From The Editor | August 23, 2013

Are You Overlooking An Important Aspect Of Training Your Field Technicians?

Sarah Nicastro

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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It’s crucial for your field service technicians to have technical skills, yes — of course. If they arrive at a customer’s site and don’t have the technical knowledge to fix the problem at hand, you’re going to have some pretty big issues to deal with. But there’s another area of training that’s becoming more and more recognized and adopted when it comes to field technicians — and that’s soft skills training.

In fact, in a report recently released by WBR (Field Service: The 2013/2014 Service, Revenue, & Training Trends Report), 73% of respondents rank soft skills as an area of training they’re currently prioritizing, second only to product-repair training. This report is based on a survey conducted at WBR’s annual Field Service USA event each April, and this year’s survey included 85 executives from a variety of field service industries (WBR also puts on an East-coast event this month in Charlotte, NC). If you begin to think about why such a high percentage of companies find soft skills training so important, it makes sense — but I can see how it could be an area that companies overlook.

How To Meet Growing Customer Expectations
There was a time when a customer would be happy as long as the technician who arrived fixed what was broken or installed what needed to be installed. But those days are essentially over. Consumers expect more — and as many products have become commoditized, service is really what sets you apart in most industries today. So it's important to have technicians who know what they're doing, but it's also becoming increasingly important for them to demonstrate some level of personality, to be friendly to customers, to illustrate social grace, and to be able to communicate well. In industries that have long focused on customer service for survival, these things may seem common sense — but for many field service industries that are more technical in nature, the soft skills aspect is likely one that's historically been ignored — or at least not prioritized very high.

If this sounds like your organization, now's the time to change that. Don't get me wrong — the technical aspect is still the priority, as it should be. In fact, in the same WBR report, 74% say that while they recognize the necessity for soft skills training, technical training supersedes. While soft skills are secondary to capable technical skills, it's a definite area of opportunity to expand the skill sets of your technicians — and to shift your service model from simply getting the job done to providing a superior service experience.