Your field services workforce management style could be affecting your organization’s success. In recent years, a top-down management style has come under scrutiny with Inc. magazine calling it “out of style” and The Balance asserting it brings peril to your organization.In field service organizations, strong central leadership and organization are key to running day-to-day operations and ensuring customers experience consistently excellent service on time – faster and better than your competitors.
Field service workforce management has a reputation for either leading with the stick or the carrot. Leaders who use the stick to motivate dole out disciplinary action and criticism to field service team members who miss the mark. Leading with the carrot means you motivate your field service technicians with rewards for positive marks like great reviews and high first-time fix rates.
The key is to lead well, a balance somewhere between using a stick for corrections and carrot as a reward. Field service management at every leadership level is the compass that sets the course for how your field technicians show up and ultimately how the face of your field service organization performs for your end users.
The bottom line: Customer satisfaction hinges on the quality of your field service management leadership style. See if you can find yourself in one of these categories. Then, consider where you may want to adjust course or keep going full steam ahead.
Signs You Lead with the Stick
Mistakes in field service can be very costly, particularly with high-end IoT appliances. Customer complaints could drive down your ratings. It makes sense that your workforce management style would default to avoiding what’s bad for business by using the stick of disciplinary action or critiques with employees and contractors who make those mistakes. However, if your field service management is based around avoidance – steering away from money pits and reputation-damaging events – you will miss out on the most profit-driving management style. When implementing a stick-driven strategy, technicians and even customers can be the means to an end for a goal-driven organization. Leading with the stick can have detrimental impacts on your field service technicians’ performance and, by proxy, customer experience.
The good news is that you can adjust course if you are aware that you’re leading with a stick. It’s not the most effective way to manage your workforce, so pay attention to these warning signs that you’re leading with the stick:
- Your technicians show up right on time and do their job without going the extra mile for customers
- Your teams are run with precision, always sticking to the plan, and missing creative solutions or new ways to improve field operations
- Your customers give your field technicians consistently good – but not great – ratings
- Your first-time fix rate is around 75 to 78%, an average FTFR
Your field service technicians will do their jobs and correct their errors, but they are not likely to learn what they are doing well or feel ownership. That could cost the company through the loss of innovative ideas that the employee wants to share, referrals to new candidates or missed promotions. Down the road, when they want to move up in their careers, they’ll likely look outside your organization to find a field service manager who provides opportunities for growth and encourages thinking outside of the box to ensure excellent customer service.
The alternative route many field service management leaders take is to reward the great work of your top field service technicians, AKA lead with the carrot.
Signs You Lead with the Carrot
If the managers in your field service organization lead by looking for the jobs well done, your field service technicians likely look forward to coming to work and be willing to put in the extra effort to win your respect. As a result, they may take on more work, going the extra mile for customers and sharing new ideas and methods with you and their peers. This is likely to translate to better customer service ratings that reflect your team’s higher morale and improved first-time fix rates.
Signs that a reward-driven management style is working include:
- Empowered technicians arrive early for their jobs and compete to be the best-rated field service tech
- You incentivize customer service with Technician of the Month awards
- Your reports focus on the growth aspects of your organization
- Your workforce management software gives employees and contractors the tools they need to lead the pack by tracking FTFR, plus individual and regional customer ratings
By leading with the carrot, you will feel inspired by the success of customer ratings, you will want your team to feel great about the work they are doing well. Having a great team who is working hard and loyal to your organization certainly helps your turnover rate.
Understanding how to motivate top performing field service techs won’t explain those odd moments when things go south for customers and you can’t put your finger on the cause.
That’s because leaders who focus on their teams are still missing an important piece of the field service management puzzle: the customer pulse.
Consider the field service management style that puts customers, not profits or team members, at the center and utilizes field service management software to make better decisions.
The Third Way: Customer-Centric Leadership
You will know that customers are at the core of your field service organization when your customer service ratings are steadily excellent, your team feels empowered to complete each job, and you are in touch with the reasons for your success.
Field service management has a reputation for either being carrot-or-stick led because often managers control what seems within reach: field service technicians. The problem with this approach is that field service technicians are just the mediators between your organization and customer satisfaction ratings.
Consequently, when you focus on changing field service technicians through rewarding or critiquing them, you lose track of the most important measure of what is working: customer satisfaction.
How do you determine the drivers for customer service? How do you determine where to focus your attention?
Many field service organizations focus on numbers and growth until, like Neo in the Matrix, they see everyone from field service technicians to customers as numbers. Instead, the top field service organizations focus on fostering a personal connection to the customer through AI-enhanced workforce management software , predictive maintenance, and fostering a happy workforce.
Your leadership style in field service management needs to be customer-focused, in touch with the day-to-day, and, most of all, in touch with customers. Customer service is an important part of your field service techs' days, and – with the right tools – they will recognize their roles in making the company better, one customer experience at a time.
Lip service is easy on this one, so hear us out. Customer-centric leadership:
- Focuses on technician mistakes as moments for systemic examination, not individual scrutiny
- Uses customer service ratings across the board to dissect and pinpoint exact factors that led to, for instance, the Southwest region’s incredible weeklong streak of all 5-star ratings so you can duplicate it across the organization
- Manifests in your attitude about meeting customer needs (even before they ask), without stopping short for demands of your bottom line
Begin Smart Workforce Management Today
While most field service organizations report that customer service is their first priority, your leadership style may send another message.
Ensure your team understands that satisfied customers are central to everyone’s success by integrating customer data into everyone’s day-to-day. Use field service management software that aggregates customer data, empowers field technicians with a real-time customer communication platform, and ensures the job gets done on time, with the right inventory.