At the height of the COVID pandemic, field services changed in ways that continue to affect how manufacturers and maintainers run their service operations today. These changes are driving different approaches to content delivery that call for new content management technologies.
1. Growth of self-service
Before the pandemic, there was already a trend towards increasing customer self-service. But this naturally became a particular focus for service operations when it became either impossible to send technicians to customer sites, or (if allowed) still preferable to avoid technician-customer contact if possible.
So it became more important than ever for customers to have reliable online access to technical information such as product manuals, instructional guides, answers to common questions and solutions to common problems.
2. Contactless knowledge transfer
Like so many others, technicians started working from home (when not in the field), rather than from a work base. And when they did go out on service calls, they'd often have to go alone rather than in pairs – not just to minimize contact, but because colleagues may have been furloughed or let go completely.
This more remote, more isolated way of working had several knock-on effects, one of which was the delivery of training in both formal and informal settings. Field service organizations could no longer gather technicians together with a trainer and the relevant equipment. And solo technicians no longer had a colleague to learn from while on the job.
Organizations therefore had to find new ways to deliver training – especially in regulated industries where technicians simply aren't allowed to work on equipment without adequate instruction. And it became important to give technicians confidence that they could get their questions answered on the job despite not having a colleague present to consult with. This led to investments in platforms such as eLearning and augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) for training, and a greater focus on delivering on-demand access to information in the field.
3. General move away from paper
For all sorts of reasons, field service operations wanted to move from paper-based processes to digital ones. With technicians at home, it was no longer practical to rely on printed schedules and job sheets picked up from base. Storing product and technical documentation at home could be a security issue, as well as a not-very-efficient way to arm technicians with the knowledge they needed for each job. And customers didn't want to deal with paper invoices or payment methods requiring physical contact.
The state of play for field services today
While much of the world has returned to pre-COVID habits, many trends that started or were amplified during the pandemic have remained with us. Field service operations can't go back to the way things were, because:
- Many customers like and want the control that self-service offers.
- Many technicians like the flexibility of being based from home.
- Those who were furloughed or made redundant haven't all returned or been re-employed, leaving teams lean and still relying on solo work.
- Investments in new ways of training have proved to be effective and efficient.
- In general, businesses quickly come to rely on the efficiencies and greater agility delivered by digital processes.
The issue for many field service teams is that pandemic-driven efforts to digitize processes, transfer knowledge in new ways and make information more available to customers were rushed and not as future-proof as they could be. Not all methods of delivering digital content are equal, with the result that many field operations are facing new content management challenges, or aren't able to take full advantage of the efficiencies and new opportunities that digitization should bring.
Challenges and lost opportunities
For example, it's a problem if:
- Information is available to customers online, but in practice they can't find what they need because of poor search functionality.
- A technician can't access a knowledge base in the field because there's no connectivity.
- The ease of creating digital documents turns into a version control nightmare, with searchers finding and using out-of-date versions of the content they need.
And opportunities for greater efficiency and agility are lost if, for example:
- Technicians have to access a dozen different systems to find all the different types of digital information they need.
- There's no digital way to capture feedback from technicians and customers to improve the content they're using.
- It takes a huge amount of effort to adapt training materials for an AR/VR system – or more generally to deliver content in different formats to different channels.
These are just a few examples of many content-related issues facing field service operations that aren't as digitally mature as they ideally want to be. To address these issues and take the next step in their journey, they need to invest in new content management capabilities that can transform information availability, findability, accuracy and usability.
Future-proofing content for field services
As an intelligent content management system, Tridion Docs delivers these capabilities, giving field operations the technological foundation to take their service to the next level. It helps you:
- Create an easily searchable, single source of truth for field service content – which also works offline.
- Continually improve field service content through effective feedback mechanisms and collaboration across the business.
- Automatically get the correct information to the correct place in the correct format, on-demand and without duplicating content.