It might sound super cheesy but won’t be wrong to say that behind every successful company there are the right metrics they measure.
That being said, setting the metrics that dive deep and don’t provide just superficial information for service operations is not easy. Many times, apart from the general resistance, you might also face backlash—an intellectual backlash on the premise that you cannot quantify the hard work and dedication.
This HBR article may look like another anti-metrics admonition, but it is not. The article emphasizes the importance of metrics with “If strategy is the blueprint for building an organization, metrics are the concrete, wood, drywall, and bricks” but with a clear warning right at the beginning that “An obsession with the numbers can sink your strategy.”
Strategy-Driven vs. Metrics-Driven
Apparently, the problem that many process experts would agree with lies in the approach. You are on a false trail if you are going to use the metrics to make a strategy.
Ideally, the approach should be strategy-driven—make the strategy and then set the field service management metrics. In this chronology, you would use metrics to measure the success of your strategy. In the process, you would have to regularly track the relevant metrics to measure how much you have achieved so far while reminding yourself that a high number is not equivalent to high accomplishment.
The difference in Approach: Strategy-Driven vs. Metrics Driven
|Strategy-driven Metrics||Metrics-driven Strategies|
|It focuses on the impact of the strategies||It gives direction to the strategies|
|Create a goal and set the metrics as a path to achieve those goals||Set metrics to measure different aspects of the business performance|
|Strategic focus aligned with metrics||The outcome of metrics dominates the strategic focus|
|Goals are clear: to achieve the strategic objective||Distortions of goals: to achieve the metrics|
|Not involving teams in strategy-making could prevent them from understanding the abstract nature of strategies||Intense demand for performance might destroy the value and company culture|
As you can see, in the beginning, it is a difference in perspective but eventually, that difference takes over the approach, and how you approach the metrics has the potential to destroy the expected outcome.
Clearly, there are two aspects that process leaders should not mess with while setting metrics:
- Metrics are important, as they align behavior with action and lead the investigations. But they must toe the strategy line.
- Extensive focus on numbers could backfire. Make sure that metrics are not in conflict with business value at any point in the process.
Here is a list of 5 key areas and associated field service metrics that most service leaders and business owners use in their field service operations, to achieve their strategic objectives in certain areas.
1. Operational Efficiency
- Service request volume
- Service request backlog
- Inflow and outflow of cases
- Technician utilization
- Inventory status
2. Productivity and Performance
- Service request and activity type
- No. of jobs done
- Mean time to complete the job
- Average travel time
- Repeat visits
3. Customer Experience
- Average time to resolution
- Average first response time (FRT)
- Average reply time
- First-time fix rate
- Case escalation requests
- Customer effort score (CES)
- Churn rate
4. Customer Engagement
5. Customer Satisfaction
Although field service metrics have been categorized here, there is no such thing as a single-purpose metric. A metric is most beneficial when you correlate the data of one metric to the other. For say, you can use productivity and performance metrics to make your hiring strategy or to create reward and recognition programs or plan training and compensation activities.
Alright, let’s dive in.
1. Service request volume
Service request volume refers to the sum of customer service requests in your system. Anyone managing the field service operations would vouch for the importance of having service request volume figures at their fingertips.
Total service request volume is valuable information that lets you know the bulk of your operations. Tracking this information unfolds how your requirements for field service changes over time. The insight is useful to understand your operations and their priorities in context with the range of services and the team.
2. Service request backlog
This metric points out overall operational efficiency levels. A massive backlog indicates that your team strength is too low to handle the cases efficiently or the product has some problems that need to be addressed.
But if you correlate the service request backlog data with individual field service technician performance data, you might find out core issues related to field service team efficiency. Chances are your team is not working to their full potential or the field service technician capacity planning needs to be done more effectively.
The usual course of action in such cases, especially when the product/service is great, is either hiring or empowering the technicians to drive productivity and quality.
3. Inflow and Outflow of Cases
Daily inflow and outflow of cases reflect the business continuity and effective operations management. Suppose you are planning to hire contractors. The inflow and outflow of the cases would help you analyze how many contractors you may require.
Although you can track the inflow and outflow of cases on a daily basis to identify the patterns and spot anomalies, it is recommended not to use it as a standard for the field service team performance. Using it as a standard for team performance might deter the field service technicians to focus on the quality of services rather than getting the right figures.
For instance, if a certain type of task consumes more time than usual, then the field service engineers might show reluctance to handle those cases. It can further create discontent in the team, which could later impact field service delivery quality and customer satisfaction.
4. Technician utilization
Measuring operational efficiency without tracking the cost factor is a classic attempt to fail. Cost is always a determining factor in the quality of services delivered. And therefore it is necessary for the operations managers to track technician utilization for billable hours.
The field service technician’s utilization rate is calculated by the number of hours spent on service requests by the total hours worked.
Depending on the strategic requirement of your field service process, you can track time spent on billable projects i.e. on revenue-generating activities and productive utilization of the technician to track the time spent on maintaining continuity of operations.
5. Inventory and spares turnover rate
Most times it has been observed that operations managers treat inventory management as a disparate group.
Inventory is integral to field service operations. A lack of access to inventory and insufficient visibility into real-time inventory status can make things chaotic for the field service technicians.
Tracking inventory turnover rate, which signifies the number of times a company replaces its stock, could help you assess how your field service team uses the inventory items, what they use the most, and the significant efforts required to prevent the pilferages and reduce the expenses.
You can correlate the data with other employee productivity and performance metrics to understand overall inventory usage. It could help you plan on your purchases and control the spendings.
6. Service request and activity type
The activity/type level segregation of service requests provides insight on what kind of service requests are being received most and helps in identifying hiring and product refinement needs. Most field service leaders track this metric to:
- Get insight into hiring. You can determine areas where your team requires the most support.
- Plan training and skill development programs for teams.
- Manage inventory fulfilment effectively. You would know what tools could help your field service technicians to complete the tasks more efficiently.
- And sometimes, help the product team evaluate the areas where the product needs improvement.
7. No. of Jobs Done
Tracking the no. of jobs done by each field service technician helps identify the strengths and shortcomings of the techs. You may use this metric to keep track of your field rep efficiency levels, individual contributions to the operational success, and training and skill development requirements.
8. Mean Time to Complete the Job
This maintenance metric provides you with crucial information to understand how much time your field service technicians spend to complete a task. You can use this metric for field service team capacity planning and optimizing scheduling and dispatch processes.
By enabling your field service technician to mark the check-in time when they reach the client-location and mark check-out time once they complete the task, you could easily track the total time to complete the task.
9. Average travel time per task
A high travel time per task is a telltale sign of underlying issues in scheduling and route planning. This metric helps on a couple of fronts ranging from evaluating how effective the route planning and scheduling is, and also to gauge the motivation of techs.
Often, spending too much time on travel could frustrate the reps, waste their time, and reduce their efficiency levels. Besides, traveling is expensive and unnecessary, unplanned traveling can be really damaging to your bottom line.
10. Repeat visit
What causes repeat visits?
Is it the scheduling manager’s incapability to match the right person for the right job, lack of thorough knowledge about the job or something on the part of field service technician like missing the right parts?
Not a big problem if it’s occasional. But if such instances are frequent, then you need to identify the underlying reason and address it.
It could range from adopting a different system/process for matching the techs with jobs to getting thorough knowledge about the job in advance.
You can track this metric if you are on the mission to stop all kinds of profit pilferages and simultaneously improve the efficiency level of the team.
11. Average time to resolution
Time to resolution is one of the important field service KPIs to focus on when your strategy is to improve customer experience. Higher the time, poorer the customer experience, as it indicates hassles and complexity in providing awesome service.
You can use the average time to resolution metric to understand:
- What tasks consume the most time of your technicians. Based on the insight, you can either create training programs for skill development or allocate resources for the task in a manner that would not affect the metric negatively.
- Which field service engineer is taking more time to complete the task. This could be for reasons like lack of job details, inventory and spare problems, efficiency issues or lack of skill set.
High average time to resolution indicates that field technicians are not skilled or properly trained or they are poorly allocated, or as in some cases, there are certain tasks that are complex and consume more time than others and need better planning.
The bottom line here is customer experience and satisfaction levels would be affected if you would not improve on this metric.
12. Average first response time (FRT)
You can also call this an assurance metric. Quick first response can provide your customers with the assurance that their complaints have been heard and the right team is working on them.
However, be sure to set a proper mechanism in place to let your team understand the type of complaint.
See if you would set it as a metric that must be achieved by your service or scheduling teams, chances are service teams reach out to customers without properly assessing the requirements and complexity of the task. It could raise false hope in customers.
As already discussed earlier in the article, like most service leaders, make strategies and use this metric for the investigation and milestone purposes instead of using them to measure accomplishments.
13. Average reply time
The average reply time metric can help you if your strategic objective is to improve turnaround time, which again has greater significance in enhancing customer experience.
You can track both the collective data of the field team or individual field service technicians. By analysing a variety of data together, you could unravel the areas that need improvement.
14. First-time fix rate
This is one of the most important field service performance metrics tracked across the industries and has a far bigger impact on businesses from a topline as well as bottom-line perspective.
Your strategic objective to track this metric could be to:
- Increase customer experience: It is literally a no-brainer that a good first-time fix rate leads to improved customer confidence in the company; it saves their time as well.
- Reduce cost: less repetition of the same task ensure effective utilization of rep time and reduce their travel time. It reduces field service operations cost and improves technician utilization level.
While the first increases customer satisfaction and overall customer lifetime value, the second one allows you to manage operations cost effectively and improve profitability.
15. Case escalation requests
When most of your cases are escalated to senior level professionals, it indicates a problem in the service quality, lack of authority at the first interaction point and sometimes the SLA structure.
Addressing it means your customers are happier, you have lower service costs and there higher chances of repeat business.
16. Customer effort score (CES)
Think of how AVR of various telecom and other service providers, and the time one needs to be on the phone to connect with a relevant support rep. Most of the time it’s very frustrating. Right?
How much effort a customer has to put in to reach out to you in order to resolve their issue is a good way to measure customer experience.
If you are motivated to improve the customer experience, evaluate how many touchpoints the customer needs to be through to raise a service request. Too many touchpoints and long work order cycles are an indicator of a high customer effort score.
17. Churn rate
Customer churn rate not only indicates over the board customer satisfaction level and CX but also the quality of the services delivered across the board.
While customer churn could be tracked at many levels, getting the right data and using it to produce the right insights may help you track issues at the micro level. Eg. check out how many customers didn’t renew or churned when the response time was more than the average or CES was high or when the first time fix rate dropped below a certain level.
While this metric is sufficient to evaluate business health and service quality on a superficial level, a bit of deep dive into the data and mixing it with other stats can provide meaningful business insights.
18. Account/Customer summary
Having account level information and it’s availability to various stakeholders of the process like technicians, scheduling and dispatch teams etc. is important from two perspectives:
- Insight: A thorough account level information could provide insight into customers’ personal preferences, the basis on which you could improve your customer relations and figure out cross-selling and upselling opportunities. While this may seem more applicable for B2C businesses, B2B businesses can also benefit from it in many ways.
- Access: Historical data and specifics like what your customer disliked last time or the challenges they faced, personal preferences, demographics etc. can equip your team to manage the customers in a more effective way.
Enabling this data to techs apart from the general service logs of the past can help your team build great rapport with the customers, build greater levels of trust in the brand and of course, create new opportunities of upsell/cross-sell and increase customer lifetime value.
19. Active and inactive accounts
Now, this one may seem a bit obvious. Inactive accounts are likely to have a higher churn rate. Tracking account activity on a regular basis could help you identify the accounts that have high churn risk and using the insight, you can create customer engagement campaigns to boost your business relations.
20. Customer satisfaction score
While this is one of the most common metrics, most businesses fail to receive customer feedback on a regular basis. If an HVAC business has served a customer five times in the last year and you ask them for customer feedback for all five services, probably they won’t have it.
One of the reasons for this is customer reluctance to provide feedback but another, and very important, reason is not planning the feedback collection meticulously and not having a proper reward mechanism in place.
So, planning the feedback that’s insightful enough to evaluate service quality and customer satisfaction, and devising the collection process that can compel customers to provide feedback can prove to be a great foundation for getting the right customer satisfaction score and may give insights to improve the satisfaction level and CLTV.
21. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
NPS score enables you to track the following aspects of the service delivered:
- Customer satisfaction
- Brand loyalty
- Customer review and recommendations
The usual NPS question is: How likely you are to recommend our product/service to other people. The customers are asked to rate the likeability on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being very likeable and 0-2 being unlikeable. The ratings allow you to segment your customers in the following:
9-10: They are promoters. They love your company and can be a great brand advocate.
7-8: They are called passives. They like your company but are not loyal.
0-6: They are detractors. These clients are at the risk of churning.
Based on the segmentation, and especially where the ratings are low, you could focus on those customers who need immediate attention to prevent churn and increase customer satisfaction level throughout.
The Next Step
Most times we all know what we want from the business, the process, or the service team but the difficulty arises when we assess their why and how aspects. That is where metrics help.
Strategy-driven metrics enable you to carefully assess the why and how behind your strategies and set milestones which is a prerequisite for great planning and achieving the expected outcome.
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