Medical device manufactures and companies across all sectors are constantly looking for ways to transform their field service organization from a cost center to a profit center. The answer to this dilemma lies in the fact that field service engineers (FSE) and technicians have the greatest visibility and insight potential into client organizations. This is due to their constant interactions with onsite device end-users and decision makers within their environment.
That’s why FSEs are a company’s best customer service and sales support ambassadors. If properly equipped and prepared, they can reveal important and valuable details about client/end user pain points, their environment. Because of the product support nature of the FSE and how they solve challenges and answer questions for end users especially in the MDM space, they become like a trusted advisor.
Working in concert with customer service and sales, field service can maximize their effectiveness in countless ways as part of a holistic customer service experience. How a company supports their transformation from a strictly break/fix approach to a benefit rich approach rooted in maximizing their strengths.
Maximize FSE Strengths
By equipping each FSE with the right combination of education, tools, skills, and technology, companies can move their FSEs beyond just the break/fix mindset. To empower the FSE, companies need to maximize their strengths by enhancing the following attributes:
- Company Operational Awareness
- Client Environment Situational Awareness
- Providing them with the right tools and technology in the digital age
- Providing an intuitive seamless digital communication, document, and signature flow across the company while in the field
In the first installment of this blog series we’ll look at the first two attributes and how they lay the groundwork for FSE transformation into a profit center.
Company Operation Awareness
It isn’t enough to ensure FSEs have the deep product knowledge and training to resolve customer technology or service issues. They also need training support to familiarize them with the company on an operational structure level. This translates to specifics such as understanding the stated vision and mission of the company and knowing who is the right person to contact when an opportunity is discovered as well as the products and services the company provides.
Client Environment and Situational Awareness
While it’s paramount FSEs focus on product support and the specific client needs at hand, they can also be aware of the client environment. Consequently, field service personnel should have soft-skills development focused on observation abilities, professional appearance and demeanor, and good communication and conversation skills.
Observation skills point to their ability to be aware of their surroundings, which is referred to as situational awareness. This can manifest in making note of other equipment in use, and other vendors that are part of their ecosystem. Interpersonal and communication skills training enables FSE’s to make the most of the casual conversations they regularly have with internal client groups.
Deep product/service knowledge and situational awareness coupled with operational awareness of their own company and developed communication skills enable FSEs to influence casual conversations regarding the business and how solutions are being used. This can be as simple as casually asking how business is going and making note of the response. It can also include questions about how they are using the company’s solutions and services.
The Benefits of Observation and Casual Questions
Situational and operational awareness can provide valuable insights on the client company from an operational perspective. While these are all subjective opinions by the FSE, they can give their company insights such as:
- Client company growth
- Operational issues
- Periods of business slowdown that may have wider implications
- Product integration and usage issues
- Innovative product uses and user insights
They can also provide holistic insights about how the company is operating and how the people are feeling within that business such as noting the work climate and if it is busy and hectic or calm and quiet.
Casual questions on the technology or solutions can elicit info on usage patterns that reveal opportunities for overlooked uses and features which can provide benefits to the company’s overall client base such as:
- Greater efficiency
- Integration with other systems/devices
- Improved patient/end user outcomes
- Cost reductions
- Regulatory compliance streamlining
The answers to these questions can also provide general info that helps sales or customer service improve client relationships by arming them with business culture and operational observation information.
Having the soft skills in addition to their product and service knowledge is only the first step to enabling the field service organization’s transformation into a profit center. They will also need specific tools such as mobile devices and a software platform that provides the following;
- Seamless communication and connectivity
- Easy and simple access to product info, parts, and inventory updated in real time
- Digital documentation and field service encounter sign-off access
In the next part of this series we’ll look at the needs of that technology and software platform and their crucial role in field service profit center transformation.