Adoption of digitisation in the field service industry can enhance business – and employee – capabilities

Over the past couple of years, implementation of automation in business, along with measured adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), has given businesses in the service industry the ability to enhance their workforce and their operations. 

This is because automation can take over many of the manual, admin-heavy tasks that can be very time-consuming for a workforce – particularly valuable in field service management (FSM) where there are many moving parts. It can also concurrently reduce the risk of human error where large volumes of information are being input. Similarly AI, which has been developed to replicate human behaviour  through programming and machine learning, can enhance the capabilities of a human workforce and enable individuals to do more work, faster, and with fewer, if any, errors.

Integrating digital management solutions has many benefits for a company’s workforce:

  • Frees up time to deploy human skills elsewhere in the business, to grow the business and/or enhance operations and efficiency.

  • Delivers packaged data, which humans can then anaylse to develop insights that can improve business operations, customer service, and customer experience.

  • Enhancing employee work experience through automating these routine tasks, which allows employees time to learn, grow, and do more meaningful work.

Digitisation takes the time out of time-consuming

However, until fairly recently, many of the most time-intensive, admin-heavy tasks in an organisation were being done manually – bulldozing through resource time and availability for other tasks. While this manual way of working was necessary and indeed the only way to manage data before tech solutions became available to take over these tasks, it took up a large amount of resource time which could have been used elsewhere to grow the business. It also meant that additional resources whose focus was on these admin tasks only were needed, which meant additional spending for businesses.

“The FSM industry in particular can benefit from the tools offered by automation and AI integration where relevant,” says Anand Subaraj, CEO of field service management platform, Zuper. “The structure of a field service management system needs acute attention to detail and very strict direction, where you can see hundreds of appointments being scheduled and details updated, often daily; work orders being channelled and managed; dispatch management, and even inventory management,” he continues. 

“Imagine a large HVAC company needing to dispatch over 40 technicians and manage thousands of jobs and assets, along with managing preventative maintenance – the risk of human errors being made and potential loss of revenue because of these errors can be distressing to any business.”

Smart and practical implementation are key

These digital solutions need to be integrated smartly and practically, to suit the needs, structure, and budget of a business. “If a small business, for example, goes too complex with its choice of software, it could actually slow business operations down – and add unnecessary costs,” says Subaraj. “Similarly, a large FSM business with multiple franchises and operating hubs would need a system that is tailored to a far larger workforce, inputting multiple streams of data at any given time.”

Intelligent integration for optimal functionality

“AI, too, has the ability to shine here,” says Subaraj, “applying machine learning from human teaching to complement the automation of workflows, optimising elements from scheduling and appointment management to logging queries, and going as far as compartmentalising historical data for analysis to improve operational efficiencies. This can lead to improved customer service through better (and faster, accurate to the most minute detail) service delivery.”

Digitisation and the future of work in FSM

Digitisation is poised to automate and manage many of the time and detail-intensive tasks that often take up a huge volume of an employee’s time in field service management. This may seem daunting to a workforce that currently has a market value of over R90 billion – which makes that R90bn’s worth of salaries being paid – and is forecast to reach around R546 billion by 2031. If that kind of value can be achieved with salaries and higher overheads being paid, what could be achieved if a huge bulk of those (human) costs were removed?

But any kind of digitisation operates at its best when it is paired with human intelligence. “The hybrid approach of human knowledge and experience, threaded into an intuitive software model that integrates machine learning, is absolute gold,” says Subaraj, noting that with automation taking over a bulk of manual and repetitive tasks, the human partners have the capability (and time) of expanding their intellect to grow the business, tapping into new markets, and applying innovative thinking to improve customer experience.


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