After many years in the field service industry, I have witnessed some obtuse thinking by some that do not fully understand and appreciate field service. After all, it does take a very specific mindset to be successful in this industry for any period of time. Some CEO’s and others in management forget that there are two types of customers in any industry, especially that of field service. Rightfully so, management will focus on the external customer, the person paying for your service and/or product. But all too often, especially in challenging economic times, little focus is placed on the internal customer, the employee. The external customer pays the bills. It is that simple. The customer can and always do, make or break a company. And your company wants as many satisfied external customers as they can get. But do not neglect the internal customer. The employee is the face of your company. In the field service industry, it is the field service representative that the customer sees. They may talk to a faceless dispatcher or even, occasionally, a faceless middle manager, but it is the field service representative that the customer sees, talks to and physically interacts with. A satisfied field service representative will naturally reflect his or her satisfaction in you company by serving the customer well, whereby a dissatisfied technician can be like a cancer, slowly killing the reputation of your company. While there are many factors that can influence an internal customer, some of the most important factors are making them feel needed, wanted and respected.
One way to show the importance of this vital resource is money, but it is not the only way. I have seen many instances of good people feeling the only way to get a raise is to ‘jump ship’ every couple of years. That way, they get more money and they get the more important percieved or real feeling of being needed and wanted. But look at what your company looses, the experience, training and knowledge of your customer base. Think of the vital company resources spent in training. Those that only look at numbers and ‘profit & loss’ statements may think they can ‘dump’ a senior field service person and replace them with a younger trainee, thereby saving some money also, but look at the trade. Your company still looses in several ways. The loss of experience and the expence of training a new hire. It usually takes 6 to 9 months for a fresh new hire to be trained and experienced enough to be effective in the field. Only those companies that ‘pay long’ will see slow and sustained growth. But it is not just money that is needed to ‘pay long’. Your companies field representatives need to feel needed, wanted and respected. By retaining good, experienced internal customers, you will allow your company to retain good external customers. A field service technician that feels needed, wanted and respected and has a clear path for growth within the company is the resource needed for sustained company growth and satisfied external customers.
So, what is your company doing to retain both internal and external customers? If your company is loosing external customers, are you looking inward or outward for the problem? If you are experiencing ‘turnover’ of internal customers, what are you doing to correct the problem? Field service is a living organism, and therefore complex. I have heard it put this way, ‘After the sales, it is the service that counts’. What are your thoughts?