4 Field Service Trends Pokemon Go Got Perfectly

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When asked why he composed pious hymns to the tunes of bawdy drinking songs, Reformation legend Martin Luther replied, “why should the devil have all the best tunes?”

In that spirit, and capitalizing on the enormous popular success of everyone’s most recent augmented reality obsession, why should Pokemon Go have all the best strategies?

Field service trends

The game has reinvigorated a franchise by capitalizing on several technological trends. Those same trends can make your field service business sharper and more agile. 

If agility’s good enough for Pikachu, it’s good enough for everyone.

If agility’s good enough for Pikachu, it’s good enough for everyone.

Here are four field service trends Pokemon Go got perfectly, and how those same trends are already transforming field service management.

Mobility

A lot has been made of mobility in FSM, and with good reason: mobile businesses have an advantage over less mobile ones. A technician who has to report back to a central base for his next assignment, or even just call in, is slower than one who can get his day’s work orders through a field service app he can access anywhere, anytime.

Same with tracking work orders by paper and Excel spreadsheet: just how much time could you save if all that info was stored in a field service software program? If you can keep track of organizational info through software – the same program your employees can see in the field, on their phones, it opens up a lot of chances for productivity. The entire ‘where-did-I-put-yesterday’s-notes’ phase of every day is cut from minutes (or hours…for some of us…definitely not me…) to seconds.

The case is the same for technicians themselves. The next generation of field service workers comes from a millennial cohort that values, and expects, mobility. Kris Oldland notes that the next generation of employees will “want the freedom to engage with the latest advances and utilize technologies they are used to in their personal lives.” The most ubiquitous of those technologies? You guessed it- mobile devices.

Field service mobility might eventually outdo Pokemon Go, though. The long-range thinking sees vans equipped with 3-d printers that could produce replacement parts on site. That development’s probably a ways down the road, but it illustrates how mobility could revolutionize field service.

Workers, as well as equipment, are going to get more mobile. Service employers want to hire employees who know mobile and go mobile: one of the most sought out skills in coming years will be the ability “to use mobile applications and devices to help provide better services to customers.”

I doubt any field service manager ever got a good reaction from a phrase like this: “Hey guys, grouping tools and spare parts is fun! Proper storeroom inventory is fresh to death, homies!” Organization bores most people. But if you find a fun, easy way to organize your resources, like the in-game Pokedex that shows a moving image of the animal, and displays facts and figures about it, you’ve already made organization easier and more habitual. The Pokedex’s field service management cousin is the inventory database that a lot of field management apps offer. Some companies even offer a function to auto-order replacements when you’re running low. When organization of this sort is easy, it can actually be kind of empowering. It’s also necessary to know what parts and vehicles are available for what jobs.

pokemon_go_pokedex

Pokemon Go’s use of GPS is one of its strongest features. There’s an extra level of excitement when you realize the game’s map mirrors the streets and locations of the real world. Better yet, that map’s alive- the game alerts you to important sites or nearby Pokemon. If this seems trivial, keep in mind that catching Pokemon in the original game meant walking aimlessly through tall grass for indefinite periods of time. Geography’s even enough of a factor that it can alter what characters are available.

Similarly, it may not initially seem like much for an app to tell you where to go next, but an app that integrates with Google maps saves you the trouble of pulling over and idling while you try to figure out where you are. Better yet, one with route optimization capabilities can reduce how much money you spend on fuel, and on the road. The future for similar vehicle routing and scheduling looks to include more real-time adaptability to changing road conditions, with functions like traffic congestion optimization.

Gamification

Games encourage cooperation better than any rule. I once lost my voice while teaching. Trying to pound the dry erase board and hoarsely tell my students how furious I was at their continued misbehavior worked once. Turning my laryngitis into a game of charades later in the day, however, got their attention. “I like this game!” exclaimed a normally detached student as I tried to pantomime the effects of medieval Chinese land reforms.

Games and gamification can generate major buy-in, if you know how to use them right. That buy-in can even encourage good behaviors and then turn those behaviors into habits. Pokemon Go’s already done this for exercise. People who previously didn’t get out much are now walking five kilometers to hatch eggs they collect in the game.

Gamification among field service techs (and management!) can seem silly, but, done right, it yields results. Sumhair Dutta over at The Service Council mentions “the case of a TSC member organization providing access to safety scores and leaderboards to field service agents on their mobile devices” to “promote collaboration and recognition.”

In fleet management, too, managers and drivers are beginning to see gamification’s potential. There are now businesses using fleet management software and apps to encourage friendly competition between drivers over factors like cutting down on idling or driving the speed limit. In the case of LoJack, making a game out of safe driving helped them cut speeding among drivers by 98%. Building services company Team 360 uses gamification, and offers incentives like gift cards for drivers with the fewest instances of hard braking or idling.

Servitization

It is a truth universally acknowledged that millennials prefer having experiences to owning things. The fact’s become so cliché it’s now being used in a Groupon commercial I’ve seen at least 17 times since last Tuesday. The corresponding trend in business is called ‘servitization.’

Servitization is where traditionally product-based businesses supplement their revenue by also providing services. Sometimes, they move completely from product to service-based business models.

Though servitization is most often talked about in manufacturing and reliability, the trend has made waves in all forms of field service. The most apparent example of this is in the software as a service (SaaS) model offered by most field service management software companies. Pokemon Go is an SaaS, too, and it shows how services can generate revenue as well as products can.

With SaaS software, you pay for the use of a cloud-based software program, rather than having to buy and maintain a server, and the software itself. A Gartner research report corroborates that SaaS can reduce the “demands on a company’s IT resources.” If you only pay for the service of the software-  the organization, speed and efficiency it provides- the IT costs of fixing a broken server, or running a patch on the software, disappear. That’s taken care of by the company who owns the app.

With Pokemon Go, you’re not paying for any new hardware, either. With past Pokemon games, you’d need to buy the system, the cartridge, and any extra add-ons like Nintendo Power or strategy guides (Nintendo is Japanese for “racketeering”). You were also responsible for the upkeep of the hardware (when you think about it, kids blowing on 8-bit NES cartridges were the original IT teams). Pokemon Go, contrastingly, can be downloaded and played for free. You own the hardware (your mobile device), and while you do download the software, it’s the experience that makes money.  

this_kid_is_rad

The focus in Pokemon Go isn’t on the purchase (most of all because the app’s basic version is free). Instead, it’s on experiences, whether that’s visiting locations, catching pokemon, hatching eggs, or battling your pokemon with other people’s. In Pokemon Go, you can use real money to buy in-game add-ons, like extra pokeballs to hold your pokemon, or lures to attract new ones. (Lures, by the way, can also bring your brick-and-mortar business foot traffic.) But these purchases don’t feel stressful or pressured.

These circle things are what Pokestops look like. Now you can impress your kids with this knowledge.

These circle things are what Pokestops look like. Now you can impress your kids with this knowledge.

Matthew Lynley over at TechCrunch was the first person I saw outline this, pointing out the ingenious way “players aren’t compelled to spend money” in Pokemon Go, but are instead “offered a delightful experience when they elect to spend money.” With service increasingly being seen as a point of sale and revenue generator, and service technicians as salesmen, service could drive sales in the same way.

For instance, a good service experience can be a great opportunity for upsell. A report by The Service Council noted that 90% of customers reacted positively to the recommendation of additional products or services. At least 56% of those people made a purchase as a result.

Steve Nava of Luminex argues that the “challenge” facing the service field is “finding technically proficient individuals that understand, and can be taught, the skills needed to succeed in front of a customer.” If, say, a plumber demonstrates his or her competence fixing a toilet, the customer’s already primed for a further demonstration of that ability. That can include a product or process that improves the customer’s toilet, or something else in their plumbing. Or, to put it in Nintendo terms, beat Bowser once and you’ll get the chance to look for the Princess in another castle.

Augmented Reality

Pokemon Go has made “augmented reality” (AR) a household phrase.

What’s augmented reality? It’s reality enhanced by digital technology. When your phone’s camera sees the real world, but inserts a little pokemon in front of you, that’s reality augmented by a pokemon. If you go to 2:46 of this video, you’ll see an example. If you’ve heard of Google Glass or Microsoft’s HoloLens, they’re augmented reality, as well. Both are wearable headsets that display information about something when you look at it.

Purists argue that Pokemon Go technically isn’t AR, but several field service technologies are. Mind you, that discussion is very forward looking (read: the tech isn’t there yet, and may not be for a few years), but the potential leap forward AR could give field service is profound.

An AR headset like Google Glass could make the field in field service as wide as a business needs. The Japanese company NTT DATA has their technicians use smart glasses that allow “senior engineers” to “share the point of view of a technician wearing the M100 Smart Glasses working on-site,” then “provide immediate instruction in real-time using an overlaid augmented reality marker.” 

Professor Howard Lightfoot, of Cranfield University in the U.K., argues that AR could revolutionize the way field service is done. AR “could de-skill the field service activity…with augmented reality you can link [unskilled technicians] to a skilled technician back at base who can take them through the process, not with a manual…but he can actually see what they are doing and he can overlay information for them.”

Caugnate is already working on just such a product, one that “creates, on the fly, a detailed 3d model of the equipment being serviced…in the field.” This model can be viewed in real-time by a remote technician, then used to make a 3-D image, which can then be used to help the on-site worker make repairs.

Daqri already has its own smart helmet on the market, a safety compliant hardhat that can provide data reports and visualization, thermal imaging, and other instructions on its display.

daqri_smart_helmet

Pokemon Go Forth and Do Likewise

If you’re interested in how your small business can improve its mobility, check out the field service apps with mobile app options in our field service management software directory. If I’ve missed ways field service businesses have found success with Pokemon Go’s tactics, please share them in the comments below! I want to be the very best…like no one ever was…and reader feedback is one of the best ways to get there.

Looking for Field Service Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Field Service Management software solutions.

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Geoff Hoppe

Geoff Hoppe is a former Capterra analyst.

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