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 rate
- Why is FTF important?
- How do I apply FTF to my business?
- What is a good FTF rate?
- What causes a poor FTF rate?
- How can you improve FTF rates?
What is a First Time Fix (FTF) rate?
FTF, sometimes referred to as a ‘rework' or 'resolution' level, is a metric that’s commonly used to measure the performance of a mobile services provider. In general terms, it tracks the percentage of jobs completed satisfactorily the first time.
This means a worker has turned up on time and delivered the required item or service to a satisfactory standard. It’s job done - no additional tasks or return trips 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 typically used by field service businesses. Collecting this type of information has been made easier by the use of digital management tracking tools.
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:
A 2016 study by the Aberdeen Group found that the number one complaint for recipients of field services is unfinished jobs. With 61%, this easily outranks ‘late arrivals’ (41%) as the main concern.
This is something that has changed in recent times. Customers and clients now expect prompt delivery. What they fear most is the hassle, frustration and stress caused by jobs that are not completed.
It’s easy to understand why with the hassle and stress that can be caused with additional calls, emails and rearranged times. If this occurs regularly, it becomes an effective way to lose customers.
So it’s not surprising that the Aberdeen Group research found that first-time fix is closely linked to customer retention rates - dropping from 86% to 76% for those with poor first-time fix records.
Regularly having to schedule two or more visits to complete a task which should and could be done in one, is going to send business costs soaring. It doubles the amount of operational time and resources required.
For sectors such as highways, the costs of delays can be considerable with consequences across a supply chain.
A poor FTF rate means that workers will find themselves regularly having to deal with the anger and frustration of customers and clients. It removes the ‘job well done’ satisfaction of completing jobs and dealing with any issues that may arise.
There is also the stress caused by being placed in awkward situations in which they are having to meet tight deadlines while striving to meet customer expectations.
It all helps to stifle productivity and morale within a workforce.
How do I apply FTF to my business?
The way that a First Time Fix rate is applied to a business will depend on the specific nature of the operation. For some businesses, it’s simply not realistic to expect every job to 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’. What are the potential problems and which of these can be resolved?
One project management approach is to categorise the ‘knowns’ for each task that your teams are allocated. This means breaking them down into:
These are the fixed requirements of a job that you know about. So that’s delivering a good or service to the right place at the right time.
These are the various issues that are unknown but can be reasonably expected. This may be a vehicle breakdown or a wrong part having been ordered.
These are those ‘out of the blue’ problems that you can’t reasonably prepare for.
So FTF should focus on the second category and finding ways for mobile teams to handle any of the ‘known unknowns’ they are liable to face. By defining the potential issues and providing mobile workers with solutions, you can improve performance.
What’s a good First-Time Fix rate?
Research by the Aberdeen Group found that the average first-time fix rate for a mobile services company is 77.8%. The best-performing companies, however, were able to maintain rates of around 98%.
These are ballpark figures because of the vast variations between different industry sectors and the different ways that rates are determined. They do, however, provide a target for the kind of rates that are practicably achievable.
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.
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.
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.
Another 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 mobile workforce management systems allows this to be easily tracked in real-time. A system such as MyMobileWorkers uses a smartphone app to provide post-job ratings.