Why productivity is paramount in field service

Dec 11 • Features, Management • 2569 Views • No Comments on Why productivity is paramount in field service

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Improving productivity is the cornerstone of establishing a framework for delivering field service excellence. Laurent Othacéhé, CEO, Cognito iQ outlines why and how you should approach improving your field service productivity…

Want to know more? A white paper on this topic is available to Field Service News subscribers – if you are a Field Service Professional you may qualify for a complimentary industry practitioner subscription – apply now and we will send you a copy of this white paper whilst we process your application! 

Click here to apply for a complimentary industry subscription to Field Service News and get the white paper “Your Guide to Flawless Field Service – Perfecting Productivity” sent directly to your inbox now

Expectations of field service have never been higher

Customers are used to the speed of delivery and quality of service that they get from consumer companies such as Amazon; this has raised the bar for all service companies. Customers want a service appointment quickly, they want smaller appointment windows and they expect your field worker to have the right information as well as the skills, knowledge and parts to resolve their issue first time.

Against this backdrop is the growing need for the service department to both reduce costs and contribute to revenues. Uncertain economic conditions have led many companies to strive to be more efficient and field service departments are facing significant pressure to cut costs and “do more with less.”

How do field service organisations provide a better service to their customers, with fewer resources? Our customers tell us they are focused on efficiency and productivity gains, and this is borne out by the market:

  • 56% of field service professionals say that their customers are demanding faster response times
  • 47% of field service professionals say they need to improve service process efficiencies
  • 49% of field service professionals say that the primary objective for their field mobility investment in the coming year will be maximising productivity

So how do you improve productivity?

To answer that question, you have to know what productivity means to your business. All businesses will have a different definition and an individual approach. For example, would you be happy to drive up the number of visits per day your field workers attend if that meant fewer first time fixes, or reduced customer satisfaction scores?

The old adage is that you can’t manage what you can’t measure but, these days, companies know that it is a bit more complicated than that – measurement for its own sake or using the wrong metrics to set targets can be counter-productive. It is vital to know how to measure success: which metrics are useful and which aren’t, which can be accurately determined and which can’t, how metrics interact and how setting goals and targets will affect how employees go about their jobs.

At the operational level, field service leaders need accurate, timely data about field operations and the analytic capabilities to look for bottlenecks and opportunities to improve.

The market backs this up too:

In 2016, Field Service News reported that improving the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) used to measure performance was the top strategic action for the year ahead for 64% of field service organisations in the UK and Europe.

Field Technologies Online reported that 75% of field service organisations do not effectively measure their KPIs and 27% of those do not use KPIs at all.

Our customers tell us that the biggest challenges in improving productivity come not only from a need to define and measure it, but also from knowing how to influence workers to behave in the most productive way. This is a challenge that plays out at an operational level and an employee level.

At the operational level, field service leaders need accurate, timely data about field operations and the analytic capabilities to look for bottlenecks and opportunities to improve. At the employee level, leaders need to know how each field worker is performing, how to solve performance problems and how to motivate, train and support each worker effectively.

Simply, through continual improvement

This is not a new idea. Continual improvement is a well-established practice that seeks to increase customer value, reduce waste and optimise resources via incremental change, feedback and analysis. These techniques originated in manufacturing; on a production line, it is relatively simple to measure variables such as number of defects, as you can easily see how the work is being done and you can observe the impact when you make changes to the process. But as continual improvement methodologies have developed, they have been profitably applied in many other industries, so why not field service operations?

There are challenges: field service workers aren’t widgets that can be counted and checked. They work remotely, often independently, and may only come back to base on rare occasions.

Field service workers aren’t widgets that can be counted and checked. They work remotely, often independently, and may only come back to base on rare occasions.

If you can’t actually see what they are doing, you need detailed, timely, accurate data from which you can build up a picture of how they behave. With the right data, it is possible to adopt a proactive, systematic approach, breaking down the processes within the operation.

Adopting a continual improvement approach means that first you plan and do: Planning data has historically been focused on task, time and location: telling workers what to do, where to go and when. But if you want to improve the plan for tomorrow, you will need to study how efficiently the plan worked today and act to make changes.

For example, were job durations as you expected? If tasks took longer than planned you may have unhappy customers and a big overtime bill. If they took less time, are you paying workers who have gone home early? Detailed data on durations enables you to act, adjusting task durations to feed back into the plan for tomorrow. It is the combination of many small changes, and the continual feedback loop of measurement, analysis and change that will gradually and incrementally improve productivity.

Want to know more? A white paper on this topic is available to Field Service News subscribers – if you are a Field Service Professional you may qualify for a complimentary industry practitioner subscription – apply now and we will send you a copy of this white paper whilst we process your application! 

Click here to apply for a complimentary industry subscription to Field Service News and get the white paper “Your Guide to Flawless Field Service – Perfecting Productivity” sent directly to your inbox now

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