According to Gartner, by 2020 over 40% of field service work will be performed by technicians who aren’t employees of the organization. Most of these contracted technicians will have direct contact with your customers, so it’s important that they maximize the full potential of the interaction. You probably stress the importance of customer experience with your own employees, and have some visibility into their customer interactions. But how can you ensure contracted employees are doing their best to maximize customer experiences?
Why outsource employees?
If it feels risky trusting other employees with your customers, you might be wondering why the market is trending towards more contractors. But outsourcing, or subcontracting, offers several benefits too.
Many field service organizations feel pressure to optimize costs. Per the Service Council, 76% of field service organizations already have work done by third parties. Outsourcing employees is much cheaper than hiring full time employees. Instead of fully onboarding employees, you can simply outsource when you need more support than usual. It also allows you to increase availability of technicians and skill sets without the hiring costs or time to train. Here are a few other reasons you might consider it:
If you’re a local business looking to expand across the state, country, or globe, it’s both time-consuming and expensive to open shop and hire a new team. It’s much easier and cheaper to hire contractors in the areas you want to expand to. They’ll have the skills you need and understand the regional nuances. You’ll just have to train them on your company’s processes.
If your business is seasonal, or experiences peaks in demands during certain time periods, it makes more sense to outsource than hire employees you won’t need year-round. Cable companies, for instance, usually experience an influx in demand around Super Bowl season, because people want to watch the game. Seasonal utilities such as oil and gas providers will also have more demand during the winter season when people need their homes heated. Instead of hiring and training new employees for a short demand period, businesses could outsource to increase flexibility during these time periods.
For jobs that require special skills missing from your team, you can outsource contractors with the skills you need. Let say only slim percentage of your customers have smart refrigerators. Instead of hiring a full-time technician with the skills to repair smart fridges that you’ll rarely use, you can just contract out those jobs. The opposite also applies. You could outsource for work that doesn’t require much skills and save the more knowledge-intensive work for your internal employees.
What could go wrong?
While there are plenty of benefits to outsourcing, there’s still some risk around hiring employees who work for a company with a completely different culture and processes. Consequences of outsourcing include diminished brand reputation and operational inefficiency. Let’s take a closer look at some of the challenges involved:
Contactors aren’t your employees, so it’s more difficult to gauge their capacity. You won’t have the same visibility into their operations as you do your own employees’. Without insight into their full schedule and workload, it’s difficult to know how much work you can assign to them that they can complete.
The lack of visibility also makes it harder to deal with “Where’s my tech?” calls from customers. If a tech calls in to ask about their tech’s status, you would have to call the contractor company, who would then have to call the contractor, and call you back before you can let the customer know. It creates a stream of inefficient operational processes, and could upset the customer because you won’t have an easy answer for them about their tech.
Inconsistent Operational Processes
Every company has a different culture, environment, and set of processes. Sometimes they align well with other companies, and sometimes they clash. Because contractors aren’t your employees, you won’t have much insight into their background, how they’ve been trained, and how they handle different situations. Because they come from a different company, it might be harder for them to comply or adapt to your company’s standards and processes.
Diminished Brand Reputation
If you’ve been with your customers for a while, they might have certain expectations for your service based on past experiences. If a third-party worker has a different approach to service, customers might not have a good experience. And it will reflect poorly on your brand—even if the contractors aren’t your employees.
Contractor Management Best Practices
Since the industry is trending towards more contractors, it’s important to start thinking about how to manage this new workforce. The first step is determining what type of work and how much work you want to give to contractors. For instance, you might only want contractors for routine maintenance, or only when service is in high demand. Here’s what else you should do:
Track Contractor Capacity
You’re probably already keeping track of your own employees’ capacity when scheduling them. This way you don’t assign someone too much work, or assign someone too little and miss using them to their fullest capacity. Do the same with your contractors. It helps to have a common application or workforce management system where you can keep track of both contractor and employee capacity. That way, senior staff can also supervise work done by contractors and ensure they represent the brand well.
Treat your contractors the way you would treat your own employees. Since contractors don’t work for you directly, they might have a harder time adapting to your company’s processes, and feel disconnected. It’s important you make them feel supported, and help them perform better. Arm them with all the information they’ll need about your products, service process, and customers. And make it easily accessible from their mobile device.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Keep track of the individual contractors’ performance, as well as the performance of the contractor company. This way you can decide if you want to work with the company or individual again, or which ones you can give more work to. This means keeping track of things like first-time fix rate and task duration.
But no one can tell you how your contractors are performing better than your customers. Ask your customers to complete a post service survey and rate the performance of their contractor. See how they’re performing with customers and how likely your customers are to ask for that tech again.
You might feel guarded about trusting third party workers with your customers, but it’s a great way to lower costs and increase your outreach. Just make sure your organization is prepared to manage contractors before you outsource.