Want to Excel at Field Service? Five Habits to Break Today

When I think about field service, I have visions of a technician fixing a down piece of equipment on a job site, or a cable technician showing up to a customer within that all elusive 2-hour appointment window (who wants to wait all day to get your Wi-Fi set up).

Field service seems like a fairly simple activity – schedule a technician, give them a tool kit, make sure they get to the customer, and fix the problem. Once resolved, move on to the next problem on the schedule. However, just because a process seems simple doesn’t quite make it easy to excel. Aberdeen’s 2014 Field Service research highlights how the top two challenges facing service and manufacturing organizations are 1.) reduced service margins and 2.) changing customer dynamics. Service organizations can no longer rest on their laurels – organizations will not be able to reach profitability goals without enhancing their service offerings to exceed the expectations of an ever-changing competitive environment. In order to achieve excellence, particularly in field service, you must break away from a few outdated habits:

1. End your reliance on historical data in regard to service demand. Clinging to historical trends may work in industries that remain stagnant year over year. However, in service, where customers’ needs fluctuate and resources change drastically in availability, organizations must improve forecasting of and planning for future service demand in order to stay in front of problems before they arise.

2. Don’t let outdated information for parts and service run your operation. Organizations should increase the availability of service knowledge in order to diagnose and resolve service issues more quickly. The #1 reason technicians are not able to resolve an issue the first time is not having the right part to fix an issue. Not having up-to-date information on which parts are available throughout the service network will greatly hinder the organizations ability to resource the field appropriately. Worse yet, if technicians begin to feel like information is stale, they will begin to hoard parts so they aren’t the ones that show up empty-handed, further clogging the network.

3. Old tools no longer support the 21st century technician or customer. The story of the efficient field service organization running on paper is beginning to fade, but that doesn’t mean we have slain the dragon. Organizations need to continue to improve the efficiency to which technicians are provided data and can access insights while in the field. Top performing organizations continue to invest in mobile tools to provide technicians with better access to information in the field in order to support resolution.

4. Stop watching dots slowly moving on a map. A few years ago, if I wanted an update on my favorite baseball team I would watch the ‘gamecast’ which would show little tiny dots moving around the base pads and hopefully touching home. I am happy to note that as of the past couple of years through a great invention, high-speed internet connections and mobile devices, I can watch my favorite team in High Definition on my phone while I am commuting home 3,000+ miles away from the stadium. This type of advancement has also revolutionized field service. Organizations now have access to a wealth of real-time information on technicians, fleets, equipment, and customers while having the ability to interact, communicate, and adjust on the fly. No longer does a dispatcher have to be stuck in the back-office hoping he or she isn’t sending multiple technicians to the same job based on a dot that hasn’t moved in a few hours.

5. The break / fix service model has cracks. Once an asset, part, or piece of equipment fails, the service organization has to fight to recover. The service organization must leverage enhanced monitoring technologies to proactively identify future issues and schedule technicians to solve problems before they occur. Customer productivity should not become an afterthought for the service organization; customer success must be viewed as service organization success.

The transformation of service from being primarily operationally and cost-focused to establishing the customer as a priority has made it an imperative for the field service team to innovate its processes. Solely reacting to the world is no longer acceptable. We all need to stop doing what may have been the norm in the past, and instead innovate to deliver exceptional service to valued customers.

Originally published on 4/23/2014