On day one of Field Service Medical in Rancho Bernardo, CA there was an interesting panel discussion that showed how critical field service performance has become to manufacturers in the past decade. Not so long ago, the most often measured KPIs in field service organizations were focused on jobs completed, prompt arrival times, and customer complaints.
Back in the early 2000s, innovators in field service were considering changing from using whiteboards, paper work orders, data entry, and manual inventory tracking to something automated and electronic. One of the few considerations related specifically to customers was that some field service automation systems would allow companies to offer service contracts, something that was almost impossible to do manually. Many times, when I’d ask a service group if they offered service contracts they would answer, “No. We could sell a ton, but we just can’t track them”.
In the past few years, customer satisfaction has become the number one metric, by far. Although some argue that service revenue, service margins, and revenue growth are just as important, most field service businesses agree that customer satisfaction is the best indicator of future sales (renewals, upsells, referrals). It also has the added bonus of being an identifier of service performance issues.
What was interesting at Field Service Medical U.S. was that some additional metrics were discussed along with how they reflect the growing strategic importance of field service for many equipment manufacturers.
Field Service Employee Engagement
One field service organization that has 25 technicians in North America, empowers their engineers to take ownership of making sure repairs and maintenance are completed effectively for their territory. To measure this, they use a metric that tracks how often in a 30-day period there’s a repeat service call on a piece of equipment.
This encourages accurate and thorough service completion, and also forces techs to make a more holistic inspection of the machine and its processes, systems, and operating personnel. Since eliminating return visits within 30 days is a key metric, every effort is made to make sure those return visits don’t happen. Incentives and compensation are tied to this metric as well, which further cements its importance.
Ease of Doing Business
Several companies discussed this advancement of the customer satisfaction theme. It’s no longer enough to ask, “How do you like us?” or “How was the service call?” Now customers are being asked, “How easy was this service transaction?” The answers certainly reflect how happy they were with the service, but very importantly the answers also point to disappointments in the service execution (late service, failure to achieve a first-time fix, downtime, etc.) and the changing landscape of how the entire service event cycle was managed.
Some customers prefer self-service, while others prefer their phone call to be answered quickly. Some prefer email or web interaction, some need a live person, and still some--maybe most-- prefer all means of communication. This measurement also uncovers the value of communication and updates: “Where is the service engineer? When will they arrive? When is the fix expected to be completed?” Finally, this measurement determines how complete, accurate, and timely the post-service activities including service reports, contract updates, and billing were.
Frequency of Visits Or Contact
One company uses frequency of visits and contact as a leading indicator of service issues. Their organization is structured so that field personnel can visit customers and inspect equipment before service is needed or maintenance is due. They have correlated these additional visits to fewer service events on equipment that is examined before the need arises. It is an interesting preventive maintenance approach that may not be possible for other service organizations, but if the installed base, territory, and service frequency fits, these goodwill visits can translate into fewer service calls.
Sharing Metrics With Customers
Finally, one company shares their metrics with their customers to make sure of a couple things:
- They are measuring what is important to the customer.
- They are participating in the concept of true customer collaboration.
Most service organizations provide service performance reports (incidents, resolutions, response time, etc.), but this company offers up even more reports on productivity, efficiency, and other metrics most organizations consider to be strictly for internal use only. This, again, shows how far we have come in field service. Over 10 years ago, there were few metrics; the rate of “angry phone calls” was the main metric. If there were no angry customer calls on a given day that meant it was a good day.
Now, service organizations share their internal metrics because some customers would like their service provider to be the most efficient, productive, and even profitable. To the customer, this means their uptime is the highest and the ROI is the greatest.