In the latest of our excerpts from a new and exclusive Field Service News Essential Guide published in partnership with ServicePower we take a look at day-to-day operations for field service organisations that have embraced a blended workforce model.
So far in this series, we’ve seen that there are numerous benefits to the blended workforce approach. However, what does the blended workforce look like in day to day operations? How have those companies that have embraced this concept harness the external elements of the blended workforce model?
While there are many benefits to the blended workforce model, as the old adage goes, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it. There is undoubtedly a great deal of complexity involved in the application of multiple third-party elements being introduced into a field workforce.
As Ericsson’s Gordon explains, “When you enter into partnerships with the blended workforce, the complexity is in how you utilize that third party workforce in your workforce management tool.”
“At Ericsson, the flow we use internally is the same across all our external suppliers. We do this by bringing them into our workforce management tool and we can then either dispatch work directly to an engineer in the suppliers’ organization, or we can transfer that ticket to our suppliers service desk for them to dispatch it to their best-placed engineer.
“Where the complexity exists is in ensuring an end-to-end process of work order creation, execution, and closure. The critical element is to maintain one single workflow rather than having three or four different approaches that depend on which supplier we’re using.
“When we tender for a third-party worker, one of the key aspects for us is their tools and processes. We go through this with all suppliers at the onset of the relationship and we also offer them help them and support where needed..”
At Electrolux, multiple factors are considered in terms of dispatching across their blended-workforce. However, the end goal is always to resolve the customer problem as effectively a possible.
“We just look at the whole picture as one skill level,” explains Steve Zannos, Senior Director Service Delivery, Electrolux.
“We have technicians across the country, whether they’re independent technicians or factory service technicians and our general perspective is we have a job to do, there’s a consumer with an appliance that’s not working correctly, and we need to dispatch a technician to resolve that.”
However, Electrolux do not just opt for the closest technician available, they have a sophisticated understanding of how each of their third-party partners is performing. They then leverage this data effectively to identify who can do the job fastest but will also be most likely to delight the customer.
“We make our selections based on a few criteria, including availability and customer service record,” explains Zannos. “We track a lot information, and we do rank, rack and stack are our service providers based on their abilities and their previous history in terms of customer service.”
“We also consider whether the service provider takes two or more visits to make a repair. We look at whether they use multiple parts. Do they do the correct triage and know what part they need or do they take a selection of parts because they’re not sure and so are shot-gunning it a little bit?
“However, while we take all these factors into account, at the end of the day, we always dispatch based on the customer’s needs. Does the customer need a technician ASAP, or do they need someone next Tuesday, because that’s when they are off work and available?
"The biggest element is ensuring it is a seamless delivery of service. You do not want two standards of delivery. It’s got to be the same standards across the board..."
For Ideal Boilers, delivering a seamless customer experience across the blended workforce relies on two key factors, planning and partnership.
“It is all about planning,” explains Chris Jessop, Customer Service Director, Ideal Boilers, “don’t settle for second best with the partners that you’re dealing with, ensure you select the right partners and ensure you build good relationships with them.
“If you do so and you are clear on the model that you’re looking to deliver, you will be successful. If you don’t, then you will fail. The biggest element is ensuring it is a seamless delivery of service. You do not want two standards of delivery. It’s got to be the same standards across the board. Again, that to me is the critical element for us that allows us to be successful.”
Of course, achieving such consistency across a network of third-party partners can be daunting and complex task. As is often the case, the key to solving complex problems is often based around keeping processes simple, communications clear and ideas concise.
This is why, for Adam Gordon, Head of Network Planning and Operations, Ericsson, their approach of clearly defining processes is critical.
“When people hear processes, they often think about red tape,” he explains. However, at Ericsson, we utilize process to create a level of quality that can be repeatable. If you follow the process, you’re going to maintain the quality.
“You can’t write a process if there are hundreds of ways to do something. If there is one primary way to do 95% of the work in a single process that is then repeatable. In general, if you can repeat the process over and over, you will maintain that quality.
“This will give you a much better ability to increase the quality because you have to only improve one process, not fifty.”
The key take aways here are that the blended workforce model is reliant on strong partnerships where both parties put serving the customer at the top of tree in terms of priorities. Consistency across the entire partner network is also critical and while it can be a complex operation, it is achievable through simple and refined processes alongside clear communications.
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