As field service recruitment booms, companies increasingly seek technically skilled, customer-centric workers
John Cameron, general manager, Trimble Field Service Management (FSM)
Over recent months, recruitment in the field service market has boomed, with a wealth of opportunities now on offer for field service engineers, managers, representatives as well as specialist roles. In line with this boom, field service organisations are seeking a new type of worker, one which has the necessary technical ability to carry out skilled and complex work but which also has the interpersonal attributes to deal with, and build a relationship with, the customer.
Trimble recently released a report, ’Transforming Service Delivery 2014 – An Insight Report’, which investigates the most pressing issues affecting fleet and field service organisations today. Interestingly, the report found customer centricity to be at the heart of field service business’ strategies and highlighted an era in field service where customer satisfaction, retention and profitability are intrinsically linked. As a result, organisations are revolutionising their strategies in order to conform to growing customer expectations.
A direct impact of this has been the role of the field service worker, which has shifted from one of operational necessity to strategic importance. Why this shift? Because today’s customer values one-to-one interactions and with the field service worker often being the only contact a customer will have with a company, the quality of service and information the field worker provides can be the only way for customers to measure the integrity, credibility, effectiveness and overall brand promise of the service-based organisation.
The emergence of a ‘new’ worker
Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service and third party expert cited in Trimble’s report, has found that having well trained and professional employees who are genuinely empowered to do their jobs is something that customers truly value.
“The biggest change we’ve seen in customer service,” Jo Causon explains, “is the move from a transactional economy to the relationship economy where value lies in one-to-one interactions and service leaders prevail in the marketplace. In a relationship economy companies that excel in customer service are increasingly able to cross into and disrupt marketplaces with a common purpose of changing the rules of engagement with the consumer and the employee, raising expectations of, and commitment to, service.”
With this shift, the skills agenda is becoming increasingly important as customers expect a greater level of engagement and real understanding of their needs. “Those organisations that concentrate on developing relationships rather than transactions will be the ones that are able to drive greater loyalty and commitment,” says Jo. “The types of new skills sets required are the ability to combine strong emotional intelligence, commercial acumen and technological awareness. All of which will be integral in an environment which is increasingly complex. There will be a growing challenge for organisations to bring together the required skills in order to deliver service experiences that are simple and intuitive and run across the organisation.”
Field service organisations therefore need to ask themselves when they are recruiting, are the individuals they are interviewing those who have not only the technical skills to do the field service role but also the required emotional intelligence to make the connection with the customer.
Will Sambrook managing director of The Akenham Partnership and an additional expert cited in Trimble’s report, says of field service organisations, “I think a lot of organisations are often guilty of wanting people, especially young people, to arrive at the workplace ‘ready’ for the work and the culture and it’s not as simple as that.
“Businesses need to do more to engage with the colleges and schools showing students what they can expect from an organisation like theirs. What they can do in terms of getting themselves ready, demonstrate where their career can go in their industry.”
But it is not just new starters in a company that need to be considered. It is essential that any changes being implemented to an organisation, whether it is rolling out new technology or processes or ways of working, are communicated thoroughly to the existing workforce. Engagement is essential for a successful outcome. Employees need to be fully prepared so that a culture can be fostered in which they understand the changes, why they are needed and how to embrace them.
Will Sambrook adds, “Board engagement is absolutely essential. But it is important that Boards do not believe they have to be all-seeing, all-doing or all-acting. Their role is much more about creating the line of sight, from the Board strategy to what’s happening in the organisation; the processes, the people, their engagement with the customer – everything is aligned.”
Retaining top performers
In terms of field service workers it is not just about focussing on those being recruited or going through change but also managing those in the business and doing the job every day. Best-in-class organisations understand the ramifications of having an undertrained, underqualified workforce. When a company sends a field service worker on a service call, the worker needs to resolve the issue the first time. According to Aberdeen, however, 26% of cases are not resolved on the first visit, requiring additional follow up visits. While this is not all down to skillset, it nonetheless erodes customer confidence and can reflect the need for worker training.
One way managers of field based workforces can manage performance is through the use of workforce management solutions which provide capabilities to evaluate field worker performance and determine who delivers the best results. Once managers identify best-in-class workers they should do what they can to retain them. Aberdeen found best-in-class companies were 35% more likely to use workforce management solutions such as performance management tools to optimise resources and workforce management processes.
For more information on the transforming landscape of customer service and associated change and skills gap download Trimble’s latest industry report, ‘Transforming Service Delivery: An Insight Report’ via the following link: www.trimble.com/fsm/insightreport