From The Editor | August 30, 2017

How To Avoid Field Technician Toxicity

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Sarah Nicastro

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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Field Technician Toxicity

We had a service appointment this past Sunday at our home with one of the major satellite TV providers. We received the standard four-hour appointment window notification and a call when our technician was about 30 minutes away. He arrived at his expected time, and was courteous and pleasant.

As he got to work upon arrival, it was clear he was technically competent. He knew the equipment and the process well, and worked efficiently to set things up. As he was working, however, he began to talk to my husband and I (and our toddler!) about some of the company’s downfalls. He told stories of people who were quitting and didn’t care about their work, and how that was impacting him. Equipment the company has released that isn’t fully tested and doesn’t work well. Processes that are pointless and frustrating. He even ended our appointment by giving us his personal email and phone number because he said that “the people you get on the phone have no idea what they’re doing.” 

He was a nice guy, and certainly capable of his job. He wasn’t really speaking out of spite, just very honestly commenting on some of the shortcomings of his employer. And two things struck me repeatedly during the appointment – how poorly his frustration reflects on the company, and how AVOIDABLE his frustration really is.

Why was our technician telling us all these things? Because the people that should be listening to his complaints and feedback aren’t. This is a company we’ve written about in Field Technologies magazine – a company that I know thinks they are avoiding issues like this one.  Unfortunately, there are a number of ways that your best efforts can break down and result in a similar customer experience.

Here are three ways to help avoid this type of field technician toxicity:

  • Ensure your field technicians feel heard. How often are you asking what they feel needs fixed or address in their day-to-day experiences? In what ways are you asking? Keep in mind that not all of your technicians will communicate in the same ways. Offer multiple options for them to communicate concerns and feedback, on an ongoing basis. And then the real work – LISTEN. Investigate. Address problems. And follow up.
  • Don’t keep field service in a bubble. My impression is that this technician did feel heard, by his direct supervisor. He painted the picture of it almost being like field service versus the rest of the company. So while he may be able to vent his issues and frustrations to his supervisor, they aren’t getting any further than that (or if they are, they aren’t being appropriately addressed). Find ways to integrate field service communications and feedback with the rest of the company so that an “us versus them” mentality doesn’t take place.
  • Ask your customers for very specific feedback, and take action. I haven’t been asked for feedback since our appointment, in any way. If I had, my guess is that it would be a “how’d your technician do?” on a one to 10 scale survey – and the feedback I have really isn’t geared toward him specifically, it’s to the company overall. You don’t know what type of experiences your customers are having if you aren’t asking.