Field Service

The Service Manager’s Dilemma: How to Reduce Costs, and Improve Quality

It’s a question that all service managers face: How can you reduce costs, but still maintain the quality and value of your service? Your company relies on having the right tools, the staff experience, and the right training to deliver the service your customers expect and demand — but those all cost time and money, creating a dilemma for field service firms looking for ways to trim costs.

Professionals in the Service Management 2.0 group on LinkedIn are having this exact discussion right now. We took to the message boards to see how actual managers in the field are approaching the problem.

Start With the People Delivering the Service

Treating and training your staff well has tangible results, including higher first-time fix rates and customer satisfaction levels. Alan Gemmell, a regional service manager for Husky Injection Molding Systems in Spain, points out that it’s the manager’s job to motivate their staff, by training them, respecting them, and inviting them to understand and respond to company decisions. That, he says, will lead to a happier workforce, and better service.

“If the customer continues to see and interact with a motivated & happy employee, their view of your service will continue to increase without being affected by any cost-cutting exercises that may be going on behind the scenes,” he writes.

Don’t Cut Staff to Cut Costs

Elaborating on Gemmell’s point, Merle Brockshus, a service manager in Iowa, warns against making cuts to your staff to reduce costs. “I feel when you reach the point where the only way to reduce expenses is by reducing headcount, you are risking reducing your service levels,” he says. Start with less dramatic steps.

Another manager, Steven Perry, points out that firing members of your crew can hurt the morale of the rest of your employees as they worry about their own job security. When your staff’s motivation is down, the quality of your service will surely decline.

Increase Efficiency Through Organization

Re-evaluate your company’s priorities: Do they all work toward improving customer service? Giacomo Squintani, a marketing manager in England, points out that by finding ways to solve more customer problems remotely — without rolling a truck — you can cut a huge cost without effecting your level of service.

“Many telephone support centres, for example, still target agents on calls/hour [basis],” he writes, “in spite of the fact that spending a little longer on the telephone and fixing the problem remotely means you don’t have to send out a tech and the customer’s happy because the problem is fixed sooner, at a time that suits them. Unnecessarily booking a tech to get a customer off the phone ultimately inconveniences the customer, frustrates the engineer and negatively impacts the bottom line.”

Fred Childers, a district service manager for Post Browning in Indiana, says that another way to avoid truck rolls is to focus on getting the best-quality repairs you can on the first trip. “It also drives increased revenue as the customer base grows due to a high customer satisfaction level,” he says.

The concensus is that cutting costs without sacrificing quality starts with your workforce. “There is nothing better than having highly skilled people who serve the customer well,” Childers says. Do you agree? Please feel free to comment in the field below.

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