Top 7 Field Service Management Challenges

Written by: Emily Himes

Read Time: 6 min

Field Service isn’t getting any easier. To gain an edge, understand the seven biggest challenges—so you can turn them into competitive opportunities.

Technicians are at the forefront of any service organization. Do yours have the training, tools, and data they need to succeed? With an ever-changing service industry and heightened pressures around efficiency and cost, it can be difficult for technicians to solve service problems correctly on the first try. And while these issues are prevalent, the right planning and investments can empower your technicians to manage and control incidents, optimize call planning and on-site reactivity, and improve first-time fix rates.

Understanding the field service industry

Building field service success is often associated with expensive investments in people and infrastructure. Traditionally, service technicians require extensive training investments—both in the beginning of their career and as they advance—so they can competently tackle complex problems that customers can’t solve themselves. And in addition to natural attrition within the industry, field service managers need to factor in an expertise paradox. As your technicians become more skilled throughout their career, the closer they are to retirement and permanently exiting the workforce.

The service team is also more than just field service itself. While field service managers may have a focused responsibility, the landscape is—or should be—much more collaborative. Field techs—those who operate at the point of service—aren’t alone in the service process. Technician dispatchers, customer service agents, warehouse personnel, and even the customer themselves all can play a role in the larger ecosystem. This enterprise collaboration model supporting connected service is an attribute of the most successful service organizations—but is far from today’s norm.

Macro-level shifts in customer expectations have also changed the industry. In most markets, sales used to be a fixed event, and once the customer made a purchase, they were highly dependent on either the manufacturer, or a third-party service, to ensure continued successful operation. But the rules have changed. Today, many products fall into a subscription, or outcome-based model. This change is combined with an internet-fueled, on-demand mindset, where customers (and their customers) expect things to arrive immediately, operate without error, and if something goes awry, for the problem to be immediately solved. These shifts have placed a much greater emphasis on service—particularly field service—to maintain a healthy customer lifecycle.

Common field service management challenges

The challenges that field service managers face stem directly from these realities. Technicians require initial and ongoing training—which is expensive. Maintaining a roster of technicians in the face of retirement and attrition adds to that cost. Field service is just a player in a much larger team.

Meanwhile, the role of service in overall business success has increased proportional to customer expectations. On top of these factors is the reality that service budgets aren’t keeping pace to reflect these realities, and service managers must figure out how to do more with less. It’s understandable why many service organizations are feeling intense pressure to thrive. Fortunately, best-in-class service leaders have charted a course that others can follow. Organizations that leverage digital technologies like IoT and deploy service optimization solutions achieve heightened levels of productivity and efficiency, but implementing those solutions can be a difficult process. These initiatives' success depends on a variety of factors, such as program ownership, change management, and deployment strategy. When implemented correctly, though, these solutions enable teams to maximize results at their current headcount without taking on additional costs.

Work order management

Organizations should be able to manage and monitor work orders from creation all the way through job execution and debrief to meet customers’ high expectations for timely and efficient service. However, managing multiple work orders simultaneously requires precise coordination between various teams, and this can be difficult to achieve without robust, accurate systems in place to keep track of resource allocation. By ensuring that no task falls through the cracks, service leaders can feel confident that customer needs are being met efficiently and accurately. Designing in native connectivity may feel like a non-starter for many organizations, but fortunately there are highly effective alternatives.


Dispatchers are under a lot of pressure to achieve high productivity to ensure the best outcomes for customers and technicians alike. Strong job scheduling functionality will allow them to improve technician utilization with shift management, maps, personalized views, and live notifications. They also use digital tools for monitoring and optimizing schedules, so their dispatchers can reduce travel time and ensure that the right technician is assigned to the right job. They also use automated scheduling tools to adapt to real-time changes, minimizing downtime and responding promptly to urgent service requests.

Real-time communication

Customers expect timely service updates and resolutions. But a lack of visibility and ability to respond means that service teams are stymied by:

  • Delayed issue resolution: Without live data, it’s difficult for field technicians to promptly report issues or seek guidance.
  • Inefficient resource allocation: Real-time updates are crucial to make sure technicians arrive at the site with the knowledge and tools they need to fix the problem correctly the first time.
  • Inaccurate job status reporting: Without instant communication, the status of ongoing jobs may not be accurately reported, leading to poor management of field service activities.


Many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) offer field service support to their customers, which involves sending a technician to a customer site to repair, maintain, or install equipment. However, these visits are not always efficient—often, it takes technicians multiple visits to solve a problem that could have been easily solved by the customer. Various factors can affect field service efficiency, such as:

  • Inaccurate instructions: Traditional paper-based instructions can become quickly outdated, making field service efficiency difficult. They also lack any additional context to help translate 2D instructions to the physical machine that needs repair.
  • Inefficient service dispatches: It can be difficult to diagnose a machine failure remotely without the right tools or live data, resulting in unnecessary truck rolls and poor technician utilization.
  • Poor parts management: With constant pressure to keep inventory costs low, it can be difficult to ensure the correct parts are available and easily accessible when a customer needs them. Without a robust service parts management strategy, technicians can show up to customer sites with the wrong materials, resulting in prolonged downtime and missed SLAs.

First-time fix rate

First-time fix rate—the percentage of time a technician can fix an issue the first time, without additional expertise, information, or parts—is a critical metric for evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of field service operations. A high first-time fix rate can keep service costs low by reducing truck rolls and boosting customer satisfaction. After all, if an issue is not resolved on the first service visit, a technician will have to visit 1.6 additional times on average. Improving this vital metric not only enhances operational efficiency but also strengthens customer trust and loyalty, as timely and effective resolutions are critical to maintaining high levels of satisfaction.

Aging workforce

An aging workforce presents significant challenges for field service management. Experienced technicians retire, taking with them years of invaluable knowledge and skills—and replacing these seasoned professionals is not only costly but also time-consuming. To mitigate this strain on resources and morale, organizations need to focus on knowledge transfer and invest in training new technicians to ensure seamless transitions and maintain high service standards.

Leveraging technology such as augmented reality (AR) can enhance training programs, allowing new technicians to learn alongside a “digital mentor” that provides in-context visual instructions for employees to leverage while they’re working. By fostering a culture of continuous learning, organizations can better adapt to workforce changes and preserve critical expertise.

Customer satisfaction

As industrial organizations become more customer-centric, there is a new focus on the importance of customer satisfaction. A satisfied customer will exhibit long-term loyalty, while dissatisfied customers will seek out other options in the ever-growing industrial market. To retain customers and stay competitive, service organizations must prioritize timely, efficient service experiences that consistently meet or exceed expectations. If you consistently solve problems faster, the first time, and can sometimes do so before there’s a problem—go from being front-line of a souring customer relationship to becoming a strategic partner in their success. While that is a long journey that requires addressing previous field service management challenges, it is a service game changer that separates the best from the rest.

How can you address these field service management challenges?

Field service has changed immensely, and the pace of change seems to only accelerate. Challenges that didn’t exist 20 years ago are now critical problems to solve. But at the same time, there are new tools in the toolbox—digital transformation solutions—that can help organizations solve for today’s problems and be in a much better place to adapt to the pressures of tomorrow. As we’ve discussed—each service organization has its own set of priorities and opportunities to improve.

For next steps, you should dive deep into two areas: first, fully understand where the gaps and problems are in each challenge area affecting you—including root cause analysis. You can’t fix it if you don’t know what’s broken. Second, you should investigate digital transformation solutions available that can be used—independently and together—to best solve your most important problems first. With that work done, you can be much more prescriptive in solving your field service management challenges.

Tackle Your Field Service Challenges Head-On

Tune into episode 33 of Speaking of Service to learn about the transformative mindsets, practical strategies, and real-life examples that empower field service professionals Listen Now
Tags: Industrial Internet of Things Field Service Improve Service Efficiency

About the Author

Emily Himes Emily is a Content Marketing Specialist on PTC’s Commercial Marketing team based in Boston, MA. Her writing supports a variety of PTC’s product and service offerings.