How’s your first-time fix rate performance? If it’s less than 88%, then analyst firm Aberdeen Group has news for you: you’re not best in class. And perhaps rubbing salt in the wound, they suggest that if it’s less than 80%, you’re not even average.
To customers, first-time fix rates matter. Indeed, as far as customers are concerned, the first-time fix rate is arguably one of a small handful of metrics on which they judge your business. So if you don’t presently measure first-time fix rate performance, it might be advisable to start. Today.
But first-time fix rates matter just as much to field service organisations. Perhaps even more so. Because a field service organisation achieving a consistently poor first-time fix rate—where ‘poor’ is defined as ‘worse than the competition’—is probably not going to be in business very long.
Why so? Because a poor first-time fix rate hits the business hard, where it hurts. Repeat service visits adds to costs, contribute to poor service engineer utilisation, damage customer confidence and satisfaction metrics, and lead to price erosion.
Even so, it’s one thing to know that a poor first-time fix rate is harming your business, and quite another to know what to do about it. Here—based on our experience, and Aberdeen Group’s analysis—are three areas where improvement efforts will pay dividends.
1. Lack of spare parts.
It’s a familiar scenario. The engineer arrives on site, starts work—and quickly finds that a first-time fix will require a spare part that he doesn’t have with him.
The part will have to be ordered, or his ‘on van’ stock of standard parts will have to be replenished. Either way, it’s a return trip—and meanwhile, an unhappy customer still has a piece of equipment that needs repairing.
There’s no single cure for the problem. But even so, it’s not a difficult problem on which to make a meaningful impact, and deliver an improvement in first-time fix rate.
Better inventory planning in terms of ‘on van’ stock, for instance. Better inventory planning in terms of base stock that can be taken on site, just in case. Better analytics, in order to establish better insights into likely spare part requirements. And better mobile data communications—perhaps an engineer twenty minutes’ drive away does have the required part on his van.
2. Lack of skills.
A mismatch between required skills and available skills is another familiar scenario when it comes to a poor first-time fix rate.
In an ideal world, all service engineers would be equally skilled. But in practice, it doesn’t work out like that—and in most service organisations, a day to day reality is that the more challenging jobs are routed to the more experienced engineers, who are better able to diagnose the fault and fix the problem.
Even so, jobs slip through the net, and an engineer turns up on site, only to find that he’ll have to hand the job over to a more experienced or better-trained colleague. The result: yet another hit to the first-time fix rate.
As before, there’s no single ‘catch all’ fix. But a combination of better training, better knowledge management, better job scheduling and better on-line diagnostic support can go a long way towards turning things around.
3. Better diagnosis at the initial call level.
Finally, don’t overlook the potential for improving the first-time fix rate through better initial diagnosis when the original customer call is logged.
For yet another familiar scenario is for a service engineer to turn up, find that the problem is not what he thought it was—only to be told that the customer had, in fact, provided all the information necessary to have enabled a correct diagnosis to be made.
Yet again, there is no simple ‘one stop shop’ solution. And it’s fair to say that best-in-class businesses have had to work hard to improve their initial diagnostic skills. But the good news is that where they have led, others can follow.
Analytics helps. An investment in fault-finding flowcharting helps. ‘Expert systems’, pre-coded with analytics and experience built up over years of customer fault-fixing, help. Knowledge management helps.
In short, although it’s not as straightforward—or quick—as achieving an improvement in spare parts availability, improving initial diagnostics performance is very achievable.
Improving your first-time fix rate: the bottom line.
Roll it altogether, and the message is clear. Kick off initiatives under each of these three headings, and it won’t be long before an improvement in the first-time fix rate is visible.
The full journey, of course, will take a while.
But as with any journey, it begins with a single step. So accept the challenge of raising your first-time fix rate—today.