6 field service management mistakes you need to avoid

According to a Service Max survey, 75 per cent of people typically call out a field service technician because the product has broken, not for maintenance purposes.

What this means for field service professionals is that when a customer calls, they’re likely needing a rapid fix. That’s why the first-time fix rate is the holy grail of field service providers.

As head of managed service provider IT Specialists (ITS), I’ve found that to keep second site visits to a minimum and improve the customer experience, field service managers should avoid these mistakes.

Mistake #1: Inefficiently Managing Spare Inventory

The Service Max survey referenced above indicated that if an engineer had to return to the customer site, 61 per cent of the time, it was because the technician didn’t have the parts needed to solve the issue.

At ITS, we solve this problem by assigning engineers to four regions across the UK. We also use nine regional depots located across the country, which enables engineers to store and gather replacement parts quickly for customers. This strategy has enabled us to offer low on-site response times tied to service level agreements and to achieve a first-time fix rate greater than 92 per cent (according to Aberdeen Group, the average for best-in-class field service organisations is 88 per cent).

Mistake #2: Mismanaging Engineers’ Skills

Investing in training and additional certifications will widen the organisation’s pool of engineers who are equipped to work on certain equipment or software. To ensure each assignment is a proper fit for the engineer’s unique skills and certifications, the business can approach the dispatch process methodically and strategically. For example, senior engineers can use their experience with the business and their familiarity with engineers’ capabilities to schedule site visits.

Mistake #3: Not Offering Preventative Services

Even better than achieving a first-time fix is preventing a system malfunction in the first place. This is particularly important if the customer has recovery time objectives to meet for business continuity and disaster recovery purposes.

At ITS, we use the remote management tool N-able, which is installed on the customer’s servers and desktops and allows us to monitor most of the customer’s systems. If a potential issue occurs, our technical support team can respond to the issue before the customer is even aware it exists.

For example, we use N-able to manage printers for Howden’s Joinery, a UK-based manufacturer and supplier of kitchens and joinery products. Previously, Howden’s printers were not networked, consumables were unmonitored, supplies replenishment was not automated, and paper use was not cost-effective. Having implemented monitoring software (after networking the printers), we are now able to address any issues with the printers and manage the supply of consumables.

Mistake #4: Succumbing to Business As Usual

It’s all too easy to fall into a routine of performing processing a certain way because “that’s how we’ve always done it,” but it’s important to continually generate fresh ideas and solutions for business challenges.

The organisation could hold a monthly review meeting where heads of the department review the past month’s performance and conduct real-time SWOT analyses on every aspect of the business. The meeting could encompass performance reviews, business threats, resource planning, development opportunities, and statutory and legal responsibilities.

ITS uses these meetings to generate innovative ways to solve client problems as well. For instance, road freight company Baxter Freight wanted us to not only provide new hardware and build a network but also brainstorm ways to future-proof their business. The plans had to benefit both ITS and Baxter Freight, with products that were cost-effective for both businesses. Working together, the ITS team created a strategy for improving Baxter Freight’s business resilience. The strategy included plans to adopt larger products, such as a managed cloud-based disaster recovery as a service platform, as the business became more established.

Mistake #5: Failing to Familiarise Engineers With Product Offerings

Whether engineers are supporting a product sold by the organisation or providing a service offered by a managed service provider (MSP), they need to be familiar with all the products and services the organisation provides. Using this knowledge, the engineer can suggest other solutions that can solve the client’s unique business challenges.

For instance, an MSP’s engineer might go on-site to repair a server and hear the client mention that the organisation is having trouble coping with data sprawl and is considering virtualising some of their environment. The engineer knows that the MSP offers cloud-based infrastructure as a service (IaaS), so the engineer can suggest that as a solution.

While plugging services that are unrelated to field service might seem counterproductive, doing so shows the customer that the organisation is able to meet the client’s business objectives. In turn, the client is more likely to continue a relationship with the business.

Mistake #6: Neglecting Regulatory Requirements

Regulatory compliance is a pressing concern for organisations across multiple industries. That’s why field service organisations need to be able to demonstrate that they can meet regulatory requirements. The organisation might choose to adopt a business continuity standard or undergo a third-party accreditation process to achieve a certification such as ISO 9001 for quality management systems or ISO 27001 for information security management systems.

By avoiding these pitfalls, field service organisations will increase their first-time fix rates, improve their ability to prevent issues before they occur and help clients meet their business goals.

Matt Kingswood, Head of ITS IT Specialists

Image source: Shutterstock/Gunnar Pippel