April 2018 - The Service Council

Voice of the Field Service Engineer – Day 5

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Its been incredible sharing these findings from our Field Service Engineer Feedback project 2018. Today’s piece is the final one. You can find the previous chapters here (Part 1, 2, 3, 4). My thanks to all of our partners, members, and engineers that participated.

Day 5: What About a Technician Effort Score?

One of the best articles on customer loyalty was written several years ago by folks from the Conference Executive Board (CEB), now part of Gartner. The article (link) laid out the argument that it was important for organizations to gauge the effort expended by their customers in common interactions. This could be tied to the acts of purchasing, billing, or seeking customer service. The authors argue that its essential for organizations to make things easier for their customers and they introduce the Customer Effort Score (CES) which has since been updated (Link).

We find that more members in the TSC community are beginning to measure the Customer Effort Score in combination with other popular loyalty and satisfaction metrics. In TSC’s recent report on the Customer Support Leader’s Trends for 2018, we actually advocate that organizations focus on making things easier for their customers and that they should adopt a dual measurement philosophy around effort. Customer Effort is a score to measure the ease of service transactions, while Ease of Doing Business is another metric to evaluate from a broader relationship point-of-view.

What does this have to do with engineers/technicians? Well, quite simply, I think its time to measure an Engineer (or Technician) Effort Score. How can we, as field service organizations, make it easier for them to get their work done? We often believe that technology investments are actively solving problems at the front-line, but they might not be. They might actually be adding layers of complexity that get in the way of work getting done.

The same methodology around customer effort can be applied to developing a an engineer focused score. As can be seen from Figure 1, we took a simplistic stab at getting answers from engineers regarding the ease with which they can complete their work.
In most of the areas of inquiry, 7 out of 10 engineers claim that it is easy for them to get their work done. Those at larger organizations tended to indicate a higher level of agreement with the effort statement above, but overall results were fairly consistent. It would be worth getting into a greater level of detail regarding the level of agreement with these effort questions, an endeavor that I invite organizations to pursue.
Engineer Feedback - Effort

Removing obstacles to work is a major way to support acceptance and adoption of new tools. For the previous 10 years, we’ve seen organizations gradually increase the capabilities afforded to engineers via mobile devices and solutions, and we now see a much simpler path to adoption. Nearly all engineers we polled have a mobile device for work (75% employer provided, 25% employee selected) and for the most part engineers claim the mobility has made them more productive and more efficient. Its interesting to note that only 58% indicate that mobility has made them a better engineer.

Employee buy-in is essential when introducing new tools that require engineers to change the way they work. For instance, when encountering a problem while on the customer site, most engineers claim that they would prefer to call into technical support or call a colleague to seek help.
Engineer Feedback - Seeking Help
As organizations evaluate messaging, visual support, and Augmented Reality tools to provide real-time assistance to field engineers, a gradual change in mindset is necessary to ensure that these tools deliver desired results. The workforce of the future might demand these solutions based on convenience and ease of use, but the workforce of today needs to know that these tools are actually focused on Improving a Day in the Life of the Field Service Engineer.

About the project

In 2016, The Service Council launched the first version of its field service engineer feedback research surveys involving 200 engineers and technicians. We were so pleased with the results that we decided to run a similar survey in 2018, which yielded participation from 550 engineers. You can access the summary results (and data tables) here. The intent of this survey, as it was for its predecessor in 2016, is to uncover the voice of the front lines. We often hear from service and field service leaders, but we rarely present the voices of the front-line field service engineers.

The Voice of the Field Service Engineer – Day 4

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

In part 4 of our 5-part “Voice of the Engineer” blog series we ask engineers to share their level of satisfaction with their current organizations. Parts 1, 2 and 3 can be found here, here, and here.

Day 4: Field Employee Listening Needs to Be a Priority

We’ll spend some more time on the technology of field service work in the 5th and final installment of our series. It seems like organizations have made heavy investments toward improving the productivity of their engineers. There is still work to be done, but the message to do more has been received loudly and clearly. It seems that in the drive to squeeze more, organizations have forgotten about the human side of field service engineers.
Engineer Feedback - Current Role
There is a lot that can be read into the data available in the figure above, but I’d like to spend some time on the areas of mentorship and career development. We’ve talked about the inherent enjoyment and accomplishment in doing field service work, a major driver for field service engineers. Yet it seems like the growth prospects for field engineers within field service organizations are limited. Increased pay and upward mobility are some forms of growth, but so are increased learning and personal improvement opportunities. In recent discussions we have seen organizations begin to offer more to their field engineers, especially in the form of learning paths, certifications, and specializations. We also see more organizations open up different career paths for their field engineers, recognizing that the engineer-to-supervisor-to-manager-to- path doesn’t work for all. Yet these organizations are more the exception than the rule. Organizations must take an increased stake in the development and futures of their engineers.
Engineer Feedback - Employee Listening

Employee listening and engagement programs are great places to invest to uncover improvement opportunities when it comes to engineer growth. In listening, it is vital to ensure that we’re not only seeking information and insight from our field engineers, but we’re actually willing to act on the information that’s provided to us. Field engineers tend to accept that their organizations are willing to collect feedback, but it seems less likely that these organizations are willing to source that feedback to formulate actual improvements. More so, recognition of the value of feedback seems to be elusive.

In promoting personal development and growth, it’s also worth considering the personal ambitions and apprehensions of field engineers and the impact that those personal traits might have on professional engagement. While some might feel that there is a pretty rigid line between personal and professional, I would argue that the line is beginning to blur. Bob Kelleher, founder and CEO of the Employee Engagement Group (he knows engagement), claims that engagement efforts often fail because they are focused only on who the individuals are as employees, neglecting their other aspects as individuals. In his work on I-Engage, Bob advocates a much more holistic approach to engagement, both from the employee and the employer. I tend to agree with where Bob is going and believe that a more comprehensive approach to employee engagement is essential even for the future of rough-and-tough professions such as field service.

In our final piece we’ll look into the impact of technology on the ease of getting work done.

About the project

In 2016, we launched the first version of our field service engineer feedback research surveys involving 200 engineers and technicians. We were so pleased with the results that we decided to run a similar survey in 2018, which yielded participation from 550 engineers. You can access the summary results (and data tables) here. The intent of this survey, as it was for its predecessor in 2016, is to uncover the voice of the front lines. We often hear from service and field service leaders, but we rarely present the voices of the front-line field service engineers.

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