Field service reps in many industries, including HVAC, plumbing, and other service niches, are considered essential. In fact, many of these companies are providing much-needed services while everyone else is under stay-at-home orders even after the quarantine. Families at home — or essential businesses such as grocery stores — certainly can not wait until after the coronavirus crisis is over definitively for toilets or sinks to be fixed.
Whether your business provides installations in residential properties, makes deliveries, or offers commercial cleaning services, one thing is true: Your employees are driving and walking into potential risk on a daily basis. How can you keep field services moving after quarantine while also protecting your employees and customers? Start with some of the tips below.
Create Practices to Help Protect Employees and Customers
Start by championing practices that help you protect your staff, yourself, and your customers.
For example, you can require employees to take their temperatures before they come in to work each day. If someone has a fever, they should stay home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that a fever is 100.4 degrees F or higher.
Make sure your employees know how to effectively take their temperature to ensure accuracy. The CDC says:
- Wait 30 minutes after exercising, eating, or drinking, because those activities can cause inaccurate readings. You might also want to wait a bit after showering or bathing.
- Wait 6 hours after taking medication that can lower temperature, including aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen.
Next, call ahead and let customers know someone is coming out for a field or service call. Ask customers if anyone in the home has been sick with a fever or suspects they might have COVID-19. This might seem like a shocking invasion of privacy, but many clients may be willing to provide an answer because they know your staff needs to protect themselves.
Have a plan for responding if a client does have COVID-19 in the home. For example, you might need to reschedule non-emergency service calls for a later time. If you feel that it’s absolutely necessary to provide a service to a home or business with a known coronavirus case, weigh all the risks, be completely transparent with employees, and ask for volunteers rather than demand someone put themselves in that situation. You should also work with local resources and experts as well as the client to make any such service call as safe as possible.
Integrate these new processes, such as checking in with clients before arriving at homes, into your field service scheduling and routing software.
Invest in Protective Equipment and Supplies
Provide your employees with appropriate protection whenever possible. Many field service teams already understand the idea of protective equipment — for example, service techs have donned booties over work boots to keep mud or dirt from client homes for years. Help your teams take this attitude up a notch with equipment and supplies that might include:
- Hand sanitizer. Field reps can quickly clean hands after sharing documents with customers or even just touching doors as they exit and enter various places throughout their workday.
- Gloves. Field workers might already wear protective gloves while working with tools or installation equipment. If that’s the case, consider working with teams to provide extras so they don’t wear the same gloves into each situation and spread potential germs. Alternatively, provide disposable gloves or sanitizing spray to clean gloves off between jobs.
- Provide masks for your teams and ask them to wear them whenever they’re out in public or entering a client’s premises. They can let clients know from a safe social distance that they will be donning a mask to protect both the client and themselves.
Whether you’re managing a fleet or a small team, consider putting someone in charge of ensuring the right protective equipment is ordered and stocked. Keep some on-hand in supply closets, but also ensure that equipment makes it to trucks and toolboxes for regular use by teams.
Encourage Good Hygiene — Personally and in Processes
When the CDC issued the recommendation to wear cloth masks as a way to combat the spread of COVID-19, it was quick to reiterate that previous measures, including social distancing and hand washing, were still incredibly important. Encourage employees to continue to take these recommendations to heart and practice good hygiene themselves and in their work processes.
Some things to encourage include:
- Washing hands. The CDC provides hand washing guidance you can use to provide training to employees on proper techniques. It also provides a list of all the times you should wash your hands, which includes after handling money, touching garbage, eating, or using the toilet. Companies might consider including hand washing reminders in software programs representative’s access from the road or adding portable hand washing stations to service trucks.
- Changing clothes. Encourage employees to change clothes as soon as they get home and launder work clothing daily. Alternatively, offer a changing station at the office so employees never need to wear dirty clothing home. You can also invest in commercial laundering services to ensure field reps always have a clean, professional-looking, uniform to wear.
- Avoid touching things. Remind employees to be more cognizant of what they touch when working in the field. Something as simple as leaning against a client’s counter or going through an unnecessary door are something to avoid right now. They don’t need to be paranoid or act in a germophobic manner, but they also shouldn’t touch or interact with surfaces unnecessarily.
- Avoid shaking hands. In this new pandemic world, good manners are being redefined. Employees shouldn’t feel the need to shake hands with clients; they can even explain that they are not shaking hands to protect everyone. Customers probably aren’t in a rush to shake hands with someone who worked with six other clients that day anyway.
Review All Processes and Make Changes as Needed
These are just some ways you can make field services moving after the coronavirus quarantine, but it’s important to remember that so many things are anormal right now. As a result, people are generally on a higher alert when it comes to germs and interactions with others.
Take time to review all your processes and look for ways you can provide assurance to both employees and customers while helping keep everyone as safe as possible. Then use your CRM and field service software to communicate these changes with all the appropriate people.
Being proactive — and transparent — about the actions you’re taking helps increase confidence and ensures clients are comfortable calling on your teams to help with their needs. That type of trust can help your business stay afloat during this time and keep more of your employees in the field, at work, and with a paycheck.
Manale is a passionate about digital marketing. She joined STILOG I.S.T in 2018.
She brings SEO & SEA expertise, email marketing and creative content marketing to create a great brand experience for Visual Planning customers.