Tools and Techniques for Success
The best service managers, according to Peterson, are adept at using the accounting package, understand what drives the financials, and are masters of the PSA tool. “They have the know-how to configure their PSA in a way that not only gets the job done, but also allows them good reporting so they can analyze what happened,” he says. “And they have to have that curiosity to always be asking why.”
Kane cautions against drowning in too much data and prefers “management by exception.” While PSAs and RMMs have some reporting capability, he advises utilizing a business intelligence tool like BrightGauge or Cognition360 to pull in key performance indicators from various data sources with a dashboard for alerts. “There's too much data for you to be able to practically keep track of what's going on, so you need some way to be able to be alerted, or at least monitor and be able to step in if things are off track right,” he says.
Etheridge agrees. “If you're not careful, and we found ourselves to be victims of this at times, you'll look at all the information and not focus on the things that are most important.” Logic Speak uses BrightGauge and dashboard alerts to spot potential problems with KPIs, which include customer satisfaction and total ticket backlog. “There is an inverse relationship between our backlog going up and our customer satisfaction going down,” he says.
What his service manager doesn’t track as a KPI, he adds, is the number of open tickets. “We still look at it, but we try not to track how many tickets are open because that creates this sense of, we’re never catching up. Because as you know, tickets are never going to go to zero.” Tracking open tickets creates “a rat race feeling” that creates a hurry-up mentality that is counterproductive to doing a good job, he says.
No matter what tools or KPIs you focus on, Kane notes, they “won't solve your people problems.” Instead, he stresses, spending time with the team and gaining their loyalty and respect is critical. “One of the highest value activities that any manager, including the service manager, does is one-on-ones with the staff every week.”
Mistakes to Avoid
While being supportive of the team is critical, too much empathy can trip up a service manager new to the role, says Peterson. For instance, if the service manager was a technician, there may be certain tasks he or she disliked doing and decides, “So now that I'm service manager, I'm not going to force people to do it,” he explains.
Service managers also need to remember that they’re no longer an individual contributor. “Your success as a service manager is determined by the success of your team,” says Kane, “and that's not something that is inherently understood for a lot of people in this role.”