Do You Hold The Key?

May 14, 2019 • FeaturesKPIsmanagementMartin SummerhayesNick Frank

In recent years, the sector has moved from a service operation that is a cost-centre, to one that can impact customer service.
Service outfits, recognising this shift, are now building in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to keep pace with a change that
can ultimately bring profit. Mark Glover tracks the evolving nature of KPIs in field service affirms their importance to a firm’s strategy...

Employers stifle groans and share knowing looks when a project manager starts listing KPIs. Touted in boardrooms and meeting rooms, they do however drive a business forward. They serve as signposts along a journey, ensuring that important milestones are met, completed and contribute to the end goal.

It’s a complex process to streamline but one that can bear much fruit. But is there a magic formula?

Type in ‘field Service KPIs’ to Google and your browser gets filled with an array of subjective suggestions. This is not surprising, as KPIs can be as far-reaching as a business requires. Efficiency, for example, incorporates time, such as the time it takes to complete a task, what billable time was used-up and what overtime was given to a job.

However, drilling down too much into one KPI can create issues. Martin Summerhayes, Fujitsu’s Head of Delivery Strategy and Service thinks defining a KPI is essential, something that comes from taking a long view of your service strategy. Failure to do so, he offers, could risk negative outcomes. “If you don’t look at the end-to-end,” he says, if you don’t look at the value chain that you want to achieve, if you’re not looking at the outcomes that you want to achieve and if you’re not looking at the total cost to serve then inefficiency is what you’re going to get.”

To illustrate his point, Summerhayes gives an example of the engineer told by his Manager to attend four jobs per-day.

The first he attends but without the correct parts and after explaining the situation to the customer, he leaves. He fits the parts at site two but the fault remains so raises another ticket, unable to do more, he makes a swift exit. He needs to call his branch manager (who isn’t there) after inspecting the issue at the third job, so the fault can’t be dealt with, he again explains this to the customer and departs. Finally, at job number four he fixes the part and completes the job. “

You get what you measure,” Summerhayes says, explaining the issue. “Four jobs have been done, but they haven’t been completed. The engineer hasn’t been told what to do with those four jobs. As the engineer is not being asked to completer the job, a whole load of waste is created. Of those four jobs, only one has been completed. The others will be swept back, picked up by a different engineer. You start to build complete inefficiency into the process, just purely by one measure and not being clear.”

And here lies the danger of loose KPIs. It may be tempting to create them to the nth degree but unless you create the right ones in line with the outcomes you want to achieve then you could end up pushing the wrong behaviour completely. “You need to be aware of the consequences,” Summerhayes warns. “You might measure the metric you think is right, but it will actually drive the wrong behaviour and it could even drive the wrong culture.”

Other broad KPIs, as well as time, include service delivery and the aforementiond efficiency; yet customer service – a key focus in modern field service - feeds into all the above: processes, service delivery and efficiency. In fact, one could argue it sits over the top of all KPIs being fed by those beneath it. Field service management requires a balance between time and cost savings while creating better customer service.

But how can you measure this ambiguous metric? Summerhayes says it consists of many elements. “The right people, with the right training and the right skills and the right motivation will drive employee satisfaction, employee engagement, employee loyalty and employee motivation,” he conveys. 

But within that, there needs to be a further question. How does an organisation create a positive employee culture? Does it come down simply to managing your team correctly and should you differentiate KPIs between your team and management?

In a podcast recording for Field Service News, Co- Founder and Managing Partner at Si2 Partners, Nick Frank identified that separate KPIs were extremely useful, particularly when relaying an employees’ worth to the company back to that employee. “It’s important to find the measure that motivates your staff and they can actually do something about,” he said. “If they’ve taken action, they can actually see how they’re impacting how the business is working. You should see that Managers and engineers, for example, are two different sets of stakeholders, so you should separate out the management metrics from the team metrics.”

I think Nick hits on an important point here, one that relates on human level and the impact we have in the world we operate in; which in this instance is the world of work. If you’re an engineer who is part of a large organisation, who checks-in once a month for the firm’s monthly meeting and reliant on mobile connectivity to keep in touch with colleagues, then it can be difficult to feel part of the company’s bigger picture. Having someone explain to you – through KPIs – that your excellent fix-rates are positively impacting the firm’s bottom line can only be motivating.

Service KPIs, therefore, should drive profits through loyal employees and satisfied customers. The latter achieved by acknowledging three aspects that customers expect today: access to support; overall solution time and being kept informed throughout the service experience.

Satisfied customers in turn creates customer loyalty which in turn creates revenue. Acquiring a new client is three times more expensive than retaining a current one. The focus should be on customer retention not customer acquisition. Keeping clients satisfied means adhering to KPIs that put them at the core. It means being creative with your data and having the courage to look at results a different way. If your measurements are showing positive numbers - for example, an 85% first-time fix rate - then turning the metric upside can really disrupt how you look at your services. Once flipped, analysing the 15% of jobs that didn’t meet customer expectation can lead to more insightful analysis of your service performance. It’s easy to remain in a KPI comfort zone.

Measuring what you don’t want to measure can sometimes return results that you didn’t expect but once acted on, can make all the difference in an era where the customer has, and will always come first.