New Virtual Strategies to Ignite Remote Work in the Field Service Sector
Virtual environments have become the new normal as technical service organizations embrace a range of challenging work arrangements. COVID-19 is the major catalyst, shifting the sands of the virtual workforce and accelerating existing trends toward location-independent work. With the shape of the modern workforce changing before our eyes, service leaders need to adapt existing structures and adopt new strategies in order to stay ahead of the game.
The field service industry is large and incredibly diverse, from enterprise IT to healthcare technology and industrial equipment. This sector refers to any work conducted at a customer site, including the installation, maintenance, and repair of business hardware and equipment. Regardless of location or business size, a range of new skills needs to be adopted to meet the challenges of remote work.
The following strategies can be adopted by any technical service organization to ensure positive workplace outcomes.
Understanding the new paradigm
Since early 2020, businesses and workers around the world have been forced to adopt new working habits. Office meetings have been replaced by video conferences, project management software has enabled remote collaboration, and work zones have moved far beyond the traditional office setting. Like other sectors of the economy, the field service industry has been forced to face these profound changes.
In order to embrace virtual field service as the new normal, you need to accept and understand what has changed. At its core, COVID-19 has forced a premature decentralization of the traditional working space. While this trend was happening anyway, the global pandemic turned a measured evolution into a steep slope with world-shaking implications. This profound change is undeniably different and needs to be respected as a key paradigm shift.
Investing in training and education programs
In order to succeed in the virtual space, new skills are required. From soft communication and collaboration skills to the use of specific digital and virtual technologies, the growth of the remote workforce has changed the scope and importance of many professional abilities. According to a recent Salesforce survey, collaboration was identified by 73% of participants as an essential skill for service people, followed closely by communication by 67% of participants.
While technical skills are required to support new technologies, relationship skills are needed to support their implementation. New education and training programs are being adopted to support growth in both of these areas. When technical proficiency is combined with non-cognitive skills related to emotional intelligence, businesses will benefit from faster implementation of new technologies and trusted long-term partner relationships. In order to be effective, field service software needs to be backed by relationship skills.
Leveraging human connections
The adoption of remote work has led to a number of benefits, including significant savings in travel time and associated costs. However, these gains have come at a price, with fewer live interactions weakening connections between people and highlighting existing gaps in workplace systems and professional skills. In this brave new world, communications are limited, feedback is prevented, and relationships are constrained.
With the rise of remote work, emotional intelligence has become an increasingly important skill. Technical service organizations often need to address non-technical and highly emotive issues, including things like stress, uncertainty, and lack of trust. Not only has the global pandemic brought many of these fears to the foreground, but it has also made these problems harder to address. While it’s still crucial to master digital service technologies, human connections are more important than ever before.
Developing virtual relationship strategies
The human interactions we take for granted have become much more difficult in the current environment. Service staff needs to compensate for lost connections with specific relationship-building strategies. The interpersonal elements integral to workplace meetings are just as important, only now, they need to be addressed in a slightly different way. With face-to-face discussions replaced by Zoom calls and software used to share ideas, it has become crucial to understand and resolve problems through technology.
When you’re talking to people on-screen, it’s important to create a real human connection. While you can’t rely on handshakes and body language, there are things you can do to create an informal and relaxing atmosphere. The following strategies can be used to add value in the virtual world:
- Don’t focus solely on business topics, with personal stories the best way to build long-term relationships.
- Implement new training programs to enable deep listening, smart questioning, and clear, accurate communication.
- Teach people about human behavior so they can recognize sudden changes and refine communication techniques.
- Empathy is the key to positive relationships, so make an effort to understand people’s frustrations and challenges.
Anticipating future challenges
In order to succeed in the new virtual world, it’s essential to be proactive about all aspects of technical implementation and support. You can’t rely on physical human connections with clients, so you need to anticipate challenges and implement solutions from afar. The need to adopt and adapt new digital service technologies has become a rarefied and highly valued skill set in this new space
With opportunities for communication limited and constrained, service providers need to anticipate and address challenges early in the communication and relationship-building process. When you’re diligent in your research and have the correct information at your fingertips, you’re more likely to be viewed as a trusted partner. From a practical perspective, this means listening closely to your clients, doing your research first, and offering creative solutions that do more than meet the brief. When it comes to virtual field services, the ability to anticipate challenges is worth its weight in gold.
Regardless of your location or the specific needs of your clients, high-trust relationships are more important than ever in the field service sector. While COVID-19 has undoubtedly made things more difficult, pronounced emphasis on the virtual space should be approached as an opportunity rather than a threat. If you would like to learn more about our approach to virtual field service, please reach out to our team today.