7 min. reading time
13 January 2022 ·
t is the job of a Field Service Manager to direct a company's field service operations. What is today's job profile, their everyday tasks, and the digital tools to be successful?
Although the internet connects customers to with field service faster and easier than ever before, the role of a dedicated field service manager is far from extinct. For many companies, deploying field service team members to a business, domestic, or even roadside location remains the best way to service equipment or machines, diagnose and fix errors, or carry out repairs.
WHAT IS A FIELD SERVICE MANAGER'S RESPONSIBILITY?
'Field Service Manager' is a role that's become more common in recent decades. As customer service scores become more visible (and real-time experiences shared more widely), 'Head of Scheduling', 'Scheduling team leader', 'Head of Custoemr Service' and 'Dispatch Manager' have either leant towards this job title, or now sit directly underneath this role. In larger organisations, a Field Service Manager will at least have a place on the Senior Leadership Team.
In contrast to field-based sales and merchandising, the term 'field service' is primarily aimed at the provision of services. However, the boundaries between sales and service are no longer so clearly drawn today, since the sale of complementary services and products grow across sectors. These opportunities to cross-sell and upsell create addition important customer touchpoints.
Typical activities in field service are technical services such as the installation, maintenance and repair of devices and machines. They extend to the preparation of expert opinions, such as the on-site valuation of real estate, as well as the services of compliance and legal experts. Last but not least, post COVID, retail companies are making their first steps into field service via new direct-to-consumer (DTC) channels.
With responisbilities growing, seasoned Field Sevice Managers are in high demand.
THE TASKS OF A FIELD SERVICE MANAGER
It's clear that the tasks of a Field Service Manager can be extremely diverse and vary by company. In smaller companies, the Field Service Manager often takes on more tasks than in a large company with its own human resources department and extensive accounts functions.
Typical duties include:
The management of field service operations or directly of the service team
The scheduling and coordination of field operations
Work Order Management: Manage work orders, from start to invoicing
Inventory Management: Management and organisation of consumables, spare parts and tools
Contract management: conclude service contracts with customers and check compliance
ORGANISATION AND COORDINATION OF THE FIELD SERVICE
The main task of the Field Service Manager is the organisation and coordination of the entire field service and the respective resources (personnel, material, vehicles). Exactly what that looks like depends on the company and the industry, often even on the department.
While the field service in sales and distribution is planned well in advance, in the case of service and maintenance, spontaneous assignments may have to be organised with little to no lead time. After all, customers should wait as little as possible for repairs and maintenance.
Especially important to the reactive maintenance sector is ensuring that all (potential) customers can be looked after , in line with their SLAs. Companies aim to avoid changing the attending engineer/technician, which strengthens trust and the competence perceived by customers as a service provider.
When Field Service Managers can allocate and plan employees and resources such as company vehicles, parts, materials, tools and other technical supplies, they help their company save money. With perfectly planned routes and tours, the travel to individual customers can also be kept shorter.
This not only saves transport costs, but also guarantees greater effectiveness (productivity) of the hours worked. Remember, driving times between customers count towards the business' paid working hours.
MANAGEMENT OF FIELD SERVICES
For employees on-shift in the field, the team under the Field Service Manager is often the first point of contact when they have questions or problems. In most cases, their tasks not only include resource planning, but also the statistical and analytical evaluation of individual orders and inquiries. To do this, field workers provide data on the assignments and on the measures they have taken and the materials they have used.
Field service managers use this data to track trends, ensuring that customers are satisfied with the service and that the right spare parts or materials are always available in sufficient quantities.
In general, service managers maintain close ties to the marketing and sales departments. In some workflows, they may have to communicate directly with production or suppliers to ensure timely installation, maintenance and repairs in the field. At the same time, they can also pass on customer feedback trends and thus initiate new innovations. Modern field service organisations ensure employees are always trained on new product ranges so they are qualified and competent.
COACH AND TRAINER FOR FIELD SERVICE
Since employees must act independently and make decisions when they are out in the field, the Field Service Manager is more of a coach and trainer than a traditional manager. They prepares new employees for their work with customers. In cooperation with their HR department and/or suppliers, they can organise work towards certification.
By introducing and reviewing established standards and processes in customer and field service, they ensure a high quality and performance (first-time-fix). Many field service managers regularly accompany their team members on their trips to check the consistently high quality of their services.
WHAT TRAINING DOES A FIELD SERVICE MANAGER NEED?
There is currently no undergraduate-level training to become a Field Service Manager. However, there are further and vocational education courses with titles such as 'Service Management according to ISO 20000'. Certain 'Customer Service Management' courses include suitable content for the job.
Many start as employees in the field, for example as a Field Service Engineer, and then rise through the ranks. This has the advantage that they know the business and their own experiences.
In most cases, they have a degree that qualifies them for work in the field or a corresponding vocational training that fits the industry and field of activity of the respective company, such as Facilities Management, Estate Management, or a degree in Business.
WHAT SKILLS DOES A MODERN FIELD SERVICE MANAGER NEED?
In addition to expertise in their field and related industry, Field Service Managers need many different skills and abilities to successfully lead their team.
All too often, field service managers work with limited resources and need to make the most of the resources they have. In most industries, unforeseen schedule changes can occur at any time. For this, it is important that they prioritise different tasks and customers with efficiency and produce outcomes for high productivity and satisfaction.
In small to mid size businesses, Field Service Managers are usually the direct superiors and the first point of contact for the field employees. They must pay attention to each and every one of their line reports, and see that they're motivated and truly care about their individual cases and accounts.
For this they need strong personal and motivational skills. In the best case, they can get the members of their team enthusiastic about the company's products and services and convey this attitude authentically.
Field Service Control for an Excellent Customer Experience
As the escalation intermediary between customer inquiries and the service teams and other departments, Field Service Managers must communicate efficiently and accurately. It is in everyone's interest to avoid mistakes and unnecessary waiting times due to misunderstandings between different parties.
They also need outstanding interpersonal skills. An instinct for exemplary customer service is required every now and then when costly errors create reputational risk. Therefore, a high level of solution orientation is also an advantage.
The abaility to step back, and produce a precise analysis of tasks and the ability to quickly penetrate problems are also a great advantage.
Working in Field Service Management can be very stressful at times. If more customer requests appear than there are currently available resources, the field manager must allocate make decisions with certainty.
It is their job to prioritise requests. In areas of business continuity (B2B), for example if customers must stop their production due to a defective machine - there is additional pressure.
In many industries, field service managers must reckon with on-call times. These are usually shared by several employees, and in many cases it is fully remunerated. Despite this, working hours at night or at weekends are widespread. In critical circumstances, a willingness to travel is also a requirement.
SALARY: WHAT DOES A FIELD SERVICE MANAGER EARN?
The monthly or yearly salary of a Field Service Manager varies greatly depending on their industry and the associated area of responsibility. The size of the company and the team also plays an important role: in large organisations where the bulk of the business is field service, they tend to earn more. It's usual that the greater the responsibility, the better they are paid. According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a Field Service Manager is £44,387 pa.
WHICH INDUSTRIES NEED A FIELD SERVICE MANAGER?
Field Service Managers are active in numerous industries that require the deployment of service teams directly to the customer. The most important divisions include:
Automation service provider (vending industry)
Coffee & Food Services
Healthcare & Medical Devices
Refrigeration, air conditioning and heating technology
Each area places slightly different demands on the qualities of Field Service Managers and presents them with different problems and areas of focus. In any case, the work in field service management is never boring and offers a lot of variety - either within a company, within a specific industries, or even seasonally.
DEDICATED SOFTWARE FOR FIELD SERVICE MANAGERS
While field service managers used to coordinate their teams (before the job title was even common) on the phone or at best via e-mail, SMS and messenger, there is specialist software for this. The scheduling of resources in the field service plays a central role, i.e. the appointment scheduling and route planning.
Video - How software supports your service and your customers:
Clear display of available field employees and materials/spare parts
Automatically assign jobs to qualified field service rngineers with availabilty
Automatic recognition of order conflicts and corresponding escalation management
Delivery of data evaluations and reports for management
The heart of real-time field service scheduling software is the scheduling algorithm. Its quality, together with the setting of the company and industry-specific parameters, determines how high the efficiency gains and productivity increases can be.
Another solution that many Field Service Managers take advantage of is a connected mobile application, i.e. a field service app. With their help (and the appropriate hardware (smartphones and tablets), office and field staff are directly networked, which improves paperless communication and live optimisation.
Field service employees always have the necessary order data and service history at their fingertips via the field service app. They may also document completed orders directly and have the customer provide a digital signature.
Delays and new appointments can be recorded and published immediately, without going through the dispatchers or only when returning to the office. This allows the algorithm to dynamically optimise appointments and routes and tours again (no batch or overnight processing).
A ROLE WITH A STRONG FUTURE
Modern Field Service Managers have an interesting role. Together with their team, they are at the forefront of the company. Their strategic efforts directly link to profitability. Designing an excellent customer experience is critical and the effort to match new customer expectations has increased. High quality field service management, supported by intelligent software will continue to grow into the future.
CHOOSING MODERN SOFTWARE FOR FIELD SERVICE MANAGERS