As the head of both marketing and customer experience at ServiceMax, I’m often talking directly to customers in the field service space. This week has been no different, except instead of talking about how technology can help them keep the world running through their service teams, we are talking about how they are literally keeping the world running during unprecedented times. I am inspired by the agile work of our customers who are on the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19, companies like Roche, Medtronic, Bio-Rad, Biotek, GE, and Thermo-Fisher are ramping operations and scaling to meet the demand for testing and medical equipment.
For field service teams, who are by nature not “sheltered-in-place,” there are significant considerations for how to adapt operations to meet the current situation. We have no blueprint for how to conduct business during times like these, but here are some of the things our customers are doing to ensure the health and safety of their workforce and their customers while maintaining uptime of the world’s most important assets.
The Job Must Go On
When your field service engineers are servicing essential assets, and simply can’t “work from home.”
- Reach out to your customers to understand what the expectation is on their business. Understand whether they are closing down, ramping up, or anything in between to start to paint a picture of resource requirements. Med devices are at the center of the fight against the virus and are likely ramping up (thank you!), other industries will likely reduce. This is the time to really create a partnership with your customers and allow both sides to support each other effectively.
- While you’re talking to them, take the time to validate Installed Base customer information over the phone in advance of a service visit. You may have records of all of your equipment, but it may be in old systems that are not easily accessible to the technician in the field. By validating their data over the phone with the customer, and ensuring they have accurate location data, you can decrease the number of locations and people a field engineer is exposed to. Get in, do the work, get out, with minimal interaction.
- Perhaps most importantly, ponder the unique personal situations within your field workforce. Do the technicians have young children that need supervision at home? Do they care for elderly family members living with or dependent on them? Are they in at-risk categories – asthma, immunocompromised? Reassign these individuals to tasks that would reduce the risk of infection such as remote triage, or manning a hotline to share tribal knowledge with technicians in the field.
- At times like these, we are all dealing with uncertainty, especially field-based teams. Communication becomes paramount, not only for bonding and reassurance, but for helping teams get the job done quickly and effectively so they can get in and out quickly. Consider using a communication technology like FaceTime, Zinc or augmented reality to keep your teams connected and working effectively.
- Consider a “Swing Shift” model. Schedule technicians to service the equipment while only security is on-site and the FSE has been given clearance to enter the building during those “off” hours.
- Stagger crew dispatch times to minimize crew interaction. Limit crew members to 1 per truck, with other crew members reporting directly to job sites in their own vehicles.
- Leverage a technology feature like checklists to ensure that field engineers are following new protocols that are required due to COVID-19.
- Bypass the customer signature mandate to reduce the spread of germs, and/or send the invoice and complete authorization via email so the customer doesn’t need to get close to the technician or physically touch their iPhone/iPad.
- Review your selection and use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) in the field. Can you supplement the gear you are providing to give more protection? Ensure there is hand sanitizer in the truck, with hand sanitizer and effective soap in the shop and office.
A Home-based Workforce
Suddenly your technicians are grounded. Travel bans and the elimination of non-essential work has kept your field-force at home.
- With tools like Zoom, virtual training has never been more effective. Run product training sessions, operational how-to’s, or get that new software solution deployed and live while you have their undivided attention.
- Now is a great time to talk to your field teams more and get their feedback. Make phone and video calls, send surveys, hold information exchanges, learn what you can be doing better for them. Take the time now to implement changes that will make your teams more effective in the future.
- Complete all those high-priority, but low-urgency projects that you never get to. Tasks like accounts cleanup and inventory cleanup are SO fundamental to having systems working accurately, why not tackle them now and reap the benefits later?
More than ever, I am inspired by the work of field service teams. If you have more ideas on how we can ensure they stay safe and effective, I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for all you do to keep the world running, no matter the circumstances.
On Fri, Mar 20 from 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM PDT Field Service News is holding an Emergency Symposium on The Impact of COVID-19 on Field Service Delivery. Click here to register.