Businesses have spent almost a decade creating customer experiences (CX) that are more valuable than the features and pricing of the products they produce. From customer service to product quality, brands across all segments are catering to customer sentiment with tremendous insight into how customers feel about them and their competitors.

According to a 2017 Gartner survey, more than two-thirds of companies are already focused on growing their business mostly on the basis of CX – and that percentage is projected to rise to 81% by next year. Yet, despite the rising expectations for CX initiatives, marketers are now facing an untenable fight for essential budget as they prove how CX investments improve customer relationships, business performance, and financial results.

Why is it so difficult to make a case for something that has tremendous opportunity to disrupt competitors and gain market share?

4 technologies that give field services an edge in the customer experience

Ultimately, the value of the customer experience boils down to demonstrating how newly acquired digital and human capabilities have a direct, immediate impact on the end-to-end customer journey – including post-purchase services in the field. More than traditional marketing tactics such as demand generation, marketing research, advertising, communication messaging, the customer experience is shaped by everything a brand – and the field services organization is no exception to this rule.

By applying technology with a purpose to keep down internal cost, increase process efficiency, and boost information accuracy, field services can give their brands’ customer service a competitive edge. Potential scenarios that work well in this arena include mobile access, smart analytics, self-services, and crowdsourcing.

1. Connected mobile access, online and offline

Bring an end to low productivity among field service technicians by giving them full access to the tools, information, and insight they need on any mobile device. Managers can acquire the visibility they need into their teams to address staffing levels and training needs proactively. Meanwhile, technicians gain the flexibility necessary to respond to service needs on the customer’s site without losing the context, knowledge, or tools to increase first-time-fix rates, speed, consistency, and efficiency of service execution.

2. Smart analytics and the Internet of Things

Field services can move from reactive maintenance to predictive service by empowering technicians and managers with real-time insights into asset performance and conditions as well as department, team, and employee performance. The organization can predict maintenance needs, plan ahead, and prevent breakdowns and extra repair costs – all of which can lower downtime, increase uptime, and build customer trust and satisfaction.

3. Customer self-services

Make common complaints from your customers – such as long wait times and lack of visibility into service requests – a thing of the past. By using the cloud to manage field services interactions, customers can access the information they want with ease, turn to remote assistance, or schedule a field service visit.

For example, customers can scan a QR code, a serial number, or any other unique identifier on a device and choose between a series of self-service options. From the moment a service request is submitted, customers can review on their mobile devices everything from troubleshooting tips, remote service options, technician scheduling, service tracking, and progress of service parts delivery.

4. Crowdsourcing of talent

Make the most of limited in-house resources to meet field service needs. Field service organizations can crowdsource a pool of skilled service technicians, including employees, subsidiaries, partners, and freelancers, to quickly find the right expert for the job.

With the addition of artificial intelligence tools, managers can automatically plan service requests in real time and send job notifications to a technician’s mobile device. This digital approach not only creates an on-demand service network that boosts service performance and meets customer expectations. More importantly, it capitalizes on skilled talent to grow the business by enabling the opportunity to accept more jobs, assist other service companies, and reach clients in more remote regions.

Field services: Different perspective, new opportunity for CX

Even in organizations that appear to be streamlined and advanced, field service can be a letdown when they run on broken, manual processes that deliver consistently wrong information and increases costs – leading to poor staffing coordination, long response times, delayed problem resolution, and low levels of customer satisfaction. Additionally, once a customer shares the experience online and goes viral, the brand can be severely damaged in ways the business will never fully understand and recover.

To deliver interactions that are more satisfying on the customer end, field services require a sharp focus – not innovative sales programs, bundled offerings, channel, and promotions. Schedules still need to be made, contracts still need to be drawn up, and field technicians still need to be trained and dispatched according to skill level.

But most of all, front-office engagement and back-office processes need to be synchronized reliably and in real time to give every customer what they deserve: a service experience that makes their lives easier and more delightful.