ClickSoftware Enables Predictive Field Service, Increases Intelligence of Cloud-Based Field Service Management

Latest release leverages machine learning and offers analytics to drive deeper insights for service leaders, expands security features

 BURLINGTON, Mass., Jan. 24, 2018ClickSoftware, the leading provider of field service management software, today announced significant new capabilities for Field Service Edge, its cloud-based, mobile workforce management platform designed to meet the needs of the most demanding field service organizations.

This latest offering introduces new strategic capabilities that will greatly improve field service efficiency and effectiveness. Major features are:

  • Predictive field service powered by ClickSoftware’s Machine Learning Cloud, which identifies data patterns to make predictions and automatically improve valuable KPIs
  • New demand forecasting capabilities to support more accurate resource planning and schedule optimization and provide richer insights to support proper staffing
  • Improved enterprise integration features such as Single sign-on (SSO) and an integration platform (iPaaS) connector that delivers more rapid and secure integration with third party systems such as CRMs, ERPs, and EAMs

In this release, Field Service Edge uses the power of ClickSoftware’s Machine Learning Cloud to add first-of-its-kind predictive field service capabilities. By combining historical data with external sources, Field Service Edge now provides increasingly accurate predictions of important service metrics—such as the duration of tasks—that have a material impact on key service business decisions.

“Workplace efficiency is essential for business growth,” said Paul Whitelam, Group VP of Product Marketing at ClickSoftware. “Our goal is to help our customers run their field service teams as effectively as possible, and this release adds increased precision to the scheduling process that improves resource utilization as well as customer satisfaction. The enhanced analytics capabilities also deliver unprecedented operational visibility and insight, enabling our customers to respond rapidly to changing business requirements.”

For more field service management news and announcements, visit the Field Service Matters blog.

SGN Selects ClickSoftware to Provide Cloud-Based Mobile Workforce Optimization

ClickSoftware helps company fully mobilize and automate scheduling in emergency response situations

BURLINGTON, Mass., – January 11, 2018 – SGN, the second largest gas distribution company in the United Kingdom, has selected ClickSoftware’s cloud-based mobile workforce management solution, Field Service Edge, to automate and optimize their service scheduling and improve response time to urgent, safety critical job requests. SGN distributes natural and green gas to more than 5.9 million homes and businesses across Scotland and the south of England, and is responsible for maintaining a safe and reliable gas supply across its gas networks.

The expanded partnership will enable SGN to optimize field resource utilization, especially critical as it pertains to emergency response incidents. When a gas emergency is reported to the National Gas Emergency Service, SGN has an extremely short window to respond  and resolve the issue to ensure customers’ safety and maintain their regulatory license condition.

ClickSoftware’s system optimizes and automates the entire scheduling and reporting process enabling seamless interaction between service workers, dispatchers and all back-office functions. In addition, with all work dispatched to mobile devices, SGN now has real-time visibility into each engineer’s work day and schedules. With extremely tight SLA service level agreement windows and the need to minimize customers’ exposure to hazardous conditions, a reliable, always up-to-date Software as a Service (SaaS) solution is essential for managing SGN’s field service operations.

“We are excited and proud to once again demonstrate that we are leading the way in energy delivery at SGN, by utilizing best in class technology solutions to support our operational workforce. We have used ClickSoftware’s ClickSchedule for many years and this has proven an effective and trusted solution. However, as part of our next stage in technology transformation and our “all-in” cloud strategy, we are embracing ClickSoftware’s next generation SaaS platform, Field Service Edge,” said Andrew Quail, director of IT and innovation at SGN.

“SGN provides essential services and must be able to address emergencies while still conducting other work, so maximizing the efficiency and responsiveness of their workforce is mission critical,” said Paul Whitelam, group vice president of product marketing at ClickSoftware. “With Field Service Edge, SGN can optimize every aspect of service delivery, automatically adapting in real-time as new demands arise.”

5 Signs of the Coming Digital Disruption Apocalypse in Field Service Technology

We’ve published many articles on this blog about the future of technology in field service. But that doesn’t mean we propagate doomsday crackpot business theories. We do not believe robots are coming for service jobs, that flying drone fleets are just around the corner, or that artificial intelligence will supplant all of our customer service interactions. However, we do believe that major digital disruptions are on the horizon for our industry.

In a matter of a few short years, taxis have been swept aside by Uber, hotels have been upended by Airbnb, and Amazon is obliterating entire retail chains and shopping malls. As technology evolves faster than ever, entire industries are getting gobbled up by upstart companies that scale seemingly overnight.

Can field service avoid being digitally disrupted by a service or economy that we previously hadn’t thought up ourselves? We believe the time to answer that question is now, before this actually happens.

In the following paragraphs, we reveal five signs of the coming digital disruption apocalypse. In addition, we offer suggestions for modernizing field service to ensure you remain relevant in today’s digital customer landscape.

1. Field Service Technicians are Increasingly Freelance & Skew Older

The cold hard truth is it’s getting harder to find qualified technicians and engineers, as well as fill field service jobs. In addition we face an aging workforce crisis that may leave us with one of the largest workforce shortages in decades.

It’s no surprise then that 61% of field service organizations use freelancer networks for remote field work, and 53% use freelancers to handle all types of work, according to Blumberg Advisory Group’s Research.

The Gig Economy is reshaping field service, and fast. With fewer employees loyal to specific organizations, how will those same organizations drive a unique service culture that sets them apart from competitors?

If left unanswered, this question could sink some of our organizations. The aging service workforce and rise of freelancer economies both point to the same unavoidable truth: the perception of working full-time for a service organization has eroded. Potential employees prefer the freedom of freelancing, or are finding work in other sectors.

So how can we incentivize a new class of field service technicians, engineers, and loyalists?

It starts with culture, by embracing new ways of working and by doing away with old-world service models.

2. Customers are Fed Up With Current Service Options

You know in your gut this is true. But if you need proof, simply look to cord-cutting trends, a few Reddit forums, and statistics on consumer sentiments to learn just how fed up customers currently are.

According to recent Accenture research, consumers are most frustrated with banks, retailers, and cable satellite providers for putting them on hold, forcing them to talk to robots, and taking days to resolve their service problems. In fact, this Accenture study also showed that a full 83% of U.S. consumers prefer dealing with human beings instead of digital channels to solve customer services issues.

Which frankly flies directly in the face of what most service providers believe about going digital.

In addition, nearly half (45%) said they are willing to pay a higher price, if that higher price ensures better service. So while it’s true that nearly everyone is now on Facebook, has multiple smart devices, and can find literally anything using search engines, when it comes to service issues and equipment failure, these same folks want a reliable human to fix it. And fast.

So what’s the answer? As an industry we need to stop automating the most important aspects of our customer interactions. We have been working for decades on scaling technology and finding greater efficiency. But now more than ever, we must put Field Service Engagement to work if we wish to avoid disruption. No more eight-hour appointment windows. No more putting customers on hold for twenty minutes.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with using new technology to connect customers and technicians in a faster and more engaging manner. But frankly, that’s not what most large enterprise organizations have done. Instead, they have used technology to automate and streamline so much of the process that many customers now feel isolated and emotionally disconnected from service providers. It’s time to turn that around. 

3. Brand Loyalty Has Eroded

As devices, technology, and the on-demand economy have exploded, the sheer number of consumer touch points have likewise become unmanageable for enterprise organizations. It’s become impossible for companies to keep up with, and manage all the communication at their disposal. It’s likewise been hard to keep customers happy across every touchpoint.

The result of countless options and lackluster brand communications has been a huge erosion in brand loyalty. In fact, a full 64% of consumers report switching brands due to a single poor customer service experience.

If service organizations do not differentiate by offering superior, or unique customer experiences, they stand to get supplanted and digitally disrupted.

4. Service Organizations are Not the Ones Introducing Disruptive Technology

 Take a look around at the technology that industry analysts are claiming is set to change field service forever. There’s the Internet of Things (IoT) that promises to bring all of our homes and factories’ devices online. There’s artificial intelligence and robotic technology. And what about wearables? Or drones? Or self-driving cars?

The one thing each of these disruptive technologies have in common is the fact that the service sector is reacting to them, instead of introducing solutions around each new technology.

If service organizations don’t get ahead of this new technology by incorporating it into service offerings faster, they’ll be left purchasing it from others, or competing with new players for customer attention.

So do we all need to introduce a line of IoT-sensors to the equipment we service in a matter of weeks? Or hire data scientists to help us make use of AI and advanced algorithms? Or purchase self-driving trucks to prepare for the driverless future? Not necessarily. But it wouldn’t hurt to begin investigating these technologies more heavily, as they all stand to drastically change the field service landscape.

5. Service Organizations are Seeing Incremental Growth

As we have previously reported on this blog, a full 76% of field service providers say they are struggling to achieve revenue growth. But why?

There are two key reasons. The first boils down to the fact that some executives at large organizations view field service as a cost center. It’s simply a department they have to invest in, but not an area that they believe can drive customer loyalty. Which means the service arms in these organizations don’t have the necessary investment for getting strategic and providing next-level service.

Second, the market is simply more competitive than ever, which is a result of rising customer expectations. After all, most of your customers can get same-day delivery from Amazon. Why wouldn’t they get the same from service providers?

As a result, even the top service organizations today are seeing incremental growth and working much harder for every bit of revenue.

If we don’t find a new approach, we’ll be left with incremental gains and exposed to disruption from upstart organizations and digital disruptors.

Field service is a business that arguably goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years. If we wish to remain competitive in today’s landscape and stick around for hundreds more years, we must begin to use technology to improve the customer experience, in addition to using technology for operational efficiency.

To stay up-to-date on trends, technologies, and all things field service management, subscribe to Field Service Matters blog.

2020 Field Service Technology Predictions: Drones, Robots, and Self-Driving Cars

If only we could look into a crystal ball to see what the future holds. While that’s not possible, we’ve all heard talk of how the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), and wearables could alter field service as we know it. Though it may sometimes feel like the impact of these technologies won’t be felt anytime soon, 2020 will be here sooner than we may realize. In this post, we round up our predictions for what the field service landscape will look like from a technology perspective in 2020.

Why Advanced Technologies Matter

If you’re questioning whether it’s worth your time to even think about what lies around the bend, consider these statistics and trends:

  • 52% of companies are still using manual methods to handle field service.
  • There will be 50 billion internet-connected devices by 2020, a 100% increase over 2015.
  • 92% of executives feel they must adapt service models to keep up with customers’ needs.

These are just a sampling of the many trends impacting field service organizations across industries. By embracing the latest technologies, field service organizations put themselves in the best position to survive and thrive.

Smart Uniforms

Imagine if the very clothes on their backs could prevent field service technicians from injury, while also helping them do their jobs more efficiently. That’s possible with smart uniforms featuring conductive fibers and embedded sensors that can already monitor heart rate, breathing rate, sleeping patterns, calories burned, intensity of activity, temperature, posture, and muscle movement.

A smart jacket created by Google in partnership with Levi’s allows the wearer to connect to and control their smartphone by using their cuff like a touchscreen. By swiping their jacket cuff to use their phone, technicians can avoid distractions that cause injury.

A technician outfitted in a smart vest or jacket that can read temperature and other environmental factors could easily gauge what might be contributing to a system problem or failure.

Smart hats are already being used in industries like trucking and mining. Some can monitor for signs of fatigue and send alerts to those in risky situations or operating sensitive machinery. Other smart clothing can detect when the wearer isn’t moving optimally, such as bending their back rather than knees when lifting a heavy object.

Smart gloves could provide feedback to technicians as they are making repairs, such as indicating when a part has been properly adjusted.

Autonomous Vehicles

GPS, collision avoidance, and other technologies are already available in the newest vehicles.

With nearly every major auto manufacturer executing strategies for autonomous vehicles, we may see fleets of self-driving cars sooner than later.

Technicians traveling by self-driving cars could spend their travel time more productively. After finishing a service call, they could enter details into their systems of record via their mobile device. Then they could turn their attention to the next appointment, such as by confirming they have all necessary parts and tools or brushing up on the intricacies of the machine they are about to service. 

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) makes it possible for even inexperienced personnel to handle repairs with confidence. By wearing AR glasses that display schematics, for instance, mechanics could be guided to repair an engine on the tarmac, even if they had never before worked on that particular model.

Here’s another very likely scenario: a telecommunications company is trying to determine the reason for an outage. By using AR overlays on mobile devices complemented by geographic information system (GIS) data, technicians could literally visualize infrastructure underground. Much like Superman using x-ray vision, they could quickly and efficiently locate buried cables and cut wires.

3D Printing

With 3D printers now available at reasonable prices, field service organizations can take advantage of them to streamline repairs in the field. Rather than order and wait for a part to arrive, a technician could print parts on demand using a 3D printer installed in the service van. First-time fix metrics would reach new heights almost overnight.

Service Drones

Drones stand to take the human component out of dangerous service scenarios, specifically when hard-to-reach equipment – like wind turbines, oil rigs, rooftop HVAC systems, and power lines – need routine examination. Here are just a handful of examples:

  • Infrastructure mapping across cities, industrial plants, or construction sites
  • Aerial monitoring of pipelines, oil rigs, or disaster areas
  • Land surveying with infrared cameras to determine thermal activity
  • Monitoring downed power lines during and after storms

By using drones in place of humans in these situations, field service organizations could significantly reduce both costs and danger.

Other potential uses include:

  • Streamlining parts delivery
  • Providing temporary internet coverage in hard-to-reach areas
  • Transporting service techs to job sites

Robotic Technicians

Rather than dispatch human technicians to perform routine maintenance, field service organizations could instead send out robot technicians. This would free valuable human resources to focus on more complex situations requiring deep expertise and judgment calls. Robots could also be used to train technicians, such as in on-the-job situations.

Virtual Assistants

The growing use and rapid improvement of electronic assistants like Alexa and smart speakers like Google Home introduces new possibilities in field service management. Field service technicians could use virtual assistants of this sort for hands-free access to information on a job site. This could include step-by-step instructions when performing maintenance or a repair. Such capabilities could be truly revolutionary for technicians atop a utility pole or deep in a mine.

To stay fully prepared for whatever the future brings, subscribe to the Field Service Matters blog.

ClickSoftware Named a Leader in Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management For Sixth Consecutive Year

ClickSoftware recognized by key industry analysts for completeness of vision and ability to execute

BURLINGTON, Mass.Oct. 2, 2017 – ClickSoftware, the leading provider of field service management software, today announced it has been positioned in the Leaders Quadrant of Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management.* This is the sixth consecutive year that ClickSoftware has been named a leader based on Gartner’s criteria.

ClickSoftware’s leading rating reflects the completeness of its vision and the ability to execute on that vision. Vendors’ positions in this Magic Quadrant reflect the demand to align technicians and contractors using technologies like AI, streaming video and the Internet of Things, for effectiveness in all interactions.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have been recognized for what we believe is our commitment to meeting the needs of the most demanding consumers, by leveraging deep scheduling optimization, extensible mobile tools and innovation driven by artificial intelligence and predictive analytics,” said Paul Whitelam, Group VP, Product Marketing at ClickSoftware. “We also believe the stakes have never been higher for service providers to elevate customer experiences, and ClickSoftware continues to build field service solutions that maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of field service professionals.”

ClickSoftware is committed to innovation in field service management, and to delivering solutions and experiences that accelerate time to value.

To view a complimentary copy of the 2017 Gartner Field Service Management Magic Quadrant report, click here. You can also learn more about ClickSoftware’s sixth consecutive appearance as a Magic Quadrant Leader on the ClickSoftware blog.

*Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Field Service ManagementJim RobinsonMichael MaozJason Wong27 September 2017

About the Magic Quadrant
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

About ClickSoftware
ClickSoftware is a leading provider of field service management software. ClickSoftware enables customers with intelligent, automated decision making delivered in real time. The cloud-based Click Field Service Edge platform is a cutting-edge solution for optimizing the scheduling and management of a mobile workforce and mission-critical service operations.

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How the Coming Army of Robots Will Reshape Field Service

In 1984, Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said, “I’ll be back” while playing the lead role in the hit movie The Terminator. It seems more than 30 years later, he’s made good on his promise.

Lucky for us, the uptick in recent robot technology hasn’t been driven by the desire to terminate human beings. In fact, most recent developments have been centered around making robots as friendly and human-like as possible.

Let’s start by digging into some of the most recent stories around robotics advancements.

Recent Robotic Advancements

CANBOT U05 Service Robot

A recent service robot unveiled at a conference in Beijing named CANBOT U05 promises to bring humanized interactive services to banks, exhibition halls, education, shopping, hotel services, intelligent healthcare, office settings, and catering – according to its manufacturer. The miniature robot boasts acoustic recognition, face recognition, language understanding, emotion recognition, and robot bionic simulation functions.

canbot u05

Robin Lawn Care Robot

Dallas startup Robin Lawn Care is capitalizing on a European trend, by introducing robotic lawn mowing to their line of service. In Europe, robotic lawn mowing has been highly popular. In other parts of the world, these robot lawn mowers haven’t caught on. In simple terms, the robot works much like a Roomba vacuum. Users install a wire fence in the ground along the edge of their lawn, and the Robin mower uses the signal from the wire to guide itself around the lawn, cutting small portions of a yard each day.

Apparently, it gets a lawn looking quite nice.

Food Delivery Robot from Marble

Will bike messengers, and food delivery providers soon be a thing of the past? If Yelp and Marble have their way, the answer is a resounding yes. Together, these two organizations have officially launched food delivery robots to great fanfare in San Francisco. But is everyone on board? No way. City officials have deemed these autonomous delivery bots unsafe, and are currently trying to ban them from San Francisco streets.

As more autonomous robots and services like Marble hit the market, human delivery roles are seemingly being supplanted.

So, what do advancements like the above mean for field service?

What Robot Technology Could Mean for Field Service

We are most certainly not purveyors of doomsday theories on this blog. While robot technology shows great promise for future service scenarios, don’t go canning your technicians. In fact, all research points to the fact that in our increasingly automated and digital world, consumers prefer human interaction more than ever, especially when dealing with service issues.

The 11th annual Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey recently reported that 83% of consumers prefer talking to human beings, as opposed to digital “human-less” interactions, when it comes to solving service issues.  So, no matter how fancy these robots get, we’ll need service-savvy and friendly human beings willing to help customers out.

Does that mean robots are just a fad? Anything but. Robotic technology has already proven useful in field service. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss a few ways robots and robotic technology stand to improve field service on the whole.

Performing Dangerous, Dirty and Downright Scary Work

The first and most obvious application of robotic technology is in performing the most dangerous, dirty, and downright scary services for customers. Of the most fatal jobs on earth, service roles take the cake. Sadly, technicians and engineers still die each year in telecommunications, oil and gas, utilities, and industrial maintenance. Are these fatalities unavoidable? Maybe.

Or maybe we’re simply not making widespread use of robotic technology fast enough. Simply consider the growing list of jobs that robots can now perform, including:

The bottom line is robots are already capable of performing a plethora of dangerous and undesirable tasks in service. The challenge for smart service companies is now learning how to scale these solutions in an affordable fashion.

The Human Side of Future Service Robots

While many robots have been developed to deal with dangerous, dirty, and scary scenarios described above, others are going into production with the goal of mimicking human behavior, speech, and action.

This represents a wholly different trend in robotics; one that seeks to supplant humans with robots, or perform jobs that humans are struggling to consistently staff. In the United States, this has struck fear in the hearts of many who worry robots will take away jobs. But in other nations like Japan – where population decline is a major issues – robots have been wholeheartedly welcomed . In Japan, human-like service robots can be found in nursing homes, hotels, stores, and more.

Pepper is one of the most common robot models. Her proficiency has been proven useful especially in retirement communities as an assistant to the elderly, among many other scenarios. In the Shin Tomi rest home in Tokyo, pepper leads dance classes, talks to community members, provides medical assistance and autonomously initiates playful activities among residents. According to the robot’s manufacturer, Pepper uses hundreds of sensors to read emotions, genders, estimate a person’s age, and more.

There’s a full hotel run by robots in Japan, and many more hotels across the world are likewise beginning to use robot technology for tasks like late-night deliveries.

So, let’s set the fear of job loss aside for a moment; will field service soon be staffed by robots with specialized skills?

No and yes.

Many consumers fear having strangers in their homes for repair, and if a robot could perform a similar task there would certainly be a subset of customers happy to welcome a RoboTech through the front door.

On the flip side, many enterprise customers and end consumers prefer working with a human being in service scenarios. So, the big question is as robots become more lifelike, will customers welcome the human-like behavior as an alternative to real human interaction?

Only time will tell. One thing is certain; if friendly robots can fix your furnace at the same price as a human, many will take up interest.

Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Merge to Get Predictive

In addition to physical robots that can autonomously perform service functions, there’s a separate robotic evolution happening in the software realm that likewise promises to change field service for good.

While many technology practitioners would argue that software can’t possibly be classified as a robot, we feel machine learning and artificial intelligence deserve to be considered just as important as the brains behind robotic hardware.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence  are advancing to the point where software and programs are re-programming themselves with zero outside intervention. Simply put, machine learning libraries and AI are unlocking software’s ability to learn in real time, adapt, and make more efficient software.

When paired with IoT-embedded devices, machine learning and AI computing could radically change how much service is necessary, when service happens, and how diagnostics happen in real-time.

Paired up with robotic technology, advancing predictive maintenance technology could mean that it’s possible to automate select service chains, end-to-end.

To learn more about how robots and AI will change field service, subscribe to Field Service Matters blog.

Field Service Engagement: Human Interaction is Today’s Digital Differentiator

For the past several decades, service organizations and enterprises have looked to software and technology to streamline operations. As a result, many customer touchpoints and interactions have become automated. But think for a minute beyond your company’s customer interactions to the broader digital landscape. The truth is, the average consumer today faces an insane amount of automation, and most of us are fed up.

When you open up your email, how many messages do you have from real human beings? When you browse the internet, how many pop-ups, ads, or distracting messages do you get? When you use Netflix, or Apple iTunes, or Spotify, or any other streaming service, you don’t even have a chance to pick the next show, song, whatever before the software itself is prompting you with a message that reads, “You might also like…” Whatever happened to recommendations from friends and family?

Here’s a final litmus test.

Pull out that little supercomputer (smartphone) from your pocket and take a hard look at it. How many push notifications are you getting? How often does it buzz, vibrate, ring, or notify you that a new email arrived, an app was updated, a text message needs reading, or a game requires your attention to beat one more level!

According to DScout research, we touch our phones more than 2,500 times a day on average. Which means the push notifications and distracting interruptions have been effective, to say the least. But are we, and more importantly our customers, happy about it?

In the following paragraphs we explore some surprising statistics about consumer sentiment surrounding technology to answer this question. In addition, we’ll uncover how field service providers can use this knowledge to improve their interactions with customers.

Customers Prefer Human Interaction When it Comes to Service

According to recent Accenture research, consumers are frustrated with automation, especially when they have service issues that require immediate resolution. In this research, Accenture found that a full 83% of U.S. consumers prefer dealing with human beings instead of digital channels to solve customer services issues.

The evidence is crystal clear, human interaction is your differentiator in a world gone digital. But does that mean technology has no role to play? Not necessarily. The problem for many service providers is the human touch has been lost in the shuffle of our digital interactions with customers. For one reason or another the follow up email, or service confirmation, or phone call, or web portal are all leaving our customers feeling like just another number.

While digital tools offer newfound ways of reaching customers, we must treat each interaction with care and context, if we wish to satisfy customers in this age of digital everything.

Surprise! Millennials Crave Human Interaction Too

If you believed all the headlines and hype about millennials, you’d assume they live life through the lens of their smartphones, do nothing but browse social media sites all day, and are incapable of real-world social interaction.

News flash, Millennials and even Gen Y aren’t that different from the rest of us. In fact, a recent Mattersight survey of over 1,000 millennials uncovered some incredible stats that fly in the face of our assumptions about this group we love to call the “Facebook Generation.”

In this research, a full 85% of Millennials reported being disappointed by a company’s service and support in the last year. In addition, this age group professed they prefer person-to-person interactions over digital options in most situations. While this group is highly digital, they still expect a brand or online organization to respect them as individuals, and treat them like human beings.

So what does that mean for field service? It means the future needs a human face. While chatbots, artificial intelligence, and all that other fancy technology will certainly make an impact, it needs to support human interactions instead of just replace them.

Cashing In On Your Digital Differentiator

The digital and technological train shows no sign of slowing in our industry. According to Gartner’s latest predictions, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse by 2020.

As all of this technology advances, we have a massive opportunity in service to use our human interactions as a digital differentiator.

Will your app simply email a customer when a technician has been dispatched? Or will it offer a face, name, and star rating of the engineer who is on the way to fix that furnace?

It’s in these seemingly small technological choices that savvy service organizations will create greater human value and impact among customers.

Field service is an old business; as ancient as Babylon itself some might even argue. Just because new devices, methods for monitoring equipment, and technology exist doesn’t mean we should use those new tools to cut human interactions out of the equation. Just like software, humans have programming too. And the 500,000 years of mental programming require human interaction to incentivize action, trust, and value. We would be wise to remember this as we scale new technology.

The service providers who are able to put the human touch on new technology will win the hearts and minds of customers tomorrow.

To stay up-to-date on trends, technologies, and all things field service management, subscribe to Field Service Matters blog.

Adventures in Artificial Intelligence Part 5: Personalization on The Horizon

If Moore’s Law holds true, artificial intelligence technology should be on an 18-month cycle of complete transformation. If recent investments, advancements and discoveries are any indicator, AI might have made Moore’s Law obsolete with the current pace of change.

In our last installment of Adventures in Artificial Intelligence, we revealed human service tasks that AI is poised to replace. These included everything from driving and dispatch, to customer communication and scheduling. Today, we turn our attention to the key opportunities AI will provide in improving personalization in field service.

Recent Artificial Intelligence Developments & Their Impact on Field Service Personalization

Google Program Beats Chinese “Go” Prodigy

As you likely already know, getting computer programs to react to changing real-time human behavior and stimulus is no easy task. While closed computer programs, like IBM’s Watson, have beat champion Jeopardy players as early as 2011, they didn’t truly think, process, react and learn based on information the same way humans do. Rather, they demonstrate the ability to store immense amounts of data, and surface the right piece of data at the right time.

But newer technologies and programs developed by the likes of DeepMind and OpenAI in recent months are beginning to crack the cognition nut. Google’s DeepMind team created a program dubbed AlphaGo designed to compete against 19-year-old Chinese prodigy Ke Jie, who is the top ranked player of the game Go; a board game widely considered to be the world’s most sophisticated.

So, is Go truly that much more complicated than Jeopardy, or even chess? Dutch computer scientist Victor Allis predicts that the average game lasts roughly 150 moves, with 250 choices for a character per move, which gives Go a game-tree complexity (used to measure the complexity of a game) of ten to the three-hundred-and-sixtieth-power. Which means, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Go requires a computer program to learn millions of potential moves, counter moves, and more importantly adjust strategy based on an opponent’s actions in real time.

It’s one step closer to learning, a key hallmark of the human brain.

What AlphaGo Means for Field Service

While board games may seem irrelevant to field service management strategy, the software capabilities of AlphaGo are anything but. AlphaGo’s algorithm leverages deep neural networks and tree search technology. This software’s ability to predict, analyze, and act in real time are leagues beyond what was possible even two years ago. So how could programs like AlphaGo impact field service management in the coming years?

Hyper-Personalized Customer Prediction & Service

If AlphaGo’s ability to analyze data were unleashed on field service databases, customer service records, and even weather, customer location, or age; a level of automated personalization could be achieved that was previously thought impossible through computer programming.

This could include everything from learning exactly what service scenarios would incentivize customers to give your organization a positive review, predicting what color shirt your customers prefer that your field engineers wear, or even predicting what time of day they would prefer their service to be scheduled.

In all, the predictive modeling could prove immensely valuable in both improving service satisfaction and gaining faster customer resolution.

AI Chatbot Makes Personalized Skincare Recommendations

HelloAva, a new AI-driven chatbot that was recently launched promises to replace dermatologists’ recommendations for skin care products, with more environmentally friendly options.

Using text-based phone interactions or Facebook Messenger, users can sign up by answering 12 questions that are similar to what a dermatologist may ask patients during a visit. The data is processed, and the chatbot then categorizes the user into one of 30 different skin types, in order to make hyper-targeted skin care product recommendations.

So what exactly does a skin care chatbot have to do with field service management? We’ve certainly ridiculed chatbot fails on this blog before. But, this appears to be a more promising application of chatbot technology, with a sensible amount of machine learning and AI baked into the functionality.

Here’s what service organizations can learn from HelloAva:

  1. Customer Segmentation is Key to Unlocking Personalization

Satisfying field service customers has never been more complicated, with demographics and psychographic data ranging broadly across customers. In addition, services like Uber, and Amazon have drastically reshaped customer expectations. With this new territory comes broad challenges. Dozens of various customer groupings want completely different service levels from the same organizations. But often field service teams are only set up to provide service in one, or two ways.

Taking a cue from HelloAva, field service teams could develop chatbots that uncover deep customer preferences early in the service process, and use those to drive increasingly personalized customer interactions, and predictive maintenance.

  1. Applying Machine Learning Techniques Creates Deeper Personalization

Machine learning libraries give artificial intelligence algorithms access to pre-baked statistical models, and massive amounts of data. Artificial intelligence algorithms can use real-time customer inputs (like what is gained from the HelloAva questionnaire) combined with statistical models to output highly unique, and customer-centric service recommendations.

These recommendations would otherwise take data science teams weeks to manually develop.

The field service providers who tackle the machine learning challenge fastest stand to gain a much higher level of personalization among customers. While this might sound farfetched, in just a few short years it will likely be the norm.

AI & Autonomous Vehicle Market Spikes

A recent Research and Markets study reports that the autonomous vehicle market is forecast to reach $126.8 billion by 2027. These leaps in autonomous driving technology are powered by a mix of advancements in both road-based sensors and artificial intelligence (AI).

While companies like Uber, Volvo, Daimler, and even Google’s Waymo are all desperately trying to build self-driving trucks, the consumer vehicle market is surging ahead much faster.

Despite a great many field service publications citing a reduction in danger, or an increased bottom line as the biggest opportunities provided by autonomous vehicles, we believe greater customer personalization is the holy grail of a driverless fleet. But will field service organizations and technology providers stand by as tech giants pioneer driverless cars? Or will service organizations develop unique functionality and software that will set their service fleets apart?

Here are just a few ways an autonomous fleet could offer greater personalization for customers, and act as a strategic differentiator for service organizations:

  1. En-Route Customer Communication

If a field engineer were freed up from driving, they could effectively call, or even video chat with a customer while en route to a service location. This would allow the customer to describe their exact problem in more detail, or even display via video the problems they are facing with equipment. This would further familiarize the field engineer with on-site challenges ahead of the curve, and he or she would come prepared to hit the ground running.

  1. Self-service Vehicles

Just head to YouTube and search, “how to fix my dishwasher” and you’ll find thousands of results, both good and bad. This is evidence of a growing number of consumers who wish to perform routine service tasks on their own. This assumes those tasks are straightforward enough for the average consumer.

In the future, field service organizations could be sending autonomous service vehicles that contain basic equipment, and instructional materials to those consumers that wish to perform basic self-service on dishwashers, light fixtures, and more. While the majority of consumers prefer to have professionals perform this service, there’s a growing number of DIY customers rolling up their sleeves in today’s marketplace.

And why not lend them a hand?

  1. Autonomous Parts Vehicles & Drones

First-time fix rates are ideal for both the customer and the service team. Achieving first-time fixes means efficiency for the service team, and immediate resolution for the customer.

But even in today’s technology-driven landscape, it’s all-too-common for a technician or engineer to arrive at a customer location only to find that he or she doesn’t have the right part, piece of equipment, or device necessary for troubleshooting a problem. Whether drone-based, or road-based, autonomous vehicle technology opens up a world of possibility for field-based parts delivery.

Just imagine if a field engineer arrived at a customer’s location, didn’t have the right piece of equipment to finish the job, and could request the part be delivered within the hour via drone, or autonomous vehicle? While this may add an hour to the service visit, it might shave a week off the overall service resolution timeline.

Despite relatively little change in our daily service activities, artificial intelligence is making waves in dozens of areas. Whether it’s a game-based algorithm like AlphaGo, or autonomous driving software from the likes of Volvo, we stand to learn a great deal from AI advancements. But more importantly, we stand to improve customer experiences through a sensible approach to applying these new technologies.

To read more about artificial intelligence and all things field service, please subscribe to Field Service Matters blog.

IT Security Implications of IoT, Augmented Reality, and Wearables in Field Service

Wearables, the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR) are already modernizing field service and promise to change it in ways we have yet to imagine. But as is true with every type of technology, these latest innovations introduce new threat conduits and security risks. Here is what field service organizations need to understand about the possible ramifications and what they can do to shore up their defenses.

More Doors Open to Hackers

The increase in connected devices and growing volume of data being collected and transferred via a largely cloud-based IT footprint, paves the way for even more vulnerabilities. Simply put, hackers and cyber criminals now have access to more entry points to data centers and infrastructure than ever before. Plus, because IoT relies on thousands and even millions of distributed devices and sensors, an exposed vulnerability in one can affect thousands or millions of other connected devices.

Whether they are seeking to wreak havoc on critical infrastructure and toy with businesses for political, monetary, or egotistical purposes, those with malicious intent can do so more readily. In fact, of the more than 5,000 enterprises surveyed as part of AT&T’s Cybersecurity Insights Report, only 10% feel confident that they could secure IoT devices against hackers.

Plus, all the data being generated by all these connected devices can be exposed if not properly protected. That means sensitive customer information and proprietary business data could be accessed by those other than authorized users. Such access could be exploited for nefarious purposes.

How Hackers Can Impact Field Service

In 2016, a cyber attack took down a power grid in Ukraine. Now consider the potential damage if a hacker intercepted the communications channel relaying instructions to a technician wearing AR goggles to perform a repair on critical infrastructure. The hacker could change the instructions to misguide the repair, leaving a water main or electric grid exposed in a way that leads to widespread service malfunction, interruption, or worse.

Imagine an autonomous vehicle being hacked and sent to a location where it could be hijacked. Or picture a fleet technician driving a vehicle with an AR-enabled windshield. The hacker could access and manipulate the data feed to the windshield so that the instructions completely obscure the technician’s field of vision, causing a crash. A similar scenario could happen to a technician wearing AR googles while making a repair in dangerous conditions. Essentially, hackers can use these next-generation technologies to perpetuate attacks that impact a technician’s physical space.

Follow IT Security Best Practices

While the types of attacks may be new, the IT security essentials remain the same when it comes to shoring up infrastructure and protecting data. To that end, field service organizations should embrace a defense in depth approach complemented by new policies and controls to manage wearables and connected devices.

  • Practice defense in depth. This IT security strategy has been dubbed by telecommunications security professionals, “a layered approach” because it addresses each layer of a company’s network. At its simplest, it’s about securing devices, applications on devices, and the connections between devices and the network. This includes being able to monitor for, detect, and remediate different types of attacks and malware.
  • Isolate devices from the network. Whenever possible, field service organizations should isolate wearables and IoT devices to limit network impact should one become compromised.
  • Encrypt data. By encrypting data at rest and in transit, field service organizations make it harder to be read by hackers.
  • Create WYOD policies. According to a report by IDC Research, security for wearables will become a “top five” issue for CIOs by the end of 2017. Yet only 8% of companies will have developed a Wear Your Own Device (WYOD) policy. Just as companies have developed Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) security policies and procedures related to personal devices, they should put in place new controls and processes to manage wearables and connected devices.
  • Educate employees. Field service technicians, engineers and dispatchers could unknowingly create a security vulnerability (such as leaving a wearable containing valuable information unattended). By educating their employees on potential security risks, field service organizations reduce the likelihood of experiencing a threat due to the unknowing actions of an employee with good intentions.
  • Prepare for security breaches. Even the most highly funded and resource-intensive security measures cannot prevent all security attacks. After all, new threat vectors and vulnerabilities are continually being discovered and exploited. Smart organizations prepare for the worst by devising a plan of action if a breach would occur.

Keep your field service organization one step ahead of trends and threats by subscribing to Field Service Matters.

ClickSoftware Announces Global Reseller Agreement with SAP, Providing Cloud-Based Field Service Management

SAP to Resell ClickSoftware Field Service Edge as SAP Scheduling and Resource Management by ClickSoftware

Burlington, MA September 7, 2017ClickSoftware today announced the signing of a global reseller agreement with SAP (NYSE: SAP). As part of the agreement, SAP will resell the ClickSoftware Field Service Edge solution as the SAP® Scheduling and Resource Management application by ClickSoftware. The solution is available now and enables real-time, automated, context-based recommendations for service planning, scheduling, execution and analysis to support intelligent decision making.

SAP Scheduling and Resource Management provides customers with an improved ability to reduce the costs of service delivery, continuously improve efficiency and optimize customer experience—a key competitive differentiator.

“This agreement with SAP is about putting the customer’s customer first by optimizing every stage of service delivery,” said Jim McGonagle, Vice President of Alliances at ClickSoftware. “Now, customers using SAP software will be better able to rapidly deliver on the value of workforce optimization. With the power of cloud computing and automated decision making driven by artificial intelligence, companies can be prepared to elevate their customers’ experiences while driving revenue growth.”

Optimizing every aspect of service—scheduling, routing and individual resource performance—can yield massive savings while also increasing customer satisfaction. More accurate travel-time predictions lead to tighter appointment windows and more jobs completed per day. This can boost efficiency and profitability, and reduce customers’ waiting time for service.

“We’re pleased to offer our customers SAP Scheduling and Resource Management by ClickSoftware to drive efficiency through workforce optimization,” said Rodolpho Cardenuto, president of Global Partner Operations at SAP. “SAP customers across the globe and across industries want to respond to the growing demand for better service experiences from their customers while containing the costs of service. This solution helps them rapidly simulate a variety of service optimization strategies, gaining the ability to test the impact of various approaches and calibrate for continuous improvement.”

Learn more about the reselling agreement on the ClickSoftware blog.

About ClickSoftware

ClickSoftware is a leading provider of field service management software. ClickSoftware enables customers with intelligent, automated decision making delivered in real time. The cloud-based Click Field Service Edge platform is a cutting-edge solution for optimizing the scheduling and management of a mobile workforce and mission-critical service operations.

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