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New Field Service KPI: How Well Are You Optimizing Your Customer Relationships?

The list of field service KPIs seems to get longer every year. Many of them are essential and always will be; for example, everybody’s all-time favorite — first-time fix rate.

Search “field service KPIs” online today and you’ll find an impressive laundry list of key performance indicators you are encouraged to track in order to heighten the efficiency of your field service operation.

With so many KPIs to keep track of, it can all get a little overwhelming. So we’re going to spend some time reviewing some of the most notable field service KPIs, and then pivot to a discussion that may change the way you look at KPIs forever. Feel free to jump ahead if you’re eager; otherwise read on for a closer look at some of the most common field service KPIs:

First-Time Fix Rate

Yes, doing whatever you can to maximize your percentage — and thereby minimize costly escalation and follow-up — is a top KPI for field service orgs the world over.

Customer Satisfaction

This is considered the top predictor of customer loyalty, which leads to future business with the customer and, crucially, word of mouth to gain new business.

Service Profitability

Is your field service operation a net winner or loser? And which of the dozens of metrics that go into this calculation are most important to track?

Contract or SLA Compliance

Hitting the benchmarks laid out in your service level agreement is good; missing the mark too often is bad. Smart companies know that smart preventive strategies will help you make a break from the break-fix rat race.

Customer Retention

We all learned decades ago that it costs more dollars and hours to attract new customers than it does to retain the ones you are already invested in.

Employee Retention

Same with employees. The cost of hiring and training new people can be steep so, yes, it helps to keep them happy. But field service KPI advice for this often includes “strategies” like putting a ping-pong table in the breakroom.

Field Technician Utilization

Have you got a percentage number for how much time your techs spend doing actual work versus non-value-added activities? Many field service KPI advice columns suggest that you should.

What about additional recommended field service-related KPIs like these?

  • Ratio of engineers to schedulers
  • Number of field service tasks closed by dispatcher
  • Average number of phone calls between dispatcher and technician
  • Rescheduling ratio
  • Percentage of field service visits completed within the terms of your SLA
  • Average number of work orders closed per day
  • Mean time to complete an order or call
  • Number of vehicles used by field services
  • Field visits per field engineer per day
  • Average miles traveled per tech per day/per site visit
  • Emergency parts order costs
  • Average travel metrics
  • Technician idle time
  • Technician billable hours
  • Ratio of technician idle time to billable hours
  • Mean time to repair specific problems/devices
  • Percentage of expiring maintenance contracts that are renewed
  • Ratio of preventive maintenance work to reactive work
There is no shortage of helpful conventional wisdom around field service KPIs. But standing here in 2020 and staring into the future, it’s easy to wonder whether being hyper-focused on traditional key performance indicators risks missing the big picture.
Yes, identifying and tracking the most important field service KPIs for your operation will always be necessary. But what if there was one next-level strategy with the power to deliver a positive impact on nearly all of the traditional field service KPIs discussed above?

How Nurturing Stronger Customer Relationships Super-Charges Field Service

It’s one thing to analyze how strong your metrics are when measuring success in delivering what your customers want. It’s quite another to analyze how strong your most important customer relationships are.

Perhaps you have heard the saying: “Customer relationships are the new oil.” If not, you probably understand the sentiment immediately; the idea is that — now that customers have more options and higher expectations than ever before — customer relationships are the fuel that powers business success.

From the provider side of the equation, one of the reasons that customer relationships are regarded this way is that forming closer relationships enables you to access information that helps you help your customers succeed.

Bottom line: The more you focus on understanding what we call the customer’s Big Picture, their most important needs and goals, the better you’ll be able to help them achieve their desired business objectives. And when you start doing that, you begin to transition from being seen as a break-fix service provider to a trusted, valued business advisor.

Shift Focus from Just Your KPIs to the Customer’s KPIs­

Today, more and more forward-thinking companies are leading a paradigm shift that involves heightened focus on their customers’ most important KPIs — these might include production output, time to market with new products, overall revenue growth, etc.

Knowing what the customer’s most important KPIs are, and figuring out how you can help them achieve those — rather than devoting spreadsheets to traditional service-side KPIs like average miles traveled per tech per day/per site visit — positions you to add far more value over the long haul.

Perhaps you’ve heard of this new approach referred to as an “outcome-based service model.” The goal, over time, is to reshape the customer relationship — ideally to have the customer begin measuring the relationship with your organization in terms of how well you are helping them achieve key business objectives vs. how quickly you got a tech onsite to work on a specific problem last month.

Related reading: A Guide to the Outcome-Based Service Model & How to Make the Transition

One vitally important methodology for gaining the deeper understanding of customer KPIs noted above is through enhanced utilization of your field service technicians — essentially empowering your team to develop a deeper understanding of each customer, while also “doing your homework” on the customer, their industry and their position in that industry.

Prioritizing customer relationship-building — chiefly through understanding your customer better than your competition and using that knowledge to add value at every touchpoint — eventually positions you to propose a new, outcome-based, service model built on agreements that reward your organization for helping the customer achieve key objectives. Such agreements also benefit the customer, of course, because they are tied directly to some of their most important business objectives.

OK, sounds good on paper. But how does this play out in real life?

How Supplier and Customer Benefit from Outcome-Based KPIs [Case Study]

Here’s a first-hand anecdote from our experience at Global Partners Training:

The customer service manager for a high-tech company knew that a key factor in his customer’s strategy for maintaining industry leadership was to adopt the latest advanced technology.

However, the customer was struggling to adopt the technology because its own engineers didn’t fully understand the new technology and weren’t communicating internally about how this was affecting their ability to put the new tech in place. From his own experience, the service manager knew far more about this technology than his customer did.

The service manager had also been diligently cultivating a deeper understanding of the customer’s big picture and using active listening to build a high-trust relationship with his counterparts at the customer. Having established himself as a trusted advisor, the service manager successfully proposed a scenario that enabled the supplier to provide, in a non-threatening way, the knowledge and expertise the customer lacked.

This resulted in significantly shortening the time needed to fully implement and take advantage of the new technology. The supplier’s customer used their new leading-edge technology to win back a significant share of business with a major customer worth hundreds of millions of dollars. This interaction also led to further adoption of the supplier’s new technology worldwide. The phrase “win-win” comes to mind.

Measuring Success in the Outcome-Based Service Model

When utilizing this new approach to developing long-term business relationships and more directly helping customers achieve business objectives, you can also put in place new methods for monitoring your success.

The first category involves asking new questions of your customers.

In 2003, business consultant Frederick F. Reichheld introduced a new KPI intended to track the likelihood of business growth. His Net Promoter Score (NPS) boiled down to rethinking the traditional customer survey to ask just one fundamental question (with a 0-10 scoring scale): “How likely is it that you would recommend [Company X] to a friend or colleague?”

High scores would indicate not only that the company was doing a good job satisfying the customer in question, it would also indicate that the underlying relationship was healthy and strong enough that the customer would also recommend the company to others.

Applying this method to the outcome-based service model, several additional questions come to mind that suppliers can ask customers to gauge their success. For example:

  • To what extent does the service supplier help you to achieve your business goals?
  • To what extent does the supplier make an extra effort to understand your business objectives?
  • To what extent does the supplier bring a “how can I help” mindset to each encounter?
  • How likely is it that you would recommend the supplier to a friend or colleague?

You can experiment with asking such questions to customers at every level and for every function, from front-line operational people to senior managers, and develop new forward-thinking KPIs. Such bigger-picture questions are not “transaction-based” (i.e. queries you would make at the end of a service call). Rather, asking such questions serves to reinforce the communication channels you are building and also to remind your customer that you are committed to doing everything you can to contribute to their current and future success.

The second category involves asking new questions of your field service technicians.

Our work gives us unique insight into the supplier-customer relationship — insight can be used to help quantify the success of the methods described above. For example, one of our core business services is advanced customer relationship training, especially valuable for field service and other customer-facing support personnel, called Total Customer Focus.

As part of that training, we engage field service techs in case study-building exercises. The purpose is to provide examples of how they’ve used the principles taught in the training sessions to help customers achieve positive business outcomes.

By asking field service techs to connect their enhanced customer relationship training to real-world results, we bring to life compelling anecdotes that illustrate how the outcome-based model is working as intended.

Related Reading: How Total Customer Focus Generates ROI and Tangible Business Results 

Doing All of This Effectively Is the Future of Field Service

If we sound excited about helping you transform the way you leverage frontline, customer-facing relationships to build long-term, win-win business partnerships with your most important customers — it’s because we have seen the results played out again and again, across many different industries. We love seeing clients break out of the constraints of traditional internally focused field service KPIs and realize that KPIs can be trained on their customers’ businesses in new and powerful ways.

Our experience has confirmed that all customer touchpoints offer invaluable opportunities to drive the relationship-building component that is at the heart of this new approach. The best way to capitalize on these opportunities is by taking the time to train service technicians and engineers on how to effectively communicate with and foster a trusting relationship with customers. Such training also helps service companies identify service outcomes and metrics, the two pillars of outcome-based agreements.

At Global Partners Training, our experienced facilitators empower key members of your team with invaluable customer relationship success skills — delivered through customized training sessions that are attuned to your industry and inspired by the specific goals and vision of your company. If the ideas presented here sound worth exploring, we urge you to contact us to continue the conversation.