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How a field service provider like you can improve relationships with subcontractors

Tania Piunno
Tania Piunno
March 22, 2022

Every growing service company like you has to consider outsourcing as part of its field operations. You need to reduce costs, increase agility in the marketplace, grow your field workforce and cope with the spikes in service requests. But, how are you going to effectively manage service calls that are completed by external maintenance technicians? How will you control service quality, customer relationships and delegate core business activities with confidence?

To grow in an increasingly competitive landscape, working with partners is essential. However, entrusting part of your business to external field service providers comes with risks. Here are 4 tips and tricks to help you maximize the benefits and minimize the risks associated with using subcontractors.

1. Define clear processes and share common tools

In the service industry, relationships with subcontractors are all about balance. To find the right balance, you must first clearly establish the processes among the different parties. It’s also important to identify which tools will be used for troubleshooting, to manage maintenance tasks in the field and to facilitate communication between the field service company and the subcontractor. These processes and tools must be tailored for the types of activities that will be outsourced.

2. Support different ways of working

Oftentimes, field service companies collaborate with non-exclusive service providers. For example, in the telecom industry, some fiber installation subcontractors will work for several telecom operators at the same time. When a field service company starts working with a new subcontractor who already works with other operators, the question of which tools and processes to use, quickly arises.

The reality is that subcontractors don’t want to be limited and prefer to use flexible processes and tools that allow them to adapt to different ways of working. In some cases, subcontractors will want to use the field service company’s tools and processes. In other cases, they stick to their own tools and connect them to the field service company’s system. A third option is for subcontractors to use their own tools and processes but have their service calls scheduled for them separately. And, another alternative can be for subcontractors to use their own tools and processes and have service calls assigned to them in a fully transparent way – with complete visibility into who is doing what.

When field service companies have the flexibility to support the different ways subcontractors work, it becomes easier to strengthen their workforce by bringing more people into their ecosystem and delivering better service to more customers.

3. Maintain control over the customer experience

For field service companies, the big question becomes how to delegate work orders to external providers while maintaining control of the customer experience and the service that is being delivered on their behalf. This is where your company’s reputation and brand image come into play. If a customer has a negative experience, it’s safe to say they’ll quickly drop you as a service provider. But the right digital tools in place can ensure your company maintains control over your subcontractor’s activities.

The key here is to set up a service level agreement (SLA) between your company and its subcontractors. The SLA specifies service and repair time guarantees so there are clearly established key performance indicators (KPIs) that both parties can agree to. With this approach, field service companies can align their objectives with those of their subcontractors. Everyone follows the same rules and pursues the same goals. And everyone, including the end customer, wins.

4. Use KPIs to track subcontractor activities

Field service providers like you must have the ability to manage the activities that both in-house technicians and subcontracted technicians perform, in the same way. Without this, there’s a risk your subcontracted technicians lack the quality of service that your in-house workforce provides.

It is important to keep in mind that setting up too many KPIs will kill the relationship with a subcontractor. Thus, the best approach is to focus on a few KPIs that have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction, such as:

First-time fix rate

This metric is at the heart of customer satisfaction. The customer’s equipment is down and the technician comes in and repairs it on the first visit. This is where you set a percentage of all service calls completed that must be successfully resolved on the first visit.

Average service time

This is the average time that must be met between the time the customer places the work order and the time the technician arrives back home. In industries such as refrigeration, these deadlines can be extremely short. If a walk-in cooler breaks down and the technician does not fix it on time, the consequences can be catastrophic for customers who are forced to throw out its contents.

Average repair time

This metric ensures that the time required to repair a piece of equipment is within a timeframe that is profitable for the company. Time doesn’t stop until the equipment is fully functional.

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