Last week we hosted our first Tech Talk event featuring insight and advice from a panel of three field service engineers (technicians):

  • Richard Martin, Customer Support Engineer, Domino Printing Sciences
  • John Cowan, Senior Field Service Technician, Tier III, Hach
  • Anthony Pomes, Field Service Technician, Quench

While these technicians are all users of ServiceMax, the conversation focused more on their thoughts on the following five areas:

  • Getting into the profession and role
  • The changing nature of field service work
  • The impact of COVID-19 on work
  • The benefits/challenges associated with new technology in field service
  • Their future goals and aspirations

In each of the sections we asked the technicians to share some advice for the listening group of service leaders. Here are three of the most interesting bits.

On Becoming a Field Service Engineer

Question: What advice would you give service leaders looking to find new technicians and address their current workforce shortage?

A1: Expand your search to those who might have the necessary mechanical or electrical skillsets but might not have the necessary field experience. I previously worked in a factory doing the type of work I now do in the field and found it really hard to break in given I didn’t have the field experience.

A2: Focus on highlighting the ‘softer benefits’ of the job such flexibility and work-life balance. If I had known of some of these before, it would have made taking the role a no brainer.

Commentary: I’ve heard of service organizations looking to bring in veterans as they are familiar with the type of work relevant for field service. This same thought could be extended to those in different areas such as a factory, a depot, or a repair shop. It’s important to establish a baseline of the necessary skills and personality characteristics needed for the job and to then be diligent in training for product-centric knowledge.

The comment on benefits is a really interesting one. Traditionally, the work of field service has been characterized as ‘dirty’ with heavy travel requirements. Field service organizations can certainly do a better job of highlighting some of the benefits of field work such as the flexibility and ownership of schedule, the access to new technology, or the ability to develop and learn new skills attached to cutting edge machinery.

On Change Management with a New Service Solution

Question: What are the biggest things a service organization and service leader can do to accelerate the adoption of a service solution by the field service technicians?

A1: Communicate. And this is along a number of lines. The first is to ensure that the technicians understand why the company is making an investment and what the impact will be on customers. The second is to outline how the solution is going to remove obstacles and pain points that are consistent frustration areas for technicians.

A2: Create a group of technician super users and invest in additional training for these folks so that they can locally support their peers. Other technicians are much more likely to learn from and ask questions to those they consider their peers.

A3: Recognize technicians who are doing great things with the product and share their best practices. I might not want to use new functionality but if a peer of mine has used something new to solve a customer’s issue, I’d like to know about it.

Commentary: The pain points of the business and the pain points of the technicians aren’t always aligned. That said, understanding why technicians chose to do something a certain way, or chose not to do something can provide incredible insight into problems that exist on the frontlines and the downstream impact of those problems on business metrics. Addressing these problems in a phased approach is essential to securing buy-in while ensuring that technicians don’t feel overburdened with change.

In the area of training, a lot of investment is being made in the format and content of training. Yet, not enough consideration is given to who the technicians will learn from. Trainers must know the product but must also know how technicians operate on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, including technician super users as resources is a remarkable idea. Finally, it is essential that regional managers and supervisors also have a good knowledge of the product. If they are telling technicians that it is easy to do something in a field service solution, then they should be equipped to show the technicians how easy it actually is. People learn a lot more from what they see vs. what they hear.

On Ongoing Support from their Service Leaders

Question: If there is one thing you could ask your service leader to stop or start doing, what would it be?

A1: Focus on the quality of data and information. We have a lot of great tools but if the information entered into the work order is wrong from tech support or dispatch, then I don’t have the right information to support the customer. In that case, make it easy for me to edit and insert the right information.

A2: Assess what we really want our technicians to be doing and revisit those assessments as time goes on. For instance, I’m not sure that we have to physically receive all our inventory when it can be done on auto-receive and I can just reach out if there has been an error.

A3: Trust us with the tools. One, make sure we have access to more information that’s relevant to us such as the past service history, the name of the technician who worked there before, and the overall sentiment of the customer. Two, give us some flexibility with our schedule. We recognize that there are certain things that have to be done in specific windows but allow us to own the schedule for those things that are not critical.

Commentary: Technicians want greater autonomy. Organizations want greater control. Often, there is a middle that can be achieved while ensuring that customer and business outcomes are met. Technology mustn’t be seen as a way to isolate and weed out underperforming technicians but as a means to empower all of the technicians to effectively complete their work, help their peers, and support their customers.

Our thanks to all of those that participated in the inaugural Tech Talk event. We plan on holding more in the near future. Stay tuned. If interested in learning more or in participating in a future event, reach out to me at or to Darya DeMaso at

 

ABOUT Sumair Dutta

Sumair DuttaSumair Dutta is the director of digital transformation at ServiceMax. In his role, he works closely with ServiceMax customers to maximize the results from their business and digital transformation journeys. He works closely with leaders of service businesses to define and shape their service vision while working hand in hand with implementation teams to execute on established service plans. Sumair is a thought leader in the field service and service management spaces and has conducted numerous research projects in the areas of field service, customer support and business strategy. He brings more than 15 years of experience in studying, analyzing and guiding field service organizations, first at the Aberdeen Group and most recently as the chief customer officer at The Service Council.