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How to Get Your Field Service Techs to Communicate Effectively

How to Get Your Field Service Techs to Communicate Effectively

A tech arrives at an unfamiliar account. The customer is very upset that the previous service rep, Bob, has not been able to repair the problem. “We’ve called Bob at least a dozen times for this,” they scold. “Why can’t you people fix this?”

Unfortunately, Bob is on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. He has written in the logbook about an ongoing problem, but his handwriting resembles Egyptian hieroglyphics and the new tech has no idea what he has done (or not done) to resolve the problem. The tech has no choice but to start over. He or she will end up spending valuable time and using parts that could have been avoided if Bob had done a better job documenting his service calls.

The scenario is fictitious, but all around the world similar scenes play out every day. There are millions of “Bobs” with terrible handwriting or even “Bobs” who fail to document service calls altogether. So what is a manager to do to straighten Bob out?

Here are five strategies I believe can help:

1. Expose the ‘Bobs’

I was once a ‘Bob’ of sorts. My handwriting is sloppy, but legible. Where I failed was brevity. I would write so little that only I could understand what I had done. My manager cured me of that at a team meeting. He pulled out several copies of Bob-type log entries and asked us how anyone was supposed to know what we had done on the service call with such lazy and sloppy documentation practices. No one likes to be exposed for laziness, sloppiness, or poor work habits. My teammates and I became exemplary data loggers after that meeting. Warning: Only do this if there are multiple “Bobs” on your team. It’s not a good idea to single out any one person’s failures during a team meeting.

2. Exhort the ‘Jennifers’

At the same meeting, we were shown copies of Jennifer’s graceful script and thorough narrative. Over-achievers can cause jealousy, envy, and maybe even strife, but secretly everyone envies them and wants to emulate them. It’s okay to single someone out in a meeting for doing an exceptional job, as long as it isn’t the same person who is getting the praise, meeting after meeting.

3. Eliminate the Paper

Electronic logging eliminates the handwriting issue. It also has the added bonus of off-site accessibility, so that techs have an idea what they are walking into. The beauty of field service software is that it allows for repair knowledge management. This includes support documentation, repair manuals, repair notes, and maintenance histories all in one neat little package that gives your techs real-time visualization of all pertinent information as soon as they are dispatched to the call.

4. Encourage Simple Details

As I know all too well, techs will write as little in a log as they think they can get away with. Most of them are one-finger wonders when it comes to typing. Your field service automation solution can help with this issue, as well. Instead of asking them to describe an unusual failure in detail, ask them to attach pictures of the problem and add them as attachments. Since a digital log is easily searchable, they could also write “same as on 7/19/15.” They will soon discover how much simpler it is to use attachments, cut-and-paste, and links.

5. Eyes Wide Open

With any new process, you should expect a few non-conformists. Jennifer might turn into a Bob if she doesn’t like electronic logging. Keep your eyes open in the beginning. Techs are creatures of habit who rely on processes to bring order to what can be a very chaotic job. Old habits are hard to break, so it might take a few Bob-exposing meetings to get everyone onboard.

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: stphnsdb@gmail.com 

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