Improving First-Time Fix Rates

A Field Service Manager’s Guide

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In my last blog, I discussed the importance and impact of high First-Time Fix rates for the field service industry. (If you have not already read it, catch up here.)  Knowing that a high First-Time Fix rate leads to greater customer satisfaction, higher renewal rates, and lower costs for your company encourages management teams to want to improve this Key Performance Indicator (KPI). And making those changes does not have to be difficult or costly. On the contrary, making this KPI a priority will increase profitability and can make your organization flow more smoothly.

Here are 5 keys to increasing your First-Time Fix Rate:

  • Triage
  • Training
  • Dynamic Scheduling
  • Parts Planning
  • Knowledge Tools

Call Triage:  This is where it all starts.  Your customer calls in with a problem. The team on the front line needs to have the right technology and systems in place so that when a call comes in they can screen the call, understand the issue, and understand what skills and which parts may be needed to resolve the issue. Some calls may be able to be resolved over the phone if you have given the Call Triage Center the technology and systems to evaluate the call properly then no dispatch is necessary, saving time and money for you and your customer. If this is not the case, knowing as much as possible up front will help in the decision making process for the next step – dispatching the correct Field Service Engineer (FSE) with the right skills and equipment to have the highest chance of fixing the problem the first time. Is there a FSE in the physical area? Does that technician have the skills and parts to repair the problem? If not how can the FSE get the needed parts? And how do you achieve this in the time frame you have promised to your customer?  Your call center needs to know who is available and what skill set and equipment they have to make the best decisions for both your customer and your field service organization.  By conducting upfront call triage, you can provide the FSEs with the information they need to know in order to resolve the issue right the first time. Having the right systems and technology will help facilitate this process.

Training:  While it may seem like an obvious thing, you must have highly trained and well qualified FSEs available for dispatch.  Make the investment in both hiring and training your existing team of FSEs.  The more skills they each possess, the greater chance that the one closest to your customer at the time needed will be able to make the First-Time Fix happen.   How do you make this happen? First, have consistent and periodic training. Second, training should take place both in the classroom and in the field. Third have continued skill assessment and evaluation, that is evaluate your technicians and see how well they perform, then go back and do more training in the areas needed. In summary train, let them do, evaluate, and train more.

Dynamic scheduling: This means using advanced technology to identify and assign the best technician who has the skills, is available, can get there in time frame promised to customer and has or can get the required parts. Again, it may seem obvious, but if the FSE does not have the right part to fix the problem then a second trip to the customer is a given.

Parts: Parts management must be a part of any profitable Field Service Strategy.  What are the most commonly needed parts for the most common issues your FSEs encounter? What are the parts that have the highest failure rate? How do you make decisions about what each FSE carries with them for every call? And what is the availability for the parts that are not included in those most common service requests?  All of these decisions impact your organization’s First-Time Fix rate.

The fifth aspect of creating a high First-Time Fix rate is enabling your technicians to be more efficient to troubleshoot while in the field. There are several ways to achieve this:

  1. Give FSEs access to mobility solutions to access knowledge bases while in the field.
  2. Provide access to a Telephone Technical Support center they can call while in the field.
  3. Implement collaboration tools that allows FSEs to use their mobile devices to query and collaborate with other technicians who may have faced the problem and know how to solve it.
  4. Rely on augmented reality technology so that your technician can learn in real time while in the field what they need to do to solve the problem.

Investing in people, technology and processes make a high First-Time Fix rate achievable. By utilizing time and resources to have a well-run Triage Center; Train and re-train technicians; use Dynamic Scheduling to make the process efficient; implement effective parts management; and giving your FSEs the tools to be successful while at your customer, your First-Time Fix Rate will enhance the profitability of your Field Service Organization.

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First-Time Fix Rate: The DNA of Field Service

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First-Time Fix is one of the most frequently measured key performance indicators (KPI) used by Field Service Organizations (FSOs).   It is a very powerful metric to track.  This KPI measures the percentage of times field service engineers (FSEs) are dispatched to a customer site and have the skills and parts with them to resolve the issue on the first visit.  It is a powerful metric because it provides an indication of the FSO’s financial and operational health.  In this sense, it is like the DNA of field service.

Why is this so?  First, FTF is a measure of service quality and customer satisfaction.  Resolving an issue the first time demonstrates to the customer that they are dealing with a quality organization.  As a result, FSOs that deliver quality service will typically have higher customer satisfaction ratings than those that do not.   Second, FTF impacts revenue because customers are less likely to renew service contracts or purchase additional services if they are unhappy with the quality of service they are already receiving.

Third, FTF provides a measurement of field service productivity.  FSOs that experience high FTF are by definition more productive.  This is because they are able to resolve more service calls per day.   If FSEs are more productive, the FSO essentially can do more with less. In other words, the FSO does not have to hire as many new FSEs to handle additional work if service demand increases.   Assuming the additional work brings with it additional revenue, revenue per FSE also increases.   As this metric improves, so do gross margins and operating income.

Finally, companies with a high FTF experience lower operating costs than those with a low FTF. This is because if a call is not completed on the first visit, a second dispatch is required. Sometimes the call is not completed on the first visit due to lack of a spare part, in which case the FSE must travel to pick up the part or return when the part is delivered to the customer by courier.  In a recent survey conducted by our firm, we found that Best-in-Class companies experience an FTF rate of 98.3% compared to the industry average of 77.8%.   With service calls ranging in cost from $150 to $1,000 per event, the expenses for making repeat visits can be astronomical.  Assume, for example, an average cost per call of $150 and total service visits of 100, 000 per year.  If 22.2% of these calls are due to repeat visits then the FSO is incurring an additional $3.3M in expenses from its FTF of 77.8%.

There are of course a number of strategies and tactics an FSO can pursue to improve FTF.  First, FSOs can improve FSE skill sets through better training.   Second, they can perform better screening and diagnosis at the time of initial request so that when an FSE is dispatched he/she understands both the nature of the problem and the resources (i.e., skills, parts, etc.) needed to resolve the issue. Third, they can utilize intelligent scheduling to ensure the availability of both skilled FSEs and correct parts.   Fourth, they can provide FSEs with access to better knowledge and information in the field through knowledge tools or access to technical support personnel.

We’d love to learn about strategies your company has pursued to improve FTF.  Please share them with us in the comment section of this post.  If you need help building a business case to improve FTF contact us today for a free consultation.