By Ivan Moore | Field Technologies Online | February 1, 2021
There is an increasing trend for service organizations to utilize 3rd party subcontractors as either a supplement or extension of their field service workforce. Companies leverage a hybrid field technician workforce for many reasons, as subcontractors can:
- Provide additional bandwidth beyond their own internal field service organization, particularly during peak service times;
- Provide a specialized service or skillset not readily available within their existing service organization or provide base-level service to allow internal resources to focus on more complex support needs;
- Provide service coverage to a geographic area that is not cost-effective to support from existing internal operations; and
- Shift the overhead cost of recruitment, training, and retaining skilled technicians to a more cost-effective external workforce.
Balancing Work Performed By A Hybrid Workforce
Balancing the amount and type of work performed between the hybrid internal W-2 and external workforce must take in many considerations; service organizations must continually “tweak” their strategy to the ever-changing marketplace dynamics. The decision “logic” to determine which technician (internal versus external) to deploy includes a variety of factors such as preferred technician, internal capacity, geographic coverage, required skills, SLA compliance, and target gross margin. In addition to meeting internal technician utilization rate thresholds, companies must also ensure their W-2 technicians are engaged and committed to the organization through a continuous volume of stimulating work. Many times, companies will utilize internal resources for complex work while dispatching subcontractors for less complex and (usually) more price-sensitive work.
A complete subcontractor performance measurement and feedback loop should be instituted to continually monitor, update, and automatically factor in actual subcontractor performance and utilized to determine how future work is assigned. For example, metrics such as subcontractor SLA compliance, first-time fix rate (FTFR), customer ratings, the ratio of work accepted versus assigned, cost, etc. must be electronically captured, analyzed, and act as a key input into the schedule/dispatch engine.
To achieve the above objectives, a robust and sophisticated service technology infrastructure is required to effectively automate, administer, and continually improve the work order assignment and management workflows.
Forward-thinking service organizations are no longer leveraging the traditional one-to-one work order assignment model to external subcontractors, i.e., a single work is dispatched to a single external technician. Companies are transitioning to “Uber-like” work assignment of one-to-many, i.e., a single work order is sent out to a “marketplace” of many subcontractors and the first that accepts the work order and its requirements (e.g., appointment window, skills, cost, etc.) is dispatched the work.
Maintaining Brand Excellence
Once work has been scheduled to a subcontractor, a key challenge service organizations face is visibility and control into the service delivered by resources outside of the organization. A customer does not care if the service technician is a direct employee or 3rd party contractor if their expectations are met and the quality of the service delivered will reflect solely on the service organization (especially if the customer has a negative experience).
The service organization should develop standardized processes and tools utilized across the complete hybrid field technician workforce to ensure that customers are receiving a consistent service experience. By providing their 3rd party subcontractors the same access to tools (e.g., knowledge management, checklists, up-to-date work instructions, and other documentation) as internal technicians, they increase their ability to maintain brand excellence and a consistent delivery experience for the customer.
As part of the subcontractor onboarding process, service organizations may “layer” a W-2 technician with a subcontractor resource during the on-site service delivery to evaluate the subcontractor’s capabilities and to ensure the company’s brand is well represented and consistent with the company and customer expectations.
Finally, as mentioned above, the service organization needs the ability to gain real-time visibility into the performance and activities of the third-party technicians and their associated customer satisfaction. Best-in-Class service organizations receive the necessary visibility into their subcontractor network by extending service software and mobility tools to the 3rd party providers, specifically subcontractor management functions that include quoting, work order management, scheduling, and real-time status updates and mobility.
There is an increasing trend for service organizations to utilize a hybrid technician workforce to service their customers as there are tangible benefits that can be realized. However, companies must carefully balance the amount of work between their internal and external workforce to optimize customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and financial performance of the service organization. The service organization must also ensure service delivery is consistent across their hybrid technician workforce leveraging standardized processes and tools that are extended to their 3rd party network and that a subcontractor performance feedback loop is factored into how future work is assigned.
About The Author
Ivan is Chief Operating Officer of Jolt Consulting Group and works with companies to accelerate their growth with assessments of their sales and service delivery, optimization of business processes, operating metrics, and deployment of enabling technologies.