Augmented Reality: The Future of Field Service Management

Ryan Snellings, Vice President Operations, Fresenius Kabi
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Ryan Snellings, Vice President Operations, Fresenius Kabi

Ryan Snellings, Vice President Operations, Fresenius Kabi

Like many service organizations, it is always imperative to be looking to move forward and improve the customer experience; one new opportunity out there is Augmented Reality (AR). AR opportunities are endless, just to name a few, lowered cost, improved customer satisfaction, better technical support both internal and external, and reduced inhouse training time. The more support you can do remotely, without having truck rolls, the lower your cost are and the quicker turnaround time you have with customer issues. Real-time, instant support, not to mention, provides the opportunity to host a range of premium services to generate more revenue. Customers will get real time support and not have to wait for an onsite technician to arrive. This will keep them up and running to support their own customers, and it gives operators the confidence to know that if their customers have issues, they can offer instant support through AR. With AR, organizations are also able to send new technicians out in the field with more confidence, given they have a senior tech or specialist to support them remotely through AR. This reduces training time and gives the employee the confidence that they can do their job correctly.

We are all new to augmented reality and it will take some time to figure out what we can do with it. Some of that is fear of the unknown; some of that is simply not being proficient in the world of AR. Fortunately, if the field management team and field service engineers’ work together to evaluate the opportunities out there, the transition can be seamless. Cost is, of course, a big factor, but you may also want to do something that you can build upon in the future as technologies improve. It’s important to look for a company that feels more like a partner and that would come in and get a feel for your business, not just sell you a straight out-of-the-box solution. Find a relationship that is comfortable, low cost, and that you know can help to improve the software over time to better fit your needs.

  AR is still in beginning stages but it gives you a stepping stone that builds confidence to make these new technologies work​  

AR gives us many customer facing channels that we can improve the customer experience with. For example, if you have a hotline team that handles troubleshooting over the phone, usually an experienced group of individuals that man a 24/7 support line. With AR, they can log in customers into the AR system that you have selected and get a real-time view of what they are seeing. It’s almost like you are physically there. This cuts down the phone call time, and gives customer the confidence to know that you fully understand what they are going through. Same goes for the field staff. New or experienced field reps can run into an issue that they just can’t solve. With AR, they can connect with anyone else out on the field or a product manager to solve whatever issue they are having in real time. Sometimes it may be simply identifying a spare part, which is much easier when you can show someone over the connection the actual part that needs to be replaced. Finally, this gives you a premium service that you can offer to your self-service customers. This of course drives more revenue but more importantly, it gives those self-service customers the confidence to know you are right there with them when an issue arises.

The introduction of AR of course comes with numerous challenges. As with anything new, you have two schools of thought: wow, this is exciting, and wow, this will never work. It was very important to make sure the technology works before pushing it out to other businesses or using it live with a customer. Several members of the team should test the program over and over to make sure all the kinks are out, and like anything new there are going to be some kinks in the system. But with the right partner and team of engineers, you can roll out a program that everyone is confident with. There will always be some detractors, like with anything new, but overall usage will increase over time.

Even in the early stages of the process I think you will see some customer excitement in the way you are approaching support and I think this is what is most important. Customers have something tangible that they know you are doing to better support them. It also gets them excited about what you will do next and how it will benefit their operations and users. There are of course other benefits such as quicker fixes, less in-house training time, and the potential to upcharge for more advance services, but at the end of the day we all just want to improve the overall customer experience.

AR is still in beginning stages but it gives you a stepping stone that builds confidence that you can make these new technologies work. Some of the AR technology outside is futuristic type stuff, such as 3D models built remotely, full device display based off BOM’s within your ERP system. The possibilities are endless and I am learning as I go. When all is said and done we want to be able to use AR to fix any current issues in real-time, and if we can get good at it, solve issues before they even occur. That is what will really change the customer experience and the current brake/fix service model.

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