Here's What Happens When Service Information is Poorly Managed

It seems unlikely that something as innocuous as technical documentation would have such a profound impact on your service department’s bottom line, but poorly managed service information makes it difficult for field technicians to resolve customer issues quickly.

Aberdeen’s Field Service 2016 report found improper diagnoses cause 19% of failed service visits. What’s at the root of this problem? How do low first-time fix rates impact your company’s bottom line?

From a technician’s perspective

Suppose your company manufactures HVAC units for industrial, commercial, and residential properties – much like Ingersoll Rand’s Trane division. It receives a service call from a building manager who says the facility isn’t getting any cool air. It’s the middle of the summer in Phoenix, Arizona, so it’s imperative that you resolve the problem quickly.

The technician assigned to the service call arrives at the building, and notices that the air handler is a model with which he is only vaguely familiar. He knows the motor isn’t working, and isn’t sure which part number he’ll need to replace it.

After consulting the service manual back in his truck, he realizes he has the correct part number on hand, and brings it up to the air handler. So far, the unit has been inoperable for three hours.

The impact of misinformation

Before replacing the motor, the technician ensures the original motor was wired to the correct specifications. The wiring matches the motor’s voltage (200V, according to the service manual), so he then checks the fuses using a volt meter. They seem to be working fine, and he confirms they’re the correct ones by consulting the service manual.

He tests the motor, turns it on, and then reactivates the system. After more than four hours of downtime, the system seems to be working properly.

However, three days later, the motor shuts down again. The customer, furious that the system wasn’t fixed properly the first time, informs your company of the issue.

The same technician revisits the site and double-checks his work. According to the service manual, he followed all of the correct steps. Befuddled, he calls your company’s technical support team. A representative identifies the problem: the motor listed in the service manual superseded an obsolete part, and requires a lower voltage (150 volts).

The excess voltage fried the motor the technician installed three days earlier. Therefore, he needs to order a new one. The wait time? Two days.

The unbearable heat in the building causes a legal health hazard, and the facility manager is forced to shut it down until the HVAC unit is fixed. As a result, a tenant decides not to renew its lease when it expires, forcing the building owner to search for new business.

What would this cost you?

If you were in the facility manager’s position, would you renew your service contract, or shop around?

The whole situation could have been avoided if the service manual tracked part supersession, but this lack of context is a symptom of a broader issue: the technical communications department has no way of updating and validating information as engineers apply changes.

This lack of capability can lead to a number of issues. For example, 43% of field technicians need to search multiple places just to get the right service information. The case study below discusses how one healthcare company resolved similar service information problems:

PTC Service Cast Study