March 2016 - The Service Council

Field Technician Notes Part 4: Thoughts on Technology

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | One Comment

One of my favorite quotes of all times: “The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.” Often attributed to Cicero or Mark Twain, this was originally used by Blaise Pascal to highlight the challenges with being brief.

I don’t consider myself a prolific writer, but when I do write, I fear that I take too long to get to the point. Were 5 blogs really necessary on this field technician project? Content marketers will say that 5 short (search engine optimized) blogs are much better than 1 long opus. Would 1 short opus have been the best? Nevertheless, I have thoroughly enjoyed presenting this research and reading the resulting comments.

For those who haven’t seen the previous blogs in this series, you can access:
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Improving a Day in the Life
Part 3: Likes and Dislikes

Today we focus on field technician thoughts on technology.

The Mobile Technician

Most field service organizations have invested in mobile devices and applications for their field service workers. These aren’t always complex applications, but there is general agreement that mobile is better than paper. I believe that there is much more that can be accomplished on mobile with regards to:

  • Burden elimination
  • Relationship enhancement

Its part of TSC’s mobile maturity discussion, one best left for another day.

Most of the technicians we polled for our project (97% of the 106 technicians) have at least 1 mobile device for the completion of field service work (The organizations perspective on devices can be found here). Of that group, most use smart phones as their primary work device.

Technician Feedback: Thoughts on Devices

Some device and operating system thoughts:

  1. 77% of those who have been in the profession for less than 5 years would prefer to have a smart phone as their primary device
  2. Only 55% of those who have been in the profession for more than 20 years would prefer a smart phone. 33% of these folks would prefer a tablet.

On these devices, the most utilized capabilities are:

  1. Email
  2. Daily check in and check out via application
  3. Service ticket review and management
  4. Texting
  5. Navigation

Better work management and communication capabilities are good. What technicians would really like better access to is information that supports better resolution. This goes back to the desire of field technicians to be proficient at solving customer problems (Part 3 of the series).

Technician Feedback: Mobile Wishlist

Once again, I have to interject the idea of mobile maturity here. Most organizations get stuck in the paper replacement benefits of mobile solutions or the use those benefits for short-term ROI calculations. I would argue that the benefits tied to resolution and revenue enhancement are far more expansive and better for the front-line employees. You have to consider change management and in not throwing too much at a workforce that is used to a certain tool set. Mobile should never come in the way of getting work done. But when done right, the mobile solution sits in the background and provides the right information to the field technician when he or she needs to use the solution.

Other Technology for Technician Performance

Its easy to get caught up in the talk of the Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality, and so on. These technologies are currently transforming field service and will continue to be transformative. In fact, two-thirds of field workers positively view the Internet of Things and the impact that IoT will have on the completion and quality of their work. These workers don’t see IoT as a worker replacement play. In fact, 69% of those with 20 or more years of experience see IoT as having a positive impact on their performance.

Technicians would like to have greater on-demand access to training videos and content. This type of content, made available in the context of a service work order, can be extremely powerful in improving resolution rates. It can also be powerful in terms of reducing and eliminating training time for new hires. Eighty-one percent 81% of the organizations we poll are looking at ways to reduce the time it takes to get their technicians out in the field.

On the topic of video, technicians are also generally positive with regards to the use of live video in supporting field service resolution. We’ve seen increasing use of this technology from field organizations (TSC case study on Diebold) who are not only looking to increase resolution rates, but are also looking to live video to improve on-the-job training practices.

Technician Feedback: Technology Thoughts

Bringing this all together will be the focus of my final blog. After that, we will publish our Field Service 2016 report. Thanks for the interest and comments. For more, please feel free to comment here, contact me via email (, or indicate your interest in accessing our content via the form below.

Field Technician Notes Part 3: Likes and Dislikes

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

For those of you who haven’t seen the first two posts in our research on field technicians (by field technicians), it might help to review those posts prior to this one.

Post 1: An Introduction
Post 2: Improving a Day in the Life

In today’s post, we’ll feature on the primary likes and dislikes tied to daily field service work. A lot of this is related to investments that field technicians would like their organizations to make in order to improve their daily lives (Post 2 of the series). Lets start with the likes.

Technicians: Give Us More

Field technicians want to be in front of customers. Solving customer problems and working with customers to find solutions are the best parts of their day. They would rather be in front of customers than in front of a pile of paperwork or administrative tasks. (Note: Technicians were asked to pick their top two responses)

Give Me More

This bodes well for organizations that are looking to leverage their field technicians as front-line ambassadors focused on improving relationships with customers. The customer management skill set is one that is in higher demand from organizations who believe that they can train for electrical, mechanical, or software-oriented skill requirements.

Its interesting to see that 1 out of 5 field technicians also appreciate the opportunity to learn about new tools and technologies. This is consistent across all experience levels in field service, even among those who have been in the industry for more than 20 years. Overall, most technicians (62%) are satisfied with the technology demands of their work and are receptive to learning more. Only 19% are dissatisfied with the level of reliance on technology to get work done.

Technicians: Give Us Less

Acceptance of technology is greater if the tools can eliminate the major pain points in a technician’s day-to-day. As iterated in the previous post, technology tools that create additional administrative steps aren’t appreciated.

Give Me Less

Technicians are most impressed with technology tools and other process changes that eliminate administrative time, reduce paperwork, and make it easier to find necessary information. It is important to note, that only 31% believe that they spend too much time on paperwork, which raises the level of frustration with administrative steps, whether manual or automated. In terms of improved information lookup, technicians would like better access to the type of content thats usually found in service manuals or in parts catalogs. (More on this in our next post). Technicians would also like for better and simpler access to customer history and other customer-related information that can be leveraged to support problem solving. Finally, there is greater receptivity to on-demand training information.

When analyzing the major dislikes of field service technicians, we also see unique trends based on years of experience. For instance:

  • Those technicians with 20 or more years of experience are more likely to dislike being tracked by GPS or other means.
  • Those technicians with 10-20 years of experience dislike the pressure to work faster or the pressure to sell in the daily activities.
  • Those technicians with less than 10 years of experience dislike the feeling of isolation and the lack of collaborative opportunities. They are also less patient with long company meetings and demand greater accountability from back-office support services when called upon for assistance.

All of the talk of administrative and paperwork improvements leads us to our discussion on technology. I will dive into this topic tomorrow before I wrap this series of posts at the end of the week. Summary findings from all of these posts will me made available in our Field Service 2016: The Technician’s Perspective report, to be published on Mar 31. If interested in attaining a copy of the report, please feel free to submit your contact details.

Field Technician Notes Part 2: Improving a Day in the Life

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

A few days ago, I introduced our field technician-focused research in a TSC blog and LinkedIn post. Today’s focus is on “Improving a Day in the Life” of the front-line field service workforce.

In 2015 research, TSC asked field service organizations what they needed to do to improve the daily lives of their field service technicians. The results focused on improving access to information and knowledge.

TSC Research - Improving a Day in the Life of Field TechniciansAs part of our recent surveying, we asked field service technician research panelists what they would like to happen in order for their daily lives to be made much easier. (Note: They were asked to fill in their comments in an open-ended question)

In reviewing the comments, the answers fall under 5 categories:

1- Control.
“Let the employee take more control of his daily responsibilities and focus on keeping the customer happy.”

As organizations increase their use of GPS, mobility, and scheduling tools, field technicians experience a lack of control in managing their day-to-day work. Several technicians also indicate that a tighter leash restricts the amount of time they can spend with customers. In the quest for improved productivity, organizations have to walk a fine line balancing productivity improvements with increased (and time consuming) internal compliance mandates.

2- Removal of Obstacles with Technology

“Currently using an electronic time clock, logging on as each phase of my day changes (travel, working, lunch, end day, etc). If that went away, I’d be very happy.”

For the most part, technicians are fairly positive on the value of technology in their day-to-day. In fact, most see technology as a major tool to removing unnecessary obstacles and offering a greater degree of control on their day-to-day. As a preview of tomorrow’s post, the time spent on administrative tasks or in looking for information is quite disliked. That said, technology investments are viewed favorably if they serve to eliminate obstacles as opposed to creating new ones. Once that is accomplished, technicians are much more receptive to embracing additional features and capabilities.

3- Connection with the Team
“Find a way to involve me in the flow of information. Keeping me involved, rather than an outside resource”

Isolation is a part of field service work. Most technicians are ok with this as part of the profession that they have selected. That said, many would like to see their organizations make a greater effort to connect them with other technicians, other service stakeholders, and other resources available at their service organizations.

4- Sales Accountability
“Focus on sales professionals completing every aspect of their role, including making sure customers are well informed of all up front costs. Example: Customer being surprised when the Field Service Professional lets them know the billable amount for an installation.”

Service and sales need to work together. This has been established in past research. Yet, field service agents want greater accountability for their sales counterparts, tied to:

  1. New business (the quote says it all)
  2. Follow up on service generated leads and opportunities

5- Incentives and Recognition

Most technicians accept that they need to support business growth. Only 19% are dissatisfied with the amount of pressure to sell (37% are satisfied). That said, most would like to see their organizations do a better job of recognizing the work being done to drive business. Business comes in the form of new leads, but also in the form of customer turnarounds and renewals as a result of exemplary service work.
Most technicians are open to better financial rewards around new business identification and sale closure. That said, recognition doesn’t always have to be monetary.

More field notes will be forthcoming. If interested in learning more about the research or accessing the final results, please feel free to connect with me directly.

Notes from the Front Lines of Field Service: An Introduction

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Introduction to the Research

Our research allows us to get a peek into the initiatives of broader service organizations. In this process of discovery and analysis, the area of field service is one where we spend a lot of time and energy. Personally, I have been covering the space for the past 10 years, digging into technology trends as well as the best practices of businesses looking to get more out of their field technician workforces.

As of 12 months ago, we at The Service Council (TSC), identified a major opportunity for us to enhance our field service coverage. While we were getting the point-of-view from the head of field service or field operations, we weren’t hearing directly from the front lines of field service. We weren’t sufficiently covering the specialists, or engineers, or professionals, or technicians out in the field installing, fixing, repairing, maintaining, and delivering. Given the increasing focus on service and field service talent, it made sense to study the thoughts and minds of the folks who make up the field service workforce.

In 2015 we hosted a technician (my term of choice from this point forward) only webcast where we featured a panel of field technicians from Vivint and BioTek Instruments sharing their thoughts on the industry and their day-to-day lives. The panel opened our eyes to the need to dig deeper into the profession to learn more. In the pursuit of more information, I reached out to several organizations to allow me to go on ride-alongs with their field agents to truly gauge and assess a day-in-the-life. These experiences were game changing and I welcome the opportunity to do several more.

About the Research

All of this has culminated in our first ever research project aimed directly at field technicians. The project was made up of 2 surveys, the first of which investigated how field technicians got into the profession of field service and analyzed their likes and dislikes. The second looked to understand field technician thoughts on the current and future technology tools.

The response from our community has been outstanding. We have had 50 technicians respond to the profession survey and over 105 take part in the technology survey. Over the course of the coming week, I will document some of the key takeaways via our blog.

Field Technician Notes Part 1: Getting In to Field Service

Of the technicians we polled, 39% had been in the profession for more than 20 years and 70% had been in the profession for more than 10 years. During their time in field service nearly 50% had stuck with 1 organization throughout their entire careers. Of the group with 20+ years of experience, 53% had stayed loyal to their first field service organization.

Most technicians, more than 60%, got into field service during their professional lives. Only 28% indicated that they chose to get into field service during their time in high school or college. This is vital, especially as the field service community looks to raise awareness to the profession via association and partnership with technical colleges. The interest in field service work must start at the college or education level if organizations are to navigate the looming talent crisis from a retiring workforce. Of those in the profession for more than 20 years, 36% indicated that they chose to get into field service while in high school or college, a number down to 13% for those who have been in the profession for less than 5 years.

Other interesting data points on getting into field service:

  • 45% indicated that field service was their primary choice of profession
  • 35% chose field service because they liked fixing things and the profession provided them the opportunity to do so for work
  • 8% chose field service because it was the best paying job or only work available at the time

Referrals served as the primary means to land a field service role, as reported by 36% of technicians. As expected, newspaper ads were more popular and effective for those in the industry for more than 20 years. For those with less than 5 years of time in field service, online listings have become quite popular.

Finding Your First Field Service Role
In seeking their most recent role, 26% of technicians relied on referrals, the largest representation followed by online search, newspaper ads, and placement agencies. Less than 10% were placed via career services at their colleges or technical schools. Once again, this is an incredible area of opportunity to seed the development of tomorrow’s field service workforce. A number of large institutions are working collaboratively with local colleges and technical institutions to raise awareness to the field, but there is more that can and should be done.

Over the course of the next week, I’ll be posting more results.

Mar 24 – Improving a Day in the Life
Mar 25 – Likes and Dislikes with Field Service
Mar 28 – Thoughts on Mobile technology
Mar 30 – Emerging Technology (IoT, Augmented Reality)
Apr 1 – Summary and Next Steps

Our 2015 webinar is available as part of the TSC webcast archive here. (Members only)
On March 8, I presented early findings from our current crop of technician surveys. (Recording available to all here)

Summary data and our first ever technician report will be published on Mar 31. If interested in getting the report and results, please submit your information here.

What Drives Service-centric Behavior?

By John Carroll | Perspective | No Comments

Meet Joe. Joe is one of the most attentive and focused service technicians I have encountered in my life. What’s cool about Joe? He isn’t motivated by compensation. His focus is just a part of his DNA. Would compensation make him more motivated to be customer-centric? More on this in a few moments.Service Technician

This brings up a really interesting question:
• Are we compensating our Service Agents to drive good behavior?
• Are we emphasizing a rigorous hiring process which weeds out candidates who will exhibit bad behavior?
• Are we doing both?

I suspect many organizations are looking at both of these strategies in growing their Services teams but are failing at both (often). I would argue missing the mark in your hiring process and choosing the wrong candidate is far more likely to occur with a greater degree of frequency. So shouldn’t Services organizations be emphasizing a culture of motivation through compensation? One could argue that a safety net to missing the mark in your hiring process, would be to establish a culture of motivating through incentives.

freiThe Service Council previously welcomed Harvard Business School professor Frances X. Frei as a keynote speaker at its Smarter Services Executive Symposium. During her speech, Frances discussed the topic of “Uncommon Service” (Buy Her Book: “Uncommon Service”) and touched upon the challenge of hiring Stars vs. motivating Stars to drive good behavior. The challenge of hiring Stars is that these individuals command a larger investment, of course.

Earlier in my career, a mentor of mine drove home the point “Compensation ($$) drives behavior”. This was very early in my career when I was a sales manager so certainly this mantra made a lot of sense (motivating sales professionals). I believe this same mantra should be more heavily embraced in the Services sector. Allow me to make my point…

Back to Joe.
Joe works for TriWire, a third-party contractor/agent for Comcast (they serve in this same capacity for Charter, Cablevision, Cox and Time Warner Cable, as well). Joe visited my home to set up our new Comcast cable service (yes I know I should find an alternative given how difficult they are to work with, but until this alternative comes to fruition, I remain an unwilling participant and am a victim of the Monopoly they hold on the cable services industry).

This story isn’t about how Joe smiled and shook my hand and was very friendly (which he did). Joe was all about business. He focused on meeting the expectations that were set with me as a Customer, which is often times an overlooked function of a successful service appointment. Allow me to present another personal experience where expectations were missed one after another.

Meeting Expectations? Over this winter, I damaged my windshield (New England isn’t too kind to vehicles’ windhshields). A local window repair shop scheduled my service visit only to show up with the wrong windshield (Expectation Missed). This happened 3 times (Expectation Missed x 3). On the 4th attempt, they got the right part, however, upon driving to my house, requested I drive 10 miles down the road to a mutual location given the roads were a bit slippery (Expectation Missed). Understandable, but I’m increasingly becoming annoyed. As I drive to said location and park my vehicle and walk over to the service van to alert the technician I had arrived, the Technician roles down his window 4 inches, exhales a large puff of smoke nearly in my face and requests I drive my car next to his (Expectation Missed). At which point, I said “You see my car over there with the space open right next to it? That’s where my car will be for the next hour. Let me know when the window replacement has been completed.”

Back to Joe: He arrived at 9am; smack dab in the middle of my 8am-10am window. His first question, “Hello Mr. Carroll, it’s 9am. Is this still a good time for you?”, affirming that my expectation of arrival time was met. He then proceeded to complete the installation and setup with no wrinkles in his plan. Of course, as I always do, I probed on how his Service business worked. TriWire monitors Joe’s daily behavior around several key performance metrics including first call resolution, work orders per day, truck stock inventory and more. Joe is passionate about his customer satisfaction measurements. In his words, “I’m tops in New England and haven’t received a score below 5 (the top score) in greater than 2 years”.

And what’s behind Door #2 for Joe for his honorable Service? A $.07 raise for meeting a combination of metrics at the end of each month. Assuming his hourly rate of $20+or-/hour, if he were to hit 100% of his metrics for 12 consecutive months, this would equate to an $.84 raise or a 3% raise annually which is nearly equivalent to current Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) indexes. Isn’t COLA simply for employees who are tenured, not your best and brightest Stars? One could assume if they are tenured then they should be achieving at the minimum moderate success, but are they necessarily your top 1% performers?

In Summary. “People” will lead corporate agendas for Services Leadership in 2016. And while Service Organizations should certainly look at DNA and profiling certain types of individuals who align with whatever customer service standards your company has set, a greater emphasis should be placed on incentivizing/rewarding Service Agents to motivate good behavior.

I’m curious to hear how you are incentivizing/rewarding your Service and Customer Support Teams. I welcome your comments below.

“People”-oriented Research.
Given the importance of “People” to Service Success in 2016, TSC will be covering “People” related topics extensively in its 2016 research coverage, including:
• Field Technician Feedback Survey
o Part 1: The Field Service Profession (Survey Link)
o Part 2: Changes in Field Service (i.e. Technology, etc.) (Survey Link)
• Growing/Building a Service Business (Q2)
• Employee Engagement (Q3)
• Contingent/Outsourced Labor (Q3)

To participate in and/or support these research efforts please feel free to contact Sumair Dutta, Chief Customer Officer (Email Sumair) of The Service Council who leads our research coverage.

“People” topics will also be well represented at our 2016 Smarter Services Executive Symposium as the theme for Day 1 will be “Service Workers of Tomorrow”. Day 1 will feature presentations and workshops on the following topics:
• A Profile of the Next Service Worker
• Making Service a Viable Profession
• Finding and Developing Success Agents
• And more…

To join us at the Symposium, please Register now for our Early Bird rate ($775 vs. $1,295).

Please Welcome the Newest Addition to The Service Council Advisory Board: Chris Westlake

By John Carroll | News | No Comments

TSC is pleased to announce the newest addition to its Advisory Board: Chris Westlake – Vice President, Service of RK Mechanical, Inc.

Chris is a longtime colleague and friend of The Service Council’s having contributed in his previous services leadership roles with Gerber Scientific and Hach Company (Danaher). Chris delivered a presentation at the 2015 Smarter Services Executive Symposium (Don’t forget to register for the 2016 Symposium here: September 12-14th, Chicago) on the topic, “A Partnership To Improve Quality”. During which, Chris discussed the partnership fostered between Service, R&D and Operations, tackling topics such as Design for Serviceability, New Product Development and Quality Feedback Loops.

The addition of Chris and RK Mechanical to its community and Advisory Board is a conscious effort by The Service Council to create a more diversified Advisory Board and community, welcoming small and medium sized businesses. Often, we have received requests from the community to apply our findings from our research coverage within a small and mid-sized business (SMB) environment. Chris and RK represent an organization who has embraced big business best practices in a SMB environment. We will be covering this very topic in a forthcoming research effort (May) on “Building & Growing a Service Business” (to participate in this research effort, please contact Sumair Dutta here).

We look forward to Chris’ contributions to the community!

About RK Mechanical, Inc. (

RK is the Rocky Mountain Region’s top supplier of mechanical and industrial solutions for construction and commercial applications. RK operates six business units: Mechanical, Service, Steel, Energy, Water and Electrical.

With over 1,200 total employees, our six units often partner on projects, and our combined skill set makes us Colorado’s largest single source for mechanical contracting, manufacturing, steel fabrication, prefabricated construction, facilities maintenance services, electrical expertise as well as water treatment products and solutions. With two locations in Denver and Henderson, Colorado that span 24 acres, we offer more than 185,000 square feet of leading-edge fabrication and project planning facilities.

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