Medical Device News Magazine

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Creating Competitive Excellence in Medical-device Service Teams By: Sidney Lara

Winning leaders measure the right things and build consistent skills

One Monday afternoon, a hematology analyzer at a small-town hospital broke down. The manufacturer’s service unit sent out a technician from a nearby office, and the analyzer was back in operation within a few hours.

Just eight days later, on a Tuesday evening, the hematology analyzer appeared to have the same problem, broken yet again and required another service call.

Here’s the question: Will the hospital lab director consider the first service call a success, one that led to a satisfactory outcome? Or do repeated calls make this experience a failure in the eyes of the customer? Equally important, how will that dissatisfaction affect the lab director’s recommendation the next time the hospital needs to purchase a new hematology analyzer?

No matter how frustrated the customer might be, some medical device service leaders would view that first call — the one that didn’t provide a long-term solution — as successful. After all, the problem appeared to have been fixed seven days later. And seven-day, first-time fix rates are the most common key performance indicator when it comes to measuring the success of a service organization.

However, defining FTF in arbitrary time increments (7 days, 14 days, or 21 days) will inevitably create blind spots. Field service teams should be focused on delivering great customer experiences, not just hitting their numbers.

Some KPIs fail to deliver customer satisfaction

The ultimate goal of a med-device service organization is to foster satisfied and deeply loyal customers. Service executives carry the responsibility of providing that service as cost-efficiently as possible. But cost efficiencies are short-sighted if they cause unhappy customers.

Recent research finds the medical device service sector is littered with KPIs that fail to provide the visibility that leaders need to build great teams and deliver excellent service. Among the research findings:

  • Traditional KPIs alone mean nothing. Most of the commonly used KPIs don’t equal customer sentiment. Knowledge of your key-performance indicators doesn’t provide much insight about whether you’re meeting your customers’ expectations.
  • First-time fix rates (FTF), which track how well a service technician is able to fix a medical device or mechanical issue on the first try, are particularly troublesome. This KPI, widely used in service organizations across the medical equipment sector, has hovered around 75 percent for more than a decade. No matter how it’s measured — seven days without a return call, 14 days, 21 days — this indicator has been stagnant for all but a few organizations for the better part of a decade. FTF also misses the major costs of a failed first visit, including an average of 2.5 additional visits and 20 additional days to resolve the problem.
  • Even at a 75 percent FTF rate, service organizations are required to make at least one return visit to fix the problem in one out of every four cases. This is a major hindrance on customer satisfaction for medical device service organizations and overall healthcare network efficiency.
  • The use of short windows to measure FTF rates — say, seven days — lends itself to quick-and-dirty solutions that may not solve the root issue. A better measurement is a 30-day FTF rate, which strips out most of the false positives created by duct-tape solutions.

This begs the question: Which performance indicators are tracked by highly successful service organizations in the med-device sector, and how are they putting this data to use to build long-lasting customer satisfaction?

KPIs that work

Some less commonly used KPIs provide good visibility. The best medical device service organizations are focused on solving problems that directly link back to customer experience, and they’re finding success using some of the following KPIs:

  • The KPI dubbed “mean time to resolution” tracks how much time passes after the first call from a customer until the problem is resolved. In the past year, top organizations have cut this figure to 2.9 days. The poorest performers take more than four times as long—13.5 days. The 10-day difference means the world to customers, especially in the demanding healthcare industry with devices ensuring patient safety and wellbeing.
  • Measurement of “cost per success,” also delivers useful data. Unlike KPIs such as “cost per truck roll” or “cost per work order,” calculation of the total cost of success provides insight into work that involves multiple work orders and multiple service calls to resolve the same core issue.
  • Metrics such as “mean time between failures” and “mean time between visits” are proving to be useful tools to illuminate expertise. Skilled service technicians use their time wisely and make sure medical devices are running properly before they leave, extending the time between failures. The best-performing organizations are returning to customer locations once every 133 days; the poorest, once every 62 days. The less that a customer needs a service tech on site, the better. This is a powerful indicator that the customer’s needs are being met.

No single KPI by itself provides a good picture of customer satisfaction. Rather, the best field-service leaders in the medical device sector need to rely on a combination of KPIs to track the performance of their teams. New tools powered by artificial intelligence deliver the sophisticated analysis that provide the visibility into the performance that leaders need.

Equally important: No KPI should ever be gamed to make a team look good. A KPI helps illuminate customer satisfaction, and that’s the name of the game.

Industry transformation

The transformation of the medical-device sector — and the service organizations that keep it running — is unfolding at a rapid pace. Sophisticated new equipment and rising customer expectations create an urgent demand for a highly skilled workforce for repairs and preventive maintenance, moving away from a break-fix model.

Medical device companies increasingly recognize that consistent, data-driven service excellence provides a competitive advantage and makes a positive contribution to profitability. The challenges faced by service leaders in the medical field are growing more complex, which is why more are investing in data and analytics tools that go beyond basic stats.

Standard dashboards that simply report KPIs like first time fix or cost per work order, can’t guide executives to look at top priorities or pinpoint the most critical business issue.  Service leaders need a trusted source for data-driven decision making that enables them to improve customer experience like never before, making service intelligence a welcome sight in the medical device repair world.

Customers expect unrivaled service from the field-service teams who repair and maintain medical devices. It’s up to the leaders in the field to commit to KPIs that provide the right information and the data that allows them to accurately measure their teams’ progress toward excellent results.

Editor’s Note: Sidney Lara is currently the Service Principal at Aquant, a software company focused on bringing service intelligence to field service organizations through AI and data-powered platforms. Sidney is passionate about eliminating waste from business processes and focusing on the activities creating value for customers. Prior to joining Aquant, Sidney worked for RATIONAL USA as Vice President of Service.

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