When we implement a new service management system for our clients, part of our training is to show the administrators and owners how to look through the data their system collects and help them use it to increase profits. One consistent finding is that the technicians they think are performing the best are often not the top technicians, and some less visible ones are actually top performers. What is the disconnect? Data.
If you do not have a unified system where all of your data is stored, measured, and compared, companies often rely on gut instinct and even anecdotal stories to decide who their best technician is. Who made the most calls last month? Who used the least parts? Who do the customers like the best? Who does the staff like the best? These are all important considerations, but they can sometimes be misleading. Let’s consider two technicians: Bill and Randy.
“Best Friend Bill”
Everyone likes Bill because he is a fun guy to be around. The customers like him because he has a story for everything and he’s an experienced technician that’s been around forever. Bill is certainly competent. He’s never had a device he couldn’t calibrate or fix if it broke down. He often finds surprisingly strange problems that have caused a device to break down. His solution often makes him sound a bit like a hero, because, “nobody would have found that problem except Bill.” Every month Bill consistently comes out on top with the most calls. Everyone knows that Bill is the best.
Randy is a very quiet technician who goes about his business. He’s more serious than Bill and sometimes that comes across as unhappy. Randy is very methodical with his calls. Randy does not interact with clients all that much, instead choosing to get right to the problem. The staff don’t mind Randy, but he’s not as much fun as Bill. Randy does not complete as many calls as Bill, and staff sometimes think he’s a bit slow.
Putting aside personalities, it’s easy to see why most people think Bill is the better technician. But, does better mean the most profitable? To find that out, you need to dig a little deeper and ask more detailed questions.
- Who uses the most parts?
- Do you measure the “mean time between failure” for equipment?
- Can you compare technician results on the same model equipment?
- What is a technician’s first call success rate?
We all know that “throwing parts” at a problem often solves the issue, but if those parts are part of your service contract, and therefore, your cost, the more a technician does that, the more expensive they are.
Mean time between failure, and first call success rates are great measures of technician competence. You want technicians to solve the problems on the first visit. If they are rewarded simply on call volumes, then that could reward them for having to go back again. If a customer calls back with an issue within 30 days, the issue likely was not resolved correctly. If someone is getting sent out on calibrations, whereas another technician is typically sent out on more difficult assignments, it can be difficult to grade their performance.
An additional efficiency measure that is often out of the technicians control is car stock. Knowing ahead of time what machines they will service in the next few days, and what parts are most commonly replaced, can dramatically affect their first call success rate. Customers may pay you for travel time and labor on the first call, but if the technician does not have the right part, they will not be happy paying for additional visits. This is a huge drain on most service companies because the technician is getting paid somehow—and that’s often on your dime.
In my experience, these measurements can be tough to compile if you have multiple systems, but once you sell the equipment, profitability is all about the efficient delivery of service, and that comes down to technicians. A unified service management software can help you measure technicians more accurately.
Measuring technician performance is typically not about rewarding and punishing. Experienced technicians are hard to find, so it’s not like you want to grade them for the sake of grading. If a technician is struggling with fixing a specific model, looking through the data can help you identify that. It could be that Randy is better than Bill at one task, and he can teach him his process. The opposite might be true as well.
Service management software is often seen as a cost to your business. In most cases we find that if owners and managers use the software to also measure success, beyond just call volumes, then service management software is actually a profit center.