Field Service Management is a crowded technology field, and there’s much ado about the importance of scheduling service calls to improve first-time fix rates (FTFR). “The Hidden Costs of Low First Time Fix Rates,” a blog post by a company called Conductrus, chimes in on this topic. Conductrus cites some statistics from an Aberdeen Research report: “…best in class service organizations achieve a first-time fix rate of 86% compared to 58% for all other organizations.” The blog author goes on to write: “By using Conductrus you can be sure to send the right talent to the right place at the right time, increasing your first-time fix rate and saving your company thousands of dollars.”
Of course we would agree that improving FTFR would save money; being able to fix a machine on the first try means that the service technician can move on to other service calls, generating more revenue for the company. But service scheduling is a tough way to solve a low FTFR problem. The Conductrus approach wrongly assumes three things:
- Managing the schedules of expert technicians is the key to improving FTFRs.
- Field service organizations have enough pools of available “talent” (people with particular levels of experience and certification) who can be dispatched to handle specific types of service calls.
- Customer support is able to properly diagnose the customer’s problem and select the appropriate “talent” to send to each service call.
The problem with these assumptions is that field service is an unpredictable business; the onsite inspection might present a completely different diagnosis, root cause or other unscheduled maintenance requirements. Therefore, the real solution is to empower every service technician with the right information so he can perform like an expert. We’ve written extensively on the topic of first time fix rates and have pointed out that providing accurate, updated service and parts information to the field technician significantly improves FTFR. Analysts and consultants, including IDC Manufacturing Insights and Carlisle & Company, have also emphasized this fact in their blog posts.
What good is it to get a technician to the service call if he doesn’t have the right parts and service information at his fingertips? Even service technicians with “the right talent” can’t fix everything if they don’t have updated/accurate parts and service information. Electronic parts catalog technology makes it possible and practical to assemble and publish the latest information out to dealers/distributors/field technicians, via the Web or incremental DVD updates. A good EPC will provide a variety of functions, including troubleshooting (for unscheduled/break-fix events), parts identification, parts ordering, configuration management/feedback, service bulletins, best practices documentation, subject matter expert collaboration, closeout notes, compliance notes, etc.
It’s largely up to the OEMs to provide updated service and parts information to their field service and/or dealer network. You might ask, why should they bother? Many of them don’t make money directly on service, so why would they care about FTFR? Because when a machine can’t be fixed quickly, the brand name suffers as much as the service company that fixes the machine. (Maybe more, since it’s hard to hate the guy holding the wrench.) The bottom line is, improving FTFR increases customer satisfaction, but it’s not about scheduling the right people, it’s about providing the right information.