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ServiceMax’s Kieran Notter reflects on the findings of the Field Service News Research project into the changing face of the field service engineer and how the modern requirements for this role require adding a mix of soft skills into the mix…

 

Gone are the days that an engineer used to have sneak in beneath everyone’s radar complete the job and sneak back out before anyone could notice he was even there.

 

I think almost every company would agree that the engineer is very much the face of the brand, but it’s not very often that they will turn up and the customer will be happy to see them – remember the engineer is often there to fix the issue that your asset is causing them, so they play a hugely important role in terms of ensuring customer satisfaction.

 

The London School of Economics actually did a study into the correlation between revenue and customer satisfaction and found that for every 7% increase a company receives in its NPS customer satisfaction score, this will translate into a 1% increase in terms of revenue. So the opportunity to ensure the customer sees your organisation in its best light during a field service visit must absolutely be maximised – which means field service engineers with great people skills.

 

Also, consider as we move more towards preventative maintenance, the perception of the engineer (and your organisation) must adapt. In a traditional-break fix model the role of the engineer and the work he was undertaking was obvious – he was there to fix the machine that wasn’t working – a job which has a more tangible and easily identifiable value.

 

In a world of preventative maintenance the work being undertaken may perhaps not be quite so obvious to the customer and as such whilst the same (if not greater) value is being delivered via preventative maintenance, as something less tangible it could potentially be harder to demonstrate and outline that value. This is where soft skills can really come to the fore. The ability to explain the value of their actions to the client whilst on-site, to be able to interpret data and translate that into guidance, insight and advice on how to get maximum output from an asset is a sure-fire way to ensure that the increase in value isn’t overlooked – but to do so, strong interpersonal skills are a must.

 

Perhaps one of the most important things about remote assistance is that it can put an old head on young shoulders and it really allows you to support your less-experienced field technicians. I’ve actually experienced working for a company that started a remote assistance strategy and they soon saw the value in being able to share this experience and information with newer technicians to bring them up to speed quicker.

 

The approach was to utilise their older and more experienced technicians to do first-line diagnosis and triage for customers coming through the contact centre. By doing this they were not only supporting the technicians whilst they were out in the field, but also delivering more efficient uptime. In fact, they discovered that they could deflect between 15% and 20% of the calls that were coming through the contact centre by actually fixing issues their customers were facing via remote diagnosis over the phone.

 

This of course proves a huge benefit to the customers, who are happy because their machines are back up and running faster and the impact of any disruption to their workflow is minimised (and so customer satisfaction ratings also improve). However, for the service provider, the savings that can be made simply by not having to send a technician are huge as well. In addition, this strategy frees up resources by reducing the number of jobs that require an engineer site visit and also as a technician on the phone can do a lot, lot more in a day than one who has to travel to each client, this ultimately will have a major impact on the cost lines of an organisation.

 

Essentially, it really is a win-win because it is reducing costs whilst increasing customer satisfaction, whilst also being a fantastic support mechanism for newly qualified and less experienced field service engineers.

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