Strategy & Leadership

Calm the Field Service Data Deluge: A Peek Inside One Manager’s Playbook

Editor’s note: Zachary Farrar has worked in field service for nearly a decade and is currently national service supervisor for an industrial equipment manufacturer. Here, he discusses a common conundrum for today’s service leaders: Data is increasingly valuable to an organization, but who should track it, at what point does the effort result in diminishing returns — and how can service leaders make heads or tails of all that data once it’s captured?

Zachary Farrar
Zachary Farrar

The inevitable tracking of key data points is either already a part of your job description, or it will be soon. Let’s face it: In our modern world of lean manufacturing and just-in-time inventory, tracking a few data points — or, more likely, a lot of data points — is another responsibility to make your department operate smoothly.

As a senior supervisor, I find that the more business I do, the more data I have to track. This is true for every employee in every department across the company. For example, I track first-time fix rates, call backs, cost/profit margins … and the list goes on. But organizing and using all of this information is the hard part.

What should I do with it? How should I enter it — and where? (For me, it’s spreadsheets and the ERP system.)

Tracking and Recording

Our ERP can track information like contact names, accounts payable and accounts receivable, but it’s not built for wholesale data collection. Though there are many outside services that can overlay onto ERP and resource management systems, I’m stuck with spreadsheets. So. Many. Spreadsheets!

It gets frustrating, sure, but having all of that information at your fingertips is invaluable. Putting it to use, however, is where people often get worried.

Is your company using this data? Is anyone auditing these spreadsheets to ensure they’re getting done? These are questions service leaders should ask themselves.

But the biggest question is: Are we recording and utilizing data like we should, or are we just creating extra work for our employees? At some point, the effort is counterproductive and we’re just wasting people’s time.

Dealing with the Data Madness

shutterstock_196484648I travel nearly 40 weeks per year, which creates a lot of data to track. I have a trip tracker that records where I was, who I was with, who I saw, why I was there and how long I stayed.

This allows me to track the percentage of service, warranty, install and commissioning trips I do every year. It also allows me to target customers who may (or may not) use our service department. I can see who would sign a maintenance contract, and which person I should spend time with to build a relationship. All of that from recording my location, which is pretty good!

Putting Your Data to Work

Do you collect data and, if so, is it making a positive change on your business?

As previously mentioned, I’m able to convert my trip tracker into several meaningful metrics. Do you have a similar outcome from your data collection, or is it just busy work that prevents you (and your employees) from doing your job more effectively?

There’s no reason data or the collection process should get the best of you. If it is, I think there’s a fairly simple solution.

Focus on the Bits and Bytes That Truly Matter

Instead of tracking every possible detail, consider focusing on the metrics that can have the biggest impact on your business — and make them work for you.

Not every company, or even every department, will benefit from the same data points or KPIs. The key is to select the ones that make sense for your culture, company size and, most importantly, your customers.

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