The Service Technician: Remote Knowledge Worker
Past job descriptions of field service technicians often focused on the physical or skilled labor involved with the job. For example, it requires a certain extent of physical and manual labor for a field service technician to go out into the field and successfully fix a piece of manufacturing equipment, or a certain skill set to be able to recognize a fault in a piece of machinery and possess the know-how to be able to fix the problem on the first visit. This kind of skilled/physical worker is often contrasted with what we call a “knowledge worker”, a type of professional, such as a lawyer, whose primary job is focused on knowledge, or put more casually, people who “think for a living.”
What is a knowledge worker?
A knowledge worker might be someone who works at any of the tasks of planning, acquiring, searching, analyzing, organizing, storing, programming, distributing, marketing, or otherwise contributing to the transformation and commerce of information and those (often the same people) who work at using the knowledge so produced. Lawyers are typically used as an example as they bill for their time, which is centered on their expertise or knowledge of the problems their clients are facing.
How does a service technician fit the description of the knowledge worker?
While not often considered in the tidy, white-collar definition of knowledge worker, the service technician is in many ways a remote knowledge worker in that their primary capital is increasingly specialized knowledge. Often categorized alongside other physical trade laborers, the service technician’s role is customer-facing and primarily knowledge-oriented, and will only become more so with the rise of mobile technologies used in the field and the heightened customer expectations for field workers to attain information and be able to use it to compete a job. The role of knowledge is expanding in an information-based economy.
Similar to lawyers, the best service technicians are the ones who get the job done quickly and efficiently. This requires expertise. The hardest problems require the most thought and skill. Service technicians might get their hands a bit dirtier than other knowledge workers, but their biggest asset is still knowledge, and now with the rise of mobile technologies and applications, knowledge is available in bulk, right at their fingertips. And with the recent consumerization of mobile technologies, service technicians are encountering added pressure to be able to attain vast amounts of data and knowledge while in the field in order to achieve customer satisfaction.
How does technology facilitate knowledge transfer, capture, and analysis for field service?
A key problem with knowledge workers is ensuring the capture and dissemination of the best practices. Because service technicians often work alone, they may not be aware of the best way to complete a task. Or, they may assume everybody does things the same way, not realizing that throughout their work, they may have stumbled upon an improvement in the way to complete a task.
Technology enables knowledge workers in the following ways:
- Facilitate knowledge—technology provides technicians with easy ways to obtain and interpret knowledge and facilitates improved ways of working with knowledge.
- Capture knowledge—Technicians can capture knowledge with mobile field service software through pictures or data input to use for a future task. For example, being able to capture the steps to complete a fix through pictures or video and saving that information to a mobile device can ensure that other technicians can learn from that knowledge.
- Analyzing knowledge—after capturing data in the field, organizations can analyze that knowledge and use it to understand their operations and become more proactive in the field.
Knowledge workers are becoming more and more prominent, as there is an ever-growing link between knowledge workers and innovation. Social media tools, mobile applications, and the internet now drive powerful forms of collaboration. With the ability to network and share information across multiple platforms in real time, knowledge workers are now engaging in “peer-to-peer” knowledge sharing across organizational and company boundaries, forming large networks of expertise.
Empower Your Workforce and Equip Your Knowledge Workers
Due to the rapid global expansion of information-based transactions and interactions being conducted via the internet and mobile technologies, there has been an ever-increasing demand for a workforce that is capable of performing these activities. Knowledge workers are now estimated to outnumber all other workers in North America, and the number is only growing. Having service technicians equipped with the right tools is the only way to ensure the expansion and dissemination of information required of them as “knowledge workers”.
Your customers have high expectations as we enter further into the information age, and you should help your field service technicians exceed them. Field service organizations that empower their technicians with real-time customer, asset, inventory, warranty, task tracking, video, and service management capabilities consistently outperform their peers. Their technicians can complete their work more quickly and at a higher first-time response success rate. Improve customer satisfaction, increase field service technician utilization, and optimize field service and repair center operations by transforming your field service technicians into a network of knowledge workers with integrated field service software.
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