"Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it." This wise quote plays out not only on the world stage—but also in the field service industry.
Let’s go over the biggest lessons from 2018 so you won’t be condemned to repeating poor sales, lost jobs, and unreliable employees. (Don’t worry, it’s not all a downer. There were some uplifting takeaways from the field service news in 2018 as well!)
Top 6 Lessons for Field Service Businesses from 2018
Here’s what we learned from the past year’s field service news:
We explain all these lessons, and offer links to resources that can help you take advantage of them, below.
Lesson #1: GDPR can actually help your business thrive.
The General Data Protection Regulation, which went into effect in May, was a huge deal in 2018. Many plumbing and heating, HVAC, electrical, fire and security, and property management businesses scrambled to keep up. The new guidelines were vague and confusing, and prepping for GDPR cost companies lots of time and money they could have spent on building their businesses.
The fact that our free GDPR guide and checklist was the most-downloaded resource on our website last year shows how much impact the new regulation had on field service businesses. However, all the angst over GDPR also revealed some good news: Complying with the regulation can actually help businesses succeed in the end.
For example, when you’re in compliance:
Your data will be cleaner, so your mailing list will only contain people who truly want to hear from you.
You get one more “marketing touch” when you send your customers and prospects a re-engagement email.
Letting your customers control their own information creates trust.
The customer experience is improved when they feel comfortable handing their data over to you.
This lesson will let you turn a difficult 2018 into a successful 2019. If you’re still not GDPR compliant, start now and reap the benefits.
Lesson #2: Thieves are after your tools.
Here’s a field service trend we’d like to reverse: Tool theft has been on the rise for the past few years, and it can run a tradesperson right out of business.
A Simply Business survey on tool theft showed that almost a third of tradespeople who have been victim of tool theft lost over £1,000—and half of the victims lost up to two weeks of work after the crime. Even worse, the social system, local police, and insurance companies are often no help.
The good news is, in 2018 the tool theft epidemic reached a tipping point where tradespeople said “Enough!” They’re fighting for stronger laws, creating petitions, trading tips for keeping their tools safe, and flocking to social media to warn others about security issues with service vans. We at Commusoft also created a tool theft quiz to help tradespeople figure out how safe their tools are, and to educate them on how to avoid becoming a victim.
Lesson #3: AI is a hidden trend in the field service industry.
Chatbots and machine learning can help field service businesses answer common customer inquiries instantly and automatically, according to an article on Forbes.com about field service trends. For more complicated questions, a hybrid customer service environment allows the customer to be sent to a live agent.
Artificial intelligence was huge at the trade shows that took place at ExCeL London in 2018; while AI didn’t have a big presence at the Field Service Management Expo itself, its ubiquity at the other shows there proves that the tech is reaching across all different industries. How can you take advantage of AI to boost your business in 2019?
Lesson #4: Businesses are falling down when it comes to customer service.
By now most field service businesses have probably gotten the memo that the customer is king, and that creating a positive customer experience helps increase recurring revenue. (In other words: Happy customers keep coming back.)
But not everyone is listening. For example, GRESB reported in May 2018 that ‘The Net Promoter Score for property companies—the NPS being the benchmark by which the research industry measures customer loyalty, or a willingness to recommend—has dropped over the past 12 months.’
Our research shows that the top five biggest customer complaints about field service businesses are:
Your engineers don’t fix the problem.
Your engineers are late.
The customer experience is inconsistent.
Your mobile experience is sub-par.
Your customers don’t trust you.
Engineers who don’t fix the problem they were hired to fix? Mobile websites that don’t work? These are big problems, but luckily there are solutions. Don’t let this lesson be one you forget—and repeat.
Lesson #5: You can automate (almost) anything.
In 2018 we learned how just about every aspect of a field service business can be from office tasks to engineers’ tasks in the field—and how doing so streamlines the workflow and helps you fit more jobs into the day.
For example, scheduling can now be automated to the point where the system figures out the best routes for your engineers and readjusts schedules on the fly. Automated service reminders and feedback requests take care of your customers while you sleep. And digital stock management lets you do away with time-wasters like missing stock, lost stock sheets, and manually checking stock in and out of the stock room.
Lesson #6: We need to hire more women.
The field service industry has started to realise that female employees—from office staff to engineers—bring diversity and unique skills to their businesses. A McKinsey study reported that 'Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.'
What does that mean for you? It means field service businesses that hire women earn more.
Hattie Hasan, founder of Stopcocks Women Plumbers, says that in 2018 there were just 500 female registered gas engineers, and only about 1% of plumbers were women. In case you haven’t heard, it’s hard to recruit skilled engineers these days; Field Technologies Online suggests that hiring women can help ease the shortage.
Get on board with this lesson before your competitors catch on, and your business will benefit from skilled engineers that customers find more trustworthy and approachable.
Now that you’re up to date on the field service trends of 2018, it’s time to put some of them into action. Download our free checklist 10 Steps to Level Up Your Field Service Business below to kick your business into high gear.