Bruce Breeden, Founder, Field Service Resources
As a field engineer, new system installations were a large part of my job and a task not to be taken lightly as the sales process concluded. I learned that pre-installation was not only an “event” with the customer but also really the beginning of the customer relationship. As field service leaders know, the objective is to leverage a single product sale transaction to develop a customer partnership that yields both after-market revenue as well as additional product revenue, referrals, and perhaps even R&D cooperation. With so much at stake, preparation is critical to have a successful installation event and begin the lifecycle of a developing customer relationship. My preparation always began with a clear set of pre-installation instructions that would be reviewed directly with the customer to ensure expectations were set and arrangements made to ensure the new installation process went successfully.
In my experience, without these pre-installation instructions variations were made or steps missed that led to inefficiency and disappointment. Today field service organizations have the opportunity to design in “pre-installation” type instructions or other preparation or workflow attributes with our technician work-orders and field mobility systems to ensure that critical business processes are addressed. Putting technology at the fingertips of your field service technicians is the best path to engagement.
Preparation and engagement is important for field service leaders in anything they do with their organization. Think about on-boarding a new technician, preparing a technician before traveling to a technical training course, or new technology system implementations. Examples are endless of the value of bi-directional expectation setting and pre-work to ensure the subject matter or task can be accomplished, especially for on-site customer work. Unfortunately I can recall too many technical training courses where it was a technician’s first day on the job and they didn’t even know how to process their expenses, much less have any prior exposure to the product. We can all conclude our thoughts on how effective that training was for the technician. Here are four critical business processes that require “pre-installation instructions” to best engage our teams.
1. Ride Alongs/Technician Interactions
Normally ride alongs are not thought of as a business process, but there is no better method to engage and lead field service teams than through effective multi-level ride along programs. High-level emails and team meetings of course are necessary, but true one-on-one level interaction is critical for understanding and relationship building, both internally and externally. Consider an example for professional sales representatives. Every customer interaction should have the objective for the interaction or visit predetermined in order to maximize the result of a valuable interaction. Service interactions either external with the customer or internal within the company should be the same. One of the most valuable leadership activities is to ride with the technician as they complete their daily service tasks. This is a chance for each to learn, communicate, and add value to the customer. A simple best practice is for the leader to do some homework on the technican and his/her customers prior to the ride along. Having a pre-visit call to set expectations and clarify objectives will best set up the visit. I’ve made the mistake of not doing this adequately and ended up driving around in circles all day with the technician instead of being on-site together with a customer. In-person coaching methods from the front line manager to executive leader matter to organization performance, and preparation is key to effective coaching. I’ve learned more about our technology user experiences, again both internally and customer-facing, by working in the field than from any report or meeting. Planning and preparing for these events are critical.
Preparation is the single most important factor in industrial technician safety. The objective is for personnel to be trained and equipped but also “engaged” in safety as an organization cultural element. Field service technicians work indepently and often drive tens of thousands of miles every year. Both independent work and driving simply make a technician statistically more probable to have an accident and an organization must be literally obsessed with safety to effectively engage field workers. Job preparation addresses JSAs, equipment, training, and decision making. The use of mobile applications for safety checklists, JSAs, and image capture engages the technician and drives preparation to avoid safety risks.
3. Technology Implementations
Major technology implementations require multiple pre-installation instruction plans and communications. Involving techs in system design, strategy inputs, process impacts, training, and piloting will ensure success and a faster ROI. A clear best practice is to set up training and rollout with small pre-training or exposure events to the technician and line management teams to begin familiarization and overcoming changes in roles or processes. Much like customer relationship building, internal champions and pre-work will successfully begin the relationship and allow for open bi-directional communication on tough issues. Too many costly projects have not met expectations downstream due to lack of pre-work, KPI setting, and technician involvement.
4. Customer Interactions
From a customer interaction standpoint, pre-installation instruction mindset will provide pre-call planning, checking on the service history or sales process events, or other information to be able to go on-site and provide the most value and problem solving possible. At the very least, it demonstrates an attitude of gratitude — that the field service organization and technician care, are service-centric, and will solve the customer’s problem. Often a previous quote for service work or upgrades can be followed up on or provide an equipment status update to the customer that will prevent unexpected downtime and costs. They key is providing the information to the field service technician and outining daily checklists. These tasks and information access can be included in the technician’s mobile system for both on-line and off-line access.
These are clear examples of the need to create and follow pre-installation examples or prepration steps from leadership to customer visits to critical technology implementations that will enable customer relationships and business outcomes. With field technologies today, pre-installation and preparation steps can now be directed with work orders and other system capabilities to improve organization results through effective workforce engagement.
Bruce Breeden is the founder of Field Service Resources, LLC and author of the book and training program, The Intentional Field Service Engineer. Bruce focuses on technician enablement through role defintion, training and mobile technology.