Every year, Strategies for Growth conducts a series of benchmark surveys among its community of more than 45,000 global services professionals. The results capture the pulse of the field service industry, from shifting service priorities to new technology investments that improve efficiency and customer satisfaction. But some of the most compelling findings are from the organizations that are leading the way in service. These top organizations offer lessons that field service leaders can emulate to increase efficiency, customer satisfaction and, ultimately, profitability.

Service leaders from more than 1,000 organizations responded to our 2014 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey. Less than 10 percent, however, meet the criteria for “Best Practices” status, comprised of those organizations boasting 90 percent or higher customer satisfaction levels and 30 percent or higher service profitability levels.

A Step Above the Rest

These leading organizations identify the following as top challenges that drive their desire to optimize field service performance:

  • Customer demand for quicker response time (50 percent)
  • Need to improve workforce utilization and productivity (43 percent)
  • Internal mandate to drive increased service revenues (40 percent)
  • Need to improve service process efficiencies (40 percent)

The survey data suggest that top-performing field service organizations place the greatest emphasis on customer-focused market drivers (e.g., demand for quick response times), but don’t neglect to improve existing workforce utilization, productivity, efficiencies or service revenues.

So, what are leading organizations doing to address these key challenges (and maintain their status for the long haul)? The answer is surprisingly intuitive: They measure where they stand today, invest in new technologies and mobile tools, and then measure the hell out of the impact these actions have on their team’s performance moving forward.

Make Customers Part of the Team

The survey findings reveal, for instance, that leading services organizations recognize the importance of real-time access to data — for both field technicians and customers. This applies whether that data represents the past (customer and asset history), the present (current status of work orders) or the future (technician ETA).

Self-help support capabilities, such as the ability to order parts or view a work order status, are another example. These save both customers and services organizations significant time. With self-help capabilities, customers can create their own service tickets online, access self-service resolution scenarios, receive real-time status update alerts and track the shipping status of parts themselves.

By making the customer part of the service delivery team, leading organizations also save time and increase levels of customer satisfaction. Customer access to online service order data and information is clearly a “win-win” scenario for both parties.

(Not So) Secret Practices of Top Organizations

Here are the key factors that set leading field service organizations apart, based on the results from our 2014 Benchmark survey:

  • They are significantly more driven than most organizations to meet their customers’ demands for quicker response time and improved asset availability. Top organizations also seek to improve workforce utilization, productivity and efficiency, while increasing service revenues. (Examples range from adopting new technologies for automating critical processes, empowering field techs with state-of-the-art mobile tools and implementing employee incentive programs based on performance improvements.)
  • A majority are adding, expanding or refining the metrics they use to measure service performance. Leading organizations also use nearly three times as many metrics to measure their performance compared with other companies (i.e., 14, vs. 5, including field technician productivity, service revenue per field tech, service parts revenue, contract renewal rates and many others).
  • During the next 12 months, more than 75 percent of leading organizations will have integrated new technologies into their existing field service operations. They will also have invested in mobile tools to support their field technicians.
  • They provide technicians with enhanced access to real-time data and information in the field. They also provide customers with a variety of Web-enabled self-help capabilities, primarily via customer portals.

By emulating the top service organizations, any organization can raise the level of service it delivers to customers.