We believe that the more information you have, the better decisions you will be able to make.
One day we realized that the team inside our office would be able to make better decisions if they could have a better understanding of what a day in the life of our field technicians is like, especially if you have a majority of your field staff working from home.
Over the past few months, Fred’s Appliance has been developing strategies to encourage our team to be more informed and better equipped to understand the requirements of other roles in order to develop the big picture of how our company operates. One of the major initiatives is requiring individuals from the inside team to ride along with a field technician for a day. We knew that removing one person from a three-person team for an entire day would have its challenges, but we were hoping that the benefits would be lasting and much more valuable than the one day sacrifice. Fortunately, our hunch was right!
A few of the positive outcomes that we hoped for included:
- a better understanding of what is important to their coworkers
- improved communication
- stronger relationships between team members that typically work remotely
- and an appreciation for peers’ work.
Below are personal accounts of each support person’s experience riding with the field staff for the day.
Jen has been with us since October 2018 and is our newest inside team member. She has past experience working with customers face-to-face daily and really enjoyed connecting with our customers in this way. Jen was most interested in finding out what the technician’s software view looks like because she has only seen the inside team view. While the Technicians can see most of what the office can see, the layout is different and they cannot see the mapping tool. Understanding their layout is helpful for the inside team to understand when deciding how to communicate using the software.
During her ride along with our technician, Corina, she found that customers were impressed that we were “cross-experiencing”. Corina shared that lately the most commonly replaced parts are controls and ice makers and a noisy dryer could be caused by a simple pulley or belt. Jen valued that Corina was upfront and honest with her customers when she knew a repair was going to be expensive and didn’t try to push a sale. She also discovered that finding parking can be difficult in the city center, so, we now ask our customers located downtown Cleveland to provide some instructions on parking.
Maddie joined our team in August 2018 and she rode along with our technician Art for a day. During her trip, she appreciated getting to know Art since they hadn’t previously met as our technicians get dispatched from their home every day. Face-to-face communication is rare at Fred’s Appliance. Maddie was very interested to see the relationship between technicians and customers. Customers seem to like a personal touch from their technician, perhaps a phone call when they are on the way. She found that customers must put a lot of trust in the technician when welcoming them into their home and they were typically very pleased to hear that their unit could be fixed regardless of the price.
The daily schedule for the inside team is consistent every day with the same start, end, and lunchtimes. Maddie discovered this is not the case for our technicians. Every day their route is different so they may leave their homes and get home at different times and lunch breaks are taken between calls. Art was able to share with her that he prefers refrigerators that are not cooling to be scheduled in the morning so the inside team now keeps that in mind when scheduling.
Jessica has been with Fred’s Appliance for nearly four years and even with her years of experience, she still learned quite a lot during her ride with Corey. One of the major differences for her was the quietness. Jess is used to talking to 50-100 customers per day while Corey interacts with about 10 customers each day so it is much quieter on the road. Jess took some time to interact directly with the customers and explained a bit about how extended warranty companies work. The customers were appreciative of learning this information and Jess was able to give Corey a bit more insight so he is better prepared to educate our customers in the future.
When a technician runs late, it can be very frustrating for the inside team. Jess got to experience one reason why a technician may be running later than expected. Corey was working on a washing machine and the repair ended up being much more complicated. She realized that it can be difficult to manage time as well as inform the office team what is happening when you are shoulder-deep in a washing machine!
Holly works in the billing department and was very excited to experience a day in the life of our technicians. Like Jessica, Holly observed the quietness on the road. However, the stress of driving around the city can be quite challenging! Locating a customer’s home takes some time and patience. Our office team works to make this a bit easier on the technicians by asking the customers what the nearest cross street or intersection is, the color of the home, and what door they would prefer the technician to use. These quick questions take away just a bit of the stress of driving.
Holly also enjoyed observing the interaction between the technician and the customers. Sometimes the customers just show the technician the appliance and leave them to their job while others will stay close to observe the work and ask questions. This can be a bit of added pressure to the technician but customers are often very appreciative to learn a few new things!
These experiences have created a more holistic picture for our team and we’ve already developed and implemented two new procedures because of these experiences. We will continue to provide each member the opportunity to learn from their peers and to work together to provide solutions and streamline procedures.