The few. The proud. The Marines.
We’ve all seen the commercials. We've heard tales of heroic leadership. And we likely know someone affiliated with the famed US Marine Corps. They’re the first sent into disaster zones and areas of conflict. And they’re the first to admit the training is not for sissies.
So what does field service stand to learn from the Marines? A lot. It starts with the common conditions the Marines and field service share in their daily grind.
Field service professionals often know little about a situation before arriving at a home or business. It’s what makes field service shift management so difficult. Likewise, the Marines are sent into unknown territory and are expected to keep calm. Field service professionals must often traverse new routes to get to a customer. So too must the Marines. And just like the Marines, field service techs must capably communicate and negotiate with a wide variety of personality types.
Of course, field technicians and dispatch managers don't face the danger, stress, or travel required of Marines. But they can learn from how the Marines approach unpredictable situations.
Here are our top four field operations lessons from the Marines, and some tips to make them a reality. Now get down and give me 20, soldier!
#1 - Have a Plan, Backup Plan & Communication Plan
Marines always have a plan. Always. Core to their training is being able to calculate plan A, plan B, and plan C under pressure. Then comes communicating it effectively to everyone who needs to know. Knowing when to abandon plan A and move on to plan B is a gut-level skill that takes time to develop.
Field techs and dispatch managers must also plan for many scenarios. Customers expect immediate answers and fast resolution times. Some even demand futuristic tech. To meet changing demands, field techs must go into businesses and homes knowing what to do if plan A doesn’t work out.
There are a variety of ways to install nimble field-based planning. Scenario-driven training, customer logs, online feedback, and job shadowing can all provide valuable context for field techs.
Marines use a systematic method which we can adopt in field service. It's summed up by the acronym BAMCIS (Begin, Arrange, Make, Complete, Issue, and Supervise). Here is the full acronym with field-based considerations in parenthesis.
- Begin Planning (assess customer need)
- Arrange Reconnaissance (schedule customer resolution)
- Make Reconnaissance (tech visits customer site & conducts real-time assessment)
- Complete the Planning (information shared with dispatch manager from job site)
- Issue the Order (tech resolves issue, or documents what is necessary to resolve)
- Supervise (dispatch manager follows up with tech and customer)
Next time you head into the field, think BAMCIS!
#2 - Prioritize “Must-dos”, “Should dos”, and “Like-to-dos”
Marines know better than most that there’s a long list of things they must do. But the first step in becoming a Marine is to differentiate between must-do, should-do, and like-to-do activities. Yes, in that exact order.
Field service professionals who procrastinate on must-do things, or can't prioritize tasks are inefficient. A key lesson from the Marines here is to know your priorities. Every field tech and dispatch manager should go through this exercise on a weekly basis:
- List all your (known) tasks and jobs for the week
- Email or call your superior and ask them if there’s anything you’re missing
- Prioritize your “must-dos” and re-order your list. These are the tasks core to your mission (i.e. customers with dire problems, challenging field scenarios that only you can service, service operations that are most profitable). Then, consider streamlining these tasks with software.
There are a variety of ways to motivate your field techs. But remaining efficient and productive usually tops the list.
#3 - Look After Your Subordinates
There’s a time-tested rule in the Marines: “Know your subordinates and look after their welfare.” This rule has stuck for a reason. Can you imagine what would happen in a war-zone if Marines were unprepared, or weren’t fully committed? Everything would crumble. But it doesn’t because Marines know how to build strong, productive, and committed teams. It starts with teaching subordinates how to act, think, and fight under pressure.
In field service, this rule could transform our operations. Many organizations face technician churn, and all of us are facing an aging workforce. There’s never been a better time for mentorship, trust, and training. If field service leaders want their techs to face the pressing demands of customers, they must show them the way.
Here are a few ways field service leaders can look after their subordinates:
- Offer your employees incentives for improved performance
- Develop a feedback loop to learn what’s working and not working in the field
- Log equipment needs and resolve issues faster than expected
#4 - Take Care of Your Gear
Another key to a Marine’s success is keeping his or her gear in pristine shape. They must prepare for anything, at all times- on the battlefield, in a refugee camp, or under any unpredictable circumstance. For a marine, taking care of gear is synonymous with survival. This mantra is true of everything from personal hygiene items, to tanks and aircraft.
Field service professionals can apply this rule to their operations. Keeping vehicles, service equipment and technology in top shape means faster customer resolution times and better service.
So, are you ready to become the best in the world? To become a powerhouse of field efficiency? To service customers proudly, quickly, and boldly? In a world where customers demand instant service, can you survive with anything less than Marine-like operations?
To get more insights on field operations from the Field Service Matters team, click here.