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How AI Can Make Every HVAC Service Worker A Standout

Feb. 9, 2021
With many long-tenured HVACR technicians retiring, 'upskilling' the rest of the workforce has never been more important for every aspect of the business.

Every HVAC organization has a handful of standout experts --  the service heroes that seem to know it all, ask the right questions, and get the job done safely and effectively. But these top-performers can’t do it all. They can’t be out in the field while simultaneously training less-skilled employees. And with long-tenured technicians retiring in droves, upskilling the rest of the workforce has never been more important for every aspect of the business, from customer experience to employee satisfaction and the bottom line

According to Aquant’s 2020 Service Intelligence Benchmark Report, the bottom-performing quarter of the field service workforce racks up 80% more in service costs than the top quarter, and organizations would save 38% in service costs if everyone had the knowledge and skills to perform like the top 25% of the workforce.

With time of the essence and money on the line, how can HVAC organizations turn every service employee into one of these standout experts? Artificial intelligence provides a quick boost.

Unlocking Tribal Knowledge
To narrow the knowledge gap between the bottom- and top-performers, it’s imperative to capture and distribute best practices across teams. The problem, however, is that much of this critical information is tribal knowledge—decades of information about customers, products and processes that lives in filing cabinets, handwritten notes, and within minds. This first-hand information is invaluable, but until recently, never made it into any kind of database.

To narrow the knowledge gap between the bottom- and top-performers, it’s imperative to capture and distribute best practices across teams.

Now, cost-effective AI-powered tools that can harness, analyze and widely distribute this previously untapped data are becoming more widely available. This spreading of knowledge can lead to workforce improvements that lower customer churn, enable more profitable service contract models, positively impact ROI, and much more.

Driving Service Efficiencies 
Narrowing the knowledge gap means there’s better decision making across the organization. This is possible, in part, due to technologies that can take historical service information—whether it’s neatly organized in CMS databases or notes within work orders—and convert it into an actionable framework that empowers any service worker to troubleshoot like an expert.

The faster and more accurately service teams diagnose problems, the more cost-effective they are in resolving issues. Even small improvements to efficiency can add up to big bottom-line impact. For example, Aquant found that boosting the bottom 25% of the workforce up to the level of average performers results in nearly 17% savings in service costs, while boosting them to the level of top performers increases ROI by another 17%.

Marrying AI & Human Intelligence
One hurdle with traditional knowledge distribution is that different people describe the same problems in different ways. “My unit is leaking” and “my AC is dripping” can be interchangeable, for instance. As a result, companies often build databases with multiple articles for the same solution, causing workers to answer queries differently or be ill-equipped to fix issues on the first try.

Advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP), which can consider variables like regional slang, social context or typos when analyzing information, alleviate this issue. At the heart of the technology (which does all the work behind the scenes) this type of AI understands the intent of the question and matches it to the most likely and cost effective answer. It even gets smarter over time by learning an organization’s unique service language--unlike a static database

Despite all this promise of artificial intelligence, there is no substitute for real-world experience in the field. It’s not enough to simply convert tribal knowledge into data and let technology do the work. AI should be considered a tool to upskill and empower the workforce, not replace it. Only when humans are front and center, and technology is constantly learning from their real-world insights, can organizations unlock AI’s true potential.

As the VP of Product Marketing at Aquant, Edwin Pahk has a deep understanding of the service industry. He's gotten to know service leaders across the globe and digs into their organizations to understand what makes them tick and what challenges keep them up at night. Prior to joining Aquant, he was Principal Solution Engineer, Field Service Lightning at Salesforce. Before that, he led the Solution Consulting team at ClickSoftware.

About the Author

Edwin Pahk | Vice president marketing

As vice president of product marketing at Aquant, Edwin Pahk has a deep understanding of the service industry. He's gotten to know service leaders across the globe and digs into their organizations to understand what makes them tick and what challenges keep them up at night. Prior to joining Aquant, he was Principal Solution Engineer, Field Service Lightning at Salesforce. Before that, he led the Solution Consulting team at ClickSoftware.