Editor’s Note: Scott Molinari, general manager of Adduco Digital e.K. in Zweibrücken, Germany, took issue with OnForce CEO Peter Cannone‘s analysis about contract-hiring trends in the field service sector. Molinari believes strongly that training and investing in full-time technicians, not contractors, is far more important to long-term success. Here is Scott’s guest column on Field Service Digital.
I used to be a service technician and I’m now the General Manager and Owner of my own company and what Peter Cannone says is actually a mistake many companies make. I feel you should not “swap out” technicians for the sake of cost savings, especially when their work is on very technical products. Training technicians or service reps to be very good ones takes time and a decent amount of money and both are much better spent on your own “in house” technicians.
You Can’t Buy Loyalty
A “rent-a-tech” approach means when you first start with those “contractors,” time is often lost, professionalism is often lost and if you finally get them up to speed on your products or services, your invested capital in their knowledge could disappear overnight and even worse, to your competition — and this is a much greater risk than if you have your own good, well-paid and dedicated technician workforce. Sure, this could happen with your own technicians, but if you are dedicated to them and their accomplishments for the company, they are much more likely to be loyal to you, than the “rent-a-tech” guy or gal.
The real issue is — very few companies see the return on investment in their technician workforce and only see them as “costs.” That’s a very, very bad way of viewing the one team of people who see and deal with your customers directly the most! From my experience, the service team has, on average, about 60% more customer contact than both the sales and marketing teams combined — who, by the way, too often get much more money to get their jobs done. With 60% more contact, the service team has a much greater impact on your customer relationship, than anyone else.
Yes, there is a cost to having a good service workforce. But the cost does yield a great return. It is the “Wow!” effect customers get, should your product just happen to have broken or need maintenance for the first time and they get quick and professional service from your service team. The service team is the cherry on your (hopefully) high-quality product pie and to make sure that cherry is really sweet, you must invest in your service team and stop looking at them as costs.
It’s Not About Cost Savings
I believe the “let’s just rent some techs” comes from a fallacy many managers have with setting goals. I feel that financial numbers (such as costs) are results and not goals. But, much too often they are used as goals — as in, “We need to lower costs by 10% this year.” I used to get a chill down my spine when I heard lowering costs as a “goal.” I think this kind of goal setting happens because managers may not have any other ideas about what else to concentrate on — and since most costs are hard facts on paper, they’re the easiest to try to change or improve.
But, in fact, there are other actions and factors that can be dealt with, which will lower costs and they should be the goals — like actually investing in the service team’s technical knowledge, so they have better one-time repair rates (an important service KPI by the way). Technicians traveling much less often to solve problems mean lower costs.
Oh, but wait — training technicians costs more money… right?
Well, you should always strive to achieve goals, which will mean happier customers, who will then be very satisfied with your service performance, which will lead to better customer relationships, which will inadvertently lead to more sales, which means more success for your business. That is the right direction. Unfortunately, a lot of managers have a hard time putting their finger on those customer oriented goals and that is why the main goal — a happy customer — usually gets lost in the “results.”
Think About Your True Goals
Ask yourselves these questions the next time you set a business goal around your service workforce. Ask yourself, “Will this impact my customer base positively, if we achieve the goal?” Then ask yourself the next question, “Will this impact my workforce positively, if we achieve this goal?” If the answer is “no” to both of the questions, the goal you’ve just come up with won’t be a useful to anyone who really matters and thus, you end up making unsound decisions, like renting technicians in the name of “cost savings.”