Over the years, working with field service companies of all kinds—from plumbing and electrical, to HVAC and fire & security—we’ve learned that flexibility and being open to change are characteristics of successful businesses, as well as confident leadership.
However, sometimes, even the best leader can find themselves faced with a situation when employees don’t see the advantages of a solution (like the use of mobile devices in business) and are not making the most out of their new tools.
Across these industries, managers have gained a better understanding of how useful it is to have the ability to work remotely, but what if you’re the type of person who has to manage an on-field workforce all the time? Surely, mobile workforce management tools have been on your radar for some time now and, yet, you’re still holding off. More often than not, we’ve seen managers worry less about the cost and reliability of new tools and more about getting employees onboard with changes.
To be more specific, many field service managers worry about introducing mobile devices as work tools to their technicians, fearing that they’re not tech-savvy enough or open enough to foregoing paper and switching to digital.
However, oftentimes that’s simply an assumption and more of a psychological barrier than an actual lack of skill. After all, a technician is, by definition, a highly skilled individual who is used to dealing with specialist equipment, unexpected situations, able to learn on the fly, and a natural problem-solver.
Using a mobile device to input job information will be the easiest thing to learn for such a person and they’ll appreciate having more time for the exciting stuff and less for doing paperwork.
So, why is it that when managers consult their technicians about using a mobile device for business, they’re faced with apprehension and refusal? Change is difficult for anyone, so while it’s certainly something you should take into account, more often than not, it’s those pesky assumptions that act as a roadblock to a successful business and a happy workforce.
Convincing technicians to use mobile devices isn’t as hard as you think it might be, particularly when you debunk the following myths:
Myth #1: Work devices are not easy to use.
Solution #1: Get your techs devices they’d be happy to use.
If you want to get your technicians to use mobile devices and be happy about it, make sure the tools you provide them with are just as good as the actual tools they’ll be using for plumbing or electrical work.
Don’t be afraid to consult with your technicians and see what they prefer. It could be a choice of phones vs. tablets or Android vs. iOS or any other option you have. The idea is to help techs feel like they have a choice rather than being obliged to conform.
Opinions on various devices should be welcome, as long as they’re reasonable. Not every company can afford the latest Samsung or iPhone and, oftentimes, a mid-range device, even second-hand, can run software just as well and save you money, too.
Some managers choose to ask their techs to use their own, personal devices and that’s definitely an option if the company can’t currently invest in its own devices, but would still like to try and implement a smart device solution.
One benefit of having employees bring their own tech to the table is that most will be happy about it, as it will save them from having to carry around a second device and learning to use it won’t be a challenge. Additionally, they’ll take extra care not to damage it or chuck it at the back of the glovebox after a hard day’s work.
Myth #2: The company will police the use of mobile devices.
Solution #2: Delineate the personal from the professional.
Whether you’ve chosen to buy your technicians mobile device or ask them to use their own, this is always a concern for employees. The thought of having a Big Brother figure watching over their every Google search is not a pleasant one and trust us when we say that perfectly innocent search terms can look downright sketchy when taken out of context (“how to clean up blood” is a common one).
The fact that there are so many scenarios and questions when it comes to drawing a clear line between what is professional use and what is personal can trip some managers up when discussing it with employees.
However, this is definitely a time you’ll want everyone to be on the same page. If you’ve chosen to provide your technicians with mobile devices, separating the professional from the personal will be much easier: simply use your personal device for any non-work related conversation or action. But if you do have techs using their personal devices, insist on a couple of ground rules like:
separate chat conversations for work teams
delete any customer information from a device’s memory
save installations and other work photos or videos into a shared drive, then remove them from the personal device
Myth #3: Mobile software doesn’t have any immediate benefits.
Solution #3: Demonstrate clear benefits that impact the technicians’ lives directly.
In plain terms, this happens when employees assume the cure is worse than the disease and the benefits of using mobile software simply don’t warrant the effort of implementing it. Except, when you think about it, implementation isn’t all that difficult and most techs can start using a good, user-friendly mobile device the same day they’ve received it.
The real problem is that benefits of mobile apps are not usually outlined specifically for technicians, but rather for managers. Advantages like “provide a better customer experience than the competition“ or “save on fuel spent on back-and-forths to the office for paperwork” only speak to admins. If you want employee buy-in from your techs, you need to outline benefits that will immediately impact them directly and make their lives easier, rather than in some dream-like distant future.
Personalizing the customer experience. Even before they arrive on-location, they will know who they’re visiting, what assets are in the house, and what work has been done there before.
Offering multiple estimates on the spot. No need to run back to the office or call an admin to crunch the numbers. All they have to do is fill in a custom form and the app shows an estimated price straight away, accounting for the tech’s hourly rate, too.
Taking digital signatures. No need to leave the customer waiting for a formal quote from the office and come back for a second visit. A digital signature means they can get a sign-off to start straight away.
Taking photos and videos of a job. This means it will never be a case of their word against a customer’s which is a particularly awkward situation for any tech.
Having everything on the app. No more paperwork in the car, in between jobs, awkwardly perching a clipboard against the steering wheel, then running to the office to drop off the papers and having the admin complain they’re illegible.
Myth #4: No one will help when one doesn’t know how to use a feature.
Solution #4: Assure your employees that the mobile app will come with a user-friendly database and a client service team on-call.
In the unlikely scenario that a technician is struggling with a feature on the mobile app (although, if you trial and choose the right app beforehand, that shouldn’t really happen), it comes down to the manager to check before implementing an app. If it comes with a good database of instructions and examples that cover any potential hiccup on-field.
In addition to a knowledge base, client support should be another priority.
Make sure that they’re available on the phone during office hours so that technicians can call in directly, rather than wait for an email response. Furthermore, assuring your employees that mistakes are normal and to be expected will put them at ease and help them be more confident in using the app.
After all, if it comes with permission levels, that means only managers or admins can edit important details so there’s no such thing as a “fatal” mistake.
Myth #5: We’ll never know if it was worth it and we’ll always doubt it.
Solution #5: Measure progress and reward technicians for proper use.
It’s easy to nitpick a new tool a week or two after it’s been implemented. After all, people are still getting accustomed to the change, but there’s a reason for having “before and after” observations rather than just focusing on what happens “during” a transition.
Make sure you write down a few key performance indicators (KPIs) before you implement new mobile devices and software, such as number of work orders completed, number of estimates sent and approved, fuel costs, or number of times an admin had to call a tech back in because information was illegible or erroneous.
Afterwards, give your team 4-8 weeks to get used to the tools and measure the KPIs again. This way, you have hard data to show that the improvement is obvious and they’re reaping the benefits of making an effort to learn how to use a new device. At the same time, you can use this opportunity to reward your techs. For example, when your team manages to increase the number of approved estimates by, say, 10%, you can set up a “pizza Friday” as a reward.
The takeaway on technicians and the use of mobile devices in business
This might look like a lot of things to do – and there certainly are a lot of things to do – but the outcome is worth it. Technicians will feel liberated from paperwork and back-and-forths to the office, as well as happy about learning something new and knowing their employer cares about their progress.
If you haven’t read about it already, there are multiple studies showing that offering education opportunities to employees is a major retainment factor, in some cases, more so even than wages.
Because every field service business is different and to outline the options available to you, we’ve put together a checklist with 10 questions you need to ask and a couple of different options for each answer. Check the ones that work best for your company and team then sum them up for a personalized mobile device implementation plan. The only thing left to do is follow through!
Hi! I'm Cristina Maria
And I want to bring next-level strategies to the field service industry. When I'm not working on the best tips to grow your business, I'm on the lookout for a sci-fi novel to beat The Foundation.