4 Field Service Predictions for 2021

SightCall's profile picture

2020 was undoubtedly a catalyst of transformation among field service organizations. No matter which goals your organization started the year with, safety and business continuity quickly became priority. Companies across all industries underwent rapid digital transformation to keep employees and customers socially distant while providing services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In this changing climate, visual assistance catapulted into the spotlight to prove something that early adopters have known all along – many, if not most, problems can be solved remotely. Not only that, but there are measurable KPI associated with its deployment.

As we wrap up a year of unprecedented change, let’s take a look at a few predictions for what 2021 will hold for service leaders.

Service Organizations Will Settle Into Remote Work

“We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months,” Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft said in April, just as the COVID crisis was taking hold.

In 2020 the early adopters of visual assistance were already on the path to developing remote service operations, while others found themselves having to pivot almost overnight. In September, Gartner responded to the crisis, moving their timeline for mainstream adoption in this category from 5-10 years to 2-5 years.

While some aspects of life may return to normal in 2021, it’s clear that virtual technologies that enable remote work (including visual support, video conferencing, AR platforms and AI-powered automations) are here to stay. Customer and employee expectations are shifting towards digital solutions, putting pressure on service organizations to adapt. Fortunately these businesses are seeing the efficiency and ROI gleaned from remote support, pushing us into a new era of service.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, working from home in the US has grown 173% since 2005. By their estimates, up to 25-30% of the workforce will be at home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.

Where 2020 was a proving ground for remote work in service operations, 2021 will be the year we see it integrated into core business approaches. Rather than retrofitting processes for virtual technologies, more enterprises will shift to a virtual-first approach.

“Employee and customer expectations are changing as everyone’s become accustomed to using video for everything from telework to social events. Across industries we see that people are no longer resistant to using technology. In fact, they expect and prefer it.” - Ben Pinkerton, Vice President, Product Marketing

AR Technology Will Fold Into All Aspects of Service

The past year was a launchpad for enterprise AR. AR solutions are being deployed broadly across sectors including automotive, manufacturing, energy, and utilities, aerospace and aeronautics, logistics, and construction, according to a Gartner 2020 Report on Emerging Technologies. Across these industries and a multitude of use cases, business value for AR solutions is found through operational efficiency and cost reduction or avoidance.

As AR becomes more powerful and more applications are explored, the use of the technology will expand especially in training and upskilling workers. This is made possible in part by wider availability of solid AR capabilities on everyday devices. With Apple’s well publicized introduction of LiDAR in its newest iPhone models, a new precedence has been set for all major mobile device players.

With improved light detection and ranging technology in the hands of enterprise employees and their customers, AR-based platforms and applications will continue to flourish. SightCall uses AR along with live video to provide on-screen annotations so remote experts can directly mark up a video image to highlight important information or provide clear instructions to resolve problems. On the consumer side, AR is proving to increase sales conversion rates when implemented into the buying process.

“The 2020 pandemic has changed the way we can now work remotely with high efficiency and that change will remain. AR powered visual support will continue to widely grow exponentially not only for B2B customer support but also for field technicians, patients, and consumers due to the constantly improving technology available even on basic smartphones.” -Olivier Bussel Vice President Sales, Southern Europe

AI Will Empower Workers - Not Eliminate Them

Hollywood has given AI a reputation as a futuristic technology that replaces humans with robots. In actuality, the AI of 2021 is empowering workers by handling menial tasks and freeing them to put their expertise to better use. We see a continued rise in enterprise applications with AI technologies that focus on augmented intelligence which pairs human experts with AI-powered advice to reduce routine work, eliminate mistakes and improve user experiences.

“The goal of augmented intelligence is to be more efficient with automation, while complementing it with a human touch and common sense to manage the risks of decision automation.” Laurence Goasduff for Gartner “Top Trends on the Gartner Hype Cycle for Artificial Intelligence.”

Machine learning is also becoming crucial for enterprises across industries to extract knowledge and patterns from increasingly vast amounts of data available. Applications can include establishing personalized customer treatments, managing supply chains, medical diagnostic assistance, or early prediction of problems such as identity theft or fraud.

SightCall already uses AI in many ways within our visual assistance platform. Some are obvious such as image recognition and others less so such as AI used to improve the accuracy of OCR. We predict a wider adoption of these features as enterprises mature their remote support use cases and deepen their digital transformation – and allow AI-powered insights to empower their experts in 2021.

“I believe in 2021 we will see more enterprises working towards automation and AI. Visual Support is key for those areas. Whether it be a chatbot auto-escalating to a video session or an AI engine using image recognition to help make decisions and reduce room for human error while improving efficiencies.” -Jake Kanipe Vice President - Americas, West

Self-Service Becomes the Next Big Thing

We’re living in the age of information, and as a result, people are able and therefore willing to find answers to their own problems. Research leans towards an affinity for self-service, with 81% of customers attempting to resolve issues themselves before contacting a live representative.

A clear path has been laid for successful self-service automation by our global dive into video and remote work in 2020. This doesn’t just mean turning your customers into fixers, it also means empowering workers on the job with visual, self-guided AR instructions for solving service orders that can be viewed from their smartphones or wearables.

As the labor shortage extends into 2021, companies may also find themselves scaling their workforce through the gig economy. A McKinsey survey shows that 50% of field service workers will be freelance by 2025. Through AR-powered visual assistance, these gig workers can be deployed with a self-service app to guide them through work orders. If the problem is more than they can handle, escalating to an expert-guided visual assistance session can save an unwanted additional truck roll.

“In 2021 we will see organizations focus more on ‘Self-Serve’ capabilities, underpinned by the capability for escalation to expert video support as required. There is now a clear ‘pull factor’ with end-users wanting to do more themselves, at a time that is convenient for them.” – Richard Forsyth, Sales Director, UK

Next Up