Marcus is on the way out the door. He wasn’t a bad person, but he just wasn’t the tech your company needed. So what went wrong? Don’t feel too bad, hiring field service technicians can be a tricky business. An Aberdeen Group survey from 2011 found that only 59% of companies achieved their employee turnover goals. Oof.
There are two sides to the turnover coin, of course. First you have to hire the right people for the job so you don’t end up with employees who are unsatisfied or unable to perform. Then you have to keep them happy so they don’t up and leave in the middle of the night like sad teenagers.
We’ve already talked about keeping your employees motivated, so let’s take a look at what you need to evaluate to make sure you get the right techs through the front door.
You’re hiring a tech, so let’s not pretend like there’s something higher on the list than finding someone with the right technical skills. But because the field service sector is changing quickly, knowing which technical skills to prioritize can be a little difficult.
Job specific skills — whether IT, mechanical, or horticultural — can be identified quickly in an interview. But how well do they work with mobile devices? Have they used advanced scheduling or routing software? Can they learn on the job as the technology changes underneath them?
Keep in mind that you can teach people technical skills, but you can’t make them into someone they’re not. If you find a tech that’s relatively qualified, but had great people skills, don’t be afraid to take a chance even though they’ll need training. Better to have a great person with decent skills than a skilled person you’d hate to be around.
It’s not enough to just be a good tech, anymore. As more companies flood into field service, competing for your customers, you have to find a way to differentiate yourself. Providing good customer service is one of the easiest ways to stand out from a field of otherwise similar faces.
Some companies make the mistake of thinking they need to hire the best, friendliest, sales focused techs they can find. This can end up putting you in the position of trading knowhow for a bright smile, and that’s going a bit too far. You need to find the employee that ticks the most boxes.
What you should be looking for are the basics of customer service — a friendly smile, an engaging personality, and a willingness to solve other people’s problems. Shopify — an ecommerce and POS software provider — has some excellent insight on hiring and retaining retail employees, which is applicable to field service employees, as well.
If you’re hiring people who play well with customers, they’ll probably be the sorts of folks who do well with team members, too. That doesn’t mean that you can ignore team fit, though. While a lot of the time your techs may be working solo, the importance of having a strong team can’t be overstated.
At “That Works” – SLG, we use an interview process that brings in team members to speak with candidates to assess for fit. It’s one thing for you to think that everyone is going to love Darby — it’s another to let everyone talk to Darby before he’s hired to see if he really will be a good fit.
Finding techs that fit in with your existing team means they’ll be more likely to stick around once hired. A happy working environment goes a long way toward keeping people around when times are tough or the work is coming in fast.
Keeping it all in mind
By having a clear list of traits that make a successful tech, you can do a better job of hiring the right people in the first place. Be on the lookout for friendly folks with strong technical backgrounds. Remember that you can teach your employees a lot of things, but you can’t teach them to be good people. If you’re going to err, err on the side of hiring good folks.