One of the great things that sets the field service industry apart from other industries is our willingness to give just about any new idea or technology a try. If we think it will increase productivity and customer satisfaction, we’ll throw it against the proverbial wall and see if it sticks.

I’ve seen our industry experiment with many ideas over the years. Some were fads — all the rage for a while, but doomed to extinction. Others seemed like a fad but ended up “sticking” to our industry like PVC cement to your hands. (That stuff never comes off)

One of the technologies that stuck was GPS (Global Positioning System) for service trucks.  This says a lot about GPS, because as quick as we are to try a new technology, we’re just as quick to drop it if it doesn’t work. And GPS not only works, it works well.

As a business owner you see the good that GPS can bring to your table: “informed dispatching” reduces fuel consumption and un-billable hours by allowing the dispatcher to assign work based on proximity to the job. It also gives you the ability to control off-hours personal use of company vehicles, and keep “supply house coffee breaks” in check. It’s all good, right?

Big Brother is Watching

It depends on what side of the windshield you’re sitting on. Service technicians are just like everyone else in the world; they don’t like the thought of “Big Brother” watching over them. How do people react to being controlled? They look for holes in the system, a way to put one over on “the man.”

Although nothing has really changed for them, technicians who never had a problem with their employer before may suddenly start seeing them as the enemy once GPS is implemented. Why does this happen? Simple, you sold the new technology to everyone but the people it’s being applied to.

Dispatchers love it because they can send the closest technician to the next call — less travel time, less fuel wasted, and more calls can be handled in a day. The customer loves it because of the fast response time and reduced travel charge, the business principal loves it because it adds to their bottom line, but what does the technician think of it?

If you think all technicians hate GPS, you’re wrong; it depends on how you “sold” it to the technicians, and how “Big Brother” you’re being with it.  In short, it’s about trust. You need to let the technicians understand that the system is not being used solely to monitor their actions; its primary function is to make the business more efficient.

Only Discipline if Needed — Don’t Use GPS to Micromanage

Once you sell the system to the technicians you need to do one more thing to make it work, don’t use it to micromanage the techs. No matter how tempting it is to use the system to control lunch breaks and personal vehicle use, refrain from doing so unless it’s really needed.

If you see a technician doing 90 mph on the highway, or stopped at a bar, or taking the truck for long distance drives on a Sunday, call them out. But nagging a technician for taking a 45 minute lunch, driving 5 miles to the local hardware store on a Saturday, or exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph is getting carried away.

Remember; these guys are working in 100-degree attics for you, man-handling 400 pound compressors on a 95-degree day, freezing their butts off on a roof in the winter. Taking an extra 15 minutes for lunch won’t break the bank, and that little added break is normally well deserved, and needed.

Trust your technicians, and you will rarely need to turn on your inner “Big Brother,” then you’ll see that new GPS system shine for you.

Read more about GPS on The SmartVan

ABOUT Patrick Peterson

Patrick Peterson of ZenHVAC has seen the HVAC industry from all angles, serving as a technician, manufacturer’s tech rep, salesman, technical trainer and business owner.