All field service managers have experienced a technician complaint at one point or another. Most of these frustrations revolve around the implementation of a new program or process, or even something as simple as the weather they were forced to deal with. If you think about it however, technicians are typically alone throughout the day, going to service calls alone, driving and sometimes even eating by themselves. Rather than identifying a technician’s comment as a complaint, perhaps consider it as a way for them to vent or voice their opinion. Unfortunately, service managers or dispatchers may be at the receiving end. This article discusses how to turn these seemingly negative instances into positive learning experiences.
In addition to working alone, and relying on little help from others, technicians are creatures of habit and routine. Each day brings about a different set of circumstances and cases that they have to deal with, and keeping as much of their job consistent is key for most technicians. Implementing a new process may seem like a small tweak from the perspective of a service manager, but even the smallest of changes can cause a disruption in a technician’s day. For example, making technicians fill out a daily mileage log may seem simple enough, but it may divert from how they recorded their milage for years. This is when complaints start to roll in. Rather than seeing this as a negative, service managers can learn to better handle these situations by letting technicians vent and voice their displeasure, and follow this with an encouraging response. Rather than demanding statement like “Just do it,” perhaps consider something along the lines of “Yes, I understand your pain, we can work together on making these new processes in the coming weeks.” This approach shows technicians you understand what they are going through, and that you are willing to work towards a resolution.
For service managers, the key to making a complaint productive is by understanding the difference between practical criticism and a complaint, which can be difficult to distinguish. Often times, a technician may provide practical criticism within a complaint, and being able to separate the two is essential. Service managers must be open to listening to technicians and uncover the real and practical suggestions that are often veiled within a complaint. Once an angry technician calls in, the tendency may be to tune out or stop listening. In contrast, letting technicians vent may reveal some practical and useful tips that can help make a current process or upcoming change better for the business.
Another way to better handle a complaint would be to readjust how service managers react. Responses like “that’s a good point, I’ll look into that” may address the current complaint, but can also be dishonest. Service managers must make an effort to not make promises they cannot keep. Rather than trying to appease technicians in the moment, be honest and open from the beginning. If a suggestion can be looked into, make a note of it, and if it cannot be implemented, make this clear to your team. The greatest key for converting complaints into a positive would be to listen, and see if you can learn from them. Rather than presupposing a complaint as a negative, change your perception of complaints and maybe some useful and valuable information can come out of it.