By Bruce Breeden, President, Field Service Resources, LLC
Nothing constructive can occur on a sustainable basis without field service engineers who operate with passion. Field service is a rewarding but hard business. A leader’s ability to generate organizational passion through a mobile-based workforce is based on strong leadership skills as well as organizational structure, development, and technology.
This is not the same issue or challenge as in the past. Both customers and employees alike are exposed to daily consumer service practices with leading companies like Amazon, Google, and Uber who constantly set new standards in how we work and obtain products or services. With Amazon Alexa and Google Echo, we are conditioned to obtain information and conduct tasks with simple voice commands. We see our driver’s location, car, and picture with the ride price when we request an Uber ride using an application right at our fingertips. We can also provide immediate, bi-directional feedback on the experience for reference on the next ride request – information that can be used to make decisions.
Field service is challenging because our engineers and technicians are traveling, working in different environments, and addressing various customer personalities and situations under time and cost pressures and while trying to fulfill a myriad of company objectives. Employee surveys indicate the need for good leadership, career development and advancement opportunities, interesting technology to service, and access to leading technology and tools to help them do their jobs. Field service engineers are also prone to isolation challenges and often face a lack of communication and support. With greater competition for new skilled labor to fill job openings, recruitment and retention is the major challenge in the field service industry.
Here are 5 steps to build field service passion:
- The field service organization leadership team must tell the field service story: how the industry offers the opportunity to combine technology and business skills. Describe how field service engineers (FSEs) play a dynamic role in their company and explain their value contribution. The reality today is that FSEs are brand ambassadors for their company; this should be highlighted and championed to attract those FSEs interested in the soft skills of the profession.
- FSE job roles and customer experience processes should be updated to not only address the changing nature of the job, but to reduce the level of effort to request service, process the work orders, and obtain information and options. Net promoter score (NPS) results (both employee and customer) are directly linked to the level of effort customers will invest to do business with an organization.
- After updating job roles, field service companies outline a career roadmap for both new FSEs with their onboarding program, as well as for the existing field service organization. A recent study by the Technical Service Industry Association indicated that a company could realize a 20-point bump in their NPS if they have an FSE career roadmap. Development should be an ongoing activity addressing soft skills, senior roles, complementary career interest, and management tracks.
- A culture of support should exist throughout the organization. I liken this to a quote about the sales process from a CEO, saying that if you are not directly selling in an organization you must directly support those that are selling. The same is true in field service. People need to be aware of the challenges and value of providing field service. This includes the work of call center agents, tech support, dispatchers, and other customer-facing representatives. New hires need a buddy system; FSEs who are learning a new product or soft skill need a community to connect and engage.
- Technology provides convenience and responsiveness, and automates routine processes. The Service Council recently cited the dissatisfaction of FSEs for doing administrative or paperwork tasks and the associated cost of nonproductive use of time. Many electronic work order processes are still analog methods and actually hamper the technician’s productivity. Start the digital transformation journey with the FSE in mind and work back from there. Technology should do something for the FSE, not do something to them.
I’m convinced nothing constructive or sustainable happens without enthusiasm, energy, and eagerness – collectively seen as passion. This is especially true for FSEs who must work independently, make daily decisions, and constantly learn new technology, applications, processes, skills, and behaviors in their dynamic role. Mobile workforces are difficult populations to lead, and certainly can’t be managed to achieve their objectives. They must be led and have an inner drive of their own.
Joe Kwon, cellist for the Avett Brothers band, said he may be just a mediocre cellist, but his passion is what defines his performance and career success with the band. Lead to generate passion and drive to improve performance.
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, conduct FSE and manager training, and implement mobile technology.