Many years ago, I was on lunch with two other techs when one asked, ‘Have you seen Tom around lately?’
Tom was a bit of a ‘lone wolf’ so it wasn’t too strange that we hadn’t run into him, but our manager had also requested a few times that we take his service calls.
I decided to call Tom to find out why he had been MIA for the past few weeks.
‘Haven’t you been told?’ Tom replied to my question about his absence. He went on to inform me that our manager had put him in another territory – permanently.
We were all stupefied by his answer. It was hard to believe that our manager wouldn’t communicate something that directly affected our jobs so much.
We later found out that our manager had thought he’d sent out an email to everyone, when he in fact hadn’t.
This example might be a little extreme, but techs in the field are often the last to find out about an important change.
Field service techs are the ‘lone wolves’ of the company and because they don’t spend their time at the office, it’s easy to forget to keep them in the loop.
What communication means to the pack
Typical office workers spend eight hours a day (or more) working with or in close proximity to other employees of the same company.
They are constantly reminded of the company’s goals and vision by seeing and hearing the ‘buzz’ of other workers as they perform their assigned duties.
Managers are also close at hand and they often comment or call short meetings to encourage engagement with the company’s goals and philosophy.
Service technicians, however, most often do business out in the field, and spend more time in front of the customer than they do with their coworkers.
As such, they can develop a skewed vision of their company’s philosophy and goals. Left alone, it’s easy for them to make decisions that are better for the customer than the company they work for.
Only through a constant flow of communication and engagement will your service techs go to work with the right mindset each day.
We live in a day and age when communication is easier than it has ever been.
Smartphones offer very effective ways to keep in touch and it is best to use them – with discretion.
You might like to stick with texting, good for short messages like: ‘Thanks; you did a great job at the ABC account,’ ‘I appreciate you getting there that quick,’ or ‘Meet me at Applebee’s and I’ll buy you lunch.’
Or, you might like to invest in today’s best apps that make keeping in touch with your field technicians a breeze.
What about email?
Emails are good for making formal policy, process or manpower announcements.
They can also be effective for more detailed communications, such as why a tech should go to X account instead of Y account.
However, managers should be aware that emails sent in the middle of the day will probably be missed by your field technicians until later.
What about a phone call?
Phone calls are still the best way to ensure techs give you their full attention.
Field technicians need to hear your voice occasionally. If the only time they get a phone call is when they have messed up, don’t be surprised if you start feeling like you have lost their respect.
Have wolf-pack meetings regularly
It’s important to foster team spirit so that your ‘lone wolves’ develop a ‘pack’ mentality. Otherwise, the wolves might end up at each other’s throats.
WebEx and conference calls are great ways to promote the team concept while limiting out-of-the-field and travel times.
This is not to say that old fashioned, get-together-and-chew-the-fat meetings should not go by the wayside. The more informal, the better. Save your let’s-get-down-to-business meetings for WebEx or special upper-management meetings.
As humans, we need personal interaction to read body language and develop trust. This cannot be achieved through a computer or a phone.
And it will not happen in a stiff meeting where everyone is counting the seconds until it ends.