Why our field technicians carry a lighter toolbelt

Profile picture for user Michael Wilson By Michael Wilson May 17, 2016
Michael Wilson, COO of ServiceMax customer FTSI, explores how technology has changed the work of field technicians servicing bank ATMs across the Western US

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I spent the early days of my career as a field technician. I won’t get specific, but will say it was a while ago. In a world now overrun with technology, it’s funny to think pencils and clipboards used to be our go-to management tools in the field. That’s all we had back then.

My fellow technicians and I got by with limited information needed to keep assets running and customers happy. Consequently, our vans were usually filled with paper — and light on the necessary parts or tools to get a job done the first time. The whole process was fundamentally reactive. While the industry has advanced dramatically in the past few years, it still has a long way to go before it can claim total proactivity.

These days, I lead field service operations as COO and make sure technicians have the tools they need to succeed. I aim to do so in a way that improves workforce performance, efficiency and business growth. Tied to all three, there is one key ingredient technicians need in order to achieve results: information unlocked by technology. In short, I want technicians to replace their paper and clipboards with a smartphone or tablet connected to relevant, instant and evolving service information.

Connecting technicians with service data

Technicians make up around 75-80 percent of FTSI’s workforce, servicing bank branch technology for our customers. They are the inherently mobile face of my company. Their success on the road is our success in the board room and it drives our engagement with customers. Since onboarding all of our technicians to ServiceMax, we’ve cut average response time from 2 hours 25 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes per job. Last year, we reached an annual average of 99.79 percent asset uptime.

Across the industry, a massive change is underway thanks to increased access to service data unlocked by the internet, mobile technology and, more recently, by smart devices technicians routinely carry in their pockets. Today’s technicians can log into a mobile system from the field to determine the tools, parts and knowledge they’ll need to fix or maintain assets before hitting the road to complete the next job. In some cases, they can log directly into a machine or asset remotely to push a software update or fix an automated part.

The result is higher customer satisfaction thanks to increased first-time fix rates, real-time access to vital performance data, decreased response time and a drop in asset downtime.

A shift in technician empowerment

I can tell you from my time as a field technician that it’s a lonely task going on-site to fix a machine or part without complete understanding of the problem and service history. You feel isolated. You feel responsible for any oversight or lack of knowledge stemming from having the wrong information, or none at all walking into the job. On top of that, any customer-facing misstep reflects poorly on your company. If you can’t figure out how to fix a part or a customer can’t speak to an asset’s service history, you are left with two options: make miracles happen or better luck next time.

Field service management platforms and mobile tools give technicians widespread visibility into asset service history, necessary parts and estimated maintenance requirements. Platforms like ServiceMax help service leaders and call center managers identify and activate the right technicians for jobs. They provide technicians with comprehensive fix history of an asset or fleet. Most importantly, they allow companies to customize delivery of information to technicians, with internal notes and procedures to help further contextualize service visits.

The result: technicians walk through a customer’s door with the full and latest story on how to fix an asset, know where to go to carry out the work and can communicate with customers in an informed way.

Technician results linked to core business opportunities

At FTSI, our technicians service and maintain ATMs and financial institution technology. They service everything from motherboards running ATMs to security alarm systems. Our technicians build and maintain a financial institution branch from the ground up. Our FSM platform houses service data that technicians need to maintain and proactively fix every part needed to operate an ATM, security alarm system or access control network. We’re also able to send customers an instant report card with data and clear KPI results so they have a finger on the pulse of what’s going on with their fleet.

For us, improving technicians’ chance of delivering proactive, consistent service by connecting them with devices and a constantly updated information resource simply makes business sense.

Michael Wilson is the COO of FTSI, a ServiceMax customer and the largest independent provider of ATM services for credit unions and community banks in the Western US.