If you are working in field engineering as well as being technically skilled, you need to be able to build and maintain trust.
There are three places to focus on building trust:
Within your team
With the whole of your organisation
With customers – each one
Your own principles and code
First of all, take the time to decide what are the principles you want to adhere to at work. You can do this by asking and answering these questions:
Why do you personally consider trust is a key part of a working relationship?
Why is trust important to you?
What is your own code of trust?
Elements of trust
What are the elements of trust?
There are three.
Positive relationships: establishing them and building/nurturing them.
Showing good judgement and expertise.
Consistency: especially following through on promises and commitments as well as going above and beyond what you have been asked to do.
Building trust within your field engineering team
It is important that a team agrees on the key principles and what their code will be. At the same time, you will create a culture of sharing within the team.
To create your code, break it down into five steps. How will you do the following for your code of trust:
Put the code into practice
These are six practical things which will help to build trust within your team.
Make it important to be open to feedback and to communicate what is happening when you are on site – the positives and the negatives.
Share your knowledge, help others with information and offering support.
Don’t feel that you are working in a vacuum even if you are on your own most of the time.
Humans are fallible and making mistakes is part of this. Don’t hide things but share what has gone wrong or has been difficult. Don’t just share the things which went wrong or that you need help with, also share the clever fixes!
If someone else makes a mistake, help them to learn from it. Also, consider if you or others within the team can learn from it.
Introduce new engineers to your client with a good build up as you will have planted the seeds of trust for them.
Building trust with clients
Excellent field engineers do not just do the technical job but also build satisfaction, loyalty, and trust with the client.
If a client trusts you, then they will turn into a long term customer and/or a customer who recommends you to others.
A short answer to the best way to build trust is to always do your best work, as trust will grow automatically from this. However, what else can you do? There are four areas to focus on.
Don’t leave too soon
At the end of a site visit, don’t take shortcuts. Instead, always take the time to explain what you have done and what you will do in future as well as what couldn’t be done.
Find out what you don’t know
Technology is changing all the time so all field engineers, no matter the level of experience, will face new challenges and issues. If you don’t know something, say you don’t, but that you will find out and come back to them with the answer.
Be reliable and arrive on time whenever possible. If you are going to be late, tell the client in advance and give a reason. If you are always on time, then the one time you are not will be easily forgiven and your client will probably assume it was due to circumstances beyond your control.
Make sure you always listen to everything your client tells or asks you. It will help you fix what is wrong and will also give you data to feedback to your team. Tailor your communication so that you are giving the ideal amount of technical information and detail. You will have some clients who want a lot of information, some who want to know all the technical detail, some who just want an overview etc.
Building trust with the rest of the organisation
It is key to always feedback what you are learning from the client. How can you do this?
Pass on what you know on a regular basis.
Discuss any potential leads with the sales team.
Give feedback on documentation and what could be improved or clarified.
If another department has helped with an issue, let them know about the outcome and pass on thanks.
Help build the preventative maintenance (PM) models with your feedback.
Building a toolkit
You can build trust by using a toolkit for each of the three areas: team, organisation, clients. Think again about the elements of trust:
Showing good judgement and expertise
Then consider these questions:
Which is most important?
Do you need all three?
Which should you work on first? Or should you work on all three together?
Which do you personally need to work on?
The answer may be different for each of the three areas, but there will be some overlap. Plus, there will be synergy, as you create more trust with clients, you will automatically be more trusted within your team and the organisation as a whole.
Building trust takes time and energy, but it is much easier to build trust than to have to rebuild it when it has been lost.
This article outlines some of the ways to build trust as a field engineer. However, there are many more to consider. What tips do you have for building trust as a field engineer or manager of a team of field engineers?