In February 2021 there was a press report about new rates for drivers working for a certain food delivery app. A significant bonus was now available, but to earn it a driver would have to make 70 deliveries a day. Even with a 10-hour shift, that’s seven deliveries an hour.

Now managers of drivers actually accomplishing this may consider their employees highly effective. But to reach that goal, the driver would likely need to make all sorts of trade-offs, possibly including dangerous driving and a higher incidence of mixed up orders, not to mention experiencing significant impacts on their physical health and stress levels.

What this underlines is that a simple productivity level alone is not enough to gauge the genuine effectiveness of any field service worker. A holistic approach is required in the technical space too – while jobs completed per day is a good indicator of a worker’s productivity, it is not the only metric that needs to be taken into account. The worker who turns up on-site, is curt or dismissive with the customer and completes the job in record time, but sloppily and without filling in the requisite paperwork in their haste to get to their next task, cannot be considered an effective member of the field team. A rushed job may make the KPIs look good, but the quality of the work may be impacted and a piece of equipment serviced in this way may well break down again much sooner than it should.

So how do you measure effectiveness correctly?

The best metric, of course, is a happy customer, who readily renews contracts and is satisfied that their every service requirement is being properly addressed.

To ensure this it’s necessary to provide service technicians with the optimum tools to not only carry out their tasks effectively, but also to complete a full and detailed account of every element of that task – from arrival on-site to a post task report. And this requires the best software available that can make this a seamless and comprehensive operation. The software needs to include the ability to measure not only customer satisfaction, but also all aspects of the individual tasks, including, but not limited to, jobs per day, first time fix rate, time to invoice from completion, SLA (service level agreement) compliance and unexpected issues encountered.

Top notch training

The next most important step to achieve the ‘satisfied customer’ end metric is the correct training of the field service worker. Related to this is the importance of the design of the application they are using. It is critical that the software flow and navigation are intuitive and the buttons are an appropriate size. The workflow needs to be logical and streamlined. Forms with a built-in workflow based on the questions that the user answers or records are easier to complete than paper-based forms with quantities of irrelevant or redundant information.

The software must also ensure that any mandatory information will be captured, designed in such a way that the user can’t forget or neglect to complete it – with an interface that won’t let the user proceed until such information is entered, for example.

Possible impediments

One of the biggest issues with accurately measuring field service performance is the necessity of ensuring the data is recorded in real time. If a technician doesn’t use the mobile application on completion of the work, then office staff will lack the visibility of the current job progress and be unable to answer customer queries as to when a technician is expected on-site.

Also, if the application is not easy to use and faster than paper, then technicians may not complete the documentation until later. Time on-site is typically determined as the difference between the ‘arrived’ status and the ‘job completed’ status. When completed after hours on a device, the job duration may show as a couple of minutes, making the data useless.

It’s also important to note that mobile devices are more likely to be used in real time compared with laptops that need to be opened and booted up, and may also need a power source.

Contented customers

As explained, the prime metric for effective field service operations is a satisfied customer. But other than waiting for them to renew a contract or anecdotally, how can their response be measured? Following the completion of the work, an emailed automated customer survey could be used to prompt feedback; however, most such emails are ignored (unless something has gone wrong).

Alternatively, the service technician can use the same software to ask the customer to complete a couple of questions at the sign-off for the work – either that the customer is fully satisfied with the work or provide further feedback if not completely satisfied.