Unemployment is at historical lows. What does this mean for the service industry, and what can employers do to better retain talent? Service work involves a high turnover rate for employers as employees are often required to engage with customers who might not be having their best day, on top of performing their actual duties. These range from fixing a broken air conditioner in a Florida hotel room to installing a new satellite dish on the top floor of a New York City apartment building on a rainy day.

Developing the expertise and skills of employees is costly and time-consuming, yet many employees choose to leave a position after less than one year. Economists say that today, generally everyone who wants a job can get one, with unemployment dipping below 4 percent for the first time since 1963. Therefore, experts observe that “the focus of policy seems as if it should be less on creating more jobs and more on trying to make the jobs that exist as good as possible, on all dimensions.”

When investing in employees is time-consuming and costly, and when skilled workers have their choice of opportunities, employers must consider what options they have to retain talent and improve the operating environment in which employees perform their duties.

How to Retain Talent

Service workers and other deskless workers typically spend more time in front of customers than they do in front of computers, and one of the big challenges they face is getting the information they need when they need it. As a result, service calls and tasks can take longer than needed, leading to frustrated employees and disgruntled customers. Employees are also more likely to feel disconnected from the companies they work for when there’s no way to communicate with peers or management while on the job. On the flip side, this communication breakdown creates a further challenge for employers—increased duration of service calls means workers perform fewer jobs per day and that dampens overall productivity and customer satisfaction.

Savvy operations leaders are recognizing the power of lean thinking for service, which focuses on providing the highest level of customer satisfaction with the least amount of waste—which in this context often means getting service team members the correct information in a timely fashion. Shifting the focus away from utilization and toward value creation lays the foundation for recognizing the benefit of streamlined communication flows.

Slow communication slows down service times and inaccurate communication can lead to further delays and frustrations. Service teams want to do good work, and employers want them to spend their time performing value-adding activities to produce superior customer outcomes. By addressing the communication flaws often inherent in service work, employers can improve employee engagement and be better equipped to retain talent of skilled workers.

A Focus on Communication

Arming deskless service workers with reliable, modern communication methods that can be accessed from anywhere goes above and beyond reducing waste and increasing value-adding time for service providers. Effective communication improves the quality of the service worker’s on-site job experience, thereby increasing overall job satisfaction. This, in turn, leads to lower rates of attrition, which further enhances the employer’s talent pool.

Retention is one of the holy grails of service work, and providing workers with a communication platform that is just as effective — if not more so — than the tools they use in their personal lives can be a key ingredient to increasing employee engagement and job satisfaction. Great tools can be a critical pillar in reducing friction to perform job duties, though they are not a silver bullet.

So what does a modern, mobile-first communication platform entail? First, it must be enterprise-grade, with the necessary security, compliance, scalability and administrative control. At the same time, it must be intuitive and user-friendly with all communication modes available at employees’ fingertips. By connecting service teams as well as the teams that support them on a single platform, communication is streamlined and employees can get the answers they need fast, driving results for the business.

The economy shows no signs of slowing down, and economists are advising business and political leaders to shift their focus upwards from mere job creation and toward improving employee working conditions. Providing the service industry workforce with the tools they need to get their jobs done and feel connected is one crucial step employers can take to keep their employees happy, engaged, and part of their team.

ABOUT Kristen Wells

Kristen is the senior manager of corporate communications at PTC and editor of Field Service Digital. She is passionate about elevating the stories of women in field service and improving communication between the field and the office. Prior to ServiceMax, Kristen held content marketing roles at startups such as Zinc and cielo24. Kristen holds a B.A. in Communication with an emphasis on Professional Writing from the University of California, Santa Barbara.