
Significantly, more than 60 percent of consumers across all countries said that a long waiting time for a field service visit made for a bad customer experience. Overall, UK consumers (70%) were most dissatisfied with being allocated long arrival time windows.
Delivering to Demand: The Supplier Struggle
Our study also revealed that most of the 600 suppliers polled continue to use traditional communications tools, such as the telephone, as their primary means of customer communication. In the US, suppliers were most likely to speak with customers via telephone. But in the UK and across continental Europe, email was identified as the most frequently used communication method. However, less than 5 percent of the suppliers we surveyed said they are using any form of mobile-led communication, such as real-time location tracking, Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR), or social media.
Now that customers are aware that technology exists to facilitate an "Uberized" field service experience, the customer drumbeat is only set to get louder. But as it stands, the industry does not yet have the systems and tools in place to provide this.
What Does the Future Hold for Field Service?
According to our survey findings, the trend most likely to transform field service over the next five years is the "real-time tracking of an engineer’s location." This will be key to optimizing customer convenience by replacing the industry’s long-standing, and notoriously unpopular, "wait-in windows."
Ultimately, as we embark on 2017, pressure to close the gap between rising consumer expectations and suppliers’ inability to deliver consistently good experiences will build. Suppliers that adopt the right technologies to bridge this gap are likely to have the upper hand against their competitors.
To learn more about our research findings, please download our full report.