Are Your Organization’s Field Service Techs Living the Dream?

field tech working on equipment

There is a phrase I hear over and over when field service personnel greet each other and sometimes when they greet customers – “I’m living the dream.” It’s a sarcastic phrase, and one I dread hearing. To me, this phrase exudes drudgery, working for a paycheck, and boredom. It’s used in a sarcastic sense, but do we know if technicians are truly excited about their work goals, or in this stagnant state? You may be thinking I’m simply making the point to spice things up a bit for motivation. I like the idea of spicing things up, but there’s a bigger issue here.

Imagine a job posting for a field service engineer:

  • Brand ambassador utilizing customer relationship skills, technical aptitude, ability to manage time and expenses with strong organization and self-management skills within a two-state territory.
  • Active team player who solves technical and customer-service related issues and both requests and provides assistance using instant messaging, mobile field apps, knowledge-based systems, wearables, and other creative resources. 
  • Initiate activity to achieve team goals and develop lasting customer relationships.
  • Decision maker as it relates to daily schedule, customer outcomes, safety, and problem-solving.
  • Champion of our company’s products and services who will promote solutions as a trusted advisor to the customer, both in interactions and in written reports.
  • Safety-obsessed, both as an individual and for the team in preparation, actions, communications, and outcomes.
  • Values company property; protects and cares for vehicles, equipment, and inventory.
  • Self-aware, committed learner, and accepts coaching. Owns their career development and continuous learning through experience, training, and special projects.

Most field service job descriptions or work objectives basically indicate the technician will install and maintain equipment, complete technical and regulatory training courses, maintain customer relations, maximize productivity, complete reports on time, have few callbacks, follow safety guidelines, sell services, generate product leads, and manage inventory. 

Yet, at key company meetings, we promote the fact that technicians are brand ambassadors, problem-solvers, generators of aftermarket revenue, product lead producers, safety and inventory managers, and that they also contribute to profit through productivity and use of systems. This message resonates and reflects the contributions field service engineers (FSEs) have on their company’s bottom line.

One of my favorite exercises to do in facilitating FSE and manager courses is to pair up the participants and have them explain what they do for their company while riding in an elevator with a stranger who asks about their company logo. Nearly 99% of the time, the FSEs respond with what kind of equipment they work on and that they install and maintain the equipment. While correct, they omit that they are a brand ambassador for their company, a problem-solver, a generator of aftermarket revenue, etc. Their answer highlights the fact that while we talk about these critical attributes, there is often a gap between our vision and the typical work objectives and goals.

It’s been written that unless we are excited about our goals, then we won’t be excited about our work. How do we get FSEs and technicians excited about their goals and work? Field service leaders have a great opportunity to lead and assert the new field service role within their teams.

Why not use the above job posting to be congruent in our words and actions? The language we use as leaders establishes the degree of organizational energy around mission and purpose. Old-style language for descriptions and goals have outlived their usefulness to inspire and energize an organization on a new mission. Goals should be in the SMART format to be effective, and each of these goals can be modified or supported with specific, measurable targets.

We also need to leverage the usefulness of inspiring goals and language. Proper leadership messaging will attract top talent from new generations and engage them in their career roadmap and continuous growth.

This is an exciting time in field service with advancing technology, FSE role responsibilities, and service market growth. Updating and “spicing up” goals will have an energizing effect on organization performance and business outcomes. Living the dream can be possible in the serious and inspiring sense for FSEs/technicians as brand ambassadors and problem-solvers.

Bruce Breeden is principal field service consultant and practice leader at Mobile Reach. He is the and author of the book, The Intentional Field Service Engineer. Bruce works with field service leaders to improve operational performance, lead digital transformation programs, conduct field service engineer and manager training, and to implement mobile technology platforms.