By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
At this year’s Future of Field Service Live Tour stop in Minneapolis, I had a chance to feature the wisdom of Gyner Ozgul, President and COO of Smart Care Equipment Solutions, which specializes in commercial food service equipment repair.
Smart Care has been in a high-growth mode, acquiring other companies in the market and, in the process, tripling its business over five years. In our interview, Gyner talked a lot about some of the strategies that the company has employed to help manage that growth while maintaining high service levels for customers. That has included things like investing in a modern, sophisticated foundational service management solution, adopting the best practices of some of the companies they have acquired (rather than imposing their own processes in every case), and leveraging repair data to drive predictive maintenance efforts.
He also had a lot of interesting things to say about workforce development that I thought were worth repeating. Technicians make up the biggest part of the Smart Care workforce (two-thirds) and play a key role in maintaining customer relationships. Gyner says the company has taken some really beneficial approaches to training, employee development, and compensation that have helped improve technician retention and customer satisfaction.
Training: As the economy emerged from the COVID pandemic, Gyner says that Smart Care experienced growth that, if you put it on a chart, looked like a hockey stick – a huge increase after a relatively flat period. That meant they needed to hire a lot of new technicians to keep up, and managers were rushing to get those new technicians into the field. As it turned out, that was self-defeating.
“We had a lot of turnover on year-one technicians,” Gyner said. “They were leaving because our onboarding and training experience, frankly, wasn't very good, because it consisted of some qualitative view of some local manager or dispatcher saying this person is ready to go and run service calls.”
To fix this problem, the company adopted a system that relies on experienced technicians that serve as district field trainers. New hires are only released for active duty, so to speak, once that trainer says they are ready, even if managers are chomping at the bit to get them into a truck.
This not only provides buy-in among the other technicians (who are more confident in the abilities of new employees), but also gives the trainers the opportunity to recommend that those new hires work on specific types of equipment. The dispatch tool the company uses can restrict job assignments just to the skills those technicians have.
As a result, Gyner says the company has improved its retention rates on year-one technicians by a whopping 50% this year.
Compensation: Gyner’s views on pay are pretty straightforward – pay the technicians what they deserve to be paid and set expectations for them to enable their success.
“We all have this trepidation [about paying] people what they deserve to be paid,” he said. “I am not one for the carrot [approach] – I will give you $1,000 and I'll give you another $1,000 if you do something right. I'm more like, just give them the $2,000 and help them be successful. If they're not the right person, then they're probably not the right person at $1,000 or $2,000. I say, compensate them well because it's hard to overcome culture if the compensation is not right to begin with, because that person feels they're undervalued immediately.”
Workforce Development: Gyner said it was important to recognize that there are employees in the field that want to work their way up to higher positions, and others that are happy staying put.
For technicians that want to remain in their current positions, it's important to provide training to help them hone their skills and allow them to feel energized in their jobs.
For those that do want to advance, there are tracks available to help them become district field trainers, managers, or even sales representatives.
“We've been very clear to map out each one of those for our technicians, so they feel that this is an organization that no matter what path they take, they can feel supported and be successful,” he said.
But Gyner also pointed out that managers have to recognize which employees fall into which categories and identify team members that might have more to contribute (even if they may not recognize it themselves). Gyner calls these people his bright stars.
“I proactively like to reach out to them and just talk to them. Sometimes not about anything specific, just what's their experience like, what are we doing in the organization I should know about.”
Sometimes those conversations can lead to ideas for new product improvements or processes. “Then I take them, and I'll put them in a little bit of a discovery special project and empower them to go do that,” he said. “They may be or may not be in that work stream function, and that's less relevant to me. I just want to give them an opportunity to go do something and shine.”
You can listen to our full conversation here.