A Service Manager’s Guide to Field Service Technology
Part 1: Leveraging Your Field Service Team
High quality service is what every service manager strives for, but in the industrial machinery business, one small mistake can cause a huge ripple effect across a customer’s business – and directly impact your reputation. How can you ensure the highest quality service no matter the time or place?
Service management is no joke. Overseeing a team of operators and field technicians while maintaining a positive relationship with customers can be a complicated dance. Let’s break it down:
Field Service Technicians are your Front Line
Field technicians are your front line: Dispersed to whatever location necessary across the globe, they are on-site with customers and a direct reflection of your company – and your service. For your manufacturing customers, the tiniest part can cause mass chaos. Just ask anyone who has ever forgotten to put a bolt in a piece of Ikea furniture: little oversights equal major pain points on a MUCH smaller scale. Being the front line, customers expect professional, knowledgeable, timely and tactful representatives to support their every service need. If something goes wrong, your field team needs to take responsibility (regardless of fault) and ensure that the machinery is back up and running at optimum efficiency as fast as possible.
Field Service Technicians are Often Less Experienced
Quite often, the people in the field are actually the least experienced. Seems counter-intuitive to send novices out on calls, but let’s face it: being in the field is unpredictable, hard, and often thankless work, and someone has to do it. That’s not to say all field service reps are green – there are plenty of seasoned pros that love being onsite and on the road. But as a general rule, your techs will start their careers in the field.
Field Service Technicians Experience Unpredictability
- What calls will come in today?
- Where will I need to go?
- How long will it take?
- Is the part in the truck, at the factory, or on backorder?
- Will I know how to fix this when I arrive? What do I know about this job?
- What DON’T I know about this job?
- How can I get there?
- Are there extenuating circumstances that haven’t been communicated?
The list of variables that make a field service technician’s job unpredictable is endless. Imagine facing true uncertainty every single day in your job. It’s as if your techs are all medical doctors waiting to learn of an emergency but have no idea where they’ll need to go to perform treatment, how long it will take, what supplies and tools to bring, if people will be angry with them when they arrive, etc. and, oh yeah, they are probably paid the least when compared to all the other medical professionals.
Technician Quality of (Work) Life Improvement
So, how can you improve the work (and lives) of your field service team? Imagine having a “spy” on the inside: literally a video or still image of exactly what the problem is before jumping on a plane or driving hours to conduct the service call.
What if you could even walk the customer through self-service of the issue – never dispatching a tech. When dispatch is necessary, the technician shows up with every tool and all the correct parts to fix the problem during the very first call. If additional problems are encountered, your technician involves a virtual global team of your most experienced operators to offer the best, quickest and most economical solution. If manuals are needed, they are available with a click on a mobile device. Real-time communication.
Expert Operators: The Men (and Women) Behind the Curtain
As we mentioned, junior team members tend to be in the field. So where are the senior team members? They’ve been promoted to Expert Operators. Maybe working remotely from a centralized location (maybe in the field), they are called in for an intervention to assess and consult on the field team’s issues if resolution isn’t reached on-site. Their goal is to expedite resolution and decrease the number of transfers. Collaboration is key: if a field service tech needs expert help, he or she needs to quickly contact the expert operator for advice. The easier it is to communicate the problem, the quicker the resolution.