Strategy & Leadership

How to Avoid Botched Service Calls, Extra Rolls, and Angry Customers

Whether it’s the cold, hard, cash it costs to send a truck out into the field for a second repair, or the damage it does to your customer service reputation, field service companies can agree that it’s imperative that jobs get done right on the first try.

Back in December, John Ragsdale of the TSIA wrote that his company’s latest surveys showed that on average, rolling a truck to a job cost companies just over $1,000 each time. Believe it. First-time fix rates (FTFRs) are important. So we scoped out the Service Management 2.0 group on LinkedIn to get some tips on how service firms can avoid the pain of a botched service call.

To Avoid Extra Rolls, Communicate

Bill Walker

Bill Walker, a managing director at Noise UK Ltd., says, “From my experience the key element to improving FTFR is communication.” But it goes beyond just call center-to-tech communication.  Avoiding botched service calls or unnecessary truck rolls means keeping customers, schedulers, suppliers, and third-party service companies all in the loop.

So be sure that the first people your customers interact with — your customer service reps — are well trained. Daryll Brown, a product line manager in the U.K., points out that his techs say many of their service calls could be handled over the phone just fine. By having well-trained customer service reps you may be able to avoid rolling a truck at all in some cases, saving lots of money. Nick Frank, a consultant at Noventum Service Management, even suggests rotating field techs into your call center: It “allows them to appreciate what the call center does and the resources available,” he says.

Changing Technology Requires Continuous Training

By utilizing the newest technological tools available, service companies can not only smooth out communication chains, but also realize some savings by making some of their daily tasks — scheduling, dispatching, route planning, etc. — far more efficient. But you’ve got to make sure everyone’s up to date on it.

Dave Duncan

“Asset alerting, remote access, knowledge management, interactive diagnostics, parts chains, and scheduling all help,” says Dave Duncan, a VP for product portfolio management in Connecticut. “These solutions are exceptionally powerful if deployed together across contact centers and field forces.” When used correctly, these tools — while still not a foolproof way around over-dispatching trucks —should be able to help avoid some common problems.

John Stephens, a field operations manager at Johnson Controls in England, gives this suggestion for continuous training: “We double up — at no cost to [the] client — during quieter periods so knowledge can be passed around.”

What Statistics Are You Using? 

Michael Sell

FTFRs, like response time, shouldn’t be your only metric for success. Look at the context of customers’ service calls to gather the most information possible about exactly what’s happening on botched calls. Michael Sell, a self-described “services fanatic” in Minnesota, writes that there’s  “a lot of time to be saved by looking at the drivers behind the call, especially early on in a product life cycle.” Patterns of failure, or customers’ misuse of products, may be to blame for botched jobs.

Further, your company may want to revisit how it defines success. Larry Marley, a field service management pro in Southern California, tells a story about a field company he worked for, where the districts with the fastest response times tended to have the highest need for additional truck rolls.

“We changed the definition of a call to be when there were no further problems for 3 months,” he writes. “Diagnosing the problem and ordering a part did not count, and if the problem returned within 3 months the call did not count. Not only were the callbacks greatly reduced, the number of total calls and parts usage greatly reduced.”

And that means greater profits, happier workers, and satisfied customers. That’s good business. Any additional ideas? Please feel free to comment in the field below.

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