In this episode of the Five Questions for a Field Service Expert Podcast, we chat with Randy Mysliviec, President, CEO and Founder of RTM Consulting. RTM provides advisory services for technology companies and their service organizations. Widely recognized in the industry as an expert in global resource management and author of the Just-in-Time Resourcing® brand of human capital management solutions. Randy advises multinational companies on the complex challenge of operating services teams serving the global market.
If you prefer, you can read the full podcast transcript below.
[00:01:20] Randy: It’s very nice to be here, Dan, I appreciate the invitation. Very good.
[00:01:25] Mobile Reach: Well, we have you we have five questions for you, Randy, as we do for all of our field service experts. Are you ready to go ahead and jump in?
[00:01:31] Randy: I certainly am. Let’s go.
[00:01:35] Mobile Reach: Excellent. OK, first question for you. First-time fix rates, mean time to repair. These are frequently tracked by field service organizations, we know that. How do you recommend, as important is these metrics, how do you recommend improving these metrics when there’s a good deal of complexity inherent in those processes that they’re tied to.
[00:01:57] Randy: Dan, that’s a great question. You know most field service organizations are tackling those two particular metrics as you’ve shared, first-time fix, mean time to repair, and certainly a number of others. We would advise folks to start with understanding the entire nature of the root cause of underperformance that you might have in those areas relative to some pre-determined estimate for repair performance. Right. We all go into these things from the viewpoint of not what we expect the outcome to be. You know too often we see companies focusing on solving the problem in pieces, you know parts or vehicle issues or focus on tech training or whatever it might be, and what we see is what we would call the whack-a-mole approach, you know, we’ve knocked one issue down and another issue pops up someplace else. So as most of us in that in this business know, field service performance is highly dependent on a series of interdependent processes which operate at that the level the weakest link in the chain. So the way we help organizations or would recommend or suggest you do that is to focus on what we call service engineering. It’s certainly a common term and a lot of those service engineering functions exist in the company’s performance field services today. We think it’s a real solid solution to create a function whose sole purpose is to engineer a service to produce a certain outcome. An example would be first-time fix rates. No different than as a product engineer produces a product to perform a certain thing or a certain outcome as a result of using that product. And once that service is designed you should test and pilot the service to see if the services performed as designed just as a product engineer would build the product through its test mode make sure the product’s performing as designed. And so you would be looking in your service in this case to see am I able actually produce per first-time fix rates in the neighborhood of what I was targeting to be or mean-time to repair rates in the area that I was hoping to do that. It’s really important this whole process, by the way too, to have good data from a good integrated set of tools that are both your field service service management tools, your mobile devices, and things that are providing regular input of data so that you really are getting good real-time feedback on how you are really doing on first-time fix and mean-time to repair.
[00:04:26] Mobile Reach: That makes a ton of sense. I appreciate that very practical insight. Okay, so second question is — buzzword alerts coming — digital transformation and low hanging fruit are are the buzzwords we’re going to look out for here, so when you put those two things together and it when it comes to digital transformation everyone’s looking for sort of a quick win, the low hanging fruit, is there that fast path to optimizing say labor and parts and vehicles whether those are trucks or helicopters or whatever vehicle you need to get to the job. How do you think about the happy path to optimizing those assets and those expenses?
[00:05:07] Randy: Yeah, another great question and it’s one we get all the time. And organizations are understandably anxious to get to the answer on how they optimize their field services processes. And so you can do a total bottoms-up approach to review analyze data through business transformation. We also help organizations deploy a technique known in the Lean world or Six Sigma world as variability reduction. What variability reduction really is, in a nutshell, is looking at your mean performance. So let’s take first time fix as an example. And those service operations are being done by field services ops that are normally grouped in some way. They may be grouped by country or by region or by state or whatever, however you’ve decided to aggregate your tech services. But when looking at the performances of those various groups and, however you’ve decided to aggregate them, who are your best performers, who are your worst performers, wrapped around the mean performance for everyone else. And you learn a lot from the best performers and wonder what do they different to produce the better first time fixed rate than anybody else and they’re taking what they’re doing different and applying that to the rest of the audience. The same thing is true with variability reduction is looking at those that are underperforming. What’s going wrong with those five or six groups that are underperforming the mean or the high performers in the group and learning from them? And so by doing that as opposed to focusing on all of your processes in your whole environment, variability reduction really gives you a chance to focus down very narrowly on your outliers the worst performers are the best performers. Learning from the best performers and applying that to the group. Learning what’s going on with the low performers and applying those things that would be helpful to them to look more like the people to the right of the mean. The whole idea is to move the mean to the right and the overall performance of your operation to the right and you can do this in a continuous improvement way.
[00:07:40] Mobile Reach: Let’s shift gears for a minute and talk about dispatching. There’s a lot of decision making. There’s a lot of information prep that goes into the effective dispatching of technicians, obviously. What best practices would you recommend to ensure the customer at the other end of the work order is going to get that service and have their solutions provided without undue delays or friction in the process.
[00:08:06] Randy: Yeah. So dispatching is really important because for a lot of different reasons. You know it’s usually the place where your customers reached out to you through some medium to say I’ve got a problem and I need it resolved. So you know we think of dispatching as the glue that brings together your processes for parts for labor, your techs, or your vehicles and how you use those. And in dispatches, the objective is to bring those things together so that when a break-fix opportunity arises that we use dispatches as the glue that brings those various processes together to solve the problem the first time quickly to the customer’s satisfaction.
[00:08:57] So you know the way we recommend it get there is to start by having a service design that ensures you know first that the tech is only sent when they really need it. You know today remote solve is more than just a hot topic. it is a necessity to compete. And so we suggest what we call our shift left strategy as you are moving your break-fix incidents from on site every time to hopefully doing more on call and more online. You know these could be simply a firmware update of your product or operator error that some help desk agent can help your customer through. Before we take up the time and energy to dispatch a tech with a vehicle and with a part. And it turns out that it’s something we could have handled them online. So service design is really really important in that you know you’re working with R&D to build that remote solve capability into your products. And then every other link of the chain of service design to make sure that you never dispatch a tech until you really know that you have to have a tech to go on site. You know there’s again field service is highly dependent on all these subprocesses for labor, parts and vehicles and dispatches. The glue that really brings those things together to produce a target outcome for your customers. So we really encourage people to put a lot of emphasis on that early process of service design, thinking through all of the interdependencies there are. How are you going to gather data along the way from your techs from wherever that dispatch was contacted and bring those together into a coherent not only communication but a service plan or resolution to solve that particular incident. Mobile tools, by the way, become really really important to do this well because the timeliness of feedback and data becomes really critical when you have those tight SLAs for break-fix.
[00:11:06] Mobile Reach: Well, you obviously think a lot about the technician at RTM Consulting as we do here at Mobile Reach. I want to ask you about technicians and how they track time, expenses, parts, et cetera. How are you seeing these components of a work order, specifically time, expenses, parts et cetera being more effectively managed by the more progressive field service organizations that you work with?
[00:11:35] Randy: Yeah. You know it comes back to the comment I made on the question about data collection. Getting timely feedback on where are our assets are, how they’re being used, how they’re being deployed. So I start my answer to your question largely around this whole area of mobile devices whether it’s smartphones or specialized field services devices. Those things are here, they’re proving to be highly effective. As more young people enter the workforce are more mobile friendly relative to their use of those kinds of technologies. So you know we think about enabling the workforce with the tools to communicate and disseminate information in a timely way.
[00:12:22] And then we’ve got to think about the back-end, of course. You’ve got to have a good field service management software as a catcher and processor of that data and ways to then integrate that data. Because you mentioned, Dan, in your opening comments on this question is a break-fix task includes some of the tech’s time, it includes expenses that may be incurred along the way, it includes the parts use a vehicle that was used in the process, et cetera. So we’re trying to gather lots of different types of information that we want to aggregate you know relative to particular incidents that we’d like to have data reported on. So we see many companies that are burdened by legacy systems that came together to solve pieces of the service problem, but they did it in pieces and parts and now it requires lots of heavy lifting to integrate that data into a complete picture. And we’ve seen companies being reluctant over time to overhaul some of these backend systems. But the return on investment of doing so is getting better and better by the day. And now with the rapid growth of mobile devices and the value of collecting more data directly from your tech field force is very compelling to those organizations. It’s going to do a lot to help them produce a better outcome for their customers.
[00:13:44] Mobile Reach: That makes a ton of sense. So, the last question for you. Let’s focus on what makes the world go round here. What are some of the innovative ways you’re seeing field service managers or field service execs, more specifically, maximize revenue? You know there’s the debate about field techs needing to become salespeople. I think that debate might be over, but is it true in your mind that techs need to become salespeople and how are FSOs driving revenue in new and innovative ways?
[00:14:15] Randy: Yeah, terrific question and it’s probably one of my favorite of the ones you’ve asked me so far. I’ve been in the tech business for 40 years. I spent 10 of those years actually in sales roles. And so I have a good appreciation for that side of the house. And you know as mentioned earlier, I’ve spent some time in the field services business and other aspects of services entities as well. Over those 40 years, I’ve always heard this saying and I still believe it’s true is everybody in the company needs to be selling. I don’t think techs are an exception to that. I think the great news about being a field tech and the value of those field techs to your company as a hardware provider is, they have the inside track with the customers and if a tech builds credibility with the customers, they are in a wonderful position to help your company upsell and find new opportunities to help them solve their problems. So it does then come down to the unique nature of the field service tech who generally don’t come from a sales background and how do you take that field service team and helping them help you maximize revenue. And I think it comes down to two things. One is having a clear definition of service offers that lead with value performance and making sure that field techs are educated in what those service offers are, how they work, how to explain them and simple to understand terms. And just get that behind you that they have clear concise service offers for field services that a field tech can understand. By the way, it doesn’t have to be limited to field services just to be clear.
[00:16:06] And then the second is one of the places we see field techs that tend to struggle more is an area of soft skills. Again it’s just not generally where they’re training. If you started in sales, you’d get a lot of soft skills training and he will be taught that early on in your career. But are these are things that anybody can be taught. And so I’d focus on the soft skills of your techs and helping them understand their role in making sales. Give them and training the tools they need to be able to carry that torch for you so to speak. You know I’d just ask you to remember the one really important thing is that it takes a lot more effort to find a new client than it does to keep an existing client. And again field techs are right on the front line with your customers and when something goes wrong with your hardware, they are one of their first faces of your customer to your organization and how they deal with that’s really really important. And when they do that well they become a trusted adviser in some ways to your customers. It gives them an opportunity to look for new ways to help the customer benefit from the products and services that your company might have to sell.
[00:17:22] Mobile Reach: Super sage advice. I appreciate the comment, especially around the well-rounded technician, the soft skills and all the rest. So excellent insight. Randy Mysliviec from RTM consulting. I greatly appreciate your time today. Thank you for spending a few minutes with us to talk about your expertise and field service management.
[00:17:43] Randy: You are very much welcome, Dan. I appreciate it. It was a wonderful dialogue and I look forward to speaking again sometime.
View all episodes of the Five Questions for a Field Service Expert Podcast here.