We’ve reached an important inflection when it comes to adoption of emerging tech for Digital Transformation. Use cases for Artificial Intelligence (AI) are beginning to make their way into a variety of software solutions, augmenting automation and helping to improve service outcomes. The thing about all of those technologies is that, as of now, they’re individual technologies, disconnected from one another. True digital transformation through AI will bring Artificial Intelligence across all processes within an organization, automating systems and making repetitive tasks a quaint memory, allowing managers, technicians, and dispatchers to focus on customer engagement and nuanced complexities best suited for humans. So—how do we get from our current state, to that point?
For most firms, the underpinnings of this are already in place. Service firms have a central piece of software to manage operations—their Field Service Management platform. It’s easy to see how FSM software could employ next-generation AI to manage all aspects of its operations.
To make sense of the steps towards an AI-powered, future, let’s set some specific generational benchmarks. From there, we can discuss what we need to get from one to the next.
Generation 1 (Today)
The beginning of automation. Individual systems begin to employ machine learning to improve service outcomes.
Generation 2 (Tomorrow)
Near-full automation. The individual systems tie together though an advanced AI, which seamlessly transitions from process to process. For example, IoT sensors could indicate that a malfunction was imminent, which prompts the system to route a technician. The technician completes the job, prompting the system to invoice. Once the invoice is paid, the system schedules follow-up maintenance for the following month, and sends out a marketing e-mail for supplemental service. All of this is done with the only human interaction being the direct interaction between the service tech and the customer.
Generation 3 (Not-too-distant future)
Automation of physical tasks. The individual systems, optimized for service excellence, interface with human technicians, as well as a fully automated call center, self-driving cars, and drone deliveries of parts.
Generation 3 is the culmination of these shifting technology pieces, and I’d argue that’s quite a way’s away. Can you confidently say that, when it comes to AI implementation, that your firm meets the criteria of Generation 1? Furthermore, are you currently preparing your service technology stack for Generation 2 will bring? Here are some recommendations on what you can do to get there.
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Your Field Service Management system needs to be central, connected, and future-proof
This is a necessity for all service firms. FSM is not meant to be a bolt-on to a CRM. Field service operations are far too complex to cut corners. Your Field Service Management system needs to be the coordinating factor of all touchpoints within your system. Beyond this, it needs to be calibrated to accept whatever the next new technology is, whether it be a new module built off of the system itself, or a separate system that integrates with your FSM platform. Smart organizations are taking a cloud-first approach to this, allowing for constant updates and easy integration.
Data needs to flow freely
We can talk ad nauseam about the importance of a solid data science team that cleanses and distributes data insights throughout the business, but more important than that, even, is simply ensuring that data is written in a common language and freely accessible, so that, for instance, if work order history needs to be pulled into an AI system connected to routing management, that it can be done quickly and easily.
Invest in the hardware today
IoT will ultimately be the key to successful utilization of many AI systems. In manufacturing, this is an easy sell, but what about HVAC repair, telco, home services, and other systems that, as of today, might not yet be calibrated for IoT? The short answer is, even if you don’t think the technology is there, it is, and if it’s not, it will be in the next five years. It’s imperative that you stay on top of these advancements as they become available, and invest smartly. When AI becomes standard practice, everyone’s going to be sprinting for your customers. If you want to run with them, you have to start by building the road.
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