Improving Field Service Training with Knowledge Management

There’s no denying field service organizations pour a large amount of time and resources into training new talent. In fact, it’s estimated corporations spent around $19.7 million last year on training expenditures alone.

Effective training increases employee retention – this is a no-brainer! According to a survey by Society for Human Resource Management, one third of newly hired staff quit their jobs after the first six months, with the majority citing lack of skills one of the major reasons they leave. Considering the fact that the Millennial worker is twice as likely to leave a job after two years than their predecessors, it’s no wonder field service organizations are putting more emphasis on training than ever before.

What is Effective Training?

So now the question is, what does effective training look like? Companies have long known that the typical “one and done” onboarding process doesn’t work, and this is especially true for field service. Training needs to be an ongoing process and companies need to figure out how to provide new workers with continuous support in the field, in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

Some companies rely on new staff calling support centers for questions and guidance. But let’s be honest, call center staff are already busy, they don’t need the additional burden of providing support training as well!

A Crucial Component in Field Service

Enter Knowledge Management – organizations are starting to realize what a crucial role this plays in the training process, both initially and throughout the employee’s tenure.

A good knowledge management application will provide the digital training new hires need to learn the solution. It allows for scenario-based learning, which in turn makes lessons more impactful, especially when combined with the ability to refer back as needed. Additionally, some knowledge management platforms will allow trainers to monitor everyone’s progress by providing analytics to see who is accessing what information and work individually with those who need extra guidance.

Also consider that millennials are native tech users and expect access to information at all times. By embracing knowledge management, you’re being the kind of forward-thinking organization that millennials want to work for.

Making Knowledge Management a core component to your training process also makes new hires feel empowered. By giving them access to knowledge in the field, they will feel more confident to handle any task that may come their way. All of this leads to increased retention rates in the company.

Increase Adoption to Drive Efficiency

A common complaint we hear from executives who have implemented new software in the field is that workers “don’t use it”, either out of inertia, lack of training (or confidence in that training), or simply because they prefer the “old way of doing things”.

However, by making knowledge management an essential part of new hire onboarding, not only will it provide additional support in the training process, but it will drive adoption of that technology. We already know knowledge management is crucial in the field, reducing repair times by more than 50% and increasing SLA compliance by more than 26%. Ingraining the use of these tools early on will help companies drive efficiency like never before.

Ready to learn more about how knowledge management can make training more effective and empower your field service engineers?

TSIA Report Field Service

New Report Shows Knowledge Management Reduces Repair Time by 50%

TSIA (Technology Services Industry Association) has released an eye-opening report. The 2019 Field Service Technology Stack report focuses on the importance of technology to field service operations.

It showed that knowledge management had a huge impact on performance, with significant improvements in mean time to repair (>50% reduction) and annual employee attrition rates (down over 3 points).

According to TSIA, a leading firm that helps companies embrace technology, the report further cements knowledge management as a “need to have” among field service organizations. This important technology captures, maintains and reuses knowledge to enhance productivity.

Why such a huge fall in repair time?

Quite simply, when field service engineers have insight from a knowledge base, they can achieve faster repairs. In addition, a good knowledge management process increases engagement, resulting in lower staff turnover.

Why Knowledge Management Reduces Churn Rate

Knowledge management’s correlation to faster repairs isn’t exactly surprising. After all, it’s been well documented in numerous studies – we’ve even written about it many times on this very blog.

The evidence is unanimous that giving field service engineers access to the critical knowledge they need on site will transform fix rates (and if your knowledge management solution is AnswersAnywhere, it will eliminate your incorrect parts orders too).

However, the TSIA report managed to highlight an oft-overlooked benefit of knowledge management in field service organizations – reducing staff turnover (also known as “churn rate”).

High turnover is something that many field service organizations struggle with, and it’s only getting worse as companies lose experienced workers to retirement and millennials fill their shoes. After all, millennials are twice as likely to leave a job after two years and are only half as likely to be employed by the same company after 10 years.

For a while now, industry experts and thought leaders have been saying that one of the best ways to retain millennial employees is to engage and empower them with technology. Now, thanks to the Field Service Technology Stack report, we have evidence that this is indeed the case!

Advice for Organizations that Want to Invest

As equipment becomes more complex, so does the knowledge management needed to complement it. Because of this, it’s difficult for companies to know where to start. The TSIA Report offers these recommendations for investing in knowledge management (and new technology in general):

First, benchmark your technology footprint against other members. If your organization’s technology is lacking, examine where those gaps are and revisit what technology will assist you in meeting your goals.

Also, be sure to include integrations in Phase 1 of the project. Integrating technologies like knowledge management can boost adoption and improve performance. According to TSIA, critical integrations are often pushed to later stages and then end up never getting off the ground.

Read the full TSIA 2019 Field Service Technology Stack Report here.

service knowledge management

The 5 Knowledge Management Pitfalls to Avoid in Field Service

The knowledge experts at AnswersAnywhere have over 23 years of experience building and deploying mobile knowledge bases for field service.

This means they’ve seen A LOT of mistakes made by companies attempting to get their knowledge management under control. Here are the Top 5 most common mistakes they recommend companies trying to avoid.

1.     Not Collaborating

Knowledge management isn’t the task of just one department. Make sure the entire organization collaborates and all departments benefit from it. This is especially important for organizations dealing with an aging workforce. What better way to capture the information from the heads of experienced retiring workers throughout your company?

Here are more tips for capturing the knowledge of your experienced workers.

2.     Ignoring Your End Users

This seems simple enough, but you’d be surprised at how many field service organizations don’t talk to their engineers and support staff before launching a knowledge management system. Make sure you consult end users throughout the process and gather regular feedback after launch.

The best way to do this is through a survey. Contact us for a template!

3.     Not Keeping it Up-to-Date

Keeping a knowledge base updated, optimized and free from outdated information is not for the faint of heart! However, it’s also extremely important to your field service engineer’s job.

Here’s some useful advice on how to keep your knowledge base current and accurate.

4.     Not Going Offline

As field service goes mobile, engineers are running into this problem all the time. Accessing the information they need on site requires them to be online but the location they’re at has zero signal. Offline access is the only way for field service companies to be truly mobile without letting their KPIs suffer.

Psst. Did you know AnswersAnywhere works offline? Learn more!

5.     Doing Too Much, Too Soon

Where do I start? It’s a question we get all the time! When it comes to launching a knowledge management project, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, AnswersAnywhere CEO Jonathan Ralphs spoke about this very topic at Field Service USA 2019.  Check out his advice here. 

 

Ready to make a move to better knowledge management? We can help! Our unique service provides the people, process and technology needed for knowledge management success. In short, we do the hard work and you reap the benefits. Contact us today!

 

Is Your Field Service Knowledge Secure?

Does this sound familiar?

You’ve hired a third-party contractor for one of your field service jobs and they need access to your technical data.

Your company’s security protocols might make it difficult for you to grant the contractor access to sensitive data. However, not having access makes it difficult, or even impossible, for them to complete the job they were hired to do.

Or perhaps you have a small team of employees working in an extremely security-conscious environment and you need to control what data they have access to and for how long they have it.

Or maybe you’ve got a hierarchy of employees within your organization, all with different levels of security clearance to sensitive technical data.

These are all scenarios that come up frequently when we speak with organizations.

Let’s face it – in field service, security access is never created equal!

The good news is, there’s an answer.

AnswersAnywhere has functionality that helps security-conscious organizations control who sees what, and for how long. This means you can give someone clearance to access only the exact data they need— for instance, the specific equipment they’re working on – and nothing else.

But wait, there’s more!

AnswersAnywhere works offline, which means contractors can download data onto their phone to help them in a location with no mobile signal.

You can set an expiry date on the data. Think of it like a self-destruction date!

The ability to determine exactly what each employee accesses helps your organization stay secure and compliant. Furthermore, you’re demonstrating to customers how seriously you take the security of their business and assets.

Check out our one minute video to learn more about AnswersAnywhere’s cool security features!

When it Comes to Servicing Medical Devices, is There a “Silver Bullet”?

The demands placed on the medical device field service industry are growing rapidly. How can medical device service organizations achieve compliance, set themselves apart from the competition, and provide support for the new generation of technicians, all while ensuring they are achieving maximum efficiency in the field and increasing profitability?

In a new guest blog for Field Service Digital, AnswersAnywhere’s VP of Sales and Business Strategy Bo Wandell explores why more and more medical equipment companies are turning to knowledge management to help, and how they can ensure they have the right system in place.

 

Posted by / July 24, 2019 / Posted in Blog

Is Your Field Service Knowledge Up to Date?

In field service, things change quickly. And that includes your company’s knowledge.

The ugly truth about knowledge management is that a knowledge base is outdated as soon as it’s published.

Installation manuals, parts lists, and technical information all need to be kept updated frequently.

Field service technicians lose faith in knowledge that’s inaccurate or outdated. Costly errors occur from ill-informed decisions. Incorrect parts are ordered. Time technicians don’t have is spent searching for the right answer.

All of this lowers their productivity, increases your service costs and frustrates your customers.

Sound familiar?

There’s no doubt that knowledgeable decision-making leads to more first-time fixes. And better business for you.

Get your priorities right

Trying to capture and manage all knowledge can be mind-blowing. It quickly becomes impossible, unless you have a more technological system in place (like AnswersAnywhere, dare I say?)

So, in the short-term, focus on the knowledge that your field service team actually NEEDS in order to service and fix the equipment.

It sounds simple, but you’d be amazed by how tangled up many businesses can become at this point.

Our advice? Speak to your field service team and establish these priorities with their involvement.

How to keep it current and accurate 

Once your knowledge priorities are clear, identify the key personnel to involve. You’ll probably need to get different departments talking to each other and sharing resources.

This in itself, can be a big hurdle.

Try to develop a system that works for your business and your level of knowledge management. Ponder these questions:

* Where can updated files and documents be found?

* Who collates them?

* Who processes them?

* Should your documents be coded or tagged?

* Where will your updated knowledge be stored?

* How will this be communicated? To whom?

Look Towards the Future

Granted, it’s time-consuming to keep your knowledge current. Especially with limited technology and support. But the potential benefits to productivity, customer service, and profitability make it an essential task to master.

And consider this: future, game-changing technology such as AI is likely to depend on it.

Think about what your knowledge needs to look like. Would templates help the management process? Should lengthy documents be summarized? Scrolling through a 200-page manual to find the answer is hardly productive.

Also consider how and where you’ll store your current knowledge. A shared drive? A login section on your website? In the office, ready to support phone queries?

The more central, collated and systemized your knowledge is, the easier it will be to keep current and accurate. 

How to transform your knowledge management system 

If your present way of doing things is driving you and your field service team mad, consider a change that’ll make a huge difference. Ask me about our Discovery Workshop. It’s an affordable starting point for a daunting task.

Our knowledge experts will walk you through the process of identifying and utilizing your knowledge. We provide you with the people, technology and expertise needed for a knowledge management project. Essentially, we do all the work and you avoid all the stress!

The result is the ability to arm your field service team with the answer to everything. Instantly.

This is how you thrash those KPIs, once and for all.

Does Your Business Depend Too Much on Online Access?

What happens when your field service technicians can’t get online?

Even in 2019, it can happen. You might be working in a remote area or underground, where you can’t get a signal. Some organizations won’t allow online access while you’re on-site, even if you do have a signal.

Hospitals are a great example of this. Technicians that service medical equipment are often asked to put their device into flight mode. In these situations, downtime is critical. A broken MRI scanner can literally impact the health of the nation. Your client needs an immediate fix and will measure your performance accordingly.

It’s no secret that poor access to technical information can be detrimental to your KPIs.

We rely heavily on that signal for so much, don’t we?

Sure, there are workarounds.

Technical manuals and parts lists could be saved as PDFs on the device, but storage space might be an issue. The technician could decide to carry paper manuals, but that seems cumbersome. Plus, PDFs and paper manuals still require technicians to search through hundreds (or hundreds of thousands!!!) of pages of information to find the answers they need. Some technicians try to anticipate the likely fault ahead of the site visit, but if an unforeseen problem arises, they’re stuck.

Bottom line is that none of these solutions is efficient and all negatively impacts up-times and service costs. Offline access is the ultimate solution.

Did you know that AnswersAnywhere works offline? Wherever you’re working, whatever the signal, you’ll have immediate access to all your knowledge and data. All in one place, available all the time.

Implementing digital knowledge management is not a quick fix, but it is a robust and long-term investment in the future of your business. And that’s why proactive organizations are talking to us about how to revolutionize their mobile knowledge management.

What are the Top 5 Most Common Knowledge Management Mistakes companies make? Watch our short video to find out!

How to Motivate Your Field Service Millennials

You’re losing your experienced workforce to retirement and recruiting younger workers. Millennials might seem like a whole different breed and there’s no doubt they are shaking up the way businesses operate!

Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials (Generation Y) are now well-established in the workplace. They’ve grown up in a fast-paced, digital environment – very different from the earlier internet-free, job-for-life culture.

Every generation has its own strengths and weaknesses. Millennial strength is learning digital tools quickly. Considering the massive digital transformation that field service is currently undergoing, this is a fantastic opportunity for organizations!

Of course, Millennial workforces aren’t without their weaknesses and organizations are feeling those frustrations.

Many Millennials lack the in-depth knowledge needed for their role. It’s not their fault – they just haven’t had the opportunity to build up the years of experience their older colleagues have.

With the growth of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence, “human” research into problems will diminish. Perfect for Millennials! But until such technology is common-place, younger engineers will “Google” for an answer (unless they’re working with a more knowledgeable colleague). Where else can the answer come from?

Even more frustrating is that Millennials change jobs more often than any other generation. They are twice as likely to leave a job after two years and are more eager to “move up or move on” than their predecessors. In a recent survey, two-thirds of Millennial respondents said the “right” amount of time to stay in a role before being promoted or searching for a better opportunity was less than two years and a quarter said less than 12 months.

So, you risk building up knowledge in their heads, only to lose it again!

Develop Your Business the Millennial Way

Millennials are your workforce now – embracing them (and the tools they need) will enhance your productivity and put you ahead. Here are some simple actions to consider:

  • Make time for regular team feedback so that learning can be shared.
  • Buddy Millennials with older engineers (while you still have them!). Not only will this help foster camaraderie in the workplace, but it is a way to capture that valuable tribal knowledge from your more experience workers.
  • Collate your knowledge onto a shared drive, so workers know where to go for answers and won’t resort to “Google”.
  • Make your organization a great place to work – Millennials value emotional intelligence and a healthy work/life balance.
  • Involve younger engineers in shaping your future field service systems and let them know their input is valued. The worst think you can do is treat Millennials like “kids”. They have a unique set of strengths and want to feel respected.

Of course, the ultimate solution is a mobile, digitized knowledge management system that holds all the technical information they’ll ever need to access. It plays to the strengths of Millennials 100%.

By taking smaller steps now, you’ll be better placed when you’re ready to develop a more advanced system.

Want to learn more? Check out our infographic on how to get the best out of Millennials!

Combating the Challenge of an Aging Workforce

We’re all getting older…

Something we’re hearing time and again from customers is the challenge of an aging workforce.

I spoke to an attendee at Field Service USA last month who told me how at his company, all the complex technical questions went to a handful of people who had decades of know-how in their head. Unfortunately, these people will all be retiring soon.

His story probably sounds familiar to you. Every company is grappling with this same question: How do you extract the information from their heads and into the hands of less-experienced, junior colleagues?

Yes, the Baby Boomers are retiring and there’s nothing we can do about it. But you can prepare for the changes this will have on your service organization and surf this wave successfully.

Develop your plan now.

The worst thing you can do is ignore the situation.

Get key people in your organization talking about this. What knowledge does our organization hold in manuals and other sources? And what resides only in the heads of our ageing workforce? Who are our aging Knowledge Gurus and what are the common questions they get asked?

Can older engineers help you extract their knowledge through workshops, mentoring and coaching programs? Is there a way to turn their knowledge into how-to videos? In fact, according to Forrester Research, 75% of employees would prefer to watch a video rather than read an email or web page.

A danger with these plans, of course, is if the younger engineer leaves you’re back to square one. Millennials are twice as likely to leave a job after two years and they’re only half as likely to be employed by the same company after 10 years.

This is why diversifying your field service workforce with new hires that include mature workers is a great idea.

One of the most important steps you can take right now is starting a project to collate all your knowledge from various departments and put it in one place. That might simply be on a wiki or shared drive for now or it could be something like AnswersAnywhere.

But by just starting the first steps, you’re already ahead of many!

Want to learn more about how you can address the talent gap and surf the silver tsunami?