Editor’s note: Donald B. Stephens is a 30-year senior customer service engineer with the Xerox Corporation. Below, the veteran tech explains how to keep service techs motivated as they adjust to the switch from territory-based dispatching — and their pride in “my customers” — to computer-based dispatching.

Many managers make a huge mistake when implementing dynamic scheduling, which is an important part of all field service software solutions. They assume that technicians will automatically embrace the change in the way they are dispatched and show the same level of customer focus and care that they had when they were assigned territories. That is not only naive — it also shows a lack of understanding of the heart and soul of those service techs who take pride in what they do. So, let’s take a look at how having a territory boosts a tech’s sense of self-worth, and then address ways to motivate service reps when making the switch to computer-based dispatching.

A Territory Brings Pride of Ownership

When techs are assigned a territory, they often refer to the machines they service as “my machines” and the customers as “my customers.” Service techs become intimately acquainted with both machine and customer, which helps them know if a problem that appears in the fault log is real, or the result of a customer application that is known to cause issues. The customer also becomes comfortable with having the same tech service their equipment.

“My regular tech, Dave, knows how to fix that” is a phrase that all of the other techs hear frequently when Dave is out on vacation. For some service teams, this can also turn into friendly competition, where “my territory” becomes a source of pride and bragging rights for the best-kept machines.

Ongoing Issues Are Resolved Quickly

Because “Dave” will be taking the next service call on a machine with a difficult or intermittent problem, he is more motivated to get it right the first time. He doesn’t want to hear the customer complain that “You didn’t fix it last time, Dave. Maybe you should bring in someone who can.” Dave is also more likely to call the customer an hour after the call to check in on his machine to see if the problem has been resolved. If you’re unsure of a fix, it’s much easier to walk out on it if you know most likely you won’t have to deal with the call-back.

If you’re unsure of a fix, it’s much easier to walk out on it if you know most likely you won’t have to deal with the call-back.

Now, lest you think I’m advocating a step backwards towards territory-driven call-taking, let’s look at ways to bring ownership and pride to the “one for all, all for one” computer-dispatch model.

dynamic scheduling

Inform the Customer at the Start

Be upfront with your customers about the new call-taking process. They’re going to figure it out when Dave stops coming by regularly and will certainly ask what happened to Dave. It’s wrong to assume your techs will handle such questions gracefully or with tact. The first step is to send your customers a letter, email, tweet, or whatever communication you prefer, and then give your techs a talk-track for any questions that might arise. It will take the pressure off of your techs who may be unprepared when trying to explain why they are no longer the customer’s main service rep.

Encourage the Team-Player Concept

The old model was “my customers,” but the new model is “the whole team’s customers.” If your service team is comprised of highly tenured techs, then this change may pose a difficult challenge. Though it may seem like only a minor change in procedures to a manager, you’re asking for a major shift in the way a tech views his or her job, which is why there needs to be a focus on the new way we do business.

The old model was ‘my customers,’ but the new model is ‘the whole team’s customers.’

Techs may need a lot of hand holding in the beginning to change the way they work. To handle, host a conference call or team meeting at the start or end of every work day. Have an agenda that encourages your techs to bring up unique customer requirements and on-going issues. It’s also a great opportunity to find out if any of your customers have expressed dissatisfaction with the change.

Revamp Your Recognition and Rewards Program

In order to cement the team-player concept, the majority (if not all) of the metrics you use to determine who receives recognition should be based on the entire team’s performance. This will likely cause a whole lot of grumbling in the beginning, but you can use the dissent as an opportunity to encourage your high performers to work with the low performers, so that everyone on the team can be rewarded. When you praise the team and take everyone out for a great job dinner, individual pride will turn into team pride, which should be the goal of every service organization.

If you’ve already switched to dynamic scheduling but didn’t follow any of my advice, then it’s time to evaluate how your techs feel about the change. If you hear, “I think we should go back to territories” from any techs, I would at the least consider a team-centered rewards program. Nothing is more motivating than a chance to earn some extra cash.