Is it Time to Tune up the Efforts of Your Field Service Team?

Aug 01, 2019 • FeaturesManagementBusiness ImprovementJim BastonBusiness Development

Field service is a sector led by people who inherently understand operations, as such we often hear of companies ‘fine tuning’ their processes as they seek further efficiency gains. However, in today’s world service is also a significant revenue generator, so it is high time we turn to tuning up our business development skills as well writes Jim Baston...

As service providers, we are very much aware of the advantages of preventative maintenance programs and equipment tune-ups. Part of our job is to convince our customers of their merit so that we can help them reduce or eliminate unexpected failures, extend asset life and improve operational efficiencies.

If preventative maintenance and tune-ups provide such benefits for our customers, would it not make sense to apply the same logic for ourselves? When was the last time you conducted a tune-up on your initiative to engage your field service professionals in business development activities?

Engaging our field team in making proactive recommendations to our customers provides a valuable service. By identifying ways our customers can improve their business, our field team contributes to their ability to achieve their business goals. Our field service professionals, because of their knowledge of the technology and of the customer, are in a unique position to see opportunities that no one else can see. Therefore it makes sense that we maintain this initiative in a finely tuned condition so that our field team can perform this valuable service at the highest levels.

Here are four areas to focus our tune-up efforts to ensure that our field service team’s business development efforts are performing at their best:

1. Check the processes and systems that oversee opportunity capture and management to ensure they are working efficiently and without error.
Opportunity capture and management systems and processes are the backbone of the business development initiative. If the systems are not working smoothly, then opportunities get lost, field professionals get frustrated and customers become disappointed. Failure to maintain the processes and systems will be a sure way to bring the entire initiative to a grinding halt.

To keep systems and processes operating in tiptop condition, check to ensure that there is a clear and simple process to capture opportunities and that the process is clearly understood. Take proactive steps to simplify the process further. Check to ensure that there are no opportunities falling through the cracks. Ensure that management responds quickly to address any anomalies when problems in the process do occur. 

2. Assess how familiar your team is with ALL of your services and capabilities.
Conducting maintenance in this area will contribute to the efficiency and consistence of the initiative. Teams that have a high awareness of your overall capabilities, will be in a better position to recognize opportunities where that capability will help the customer and be more comfortable in engaging the customer in a conversation about it. Evaluate how well your team understands the complete range of services that you provide.

Assess your strategy of bringing new members up to speed and ensuring that everyone is familiar with any new services you add. Evaluate whether your team recognizes the value of learning about your services and how it contributes to the overall benefit of your customers.

3. Evaluate your opportunity follow up strategy.
Not following up on recommendations will result in lost opportunities and contribute to the overall inefficiency and effectiveness of the initiative. Not following up will also have a negative impact on the customer. Many years ago I was asked to do some research for a service organization to gain insight into some specific actions that could be taken to improve their service delivery.

I met with several customers and one related a story to me that highlights the negative impact on the customer of not following up on recommendations. In this case, the field service professional made a recommendation to avoid an anticipated equipment failure.

The recommendation was not acted upon by the customer and several months later the failure did occur. The cost of responding to the resulting emergency situation was many times more that the cost of taking the recommended preventative action. The customer was angry with the service provider. It turns out that the customer had forgotten about the recommendation and the service provider did not follow up to remind him.

Evaluate your process for following up on opportunities. Is it clear who is to follow up? Are they provided with the information needed to do this in a timely manner? Are they following the process? What failsafe measures are in place to ensure that no follow-ups are missed? How well are these measures working?

4. Assess how well you and your management team are supporting the field team.
Management support is both the fuel and the lubricant of the initiative. Consistent and engaged management support will contribute to the efficiency and longevity of the efforts of your field service team. Initiatives that are poorly supported by management will never achieve the planned performance levels and will lose whatever momentum they have quickly.

As you assess management support, consider the following:

• How often do you speak of the initiative? Is it part of most conversations?

• Do you speak of it as part of the overall strategy to serve the customer? Are the proactive efforts of the field team referred to as a service to the customer?

• When was the last time you provided training to enable your team to perform capably and comfortably?

• Do you offer reminders and refreshers to keep the initiative fresh. Do you provide an opportunity like role-playing to let your field service professionals practice their customer conversations in a safe environment?

• Do you make time to regularly coach the team on the desired behaviours?

We provide a valuable service when we engage our technicians in business development by making proactive recommendations to our customers. In order to ensure that we are providing this service at the highest level, it is important that we maintain the effectiveness of the initiative through regular tune-ups.

If it works for our customers, then it will certainly work for us. 

Jim Baston is President at BB Consulting Group.