There are about 23.5 million field service workers worldwide, and 86% of decision makers at firms with a field service team say it’s critical to scaling their business. And yet, even among high performing organizations, only 57% of field service workers say the technology they use drives job satisfaction. We wanted to understand what was missing — and how design choices could help close the gap.
To find out, we interviewed 12 field service experts and 10 field service workers and managers. It turns out that job satisfaction is tied to four indicators: privacy, inclusion, safety, and autonomy.
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Practice inclusive field service management
Based on these findings, we drafted five principles to help guide how Salesforce designs and deploys our software. These principles also provide a roadmap for how organizations can practice ethical and inclusive field service management by making strategic design choices:
Prioritize safety for every stakeholder.
Field service leaders are deeply concerned about the physical safety of their workers – whether a job site is to code or the worker has sufficient PPE, for example. But are you considering the psychological safety of your workers and customers? One technician told us that she’d walked into a home where drug paraphernalia was exposed, and the resident was inebriated. It turns out that a prior technician had noted a similar situation, but that information wasn’t relayed to the new technician until she checked in at the job site.
What you can do: Give technicians access to notes and warnings from prior appointments ahead of time. Provide a mechanism they can use to flag that they’re in a potentially unsafe situation. Post-appointment, reward workers for documenting information. Safety implications — limited cell signal or the presence of a guard dog, for example – are important to note. Allow them to request to not be sent to that location in the future. Consider asking customers if they’d be happy to be matched with that tech in the future.
Respect worker mastery and autonomy.
Field service workers, more than any other service worker, report a sense of accountability to customer satisfaction. They also deeply value the flexibility and autonomy of field work. Being over-prescriptive in how they do their work, or withholding important information about a job or their schedule has a negative effect. It increases the risk of attrition.
What you can do: Recognize field service workers for what they are: customer-facing representatives of your organization at the doorstep. Consider giving your field workers the opportunity to “score” flexibility points that let them bypass workflows, update knowledge articles, and see more of their schedules (if you drip feed schedules). Limit the use of tools that lead to micromanagement and undermine worker autonomy.
Ensure your metrics are meaningful and reasonable.
Customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) is a tidy metric for field service leaders. But most of the workers we spoke with said that it’s negligible since so few end customers respond to surveys. They also told us they spend significant time researching and prepping for appointments, and documenting appointment outcomes, but often feel this work “doesn’t count.”
What you can do: Find ways to reward the ancillary tasks that don’t show up in traditional metrics. Likewise, recognize and incentivize – it needn’t be monetary! – the time technicians spend upskilling and training their colleagues. Routinely evaluate what you measure and why, and include technician perspectives when building new metrics and dashboards.
Deploy technology to meet your workforce’s needs.
The mobile workers we spoke to said the most important tool they need is the right information at the right time. That may mean knowing what assets are available and in what location. It could be access to knowledge articles about a particular site or project. Regardless, the goal should be to reduce friction and increase efficiency for your workforce.
What you can do: A “single source of truth” that displays the right information at the right time can help technicians complete their jobs smoothly. That leads to greater job satisfaction. Make knowledge easy to access and easy to create. Tools like Virtual Remote Assistant can aid knowledge transfer between established workers and newer ones. As you begin to deploy automated worker assignments, be sure to test your deployment for unintentional biases and risks to upskilling opportunities.
Protect privacy and personal data at the source.
Field service leaders shared that “if my crew [or the union] thought I was tracking them, they’d all leave tomorrow.” The technicians we spoke to said they don’t mind location tracking. But they want to know when it’s happening and that it’s not a form of micromanagement. Customers have expectations of privacy when a technician is on site, too.
What you can do: Consider what’s necessary for workers to get the job done. For example, do customers need an en-route technician’s precise location or would a 500-meter radius be sufficient? And be transparent about when and why you’re logging technician location. Consider automated status changes to reduce tracking while helping to protect worker safety. Limit the customer data you collect, and apply data retention policies to sensitive information such as gate codes and signatures.
How can service organizations can become more human-centric?
Human-centric service isn’t only about putting your customer at the center — it’s about putting your employees there too.
Designing your field service organization for trust and transparency – and to drive greater worker happiness – will improve job performance. It will also accelerate the value of every frontline interaction with customers. Plus, you’ll be prepared to navigate market challenges, like demographic shifts and emerging trends in field service. No matter what comes your way, you have a process that you know works – for workers, for consumers, and for your business.
With contributions from Kim Campbell and Ananya Karthik.