Expected and Unexpected Benefits of Adopting Smart Glasses in Field Service

Written BY

Emily Friedman

November 2, 2015

Case in point: Las Vegas Air Conditioning, a leading HVAC company in Las Vegas

For the past few years, the guys over at Las Vegas Air Conditioning have been conducting field studies of wearable technology in the HVAC industry with their program AC Repair on Air. The program involves technicians sporting Google Glass and a few other wearable gadgets while out on calls, and gathering feedback from homeowners/clients as well as the technicians themselves.

At the recent Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit in Houston, TX, Las Vegas AC owner Stephen Gamst shared some of the benefits of the AC Repair on Air program, including some clear and expected benefits along with some “very unexpected” ones.

Las Vegas Air Conditioning has been servicing homeowners for all their air conditioning and heating repair needs since 1969. Despite having a near perfect record, including very few (if any) negative reviews in the recent years, LVAC is always seeking to better its service. To this end, the company began experimenting with wearable technology, aiming to improve its technicians’ lives while also easing the minds and earning the trust of its clients.

Since implementing wearable tech – specifically smart glasses like Google Glass – Las Vegas Air Conditioning’s website ranking has improved drastically, bringing in a ton of extra work. Gamst’s company has been written about numerous times, was listed as No. 46 in a Top 50 Businesses in America for Customer Service and Technology list, and has tripled in size as a result. I don’t think Gamst could have predicted this kind of growth or success when he first imagined incorporating the see-what-I-see capabilities of smart glass technology into the HVAC customer experience.

Today, wearable tech is a mandatory tool at Las Vegas Air Conditioning. Not only can the technicians no longer imagine performing their jobs without it, but LVAC customers count on the technology. It’s what they have come to expect, and what sets Las Vegas AC apart from the competition.

So what do we mean by expected and unexpected benefits. It’s one thing to imagine how Google Glass might assist technicians out in the field, or how – as a customer – being able to see what a technician is doing at your home in real-time (and having a video record of this service) might provide a sense of assurance. It’s another to actually implement the technology and witness the results unfold.

Here are the benefits of wearable technology in HVAC as reported thus far by Las Vegas Air Conditioning:

1. Efficiency: Smart glasses are essentially a tool that can be used by field technicians to aid their efficiency and productivity. The first-person video recording aspect means that office-based managers or senior technicians can login and view what a single technician or team of lesser field workers are doing while out in the field, and provide advice and/or instructions when needed.

For instance, a senior technician could grab a part – say a contractor, which is a regular part in most air conditioners – and upload an image of that part onto the field technician’s smart glasses display using something like the HP MyRoom platform. Even more, the senior tech could draw on the screen, illustrating to a new or lesser experienced tech how to install or wire that same part in the field.

The larger picture or ideal end result: The repair is done right every time. Far less room for error with an expert monitoring and remotely assisting the repair in real time.

2. Customer Service: Imagine a mechanic, plumber, or AC repair man knocking on your door in that stressful crunch time when something suddenly malfunctions or breaks and you have a mile-long To Do list. You dread having to re-plan your entire schedule around the repair, but then the smart-glasses-clad technician hands you an iPad and says,

“Here’s your live feed. You will be able to watch as we troubleshoot, diagnose and repair your *insert appliance* from anywhere.”

In an industry where clients traditionally distrust the service professionals, a live feed of all the goings-on in your home during a repair is revolutionary. The ability to view the entire job through the eyes of the very person handling it goes a long way towards diminishing any concerns or doubts.

Wearable technology is truly bringing in a new, modern age in customer service.

3. Safety: This benefit follows from the first, and might be considered an unexpected or side benefit of wearables in the field.

Wearable tech can provide extra layers of protection in the field. For instance, the see-what-I-see function of smart glasses can allow senior techs and managers to monitor the safety of new techs in the field in an immediate and real-time manner. With an expert not watching over the technician’s shoulder but through his eyes (or glasses), gone may be the days of new techs getting hurt due to inexperience or poor practice. Less rookie mistakes, more safety.

On top of enabling field vets to watch over and guide a novice technician through an entire service call – ensuring the job is done both properly and safely – the health data collected by other wearable devices such as smart bands and smartwatches might hold another key to improving the safety of field workers.

4. Marketing: Perhaps the most surprising and unintended benefit of all. In today’s world, an online marketing strategy is no longer an option for companies. And with so many field service businesses trying hard to make it to the top of the appropriate search engines and sometimes succeeding in the rankings in contrast to the quality of their work, the competition is stiff and customers often suffer as a result.

At EWTS ’15, Stephen Gamst of Las Vegas Air Conditioning shared one very surprising benefit to his company’s wearable tech program: enhanced marketing. Once you hear it, it’s not difficult to imagine, but it’s not an obvious benefit one might predict when planning and carrying out a wearable pilot in his or her business.

The data collected by wearables – in LVAC’s case, the video record of service jobs – can be used for marketing purposes both online and off. As Gamst reports, “The most important thing to Google is fresh and original content, and with the digital era going [towards] more pictures and video,” wearable tech is an easy way to collect video for promoting your business. “With the ability to capture your work and stream it straight to Google+ or YouTube…you are collecting great and original content [that can] be used for your website.”

So a video record collected by smart glasses can not only serve as proof of service and a distinguishing feature of your business but also as promotional media content.

5. ROI: Okay, wearable technology is expensive. Smart glasses run about a grand (sometimes several), so is it worth it? Well, what is it worth to a field service business to perhaps not necessarily get the right man to the job but to ensure that whoever answers the call – no matter their level of expertise – performs the job thoroughly and correctly, with a team of overseers digitally behind him.

What if we can avoid a worst-case scenario like having a junior tech fumble a job by fixing only the very first issue he finds and unknowingly leaving the root of the problem unaddressed? The unit works for a short while then fails the next day. Another technician is sent out to inform the customer that he will need to spend even more money to finish the job. Nightmarish, no?

What are the options for an HVAC company? How do you improve your first-time fix rates? Well, employing only journeymen is one rather unrealistic and expensive option. But keeping your vets at a home base to remotely observe, instruct and assist younger techs, enabling them to chime in before mistakes are made via wearable technology…That gives you twice the manpower and double the assurance on every job.

Welcome to the future of field service.

Further Reading