According to the Aberdeen Group report, Field Service 2016, about 20% of all service technicians dispatched by home service companies are 3rd party contractors (independent contractors/1099 workers). These 3rd-party contractors provide service companies with workforce flexibility, expanded geographical reach, and enhanced technical expertise. In fact, the Aberdeen Group notes that the “best-in-class” field service companies (those with the highest customer experience scores) are nearly twice as likely to be increasing their reliance upon 3rd party networks than other home service companies.
While the use of 3rd party technicians is increasing, especially among top-tier home service companies, managing third-party networks remains a major challenge.
The Aberdeen Group report makes two simple recommendation for service companies seeking to effectively blend full-time employees (FTEs) and 3rd party technicians to deliver great customer experiences.
First: Build an infrastructure to support a connected service team,” no matter whether they’re FTEs or 3rd parties.
Second: Ensure a hybrid service team is on the same page. Field teams are evolving fairly quickly, with a growing reliance on outsourced technicians who will need to deliver the same quality of service as technicians who are full-time employees. The key is to ensure visibility into the service experience so that it is consistent, regardless of who delivers the service.
Customers don’t care whether your service company deploys a full-time employee/technician or a third-party technician – customers want one thing: a quality technician who solves their problem efficiently and offers a great customer experience (CX).
How 3rd Party Technicians Help Home Service Businesses
Third-party contractors provide a critically-important degree of staffing flexibility: every home service company knows how time-consuming and expensive it can be to recruit, hire, and train field service technicians. The talent pool is decreasing over time. Younger candidates often lack requisite skills and needed experience, so the desired demographics for home service technicians are skewing older.
Effectively blending your FTEs and 3rd party contractors enables your field service company to remain agile in meeting ongoing service demand.
A Quick Case Study: Sears Home Warranty
Sears is a world-famous retail chain selling all kinds of home appliances under warranty. The retail giant sought to increase the quality and geographic reach of its repair service by setting up a 3rd party network to repair Sears products. As this Sears case study explains, “the strategic decision was made to partner with Sears Third Party Repair (STPR) to complement the existing service network.”
The results were outstanding. The newly-created STPR network “met all of the company’s established criteria for measuring performance in repair service quality and technician professionalism.” The concluding words of the Sears case study made the benefits of using a 3rd party network abundantly clear: “the percentage of multiple dispatch service calls increased. In addition . . .real-time scheduling help[ed] save the home warranty company time and increase[d] customer satisfaction,” while enabling Sears to gain expanded geographical reach and new expertise for repair work.
Integrating a 3rd Party Service Network Into Your Service Business
Despite the benefits, you still will confront some risk. At its core, there is a risk in controlling your brand image as you rely more on your 3rd party network. Home service companies put their brand reputation on the line every time they allow 3rd party contractors to interact with customers. If you manage your network well, your brand image gets enhanced. If not, it gets tarnished.
Another challenge is lack of visibility into what your 3rd party contractors are doing as they interact with your customers. Managing your internal FTEs is typically much easier because of your workforce management system. You can see what your FTEs are doing and communicate your expectations with them directly. When you send a job/lead to a 3rd-party contractor, you’re immediately left in the dark. Did the 3rd-party contractor accept the job? Did they schedule it? Did they arrive on time? Did they track muddy shoes into your customer’s home? Was the customer happy? All these answers are left to the interpretation of week-old status updates. And best of all, on average 10% of 3rd-party contractors even status their jobs. Information isn’t shared and by no means is real time.
When it comes to your 3rd party network, it’s generally a different story. “Command-and-control” becomes more difficult. For instance, if there’s a problem with the service delivered by a 3rd party technician, you’ll probably never know unless the customer complains. It may be too late to remedy the situation and retain the customer.
Leveraging Service Logistics to Improve Service Delivery
The simple solution is to manage your 3rd party network as if they are FTEs. To do so, you’ll need a Service Logistics platform to provide you with communication, control, and visibility.
What are some of the benefits of having a service logistics platform to streamline your 3rd party management?
- Provide contractors access to real-time scheduling, work orders, and customer information on the go, so they have everything they need to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
- Enhance mobile communication, eliminating costly phone calls to/from technicians and customers. You get to the root of the problem quicker because 3rd party technicians can communicate directly with the service company and homeowner. And if there’s a complication during the visit, the enterprise can immediately step in to remedy the situation.
- You improve compliance. Since you use the platform to collect and share data about your 3rd party network, you can measure each 3rd party technician’s compliance with your service standards/SLAs, enabling you to instruct or weed out bad performers.
The Final Word
We increasingly expect technology to enable us to do the things we need to be done, and when you’re a home service company needing to effectively manage your 3rd party network (and integrate them into your service logistics platform), Dispatch can provide you with a seamless and convenient solution. The realm of service logistics will doubtless continue to evolve in the coming years — having the right digital tools to stay agile will keep your business thriving in a world of constant change and heightened customer service expectations.