Tips for meeting your SLAs
SLAs often form the basis of any customer relationship. They help customers set reasonable expectations and hold their suppliers accountable. Meeting them builds trust. Missing them leads to a breakdown of relationships, cost penalties, and eventually a changing of suppliers.
In order to compete, field service companies need to be adept at meeting their SLAs, but as an industry the bar for compliance is very high. Top performing companies regularly reach a 90 percent compliance rate (source). With such a high benchmark, companies that fail to meet expectations do-so at their own risk. However, continually meeting SLAs can also be a big selling point when trying to attract new business.
If you are a company that isn’t quite meeting the 90 percent benchmark or is, but think you could achieve an even higher standard. Here are a few tips to help:
Invest in technology to improve supply chain visibility
Technology is able to offer some big improvements in field services, but is still yet to be fully implemented across the market. Just under half of field services companies still use some manual systems to manage their supply chain. The problem with these kinds of manual processes is that they are prone to human error and with a benchmark as high as 90 percent, a single error can prove very costly.
However, technology is able to offer more benefits than just error reduction. By using technology to track items in your supply chain, stock levels can be topped up automatically to ensure you are not missing the parts you need for customer jobs. Stock visibility also opens up the possibility of dynamically rerouting stock, which can be vital in keeping compliance levels high. For example, if an employee is sick or unable to make a job, but stock was already on route, missing an SLA maybe the only option. With full tracking it is possible to re-route stock in transit to someone else so the job doesn’t get missed. This may seem like a small issue, but with an estimated 4.3 days per worker lost to sickness every year, not having the facilities to cope can quickly add up to a big cost.
Work with your suppliers
Just as an SLA holds you accountable to your customers, holding your suppliers accountable is equally as important. Field service companies rarely operate in isolation and will often rely on suppliers to provide the parts needed to meet their SLAs. It makes sense therefore, to ensure you have agreements in place with suppliers to provide protection should things go wrong. However, it is also important to work with suppliers to provide an overall better service. Often efficiencies can be found in collaboration. For instance, the process of ordering engineer consumables can be made much quicker by working with your supplier to deliver the parts directly to the engineer, as opposed to your warehouse first.
A simple tip that can be very valuable is to use historic data to plan ahead. Many field service markets are subject to seasonal trends; boiler companies might notice a drop in demand in the summer and a pickup in the winter. This is very predictable, but historical data can also point you towards trends that you might not expect. Preparing for these trends is an important part of satisfying your customers and has even been shown to increase turnover by four percent.
SLAs can be based on a variety of different metrics dependant on the customer, but in field services these typically will be centred on: offering a more reliable service, offering a service within a specific timeframe and providing a good service for the end user. Often these will be interlinked; offering a good service to the end user will require your engineers to be reliable and on time.
All of these areas can be improved by applying the tips above and because of the interlinking nature, improvements in one area can be beneficial for the whole process.
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