How to Motivate Field Service Employees at Your Business

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I once had a plumber tell me, to my face, his colleague had oversold me on a new boiler storage tank.

Why would he do that?

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The business was large enough that he didn’t even know the salesman, so it wasn’t a vendetta. It all came down to motivation.

The salesman earned commission based on how much he was able to sell in a month. Selling more expensive things meant he earned more money. For the plumber doing the install, it was all about trust and getting it right. He may have been incentivized to cut down on costs or install times or callbacks, but the real point was he, personally, cared about the value of his expertise.

When your organization has unaligned incentives and personal motivators, you end up with these sorts of situations. Here are three simple steps to keep everyone working toward the same goal.

Team goals

The first step toward building a well-oiled machine is to get everyone on the same page. With techs working by themselves much of the time, this can be difficult for field service organizations. One of the best ways to bring them together is to incentivize teams in addition to individuals. If you can connect goals across multiple teams, even better.

As a starting point, consider setting team goals for billable hours for your technicians. If the whole team hits the collective goal, then individuals within the team can be rewarded based on how much they contributed to that goal.

The point of this is to build a supportive environment for your employees, where they give each other a chance to thrive. This can backfire if one member of the team is perceived to be holding the rest of the group back, but in that case, you should be having a conversation with the individual anyways.

To build camaraderie across teams, you might set a goal for customer satisfaction for both your techs and your customer service reps or sales team. The teams can learn from each other and build a new relationship while working toward a common goal.

Give more than money

It’s naïve to think people aren’t motivated by money, but that doesn’t mean money is the only motivator. Studies have shown employees who feel engaged — which encompasses more than just being paid well — are more productive, less likely to leave the business, and generate higher customer satisfaction rates.

Increasing engagement can come from recognition in newsletters, during meetings, with employee of the month programs, or through peer reward systems. Even a quarterly barbeque can be the kind of thing employees look forward to and talk about for months afterward.

Man With Burning Marshmallows

Look at Wegmans grocery stores. Very few people are going to think of working in a grocery store as a life fulfilling career, but Wegmans keeps showing up as a great place to work. Employees are recognized for their tenure and they have opportunities for personal development. Both of these rewards take a bit of time and expense — it’s not a simple matter of just throwing money at a problem to make it better.

Whatever you do, keep your technicians’ schedules and needs in mind. Taking time out to celebrate their successes is a winning idea, but don’t compress their work week to do it — that only adds stress.

Know limits to incentivizes

Finally, keep in mind the way you reward people will have a meaningful impact on how they do business every day. From working in a bank, I can tell you that when it made the seller more money to open a savings account than a credit card, more savings accounts got opened. Guess what happened when credit cards were highly rewarded.

Our desire to succeed has two pieces at play here. First, we want to do what’s best for us. That’s why we work and it means we usually try to make more money, given the chance. Second, incentives are seen as a reflection of the company’s desires. If we’re paying more for credit cards, it must be because the company wants more credit cards, and I want to do good for the company.

Drastic changes in incentives — monetary or otherwise — can create unintended consequences and can confuse employees. That’s an easy way to get them off your side and looking for a new place to work. Striking the balance between keeping your employees motivated and engaged, while having a feeling of consistency is one of the hardest parts of incentivizing.

Figuring out what works best can be hit and miss, at first. Once you’ve got it down, though, you’ll see great performance from your team. It’s well worth the effort to make sure everyone feels valued.

Looking for Field Service Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Field Service Management software solutions.

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Andrew Marder

Andrew Marder is a former Capterra analyst.

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