Most Field Service organizations closely monitor their first-time fix rate (FTFR), which Aberdeen defines as:

“The resolution of a work order/customer issue on the first service visit.  Any repeat visit, secondary truck roll, or service call cannot be for the same issue.” 

While this definition is generally accepted and will be used in this post, at the end of this post I offer another definition that is slightly stricter and will cause you to focus improvement efforts on additional issues.

Why does FTF matter?

Aberdeen published this chart showing the major Field Service goals sorted into two categories; those companies with first-time fix rate greater than 71% and those with FTR at or below 70%.

From this chart, we can conclude that a 70% FTFR is approximately average.  Note that organizations with the 71+% FTFR have set improve response time and reducing costs by managing repeat visits as a much less important goal than those with a lower rate.  However, the high FTFR folks are still focusing on improving CSAT and increasing revenue.

Let’s look at the four goals

Improving FTR improves customer satisfaction – As this chart, from TSIA shows, over a narrow range, there is a strong correlation between FTFR and CSAT.

If you are trying to increase your Overall CSAT, then a 0.2 change is a big deal!

Increase revenue – When you have to send a field engineer back for a second visit, she may be earning revenue for a billable call but is not earning as much as if she were going to a new customer.  That is because your company probably caused the repeat visit and you should not be billing for all the cost of the visit.

Reduce costs – This is the jackpot!  If your engineer is performing an installation, warranty call, or contract call, the labor, travel, meals, etc. all get charged to your expense account.  If your organization is small and you frequently fly engineers from call to call, then these costs can mount very quickly.  For example, if you assume that any flight segment costs $500, and your engineers fly from city to city, then the re-visit costs one extra segment plus possibly a car, hotel and extra meals.  Over the course of a year that can become a budget buster!

Improve Response Time – This is easy.  When your engineers are all fully booked with jobs, including repeat visits, then response time for new calls declines.  There goes your CSAT.

What causes re-visits?

Revisits are sad because the majority of them can be prevented!  Here is Aberdeen’s analysis of their survey data:

  • Parts unavailability (i.e., incorrect or no part available) – 29%
  • Customer/asset not available for service – 28%
  • Improper diagnosis at time of dispatch – 19%
  • Technician did not have right skills – 15%
  • Resolution was only temporary – 8%

If you think about each of the reasons for a revisit you will come to the same conclusion that I did – Improper diagnosis at the time of dispatch is a major contributor to the lack of parts and technicians with the wrong skills. If the person providing phone support to the customer was confident in his diagnosis, he would absolutely make sure that any and all possible required parts would be available when the “right” engineer arrived at the customer.

Dispatching an improperly trained engineer is primarily a management issue.  Field engineers must be trained before they are dispatched to customers.  If they are not fully trained, they must know how to perform most diagnostics and have the skills to work with a remote technical support person while on site. When an untrained engineer is dispatched, it is frequently because the support person made a decision that anyone who arrives to fix the problem is better than having the customer wait.  This is never a good situation to be in and in this case, the customer, dispatcher, and engineer are all going to be dissatisfied. In other words, everyone loses!

Either the design of the service experience or the engineer’s training are also responsible for most of the cases where the customer or the asset is not available.  The way to minimize this situation is to have the engineer directly contact the customer and make sure both the asset and the person will be available when the engineer believes he will show up.  The engineer must contact the customer at least once more before arriving – to either confirm the arrival time or to change it if necessary.  This is both common courtesy and good business.

Who should own FTFR?

This is a major field service KPI (Key Performance Indicator) and belongs to the Head of Service.  However, the Field Service (FS) Manager has a responsibility to make sure the field team is properly trained and to coordinate with the technical support and logistics managers to ensure that the organization (and the engineers) have a very high chance of making each service visit positive for all parties.  This is such an important measurement that I recommend making the three managers equally responsible for this KPI and making it an important, and equal, part of each person’s variable compensation.

I know that I did not include the Training Manager in this discussion since that person has a significant role to play. I believe that the FS Manager has to make sure the engineers are properly trained and so should be coordinating with the Training Manager and making the engineers available when the Training Manager calls for them.

Change FTF to Clean FTF

If your engineers are being dispatched for more than one service call a day, then FTFR is a perfectly good metric.  This occurs when servicing printers, copiers, office equipment, some “small” medical devices, and relatively uncomplicated industrial and laboratory instruments. But when the service call is designed to spill over to two or more days, then I like a different measurement.  I call it the “clean” visit.

Let me explain.  A multi-day service call can result in a first-time fix even though the engineer, the customer, and the service center have to perform heroic efforts to finish the job.  Let’s say that a field engineer needs a part that she does not have or has not been sent ahead.  She calls back to the dispatcher who determines that there are none available in the stockroom.  They then discover that one was recently sent to another engineer in another city.  He gets a call and confirms that he has it and does not need it for current jobs.

The engineer has to interrupt his work and tell his customer that he has to leave for an hour or so.  He takes the part to FedEx and ships it overnight.  When the shipping engineer returns to his original job, he finds out that the customer has left for the day and the engineer has to return the next day.  That wasted two hours on the current day.  The next day the first engineer has to go to the FedEx location to pick up the part and head to his customer.  She arrives later than the customer expected because of the delay in picking up the part.  The job gets completed and the service engineer reports the first-time fix.  But two engineers and two customers were interrupted and though the service organization was slightly out of control.

Key Takeaway

Unless all disruptions to smooth work are identified, analyzed, and corrected, the service organization will always be disappointing customers and making their field teams lives miserable.

For extended jobs, please seriously consider using the clean visit as the metric to monitor. If you have a low FTFR and do not have the bandwidth to identify and solve the problems causing the poor performance, please contact me.  We can start with a complimentary one-hour conversation to see if we should further investigate working together on this challenge.