Improving First Time Fix Rates for the Unusual Break-Fix Calls

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A recent blog post, “Don’t Call Us Clueless,” written by product and market strategist Joe Barkai, echoes some things that CaseBank has been saying for a long time. Yes, most service repair situations are routine. Barkai wrote: “Unlike the sentiment prevailing in some SLM software vendor presentations, most service incidents are fairly routine and repetitive. Experienced technicians can identify the root cause and necessary repair activity quite easily, and have very little need for bulky service manuals containing superfluous information, fancy animation, or cumbersome and potentially dangerous wearable augmented reality devices.”

It’s the exceptional, or “long-tail” situations that are more difficult to diagnose and repair because they require access to more extensive technician knowledge. Because of those non-routine incidents, first time fix rates (FTFR) and mean time to repair (MTTR) rates suffer. Joe Barkai agrees— noting that in his study of the automotive OEMs, “in some extreme cases, there were as many as five repair attempts before a problem was fully resolved.” This is costly and unnecessary. See the image below for an illustration of the relationship between unscheduled maintenance events and long tail failure modes in a case study involving office equipment:

Long-Tail Failure Modes
Click to enlarge this graphic.

Most of the service incidents out there have been seen and solved already by someone on the field service team, IF one can find the technician who has the knowledge. Despite the instant access of mobile and chat technologies, the solution to sharing technician knowledge across time and space does not lie in help desk support because, like field service technicians, the expertise on hand changes with each work shift, new hire, promotion and retirement. Nor does the solution lie in traditional fault isolation manuals, searchable customer portals or in-service activity reports, because each of those is difficult to keep up to date and consistent and can be cumbersome to search/use.

The key to quickly finding accurate answers that resolve long-tail, or infrequent, service incidents is a dynamic, electronic troubleshooting database. This is not to be confused with a searchable repository, which can be too large and cumbersome to use because it typically delivers too many search results. Ideally, a dynamic troubleshooting database captures all of the symptoms, causes and solutions for every known failure mode for a specific type of equipment; this database of known equipment issues helps identify the root cause of an equipment problem, and asks the user relevant and appropriate questions that lead to a qualified, validated answer.

Barkai hit the nail on the head with his summary of the situation when he wrote, “This is not to say that service technicians will not benefit from better technologies and information aids. Only these need to focus on reducing the knowledge gaps that are encountered when the technician is challenged by one of those infrequent problems.”

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