It’s a common challenge for any company that relies on a team of remote field workers. Those team members are critical to your success. They may provide service to your customers or support to your branch locations. But they often spend their days alone in a service truck or working out of an in-home office. When they do interact with the rest of the team it’s during service calls or infrequent group meetings.
Given their detachment from the in-house team, how do you keep your field workers engaged? How do you help them feel like they’re part of the team and that they’re a part of your mission? What are the best strategies to help them meet your standards of service and embrace your culture?
To some extent, your field workers will never fully participate in your culture in the same way your in-house employees do. Your office staff spends 40 hours or more every week with their coworkers. It’s difficult to replicate that experience for field workers who mostly operate independently.
However, there are steps you can take to better support your field workers and keep them engaged. Below are a few strategies you can implement to improve your field staff relationship and your results:
1. Use Video Whenever Possible
It’s easy today to rely on rapid forms of communication like text, chat, and email. While those methods may be efficient, they may not be the most effective way to build a relationship. It’s easy to lose track of context in chat and email. You may not pick up on a person’s sense of humor. You certainly can’t use non-verbal communication to build and enhance the relationship.
All of those things are important when it comes to building rapport with a coworker. That’s why face-to-face communication is still important in the digital age. Fortunately, you have options available to talk face-to-face with your remote workers. Video chat tools like Skype can help you have those one-on-one conversations.
You also may want to look at field service management (FSM) software that includes video chat. With a few clicks, you can talk face-to-face with a field worker and you can both look at important job information together. That can help you build rapport and save time.
2. Implement an Efficient Communication System
Uncertainty can often be the biggest frustration for remote workers. They have to build their daily schedule, but they may be uncertain of when or how they’ll get the necessary information from you. Are they waiting on a text or email with job information? What time will they get it? How can they get the fastest response if they have questions?
Create a formal set of communication guidelines to govern how you communicate with your field team. Which methods are most efficient and effective? When should they expect job assignments and relevant information? How should they ask questions and how quickly should they expect a response?
Again, FSM software can streamline this process. You can chat with your field workers directly in the software, and those messages go straight to their phone, tablet, or other device. Communication is logged in the software with job information and other relevant data, so everything related to your field team is in one place.
3. Include Them as Part of the Team
Your field workers may never have the same experience as in-office staff, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make efforts to include them as part of the team. Interaction with your in-house team can help build rapport and relationships.
Look for opportunities to include your field workers. If there’s a team meeting that may be helpful, include them via conference call or video chat. If you’re running contests or fun giveaways to in-office employees, find a way for the field team to participate. You may even bring the field team in town to meet the rest of the staff in person.
4. Solicit Their Input
Finally and perhaps most importantly, let your field workers know that their input is valuable. Ask them about their communication preferences. How do they want to communicate with you? How frequently and through which methods?
If you decide to implement FSM software, ask the field team for their thoughts. What parts of their job are most frustrating? How could they be more productive and efficient? Could software help them overcome their most difficult challenges? You may even ask some of your field team to test out a few different FSM software options so they’re included in the process.
Your field team is critical to your goals. Whether they’re customer-facing or if they provide internal support, they’re a key component of your overall strategy. Embrace them as part of your mission and culture. Implement these tips to strengthen your field service relationships and communication.