Managing a field support team

Sakher Fadaleh’s insights on managing a medical and scientific instrument field support team

Any manager of a field support team must balance the care and support of their team of field engineers, and the care and support of their customers.

Sakher Fadaleh is a Technical Support and Validation Specialist for analytical research and medical instruments for Thermo Fisher Scientific. Sakher is based in Jordan and manages a service team covering Africa and Asia. The service team installs Liquid, Gas and Ion Chromatography, Mass spectroscopy, Molecular, and Elemental instruments.

Sakher Fadaleh

A Manager’s insights on what makes a great team leader

Sakher shared his insights and experience on what makes a great team leader.

What are the key things a successful Service Team Leader should focus on in your area of work?

There are five key things:

The technical background for the leader or manager must be very strong. It can help the leader to understand the engineers’ problems and estimate the quality of their services.

Organization of the tasks between the engineers and follow up the performance of them is very important because that will make a great impression for the clients. In my company, the service department secretary phones the clients when each FSE has finished his/her job to see if they are satisfied with our services or not. Any problems, issues or concerns are immediately flagged to me.
I don’t send a junior engineer to a new client even if they are well qualified. The client is clever and can determine the experience of your engineer, we must make a great impact on the first visit to a new client. Seniority is key in showing respect in some countries.

Communication is a very important issue in our job. We don’t allow the clients to contact the engineers directly to inform them about their problems. We ask that they call the service coordinator in the office to open a ticket. Then we follow up and assign an engineer.

Because the engineers spend most of their time in the field, they can’t see their manager frequently. So, I suggest that managers and team leaders arrange monthly meetings to see each other and discuss all issues. It works best to make the meeting outside of the office.

Structure of a Service Team

How is your team structured?
I am the Technical Support Manager and have:
Two Senior Engineers
Two Junior Engineers
Two Application Specialists
We also have a Service Coordinator who is responsible for:
receiving the service calls from each client
opening tickets
distributing the tasks according to my directions
preparing the service contracts
administering spare parts

chromatography instrument

Developing engineers

How do your junior engineers get experience when clients only want someone senior?
I always send a senior engineer with a junior engineer to teach him/her and to build trust with clients. This also helps the team of engineers to have relationships with each other.
How can you train your junior engineers to show respect and gravitas with clients?
Junior engineers must listen carefully to the client’s issue or complaint. They need to understand exactly what the client wants, and precisely what the issue is before starting to work.
Sometimes the engineer will find that the instrument has not been used correctly. They need to explain this to the client so that the problem does not become more serious. However, this needs to be done with care and tact.


How key is paperwork?
After finishing the technical part of the job, the engineer needs to write a service report. I ask that the service report after each client visit answers three questions:
What was the problem?
How did you fix the problem?
Were spare parts required, and if so, what were they?
The report needs to be clear and well written as it is part of our system of customer care.


How do you handle things if client is not happy?
The first thing I do is to find out exactly why the client is not happy, and exactly what the issue is. Listening skills are key here! Then, it is my role to explain things and to find a solution.
How do you stop your most senior engineer/best engineer becoming overburdened?
In my company we have a policy to prevent this. For example, if we predict that the business needs one junior and one senior engineer, then we employ two senior and two junior engineers. This policy means that none of our engineers are overburdened, and clients never wait long for field support to arrive.


Travel costs

You cover a huge geographical area. How often do you send two engineers to one job?
Sending two engineers to one job is very positive. It helps a lot as the senior engineer has someone to help, and the junior engineer has a great learning opportunity.
However, if there is a lot of travel involved, I try to avoid doing this too often.

Further reading

The Field Engineer looked at team support in this previously published blog:

How can you support your team of engineers when they are in the field

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