Soft Skills in the Field Service Business: AdaptabilityBy My Service Depot on Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Soft skills are one of the most important skill sets to cultivate amongst your team.
Today we will dive into the world of soft skills and their importance for field techs and office staff in the field service industry. Over the course of a series of articles we will go over the most common soft skills, how they impact your business (both in the office and in the field), and what you and your employees can do to improve them.
What are soft skills?
Before we go into too much detail, we should establish a definition for soft skills. A soft skill is a quality, skill, or behavior most commonly demonstrated through personal or interpersonal interaction. There are five main categories for the soft skills: work ethic, communication, creativity, problem solving, and adaptability.
Today we will focus on a few adaptability traits.
Soft Skills: Adaptability
Adaptability is a must for employees and owners alike. While workers in any industry can fall into routine, an unwillingness to adapt can lead to much bigger problems down the road. In the business world especially, things have a way of changing at an accelerated pace. A company that does not innovate will inevitably fall behind.
To counteract this, look for in employees with flexibility, organization, and enthusiasm. The proper team will allow you to make the best decisions for your service company instead of working around people who refuse to change.
A flexible employee demonstrates the ability to take on new tasks and will always help when needed. Some employees show up just looking to go through the motions, others will show up ready for whatever the day throws at them. Flexible employees understand that some things have to change. Having this type of team player on your team will ensure that your field service company can thrive and implement new policies without resistance. Keeping too many team members around who are not flexible can lead to low moral. Workers bring the whole team down by refusing to assist others or having a miserable attitude.
Flexibility impacts all facets of business, but for techs out in the field, flexibility may look a bit different compared to the office side. For example, a flexible person out in the field may need to use different tools than what they are accustomed to. They might also get pushed and pulled from one job site to another based on company need.
On the other hand, office staff might have to implement new software or changes to how various procedures get handled. So, while flexibility needs to be a standard across the board for all employees, how employees deal with this will vary based on their position within the company.
One of the hardest challenges to overcome as a leader? Helping others get better at skills that cannot necessarily be taught. Remember, most soft skills are based on many factors. People acquire soft skills through various life experiences. This is what makes soft skills so hard to coach. If people have never had to be or were never taught to be flexible, that will make them exponentially more complicated to coach.
So, how does one become more flexible? Practice flexibility all the time, even in little things (like changing up a regular sandwich order). Research what makes a person flexible and mimic those behaviors.
Now that we’ve addressed flexibility, we’ll take a look at organization, one of the easiest soft skill to learn. The improvement of this soft skill simply comes down to repetition and self-discipline. By having the self-discipline to practice better organizational skills, you can see an improvement in a very short time.
How does an unorganized person have an impact on the bottom line? Let’s look at an HVAC technician out in the field and a member of the office dispatch team. For the field worker, organization is a critical aspect of their job. Knowing the location of an item or tool simply saves time. If you save 1-2 minutes per job by organizing parts or tools, you can save 5-10 minutes a day, 25-50 per week, and 1300-2600 a year. That works out to 21-43 hours! (It also means paying someone $515-$1,056 each year to look for parts.) Now, imagine utilizing those 21-43 hours to schedule 2-4 new HVAC unit installs. You would go from a $1,056 loss to a $6,800 – $13,600 gain! As a last step, multiply those numbers by the number of techs you have. You can clearly see why getting organized will make a big difference for your business!
The office dispatcher is no different. If they waste time with poor organization or clunky software, you will run into a similar issue. A field service management software package like Smart Service can make a big difference here. Check out how much you can save, simply by going digital:
Let’s discuss patience and how that can impact a field service business. Patience refers to the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Patience is a critical tool that all your employees should have to best serve your customers. Easily provoked people will end up costing your business at some point in time, so you should nurture patience with both office staff and field staff right out of the gate.
If your field service company does not have a customer-facing storefront where customers can physically come in, patience will manifest more in the office staff having a pleasant tone while on the phone, using phrases like “no worries, take your time” or “ not a problem at all.” It’s all about the tone and delivery. Make sure that you always sound positive, happy, and upbeat. This will help the customer feel they haven’t inconvenienced you or wasted your time, ultimately improving their experience.
If you do have a storefront, patience becomes a whole new ballgame. There are major differences when it comes to face-to-face interactions. When you have customers coming into the store or if you have techs out in the field, your reps must remain conscious of the following things: tone, facial expressions, body language, and appearance (to name a few). All of these things will affect the outcome of conversations, whether you know it or not!
Sometimes customers may become aggressive, angry, rude, or even downright disrespectful. As a business owner or employee, you cannot allow this to get to you. Maintain composure and stay cool, calm, and collected. This will allow you to rise above the bad attitude and still deliver quality customer service. While losing one customer may not be the end of the world, their word of mouth could do much more harm if the situation deteriorates.
Patience may be one of the hardest soft skills to improve and coach. It’s easy to tell an employee to stay calm when handling a customer that is pushing their buttons, but it’s another thing entirely to actually do it. The best way to become more patient? Identify your triggers. Once you have identified triggers, you can start coaching yourself by reminding yourself of basic items (like remembering to smile and silently telling yourself to remain calm). One last tip; get an adequate amount of sleep and eat well. Whether you know it or not, these things impact your disposition!
What is consistency? Consistency is defined as steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc. Being consistent is pretty easy, but being consistently good is what you should want for yourself and your employees. Just like with patience, consistency will look different based on one’s role within a company. Owners/management will not do the same things as a tech out in the field, nor will office staff/admins.
Consistency should start at the top in your company. Having leadership that demonstrates proper procedures and behaviors can result in the growth of your company. If your upper management shows up 5-10 minutes late each day, it becomes very easy to see how that can bleed over to other employees. Soon, you may have 15 people all showing up 5-10 minutes late a day. Over time this can impact customer appointment times, deliveries, and even your bottom line.
Consistency can also apply to more negative aspects of management roles. For example, not many people enjoy the act of disciplining their employees. However, sometimes they have to. You must remain consistent here, applying the same standards to everyone. Inconsistently handing out different punishments for similar infractions can lead to decreased morale. People want to play by the same set of rules.
For the office worker, consistency will eventually develop into a routine. Instead of arriving on time, a dispatcher might show up five minutes early to get their desk or computer set up for the day. The habits that are developed early on in employment will often be the ones that people go to for day-to-day items. Breaking these habits can result in the need to retrain the employee, which costs time and money. By having clear expectations for your employees, you can make sure that you set them up for consistent success!
No matter how you slice it, the adaptability soft skills are some of the most important ones to develop among your team. By honing your interviewing skills and having a knack for finding diamonds in the rough, you can start to develop an all-star team that can help take your company to the next level.
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