Having a seasoned team of field technicians with stellar technical and customer-service chops is an absolute must. A new survey by Field Service USA, however, suggests that beefing up their sales skills can pay additional dividends.

Large-scale service organizations, including those at Pitney Bowes and DIRECTV, have taken note of this change in trends, departing from past practices of having technical-only service teams to now adopting more well-rounded ones. “Field service technicians need to be viewed as trusted advisors rather than true sales agents,” said Bob Feiner, Global Deployment and Field Services at Dell Services.” What’s important to the customer is solving their problem in the most effective and efficient manner.”

New Incentives for a New Model

Field Service USA’s survey results showed that nearly half of field service companies are incentivizing their field technicians to sell, and while it’s not a complete departure from past practices (74 percent of companies surveyed still rank product repair a top priority), the survey showed that a nearly half (46 percent) of respondents claim that 35 percent or more of company revenue today comes from services.

By addressing customer needs, companies are showing that their service departments are able to play a substantial role in increasing company profits. Service and repair remains a top priority for field service training, but the close second is now ‘soft skills’ – which were ranked by 73 percent of companies surveyed. “It’s not surprising to me that training in soft skills follows next in ranking to training in product repair,” explained Ken Walsh, Chief Engineer & Vice President Operations, London Hydro Inc., “Today’s customers are savvy in many ways and field staff are now required to engage the client on a variety of customer care topics.”

Other Findings:

  • 74 percent said that technical training supercedes ‘soft-skill’ training
  • 36 percent currently train their field techs to sell
  • 14 percent said that they train equally for ‘soft’ and technical skills
  • 8 percent say they don’t train for ‘soft-skills’ at all