Back in the day, when a company received a service request, a receptionist would schedule a local field technician who arrived within an agreed upon window of time, fixed the problem and drove on to the next job. The receptionist was informed of the hours spent and parts used, and an invoice was promptly mailed to the customer.
Those days are behind us. Technology is complex and changing rapidly. Service delivery is managed on a global scale. Highly skilled technicians may be sent around the world, fixes may be managed remotely and customers have become accustomed to 24/7 service.
Successful businesses understand that communication between the field and home office is critical to managing costs and delivering timely service. They utilize sophisticated scheduling techniques, mobile information sources, high-level training strategies and real-time feedback. They gather information at all levels of customer interaction, using it not only to resolve technical issues, but to proactively forecast and allocate resources, evaluate the efficacy of their processes, and intercept possible problems.
Knowledge Exchange: Key to Success
It takes teamwork to deliver quality technical field support. Shared information, along with insight and feedback, is necessary to maintain a well-oiled fleet of field technicians that meets and exceeds customer expectations. It also adds value to other divisions within the company. Here are some suggestions:
- Going Mobile: Today’s service technician must stay connected. Up-to-the-minute reports on recalls, warranties, patches, regulations, workarounds and other solutions should be posted and made available as they arise. Field technicians can use hands-free devices to quickly communicate with dispatch from anywhere, video chat to receive instruction from company experts, or review online specifications—all while diagnosing and repairing a complex problem. A wealth of shared knowledge can also be found via social networking sites, YouTube and blogs.
- Cross-Team Communication: Technicians in the field can make valuable data available for others within the company. Is there an issue that engineering, design, sales or other technicians should be aware of that could improve a product or service? Additionally, real-time electronic data provide useful metrics regarding the time and resources needed for each service resolution. Parts can be tracked immediately and seamlessly. The front office can use this information to communicate promptly and accurately with the customer regarding job status, completion forecasts, billing, etc.
- Equipment Feedback: Most equipment now provides maintenance data that can be accessed via ‘smart’ technology. Technicians can and should have access to as much information as possible, prior to a visit, in order to resolve an issue as efficiently as possible. Top field service companies can also tap into this data to proactively schedule preventative maintenance calls.
- Legacy Experience: Legacy among the workforce is vital, as well as money in the bank. Strong organizations develop processes to draw upon individual team experiences in order to benefit from the wisdom acquired by those on the front line.
Value of Insight and Feedback
Information gathered from field service events can be used to forecast service demand and allocate resources, as well as analyze and improve processes. Data and feedback can help track the rate of “first-time fix” events, customer responses, and the success of current metrics. It can also provide mangers the data needed to tailor training programs that will specifically meet the needs of the field team while improving customer satisfaction.