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An Uber-Style Dispatch System for Field Techs


When one thinks of Uber, they tend to think of a peer-to-peer business transaction between individuals. There are no actual Uber employees involved in this transaction, and other than the Uber app itself which facilitates the rideshare service, Uber is not really involved. Drivers are not hired, trained, or maintained by Uber itself, although background checks, car inspections, and a Ratings system is used to identify the good drivers from the bad.


Imagine taking this concept to various corporate activities and think of what that would look like. One area in particular that the Uber concept can be applied is any situation where field personnel are used. This could be for repair and maintenance operations of anything from industrial, manufacturing, and aerospace equipment to IT services. This can apply to any situation where a person comes to your house to provide a service, install your cable or security system, repair your refrigerator, or any number of similar activities.


The gig economy may seriously reshape how business functions in these areas. Instead of hiring a fleet of employees who are on call to meet the unpredictable demand of these field activities, an organization could simply setup an Uber style app that allows technicians, engineers, and/or handymen with specific skill sets to sign up to their Uber-style application and be dispatched to the job site based on their location, skill set, availability, customer rating, etc.


This offers many advantages to a company such as no longer having to directly hire field service personnel. Even though they may still be paying them the same rates and even if there isn’t a financial benefit, activities of this type require companies to constantly juggle staffing and furloughs to meet demand while controlling costs in the ever-shifting market. This is also a self-regulating system as the rating system will allow better field service technicians to emerge from the less skilled or customer friendly technicians. Not only does it simplify the business model, but it improves it.


Imagine this scenario: you are a large cable company that does thousands of home installations a day across all 50 states. Currently, such a company would hire a fleet of full time field service techs who schedule appointments through the cable company directly and not the technician personally.


With an Uber style field service app, the cable company would allow individuals who meet the job skill requirements to register on the mobile app. When a home owner signs up for a service, they request a technician to come onsite. The equipment is shipped directly to the person’s house, and the field service tech schedules the installation date/time directly with the home owner via the mobile app. Instead of setting up a 6 hour window potentially weeks out, they can now be assigned to a job and show up within hours, maybe minutes to do the work. Payments to the technician by the cable company can also be handled through the mobile app. Or, if this is an optional service for the DIY home owner who has given up, the home owner will then pay for the visit. The home owner can also rate the technician’s work and professionalism and techs with high ratings can be rewarded by being prioritized on future call requests.


I am not aware of any cable company actually doing this today, but I believe the Uber business model is going to become very popular very quickly for these types of activities. I myself am helping several companies build apps to provide exactly this type of service for factory maintenance, IT service, and others.


The Gig economy is inspiring new and innovative ways to do business and I see its next phase expanding into more B2C and B2B uses, such as a third party OEM support, starting with large items like massive refrigeration systems, motors, CNC machines and expand into more common everyday items like cell phones and household HVAC systems. The next time you need your water heater looked at or a new internet service hooked up, you could very well be scheduling those activities through your phone, Uber style, and expecting results within hours!


Patrick Burma is a Sr. Solutions Engineer at VANTIQ where he spends his days helping companies create real-world solutions to digitally transform themselves. Before VANTIQ, Patrick was involved with software companies like WANdisco, PureCM, and Seapine Software, building his expertise in pre-sales, product management, and agile methodologies. 

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