UK & EMEA Services Organisations Clearly Understand the Value of “Minding the Metrics”

The services sector has traditionally been guided by a succession of rules, regulations and policies that, hopefully, make us all better at supporting our customers and the global business economy, as a whole. Many of these guidelines mirror other aspects of our lives as well, such as “Mind your Manners”, “Mind your Own Business” and – of course, “Mind the Gap!” However, no guideline may be as important to the services community as “Mind the Metrics” – and this is particularly well evidenced in the UK & EMEA geographies.

In fact, a special cut of the results from Strategies For Growth’s (SFG) 2014 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey reveal that, for the UK/EMEA services community, “developing/improving the metrics, or KPIs, used to measure Field Service Performance” is the number one strategic action currently being taken, as cited by nearly two-thirds (i.e., 64%) of survey respondents.

No other strategic actions are cited by as many as half of respondents, although “investing in mobile tools to support field technicians” rates fairly high at 49%, followed by “improving planning and forecasting with respect to field service operations” at just over one-third (i.e., 34%).

This is no surprise to Steve Alderson, Managing Director at Cognito, a leading, UK-based provider of mobile workforce management solutions to field service organisations, who corroborates that “This exactly reflects what we are hearing from the industry with service organisations facing intense pressure from competitors and rising customer expectations. These survey results confirm the strong sense in the market that getting a better understanding of field service metrics is critical to improving overall performance.”

The primary Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), or metrics, currently being used by a majority of UK/EMEA Field Services Organisations (FSOs) include:

  • 78% Customer Satisfaction
  • 75% Total Service Revenue/Turnover
  • 68% Total Service Cost
  • 53% Field Technician Utilisation (i.e., time spent performing repairs ÷ total hours)
  • 53% Percent of Total Service Revenue under Service Level Agreement (SLA)
  • 51% Service Revenue, as a Percent of Total Company Revenues
  • 51% Service Revenue, per Field Technician

It is interesting to note, however, that most of the primary KPIs that were being used when many of us were just breaking into the business, while still important, are typically only used today by a minority of services organisations (i.e., on-site response time and first-time-fix-rate, each cited by 49%; SLA compliance and mean-time-to-repair/MTTR, each cited by 47%; and several others). However, what the data do not show is a diminution of importance among the old ‘tried and true’ KPIs, but, rather, an increased emphasis among those factors that are most influential today with respect to customer satisfaction, field tech utilisation and – oh, yes – the bottom line!

Most services industry analysts would also agree that you cannot – and should not – merely collect and tabulate the data – that is basically what a market research analyst firm does. Running a services organisation, however, is quite different, according to Alderson who suggests that, “Information without action is useless”. He continues, “As service organisations mature, and implement the next generation of mobile workforce management systems, sophisticated data gathering and analytical capabilities will be mandatory. However, the ability to act on the insights and knowledge gained, to improve field service performance, will be the key to thriving, not just surviving.”

But, why are KPIs so important to the overall well-being of the organisation? Because, for many, their service performance goals are simply not being met! For example, in the UK/EMEA services community:

  • 32% of FSOs are not attaining at least 80% Customer Satisfaction; (UK/EMEA average is 82% Customer Satisfaction)
  • 28% of FSOs are not attaining at least 80% SLA Compliance;         (UK/EMEA average is 81% SLA Compliance)
  • 26% of FSOs are not achieving at least 20% services profitability; (UK/EMEA average is 35% Services Profitability)

For these reasons alone, between a quarter and a third (or more) of the UK/EMEA FSOs probably find themselves in the need for new and/or upgraded mobile workforce management technologies to run their organisations. Then, of course, they’ll still need to measure their performance along the way. It’s definitely time to “Mind the Metrics!”

Complimentary Distribution of this Article has been made possible through Cognito:

Cognito is a leading provider of mobile workforce management solutions to field service organisations. For more than 20 years, we’ve been at the leading edge of innovation and best practice when it comes to helping our clients drive field force performance, exceed customer expectations and deliver consistently excellent service. Recently, Cognito has embraced a series of key innovations in mobile workforce management software, culminating in our flagship Fieldforce iQ solution. Cognito operates throughout Europe and North America. Our customers typically have mid-size to large mobile work forces ranging from 50-plus field workers to many thousands. For more information, please visit our Website at www.cognitoiQ.com, email us at info@cognitoiQ.com, or call +44 (0)1635 508200.

Field Service News Podcast: Bill Pollock on What Makes the Best the Best

[Reprinted from the March 2014 issue of Field Service News Quarterly Newsletter]

Welcome to the third edition of our Field Service News podcast. This month we are joined by Strategies for Growth℠’s President and Principal Consulting Analyst, Bill Pollock.

In this exclusive interview Bill talks extensively about his most recent research project which he undertook across the last six months of 2013 and drills down to explore those companies that are operating at a best-in-class level and what separates them from the rest of the pack.

This podcast is also accompanied by a fantastic white paper written exclusively for Field Service News by Bill and you can download both of these excellent resources for free by simply clicking the link below and filling out a brief registration form.

http://fieldservicenews.com/field-service-news-podcast-bill-pollock-makes-best-best/

Measuring Your Way To Greater Service Delivery Performance

(Topline Results from SFGSMs 2014 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey – Part 2)

Based both on the current survey findings and SFGSM’s ongoing research, it is not surprising that the field services community recognizes it will need to increase its investments in new technologies and mobile tools in order to compete in an expanding global marketplace. In addition, it also recognizes that it will need to develop and/or improve the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), or metrics, it uses to measure the impact that these implementations, deployments and technology advances will actually have on the organization’s performance.

The top Strategic Actions currently being undertaken by Field Service Organizations (FSOs) are:

  • 52% Develop/Improve Metrics, or KPIs to measure FS Performance
  • 44% Invest in Mobile Tools to support Field Technicians
  • 34% Integrate New Technologies into existing FS Operations
  • 30% Provide additional Training to FS Technicians and Dispatchers
  • 29% Improve Planning & Forecasting with respect to Field Operations
  • 26% Automate existing Manual FS processes and activities
  • 25% Provide Enterprise-wide Access to important Field-collected data
  • 18% Increase Customer Involvement in Web-based Service Process
  • 15% Hire additional Field Service Technicians and/or Dispatchers
  • 14% Outsource some, or all, Field Service activities to partners or vendors

The ”new” global economy also demands that these investments be made in a certain balance that allows the newer technologies to support a “back to the basics” approach with respect to running a successful – and profitable – field services organization. In other words, services organizations need to embrace “new” technologies, but without forgetting that it is still “all about the customer.” Some of the basic strategic actions that between one-quarter and one-half of respondents also cite include training, planning and forecasting, service delivery automation and enterprise-wide access to important field-collected data.

Planned strategic actions over the next 12-month period reflect a more dynamic, rather than static, approach to the field service marketplace. For example, an additional 41% of respondents plan to develop and/or improve their use of field service KPIs, or metrics, in the next 12 months, and nearly as many plan to integrate new technologies (36%) and invest in the next generation of mobile tools (33%) to support their technicians in the field. Other key planned actions will be taken in areas relating to the automation of existing manual field service processes or activities (33%), improving planning and forecasting activities (32%), and providing additional training for field technicians and dispatchers (30%).

What these data primarily show is that the field service community recognizes the need to take specific strategic actions to enhance and improve existing service operations, and that these actions begin first and foremost with the need to develop and/or improve the use of service metrics and KPIs in measuring and monitoring their service delivery performance. In addition, it shows that FSOs also recognize the need to invest in the right technologies and mobile tools to empower their resources both in the field, and in the back office, to improve existing processes, meet the growing needs of customers, and make greater contributions to the bottom line.

The survey findings reveal that there are basically five service performance metrics, or KPIs, presently being used by a majority (i.e., 50% or more) of the FSOs that participated in the 2014 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey. They include:

  • 80% Customer Satisfaction (up from 70% in the 2011 Survey)
  • 72% Total Service Revenue (up from 66%)
  • 69% Total Service Cost (up from 51%)
  • 59% Field Technician Utilization (up slightly from 56%)
  • 52% Service Revenue, as a Percent of Total Revenue (not asked in 2011)

However, there are also an additional seven KPIs that are used by just under one-half of FSOs to help them measure their performance. These include:

  • 49% On-site Response Time (down from 51% in the 2011 Survey)
  • 48% Field Technician Productivity (down from 66%)
  • 47% First Time Fix Rate (down from 45%)
  • 46% Mean-Time-to-Repair (MTTR) (down from 49%)
  • 45% Percent of Total Revenue Under SLA/Contract (not asked in 2011)
  • 45% Service Level Agreement (SLA) Compliance (down from 48%)
  • 43% Service Parts Revenue, as a Percent of Total Service Revenue (not asked in 2011)

Thus, presented in this manner, it appears that the most commonly used service performance KPIs from two years back are even more commonly used by FSOs today.

Next up (in Part 3) will be a discussion of which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), or metrics, FSOs are currently using to measure their service delivery performance.

Delivering “Best-in-Class” Customer Service and Support

“Best-in-class” customer service and support is what all services organizations strive to achieve. However, many experts suggest that attaining “best-in-class” status in all aspects of customer service is – well – impossible! While one organization may be acknowledged as the “best-in-class” with respect to one or two areas of customer service – say, quick response to customer inquiries, and professionalism in the field – it may not do as well in some other areas, such as resolving the problem on the first try, or providing the best customer “fix” – even though it may have done so quickly. Another organization may be considered “best-in-class” with respect to getting the job done – but not in terms of providing adequate communications with its customers all along the way.

Even the very best customer service-focused organizations typically have one – or more – areas where they are not able to provide “best-in-class” customer support. However, whether a “best-in-class” organization really does – or can – exist, one thing remains absolutely clear: your organization – and you, as one of its primary customer contact representatives – must do everything it can to be perceived by your customers as being as close to “best-in-class” as possible.

In order to effectively move toward attaining “best-in-class” status, your organization will also need to rely heavily on the formulation, development, and implementation of what is commonly referred to as “best practices” to support its customer service operations. The following guidelines should be of some help in moving your organization closer to “best-in-class”:

1.    Make it easy for your customers to voice their concerns, and your customers will make it easy for you to improve.

Nobody likes to receive constructive criticism or have someone complain about their customer service performance to a supervisor. However, if you accept these occurrences as productive ways to ultimately improve your own performance skills, then it becomes much easier to accept. As such, you should interpret every customer-voiced concern or complaint as just another one of your “marching orders” to improve – or fine-tune – your own personal customer service and support skills.

2.    Listen to the voice of the customer.

Customer service leaders demonstrate their commitment to resolving customer concerns by listening directly to the voice of the customer. And you are typically in the best position in the company to do so. But, simply listening is not good enough – customers will also expect to hear back from you with any and all important information leading up to the full closure of their inquiry or call. However, by doing so, you can truly establish an interactive relationship with your customers to achieve results. By investing your time in communications with your customers, the payoff will be an easier path to get the job done – whether it is a service call, responding to a customer request or inquiry, or anything else that the customer feels is important. In “best-in-class” organizations, two-way communications – whether positive or negative – are only seen as opportunities to improve. And how their requests are handled by you will ultimately reflect your – and the organization’s – overall commitment to customer service and support.

3.    Respond to customer concerns quickly and courteously with common sense, and you will improve customer loyalty.

Customers tend to “reward” individuals who are responsible for quickly resolving their problems by remaining loyal customers. In addition, they are more likely to provide these individuals with commendations or citations to their supervisors as a token of appreciation for a “job well done”. Quick problem resolution can add greatly to the foundation that you are trying to build in support of customer loyalty – and repeated quick problem resolution will all but certainly “close the deal”. It may be argued that doing the job right the first time + quick problem resolution = maximum customer satisfaction and loyalty. You (and your company) can develop the same fast track toward customer loyalty among your respective customer bases if you continually focus your attention in these areas.

4.    Resolve problems on the initial contact, and build customer confidence.

A customer callback that requires two or more company personnel to follow-up will typically cost much more than a call that was handled right (by you) the first time. This is especially true when the call escalates to involve supervisors or other management personnel, or a second (or third) on-site visit. Resolving a customer problem on the initial contact can significantly build the level of confidence your customer has in your ability to get the job done. And once you earn this level of trust, it will be difficult to lose it.

5.    Technology utilization is critical in problem resolution.

Your company has already provided you with a number of technology-based tools that may be used to support your ability to quickly resolve customer problems (e.g., smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.) – use them! Typically, in “best-in-class” customer service environments, there are a multitude of tools and databases available that you can use to identify, report, monitor, and track customer problems and concerns. Use whatever tools your company has provided – as a matter of course – as support in providing your customers with quick and effective solutions. Your competitors who may have also embraced the concept of “best-in-class” customer service are already doing so, and so are the highest-performing field technicians in your own organization. You should be doing so as well.

6.    Continue to acquire training in customer service and support.

Regardless of what customer service training you may have taken in the past, chances are you already need more training in order to remain effective. There are always new conventions, methodologies, and tools being developed over time to support your ability to provide “best-in-class” customer support – and if you do not keep up with the latest techniques, you will find yourself continually falling behind in your ability to satisfy your customers – let alone make them loyal to you and the company. Employees who practice the basic rudiments of customer service and support most diligently within the company tend to learn the company – and its customers – so well, that they are more likely to be promoted than those who do not. Some organizations use customer service proficiency as a formal “career ladder” for advancement in the company. And in most cases, it is the front-line employees (i.e., the ones with the most direct, day-to-day contact with customers – like you) who benefit the most from this experience.

7.    Focus on getting the job done; not just dealing with the symptoms.

If routine equipment and/or customer problems are effectively resolved initially at the front-line, you (and your company management) can focus more on improving the core processes, policies, and guidelines that drive customer service performance and customer satisfaction throughout the organization. A good process will ensure that you are always capable of providing your customers with “total solutions”, rather than merely “placing bandages” on the situation. Just dealing with the symptoms simply “covers up” the visible problem, but may not resolve its root cause. “Best-in-class” companies use formal processes to, first, identify the problems and; then, to empower their employees to resolve them as quickly as possible. In this way, the current repair can be done as efficiently as possible, and any similar future calls will have a much greater probability of being performed right the first time.

In conclusion, the main lessons to be learned from approaching customer service from a “best-in-class” perspective are:

  • Satisfying the customer is your top priority.
  • “Best-in-class” organizations view customer concerns and criticisms as opportunities for improvement, not just as problems.
  • “Best-in-class” organizations make it easier for customers to voice their concerns, as well as for their field technicians to quickly resolve their problems.
  • Effective customer service and support relies heavily on customer feedback and two-way communications between the customers and their field technicians.
  • Well-managed customer service and support processes make everybody’s job easier – and customers more satisfied.