The bottom line for most field service companies is delivering your goods and services on time.
If you can’t achieve this - you’re not going to be in business long.
So it’s natural that hitting deadlines and maintaining schedules becomes the focus for operational performance. But this can create problems.
Because what happens if your mobile workers are promptly delivering the wrong items or arrive on time to provide a terrible service?
This is what makes the First Time Fix (FTF) rate such an important performance measure for a field service company. Here’s what you need to know:
What is a First Time Fix (FTF) rate?
FTF, sometimes referred to as ‘rework level’, is a metric that measures the performance of a mobile services provider. In general terms, it tracks the percentage of jobs which are completed satisfactorily the first time.
This means a mobile worker has turned up on time and delivered the required item or service to a satisfactory standard. It’s job done - with no additional tasks required.
So the higher the FTF percentage is, the better a mobile workforce is performing. If it starts to dip, it’s an early indicator of underlying issues that need fixing.
FTF is just one of the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that are commonly used by field service businesses. Tracking this type of information is made easier by the move to digital management processes.
How do I apply FTF to my business?
The exact definition of a First Time Fix will depend on the specific nature of your operation. For some mobile services, it’s simply not realistic to expect every job will be done in one visit.
So you need to decide how you’re going to define what constitutes ‘first-time’ completion, as well as what you classify as a ‘fix’. By properly defining these indicators, you can get reliable data on performance.
A particularly effective way to track FTF is the use of customer or client feedback. You need to know that the recipient is happy with the job and they have no further need for additional assistance or support.
The use of digital workforce management systems allows this to be easily tracked in real-time. A system such as MyMobileWorkers uses a smartphone app to provide real-time job ratings.
What causes a poor FTF rate?
- Inadequate tools
- Poor performance
- Admin inefficiency
What makes a Fix First Time rate so effective is that it offers no place to hide for poor performance. The root causes can come from any area of a mobile workforce operation. Here’s are some key areas:
A field worker arrives on-site; they assess a job and find they haven’t got the skills, equipment or materials they need. So they leave and another visit is arranged. It’s a common cause of frustration and operational inefficiency.
A field worker delivers an incorrect item or the service they provide is unsatisfactory or unfinished. It means later visits have to be arranged to rectify the problems.
These are the repeat visits required as a result of various administrative muddles and mistakes. Mobile workers may be sent on the wrong date, to an incorrect address or to a job that’s already done.
The root cause of these problems can range from ineffective and outdated management methods to a poorly trained and demotivated workforce.
Why is FTF important?
A poor First Time Fix rate is a basic sign of a failing mobile services business. It will have an impact across a company, including:
Repeated failures to complete jobs means hassle, frustration and stress for the recipients. It often means them having to make calls, send emails and rearrange times when they are available to receive a delivery. It’s a great way to lose customers.
Regularly having to schedule two or more visits to complete a task which should have been done in one, is going to send business costs soaring. It doubles the amount of operational time and resources required.
A poor FTF rate means that fieldworkers will find themselves having to deal with the anger and frustrations of customers. They will also have to fix problems they didn’t complete. It helps to stifle productivity and morale within a workforce.
How can you improve First Time Fix rates?
- Intelligent planning
- Improving visibility
- Open communications
A company’s FTF rate reflects its basic ability to deliver what customers want - a hassle-free and efficient service where things are done right, the first time. Improving this relies on good management and a motivated workforce. Some particular areas to focus on include:
Ineffective and outdated management systems are the root cause of so many problems that contribute to poor FTF rates. It’s a general lack of ‘joined-up’ thinking between managers and workers that creates inefficiency and confusion.
Switching to a digital workforce management system helps to minimise these problems. The combination of GPS tracking and smartphones allows fieldworkers to always have access to accurate information.
This can include task-specific checklists on the items and resources they require. With the information handled in real-time, it means any potential issues can be tackled immediately.
You can find a guide to the benefits of a digital process here.
A First Time Fix rate provides a pretty basic performance indicator but with access to accurate data, you can start digging down into much more specific operational issues and weaknesses.
A digital management solution will provide data on every aspect of operations. When combined with reporting tools, it helps to reveal problems that would otherwise remain hidden.
It’s valuable information and tracked over time, it can help to highlight exactly what’s causing incomplete and unsatisfactory work - whether it’s backroom logistics problem or fieldworker performance.
While customer feedback helps to highlight the problem, it’s your mobile workers that are best placed to start identifying possible solutions. What are the niggles and everyday frustrations that prevent them from completing a job?
Good communications between managers and workers allow logistical problems to be raised and any issues with workplace morale to be addressed. With accurate performance data, incentives and rewards can also help to improve an FFT rate.
Care has to be taken, however. You want fieldworkers to complete tasks first time when it’s possible but you don’t want this to be done at the expense of safety or the quality of service.