Utilities are changing in keeping with increasing regulatory and other pressures. Here’s how rugged mobile devices are helping with utility asset management and facilitating the journey to digital transformation.
The customer-provider relationship in utilities is no longer a passive one-way street. Customers interact with utilities in real time, often through personalized platforms that keep them informed of consumption trends, maintenance/repair, and service problems. In such a landscape, getting customer service right is more important than ever. Given that technicians are the face of the company in the field, technician enablement will play a key role in driving customer experience, and mobile devices are an essential part of this equation.
Harnessing the power of digital transformation
Today’s utility is a very different entity from the more conventional equivalents that operated even ten years ago. Increasing pressures to decarbonize, more ways to generate electricity, and more active customers have fueled digital transformation in the sector. With that embrace, comes the power to do more with data: technologies as augmented reality, artificial intelligence (AI), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and others.
Here’s how mobile devices help field service technicians leverage these advanced technologies and deliver superior customer service.
Enable augmented reality to help technicians
In many parts of the world, worker shortage in utilities is a real problem. Service providers must use labor judiciously, deploying experienced technicians only as and where needed. In such cases, technologies such as augmented reality (AR) are an essential part of the toolkit. On the field, AR through mobile apps, allows the technician to overlay a diagram of what the various assets should look like against the reality on the ground.
By comparing and contrasting against the model, technicians can use AR to pinpoint problems with greater speed and accuracy. Rugged mobile devices can be the platform that hosts these AR applications, so technicians have these capabilities at their fingertips. AR is on an impressive adoption curve: the global market for the technology is expected to grow at a whopping 43.1 percent compounded annual rate until at least 2028.
AR can also help field technicians call in for help from remote experts. Experts can dial in over the mobile device and troubleshoot problems using the AR app, together with the onsite technician.
Enabling field technicians to troubleshoot problems right away instead of having to reschedule or reassign tasks helps deliver speedier service and improve customer satisfaction.
Every field service technician works with many moving parts when attending to calls and utility asset management. They must conduct work order debriefs, review inspection reports from previous visits, get sign-off on future work orders that might be beyond the scope of what was originally imagined, and/or conduct site inventory reviews. All this takes time. Today’s field service technicians may not work with pen and paper, but they still might need disparate pieces of software to attend to each task.
Field service management software that attends to all these to-dos can easily be loaded onto a rugged mobile device for more seamless transactions on the go. No more waiting to go into the home office to synchronize work orders or even log employee hours. The mobile device essentially acts as an extension of the office so technicians can attend to all routine tasks on the road. This helps cut down on service interruptions and improves the customer experience.
Route labor efficiently
In utilities and field services, labor is an important asset and needs to be used judiciously. In addition to mobile devices being useful as a way of leaning on expertise, they can also help technicians access the larger picture of labor distribution, while onsite. Utility challenges are not always distributed with geography in mind but field service management software apps on a mobile device can help technicians see the larger picture and the details. Such access helps them gain a better understanding of the labor resources available.
When utilities dispatch labor resources efficiently, they send the right person to the right job at the right time. And that can make a world of difference in delivering superior customer service.
Ensure seamless communication
One of the many advantages of mobile phones and devices is that they allow everyone to be on the same page and work together, no matter where they are physically located. The extra set of eyes can make a difference and improve communication dramatically. Communication flows not just between the main office and the field site but also between the utility providers and the end customer. Real-time updates, facilitated by mobile devices, can boost customer satisfaction metrics. Even if the technicians are not able to attend to work in a day, just relaying that information across and keeping all stakeholders in the loop is an important step in scoring high on customer service.
Be predictive rather than reactive
One of the basic tenets of customer service is: Know your customer. Utility asset management leaves a crumb trail behind which technicians can pick up easily if the information is digitized and field workers can access it onsite. Enterprise asset management (EAM) and computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software help. Utility service is not just about putting out fires it is also about being able to study logs and other related reports of assets so technicians can proactively nip trouble in the bud before they escalate into serious problems.
Customer service is about building trust, keeping customers informed, and executing the job correctly and quickly. Utility service providers have a daunting task ahead as the landscape has been shifting and there is increasing pressure to do more with less. Rugged mobile devices can be invaluable workhorses in practically every aspect of daily utility asset management. In making these tasks more efficient, they help technicians deliver superior customer service.
Learn more about how mobile devices can help utilities improve their customer service metrics.