By Bruce Breeden, Field Service Resources
Has there ever been a better time to be employed as a field service engineer (FSE) or technician? Having been an FSE in the past and spending most of my time now with FSEs and their management, the answer is definitely “No.”
Service as a product, mobile technology, and smart, sensor-connected devices have driven our industry to create innovative delivery models and customer value propositions. The thrum of the old has transitioned to the roar of field service today.
Technology is the root of most change, and in field service, the impact is not just with the products being serviced, but also the technology that supports the FSEs, helping them to be more effective and efficient in their jobs.
- Safety: Combined with regulatory directives, field service organizations (FSOs) are investing more in training, equipment, and behavior-based cultural change to ensure FSEs are safe. Site-specific safety training is also provided, and a new cultural level of safety is evident. Company service vehicle fleets are equipped with telematics and vehicle safety technology to proactively manage driver behavior and duty hours. Drones and sensors are also able to access dangerous or restricted areas to reduce human risk.
- Training: FSEs benefit from a combination of online and instructor-led training courses for product technology, soft skills, and company processes and policies. Just-in-time training and reference material is available on demand, often from an internet-connected mobile device and linked to a senior tech or technical support team. New hire onboarding provides an entry roadmap, advances productive use of time, and provides employee support.
- Compensation: Base pay is increasing at above average rates and is often combined with variable pay for skill development, sales contributions, and team operations performance.
- Technology: From laptops to tablets/smartphones, the use of mobile technology and wearable devices to communicate, educate, network, and process information is amazing. Being a traveling FSE wasn’t much fun when you had to constantly find a warm, dry, quiet payphone to contact your customer or dispatch. Today, we process work orders, expense reports, and time reports and use quick and convenient IM platforms to communicate all through mobile devices. Coordinating with technical support and sharing live images of equipment conditions and readings greatly reduce the level of effort by FSEs.
- IoT/AI Sensors and connected equipment drive the predictive failure delivery model which in turn enables the FSE to work on a proactive job scheduling basis. Emergency breakdowns are disruptive and often emotional to both the customer and FSE. IoT and AI greatly reduce the need for emergency repair callouts and the stress associated with immediate response times, volatile customer situations, disruptive scheduling, and uptime urgency. The use of historical and current data provide advance notice of failure points and allow the job to be proactively scheduled instead of reactively dispatched.
- Role of FSE/Technicians: Clearly recognized as brand ambassadors and problem solvers, FSEs are called upon to use their analytical, interactive, and consulting skills. In a time where repetitive jobs are being replaced with automation, field service is an industry that relies on FSEs’ soft skills to promote the brand and establish customer relationships. I find this is an area of great pride and interest for FSEs who relish the responsibility and dynamic role.
- Community: FSEs are often geographically isolated in their work. New platforms of communication appeal to new FSEs who like to be part of a team and have a network of work friends and support links as they work in their territory. Managers leverage these platforms to share performance scorecards, recognize success stories, and keep their teams engaged.
- Career Advancement: Given their role as brand ambassadors and decision-making problem solvers who are also technologists, the opportunities for FSEs to advance their careers is stronger than ever before.
- Customer-Centric Purpose: FSOs depend on FSE teams to establish customer relationships as “trusted advisors.” This responsibility is earned by their technical and soft skills. As new generations enter the workplace, a sense of purpose in one’s work is important to them, and field service offers a strong customer-centric purpose.
As we recruit, there’s a new story to be told about the field service profession and its rewards.
Bruce Breeden is the founder of Field Service Resources, LLC and author of the book, The Intentional Field Service Engineer. Bruce works with FSO leaders to improve operational performance, lead digital transformation programs, conduct FSE and manager training, and implement mobile technology.