3 Things Any Field Service Business Must Do in 2018
As technology advances occur more and more rapidly, field service managers find themselves in an era of non-stop new tech adoption. With all the issues this rapid adoption creates, how do you balance customers’ growing list of technical requests, technicians’ ongoing training needs, and the cost of new technology? Of course, there’s no easy way to balance the growing technology needs of a company, but we do have some best practices to offer.
1. Collect, Analyze, and Review Data
All technology you use to manage things in the office and the field should produce rich datasets you can use to improve every aspect of your business. If your tech doesn’t produce this data or you’re not using it, then it’s time for an upgrade.
According to the 2017 Field Service USA Benchmark Report, “the new field service paradigm will be driven by how effectively data can be captured and then used as a source of insights to improve customer satisfaction.” But it’s not just customer satisfaction that can be improved by using this data. Use employee time and expenses data gathered from field service and payroll tools to assess training needs and optimize hiring plans.
Align your company’s goals with the data you track and how you use it. Whether you’re looking to cut down on inventory costs, improve the quality of communication with customers, or streamline your work order process, the technology you use should be a significant resource in tracking and completing these goals.
Taking the time to set up and review reports that show your progress toward business goals will increase the ROI from each piece of technology you’ve invested in.
2. Invest in Internet of Things (IoT) Technology
Internet of Things (IoT) refers to technology that makes an object “smart,” meaning that it (and the software that runs it) collects and learns from data. Service industries use IoT tools to create new continuous streams of information from a consumer’s residence or business back to the company. The Field Service’s Internet of Things report lists a number of ways that IoT technology will disrupt field service industries. Here are just a couple:
IoT will move field service from a break and fix model to a prediction-based model, “where products alert when they need to be serviced before downtime ever occurs.” Companies can also gather information about customer needs with these tools, which would communicate with other smart tools in ways that provide deep data about the environment in which the tools work.
IoT will change the role of a technician. “The greater the integration of objects that can report on their status into digital networks, the more able a technician will be to follow a procedural approach to repairs, as opposed to diagnosing an unknown malfunction.”
IoT technology is not cheap, but it’s one of the best investments you can make for your business. Prepare for this investment; it will be a game changer.
3. Schedule consistent continuing education
For years, the industry has faced a talent shortage. In a 2016/2017 survey, Manpower Group found that 40% of the employers surveyed had difficulties filling job openings, with skilled trade positions the hardest to fill. Finding employees that can keep up with the rapid technology changes is a big part of the issue.
One part of the solution to having tech-savvy employees is to offer continual training opportunities for your existing workers. Many companies find that implementing a human resources software that includes a built-in Learning Management Software component eases this transition and provides new opportunities for learning in a technician’s free or downtime.
Bruce Breeden, author of Intentional Field Service Engineer, explains why continued education is so valuable:
“…continuing education helps lead to a clear and articulated common service vision for how technology will be used in the organization. The need for innovation and the adoption of new technologies and skills also drives the development of continuing education and self-development plans throughout the organization.”
Education doesn’t just need to be about technology. Useful continuing education can include customer interaction skills, stress management, fostering leadership skills, and other soft skills that promote business goals.
For instance, Mike Karlskind explains why teaching your dispatch team decision training skills is so important:
“Dispatch decisions are the bedrock of efficient service and high customer satisfaction. Making the right decision at the right moment can make or break a technician’s day (or week), and result in customers gained or customers lost.”
Increasing soft and hard skills can reduce job stress, improve employee confidence in doing their jobs, and increase their overall company loyalty.
Since one of the main reasons people leave their job is the lack of growth opportunities, continuing education can reduce employee turnover when accompanied by ways to move up the company ladder. To this end, Field Service Matters suggests identifying your top 15% of technicians and “make an effort to get them everything they need.” That means ensuring that they have the skills, tools, and time off or benefits that keep them happy. And who knows? Maybe some continuing education is the difference you were missing between a mediocre and outstanding technician.
Jera Brown is a writer for TechnologyAdvice. She left a career in UX/UI to write full-time. She believes in user-centered design and advocating for diversity in the tech field.