Technician outsourcing appears to be a growing trend in field service — and for some, a growing concern.
The rise of companies like OnForce, FieldSolutions, and now Work Market points to the popularity of databases where organizations can find freelance contractors to fulfill a difficult-to-staff job, and where contractors can turn for a one-off gig. And increasingly, these support outsourcing networks are targeting enterprise organizations, which rely either entirely or nearly entirely on freelance field service techs, rather than small-time operations that just need one contractor at a time.
The set-up has many benefits, both for the workers looking for a quick job during a down period or while unemployed, and for businesses that can deliver on a job in an area where they don’t have staff.
However not all techs are thrilled with the setup — and the backlash is pretty loud in some circles. For instance, Apple last year began ditching its Consultants Network, which customers were pointed to for out-of-warranty repairs. Instead, Apple began tapping into OnForce’s network of techs and routing repair jobs to OnForce’s army of over 100,000 nationwide freelancers.
Former Apple Consultant technicians are free to join the OnForce network and get referred to a job, but they’re no longer in a position to market themselves or their own brand — they must perform the work on behalf of OnForce. Further, the work orders come with a pre-determined price, which may be below what some techs typically charge for their work.
It also appears that many of the service techs who were laid off during the worst years of our economic recession have yet to be hired back to full-time work — instead, their organizations are making due with independent contractors who don’t require a yearly salary, overtime wages, or health benefits.
Clearly this presents a dilemma for out-of-work technicians. Is it better to take a contract job at a non-negotiable wage, without benefits, or to miss out on work altogether?
There are other quality-assurance concerns, as well, for organizations. While most outsourcing firms offer some sort of “rating” system to determine what kind of work contractors are performing, the fact remains that companies are taking at least some risk hiring a worker they’ve never met or trained. And with all we know now about the role that top-notch service can play as a brand differentiator, the idea of using solely freelance workers might be a dicey proposition.
Does your organization use any freelance workers? What’s your experience been? Feel free to weigh in using the comment field below.