Karo Kilfeather | 06.27.16
Summary >

Field service management is becoming more technologically-driven and demanding with every year that passes. Our customers expect instant service, staff want more advancement opportunities, and the number of systems we manage continues to balloon. We’re getting crushed under the weight of the always-on customer.

Furthermore, it’s a real challenge finding field service talent who have both the technological background and customer-facing skills necessary for succeeding in today’s market. So tough, in fact, that a full 55% of service employers report having a hard time filling open positions. In addition, field service professionals are aging; 70% of service organizations report they will be facing a pinch from retiring workers in 5-10 years.

So, how can field service managers bridge the gap and hire the best of the best? There you are at your desk scratching your head thinking, Oh finally! Someone will tell me where to find these super-human, tech-savvy field service pros with unparallelled people skills! So sorry to disappoint, but not enough exist.

It doesn’t mean we can’t create these professionals. As managers in this new age of field service, it’s our responsibility to train up our ideal employees. It’s never been truer that great employees aren’t hired, they’re made.

The following 5 tips can put you on the path to a more engaged and productive field service staff.

1. Take to the Streets

You got where you are by hard work. And you likely have years of field service experience under your belt. So, why are you sitting in an office shuffling papers, shrugging your shoulders when your field techs don’t “get it?” The best way to motivate your field reps, techs, and other pros is to take it to the streets. And no, you don’t have to give up your daily responsibilities to make this happen. But get out there—undercover boss style—and figure out what challenges your field force is facing. Understanding how the field has changed will give you the ammunition you need to better motivate, engage and inspire your field techs. Whether it’s once a week, monthly, or every year—set up a regular cadence for getting out into the field.

2. Train, Test, Train Some More

Training programs and tech schools for field service pros offer a wide range and significant background for potential talent. But your best bet at keeping them engaged at your organization is to train them with specific in-field conditions before they ever get there. The reason veterans make such good field service employees is they understand the value of sound training. Does this mean you should make them watch an OSHA safety video 10 times instead of just once? No.

Instead, we’re talking nitty gritty, get-your-hands-dirty training. Here are some examples:

  • Is your organization in HVAC repair? Buy 20 units, break them, and sick your newbies on the problem.
  • Do you have telecommunications reps in the field? Run free installs at willing employees’ houses, and send your fresh faces out to do the work.

Getting your field force to understand that the being well-trained also means they’ll move up the ranks can have a big impact on overall company performance.

Finally, testing your field service pros is also helpful. And the test doesn’t have to be difficult. You just need to make it clear that they will be tested. Its basic human nature; if they think a tough test is coming, they’ll prepare more aggressively.

3. Incentivize

This is the number one area managers struggle with. Giving away bundles of gift cards, or showing favoritism might not work for HR, but that doesn’t mean offering corporate recognition should get thrown out the window. In fact, a recent study found that 77% of employees say they would work harder if they were better recognized.

Of course, people should just do their jobs well out of good will, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the world we’re living in. Don’t give away the farm, but do find creative ways to incentivize employees to do outstanding work.
Here are a few ideas:

  • Is your field force into hockey? Give out some free seats every month, raffle-style.
  • Do your employees have children? Offer to fund some daycare to those that get exemplary remarks from customers.
  • Is there a lunch spot nearby? Set a customer satisfaction benchmark, and when the team hits their number take them all out (or offer gift card) for free lunch.

4. Create Culture

The biggest thing field service organizations are losing sight of is culture. Among the many rules and regulations, scripts and best-practices we wade through each day, it’s easy to forget how crucial team-building is, no matter the organization.

It’s up to you as management to create a healthy team culture. And not the culture in the Greek frat sense. We’re talking broader strokes. Does your team hang out? Do they get along? Do they know each other’s names? Do you grill out, or have barbeques? Figure out what everyone’s common ground is and get employees talking.

Once you’ve aligned around common culture, you can start to move toward common goals as an organization.

5. Gamify

The latest research has shown that gamification is a viable solution for improving productivity in the workplace. But, you don’t need to buy virtual reality headsets to make this happen. Start by putting up a score board in your office. Open up the floor for debating the route structure, and gamify the outcome. The bottom line is that any chance you have to get your field force viewing their job as something more, and something they can beat, you’ll automatically have more engaged and energized employees. If beating the game means better service customers, it’s worth a shot.

If you set the right rules, gamification can be an absolute (pun intended) game changer.

So, is hiring amazing talent tough? Yes. But, motivating your existing field force to greater ambitions doesn’t have to be. With a few tweaks, some hard work, and by setting a perfectly good example, you can ensure your field service professionals become more engaged and excited in their day-to-day operations. Pick a few metrics to track month-over-month like retention, field operations efficiency, or customer satisfaction. Give one of the tips from above a shot! You just might see an uptick in the data.