The talent shortage was one of the biggest hurdles service leaders faced in 2022. Unfortunately, this worrying trend won’t see much abatement in 2023. Preliminary returns from the 2023 Service Leader’s Agenda survey shows that the workforce and talent shortage is still the top external factor that will have the most significant impact on service businesses this year. Even more alarming, an extensive new report by global consulting firm, Korn Ferry, finds that by 2030, more than 85 million jobs will go unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them.
The need to retain qualified workers is at a critical level and will only climb in the next decade. If service organizations are to succeed, they must take immediate steps to address this. But how?
The Voice of the Field Service Engineer
In the Service Council’s 2022 Voice of the Field Service Engineer survey, we heard firsthand from over 1,850 frontline agents on their satisfaction in their profession, likes and dislikes of their role, thoughts regarding technology and recommendations for improvement. The survey provided important insights for service leaders struggling with capacity challenges, including:
- Over half of respondents said they either do not anticipate being a field service engineer for their entire career or are not sure.
- Technicians’ favorite part of their day-to-day job is solving their customers’ problems.
- The least favorite aspect of their job is paperwork and administrative tasks, followed closely by time spent looking for information.
- 85% of technicians feel the knowledge required to service products is changing, and 83% say more technical knowledge is needed to perform their jobs.
- A quarter also felt like their companies didn’t make it easy for them to know what parts are needed for service visits or to find the necessary information needed to resolve service inquiries.
Technicians gain the greatest job satisfaction from helping customers. However, they also feel dissatisfied and frustrated that their organizations are not making it easy for them to do so. When asked what type of information or capabilities they wished they had access to while in the field, the top 4 answers were service manuals, spare parts inventory visibility, parts ordering, and knowledge base access. These are all information sources that directly impact metrics like first-time fix rate, mean time to repair and, as a result, customer satisfaction.
The Technician Agnostic Platform
If service organizations wish to positively and significantly address this challenge, they need to move towards a technician agnostic service delivery model. The concept is one that Service Council CEO and founder, John Carroll, has spoken frequently about in the last two years. A technician agnostic platform is a tech stack that empowers technicians of all levels and experience with information, collaboration tools and greater visibility into the customer journey.
As organizations begin planning their technology investments for 2023 and beyond, they should incorporate a technician agnostic strategy. The strategy should include looking at new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality or knowledge management tools that can not only deliver parts and service information to frontline agents, but also provide workflows, knowledge base access and other tools that empower and offer additional support to lesser experienced or contracted employees.
Additionally, organizations should look at how they can create, or improve an existing, digital thread. Interoperability will be an important topic in 2023. In the Service Council’s 2023 State of the Market: Digital Transformation and Service Technology survey, service leaders said that the top area of focus in their organization’s service digital transformation was technology integration and interoperability. As organizations expand their service digital capabilities, they should keep in mind how they can do so in a way that benefits frontline agents, such as process automation, or using data to identify and support technicians who are struggling.
Measuring Employee Effort
The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a familiar industry concept that involves measuring how much effort is required for a customer to interact with your company. As most service leaders know, it plays a critical role in overall customer satisfaction. Best-in-class service organizations have taken this one step further by moving to an Employee Effort Methodology. Similar to CES, this measures the amount of effort is required for an employee to do their jobs. High employee effort translates to longer customer wait times and more room for error. Plus, the frustration will negatively impact the employee-customer interaction.
This is why the service leader’s approach must include not just a digital strategy to providing frontline agents with the tools they need, but also a broader strategy that includes employee journey mapping, opportunities for employee feedback and more effective communication. In fact, in the 2022 Voice of the Field Service Engineer survey, only 55% of respondents felt like their company was interested in collecting their feedback, and only 41% said their company leveraged their feedback to consider improvements that can be made.
As service leaders head into the new year with a continued talent shortage, they must consider how they can make their most important assets – their frontline agents – feel heard, appreciated and empowered moving forward. Remember, your field service engineers want to help your customers. If they don’t feel like your company is doing enough to set them up for success, they will go somewhere that does.
Please contact us if you are interested in participating in the 2023 Voice of the Field Service Engineer survey and receiving personalized insights for your service team.