Does improving first-time fix rates sound too hard or like someone else’s problem?

So many Service Managers strive to achieve FTFR because they know this builds customer satisfaction and success but also helps to retain engineers because no one feels good leaving a job unresolved. However, if you go one step further and show what a 10% improvement looks like in terms of financial value, then you are more likely to get the support you need to improve FTFR, because for many businesses customer satisfaction sadly doesn’t get the same attention as profitability, despite how closely these are linked.

Until we can measure it, we can’t improve it

So many businesses don’t know their first-time fix rate, or kid themselves that it’s for Service Managers alone to improve and they get lost in the same old excuses – ‘until we can measure it, we can’t improve it’, or ‘it’s down to their management so we can’t do anything about it’ – this approach will get you nowhere, whilst allowing your competitors to get ahead.

Simple improvement value calculation

In very simple terms if you know how many jobs you currently complete in a year, you can work out the average time per job and the average revenue per job. So, if you currently complete 50,000 jobs in a year, with an average revenue fee £350 per job, freeing up time by improving first-time fix rate, so you can do just 10% more jobs, that’s 5,000 more jobs per year, which could generate £1.7m in extra revenue. When you crunch these basic numbers, you realise this is about profitability and efficiency as well as customer and employee satisfaction. But most importantly you can stop kidding yourself that improving FTFR is all down to Service Manager’s improving their communication – because this alone can’t deliver the potential return your business is missing out on.

How to improve first-time fix rates

If you keep it simple there are just two basic requirements to achieving high levels of first-time fix rates 1. Allocating the right engineer (i.e., someone with the skills, experience, and availability to resolve the issue) and 2. Having the right part(s) because approximately half of all service visits require a part. There are many calculations for first-time fix rates but however you measure it, the point is to be consistent in the measures you use and be clear on the things you need to do differently to make the improvements.

Top-performing service businesses maintain high FTFR because they enable teams to send the right engineer based on their skill set, parts, availability and location to the right job at the right time, giving them the best chance of completing the job in one visit: improving first-time fixes, reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction. When you understand all the variables that need to be considered quickly, it’s clear a system needs to capture and maintain the correct data that includes engineer skillset, van inventory, locations and routes, plus customer contract requirements, to give Service Managers the information they need to allocate jobs effectively. Without a capable system, a job comes in and it’s quite common for a Service Manager to allocate an engineer without knowing if they can actually do the job, nor if they have the parts they will need. Well-meaning Managers can waste time phoning Engineers often sending the first person who answers, whereas the best person for the job maybe a couple of hours away but will at least be able to complete the job when they arrive. The time wasted when jobs aren’t fixed first time is astronomical for service businesses and their customers. Each second visit could be a new job-generating extra revenue and customers can incur more downtime when they have to wait another day for another engineer or part – think about it, would you rather someone arrived 5 hours later and fixed the problem than a quick initial response that only leads to another visit the next day, never mind how much management time is wasted explaining to customers why another visit is needed. If your system can’t capture the correct data, you are unlikely to improve FTFR until you update to one that does.

Achieving marginal gains

When you start to send the right engineer to the right job at the right time, you are capturing data that enables even further marginal gains – you can identify where engineers are lacking skills and experience, resolve with training and improve the flexibility of your team, making it even easier to improve first-time fix rates. You can also provide the evidence when customers have repeat problems that may be causing repeat service visits and then you can start working with them to resolve root causes, building even further customer loyalty.

Profitability, Satisfaction, or both

Whether you’re motivated by customer satisfaction or profitability first, without a doubt first-time fix rates can’t be improved without giving Service Managers intelligent data they can use to make a difference. You’re wasting time screaming at Service Managers to be more organised, manage time better, improve engineers’ efficiency as this can’t be achieved by just management skills alone – only once you take responsibility for providing effective systems that can capture and process all the data variables and present meaningful options to Service Managers then there are real improvements in FTFR to be had and real value to be gained.