Nothing constructive can occur on a sustainable basis without field service engineers who operate with passion. Field service is a rewarding but hard business. The leader’s ability to generate organizational passion through a mobile-based workforce is based on strong leadership skills but also 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 as 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 in requesting for an Uber ride at our fingertips. Plus provide immediate, bi-directional feedback on the experience for reference on the next ride request – information to make decisions.
Field service is hard because our engineers and technicians are traveling, working in different environments, addressing various customer personalities and situations, under time and cost pressures and have a myriad of company objectives to fulfill. Employee surveys indicate the need for good leadership, career development and advancement opportunities, interesting technology to be servicing and also using leading technology to do their job or job tools. Field service engineers are also prone to isolation challenges with a lack of communication and support. With competing 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 in how the industry offers the opportunity to combine technology and business skills. Describe how FSEs have a dynamic role for their company and their value contribution. Besides noting the reality of today’s FSEs being 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 just address the changing nature of the job but to reduce the level of effort to request service, process the work orders, obtain information, and options. NPS results, both employee and customer, are directly linked to the level of effort placed to do business with an organization.
With updating job roles, next there should be 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 on-going 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, 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 non-productive use of time. Many electronic work order processes are still analog methods and actually hamper the tech’s ability. Start the digital transformation journey with the FSE in mind and work back from there. Technology should do something for the FSE, not something to them.
I’m convinced nothing constructive or sustained happens without enthusiasm, energy and eagerness – collectively seen as passion. This is especially true for FSEs who must work independently, make daily decisions, constantly learn new technology, applications, processes and 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.