Improve your field service department with management by exception

One of the most important requirements for your field service department is the fast and efficient handling of work orders. Customers expect a high level of service from your technicians, but also count on being helped quickly and against low costs. That asks for a proper organization of your processes on the service department. The principle of 'management by exception' can help you with this.

What is management by exception?

In the case of management by exception, managers delegate tasks to their staff members without checking them or intervening, as long as the results meet predefined objectives. The management will therefore only act 'by exception'. Often, the decision to inform or engage management is also delegated to the staff members. The idea behind management by exception is that it makes no sense to spend time checking things that are running smoothly. Only when something abnormal or surprising happens, it is important to be aware of this as a manager and to take measures if necessary. Think of it as a conveyor belt with packages; you only look the packages that fall off.

Why would you apply this in field service?

On a field service department with a few technicians, it is possible to keep an overview without the help of automation. But that becomes impossible with dozens or even hundreds of technicians. Together they work on an endless number of service jobs, which you try to organize as well as possible with your processes, supported by software tools. When you do this properly, most work orders run smoothly from start to finish.

And so, it makes no sense to check every service report and every invoice. It is better to focus on where things go wrong or "deviate". For example, a customer who has a complaint, a discussion about an invoice, a service job that took much longer than expected, or a technician who has been stuck in traffic for hours. It is much more important for a manager to focus on that and solve those things than to waste your time checking a pile of service job invoices that have been completed smoothly and in line with expectations.

This will make people happy!

What should be the most important reason to use the principle of management by exception in your field service department: it will make your own people and your customers happy! It is great for service managers to be able to fully concentrate on the real problems. For technicians it is great to carry out their work without being monitored all the time and to ask for the service manager to assist in special situations. And it's great for the customer to be helped quickly and properly, when he/she has a complaint or a problem, by people who give them the time and attention they deserve.

Arend Jan Boersma is Senior Consultant at Dysel and specialist in automating (field)service departments.