Our guest blogger, Donald B. Stephens, looks at how managers can avoid technology shock when implementing new field service management software. Donald is a field service technician with 30 years of experience with the Xerox Corporation. He is also a freelance writer, blogger, novelist and humorist.
Avoiding Technology Shock
“I know a place where I can buy a bag made out of copper mesh. They can’t track you, if you put your phone in it,” advised a fellow tech many years ago around the time my company first embraced integrated field service software that took advantage of the GPS feature in smartphones. As techs, our immediate fear was that we would lose the freedom of being in field service that we all loved. Field service management staff need to be aware of this Orwellian trepidation inspired by technology designed to analyze our every step. Open communication and a deeper understanding of your employee’s motivations and thought processes are crucial for the successful launch of new technologies.
Following these three steps will put the copper bag out of business:
Accentuate the Positives of Field Service Technology
This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked and under-emphasized by front-line service managers when getting their field service force on board with any new process. A manager who says, “This will keep us competitive,” is putting the matter simply, but this is far from satisfactory for most techs. We want and need to know why processes have changed. Saying something like: "This will keep us competitive by giving us state-of-the-art technologies designed to integrate our billing processes with your service calls to ensure accuracy and eliminate paperwork," is a much better way to explain. Throwing in a few data figures that show how much money such systems will save over time will help us understand that the company will also be more profitable. Every employee wants to be a part of something that has the potential to make everyone more money.
Hint at the Negatives
There's nothing wrong with saying, "We would like to be the first in our industry to use this technology, because if we don't, our competitors will beat us to the punch, and we might have to take drastic measures to catch up." It can be a great motivator to know that your financial well-being might hinge on embracing the future. Doom and gloom scenarios should be avoided, however. I once sat in on a kick-off meeting where a VP told us how things were going to be from then on. He told us that in his previous assignment, he had closed down an entire division because their processes were so outdated that it was easier to just form a new division. We got the hint, and gave in to the changes, but I can tell you that morale took a serious hit. Your service technicians are the face of your company. You want to avoid drops in morale at all costs.
Remember the Human Factor
Field service techs do two things very well: repair equipment and complain. Troubleshooting comes naturally, so much so that we start to look for the bugs in any new process or system as soon as it is introduced. It's part of the 'need to know' factor. Because Step One leads to Step Two, which is always followed by Step Three, any certain or potential variability must be discussed. This is often seen as complaining (because we are great troubleshooters, but not always such good communicators), and sometimes it actually is complaining. However, there’s an understandable reason for that too.
In field service, you have to be disciplined to survive. With discipline comes good work habits that are needed to get everything done during a busy day. Today's field service software systems do amazing things. They integrate billing, parts usage, customer data, service call data and auto-dispatching into one neat little package. But they also require the field service force to develop a new set of habits to incorporate into their work-flow. Don't expect this to go down without a bit of grumbling. Allow for flexibility and mistakes. Work with your techs and assure them that this is well worth their efforts because the future of the company is on the line. We will drop the copper bags, and you will see your company prosper.
About the author: Donald B. Stephens is a field service technician with 30 years of experience with the Xerox Corporation. He is also a freelance writer, blogger, novelist and humorist. You can contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org