Augmented Reality in Field Service

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Field Service (FS) digital transformation commenced with replacing paper with digital documents and moved forward into improving the dispatch process. FS software from companies including ServiceMax, ClickSoftware, ServicePower, and others have done a great job replacing paper and Excel spreadsheets with very effective cloud-based software solutions.

The next wave of FS digital transformation has arrived with IoT and Augmented Reality, highlighting both self-diagnostics and human intervention. Everyone can acknowledge that human intervention will remain important during upcoming decades; so the question which remains, is how can we empower experts and technicians to be more efficient in the variety of their tasks, in an always more connected, technological, and complex environment?

Step one: Augmenting sight on site

The first step of the transformation is to provide the ability to physically view a technical problem remotely. In 2015, half of the companies who participated in a survey considered the ability to show what the technician sees as the most likely help available to improve efficiency.

Empowering centralized expertise with the ability to see what the technician sees is just AWESOME! We can assume that the reason why “only” half of the participating companies in this survey answered that they were considering the adoption of these capabilities is due to the nascent nature of the market. They were not yet exposed to reliable, efficient and easy to use solutions.

No one would argue that seeing a problem or situation rather than just having a discussion about it clearly is more efficient in most circumstances. Unfortunately, video conferencing companies such as Vidyo or BlueJeans are creating confusion by attempting to force fit their unsuitable conferencing services towards addressing remote expertise. Companies pursuing this path discover that such tools are cumbersome and add limited value to solving problems and hence their adoption is poor. Trust me, your field force is not motivated enough to connect to a video conference bridge.

SightCall has taken a very different approach by providing an integrated solution which is more readily adapted to the field service workflow. Just as Salesforce Service Cloud and RightNow (known today as Oracle Service Cloud) are empowering customer service agents by giving them access to an extensive CRM, SightCall is empowering centralized experts to support the field force. Knowing that in the field there is plenty of expertise shared between field technicians (this is often referred to as tribal knowledge), SightCall further enables this sharing from one tech to another using their smartphones with a single touch.

Step two: Augmenting reality

Although seeing the problem does help a great deal, it is not enough. The field workforce is motivated by one thing: getting the job done. One of our customers mentioned that with SightCall Visual Support, he was transforming their customer service “from a complaints department into a solutions department”. He also stated that one of the major benefits, along with increasing their customer satisfaction through solving their customers’ problems, was reducing the churn in the contact center. People naturally enjoy being able to help others and finish the job right. This drive is essential within the customer and field service industries!

So, how do we empower experts to help solve problems remotely? By using a combination of tools; repairs often require not one tool but multiples. Remote drawing, document sharing, co-browsing, live pointers, and many other useful features make guidance more efficient, “as if we were together.” Now let’s take one additional step and see how problem solving can be even more efficient remotely than if we were together by leveraging the advantages of being connected. SightCall is bringing the expert an integrated experience from the company’s software ecosystem and knowledge base. While integrated, the interaction can be enriched. Experts and technicians can leverage helpful information on their screen, augmenting their reality with artificial intelligence.

Our friends at the service council have continued to collect data from large customers leveraging video assistance, including SightCall customers, decided to perform a market study on Adding Augmented Reality to Field Service Software. Most of the current identified business cases are focused on improving First Time Fix and reducing time to resolution.

You can find the Service Council AR webinar here:

In addition to the Augmented Reality benefits identified by this study (First Time Fix ratio improvement while incomplete visit rate decreases), SightCall customers also reported other interesting facts:

Augmented Reality combined with Artificial Intelligence offer limitless opportunities to improve efficiencies in the Field Service industry. Today, in 2017, devices should no longer be considered to limit the acceleration of these combined technologies. It is a few years since our attempted Google Glass integration and analysis that the Google technology was a miserable failure suffering a combination of poor battery life and overheating problems. Although we are always happy to integrate and be part of the many new “things” being introduced, at this time we continue to believe that the trusted smartphone is at the center of this transformation.

Our recommendation: The Field Service transformation is being embraced by the industry. Visual Support is already broadly deployed globally. Augmented Reality empowered with Artificial Intelligence is already drastically changing the way field forces are working together. The path to implement this transformation of your software ecosystem and data requires interoperability with Augmented Video Assistance. The great news is that the combined technologies are available today, in 2017. Our recommended approach is a graduated step by step process in which seeing, guiding and augmenting become part of your business process.

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