Ways to Build High and Better Performing Field Service Teams

This article focuses on ways to build high and better performing field service teams. Richard Albanese has extensive experience in medical imaging with over 35 years in customer service, service delivery, programme management, marketing, manufacturing, and operations roles, most recently serving as VP of Technical Support and Service Training at United Imaging.

Leading and building excellent Field Service Teams


Why did you decide to study engineering?

I grew up as a science fiction enthusiast, devouring works by greats like Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and A.E. van Vogt.
My fascination with technology and electronics led me to tinker with building and repairing various gadgets during my childhood.
However, I found elementary and high school unengaging, which negatively impacted my grades.
My guidance counsellor suggested I enrol in the school’s two-year vocational electronics programme. In this programme, we spent half of each day learning electronics fundamentals and creating projects like trickle chargers for batteries. We also had access to a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer running Basic; and I enjoyed writing small programs that displayed spaceships flying across a star field.
This experience paved the way for me to pursue the electronics engineering technology programme at DeVry University in Columbus, Ohio.

Which famous engineers or scientists do you think are inspirational?

Isaac Asimov

Although not technically an engineer or scientist, he was a great science fiction author who also published many books on basic science and technology covering everything from amino acids to the physics of the universe. Asimov was probably the biggest influence on my early life.

Isaac Asimov Robot Visions book cover

Nicola Tesla

The creator of AC power transmission amongst other great inventions. He was a genius, yet he died destitute. Even so, he was the Elon Musk of the time.

Growing field service teams

When you are looking for a new member of your team, apart from a strong technical background, what are the three most important skills to have?

Whenever I interview a prospective service engineer candidate, I focus on these three areas.

Customer focus

Field Engineers represent the company on the front lines, often becoming the primary point of contact for customers after the initial sale. It’s essential that new technicians embody a customer-centric mindset, prioritising the customer’s needs and satisfaction in every interaction. This ensures not only the smooth operation of equipment but also the fostering of long-term customer relationships.

Problem Solving Skills

A service engineer must possess strong independent problem-solving abilities. I delve into their past experiences with challenging troubleshooting scenarios, asking them to describe the techniques they used to swiftly identify and resolve issues. This not only demonstrates their technical proficiency but also their capacity to think on their feet and handle complex situations effectively.

Emotional intelligence

Handling difficult interpersonal situations is a vital soft skill for any technician. Field Engineers are often dispatched to sites where equipment failures disrupt operations, leading to frustration, anger, and anxiety among customers. In environments like B2B or medical device settings, the stakes are even higher, with significant business impacts or patients awaiting care. An exceptional service engineer must be adept at calming tense situations, managing confrontations with empathy and confidence, and reassuring customers that they can resolve the issue promptly.

picture of field service engineers and their manager

Summary for growing field service teams

By focusing on these areas—customer focus, problem-solving skills, and emotional intelligence—I ensure that the service engineers we bring on board are not only technically capable but also equipped to handle the diverse challenges they will face in the field. This approach helps maintain high standards of customer satisfaction and operational efficiency, ultimately contributing to the company’s success.

How important is it for a manager/team leader to remain hands-on when growing field service teams?

Successful managers and team leaders must deeply understand the work their teams perform daily. However, as organisations grow, maintaining this understanding becomes more challenging. That’s why it’s crucial for leaders to:

“Go to the gemba”.

This is a Japanese term meaning to go where the work is done. Observing and, if possible, assisting in the actual work environment provides invaluable insights. As a technical support service leader, I relish the opportunity to ride along with field engineers and assist on-site whenever I can.

Equally important is understanding how customers use the equipment. Regular visits to customer sites to observe their daily routines are essential. Engage customers with probing questions about the equipment and services you provide to gain a comprehensive understanding of their needs and challenges. Be cautious of the “empty suit” effect, where customers might see you as a disconnected manager and withhold critical information. To avoid this, always do your homework before visits and debrief with the local engineer and salesperson afterward.

Moreover, it’s vital to follow through on any promises made to customers. A personal note or phone call after a visit reinforces your commitment and builds stronger relationships. By staying hands-on and engaged, leaders can ensure they remain connected with both their teams and their customers, driving better performance and satisfaction.

How to successfully manage field service teams globally

How do you build relationships across the team? (with different time zones and distances)

Having managed globally dispersed service teams, I’ve found that building relationships within the group can be very challenging. Ideally you want to bring them together either globally or regionally at least once a year and allow them to interact with each other and build friendships. Collaborative tools like online chats are also key. Lastly, never create barriers to communications in your organisation. Encourage and enable open and honest communication across all levels of the team.

How do you keep communication open with all members of your team?

Frequent and open communication is extremely important to dispersed service teams. During Covid when it was impossible for us to be together, I scrapped my weekly staff meeting format (which was usually just me talking to them with the requisite slides) and replaced it with unstructured 30-minute meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We called these ‘Coffee Corner’ meetings where we could all gather virtually and share any current issues or update each other on what we were working on that week. The meetings were optional, but most people made a point to join the call. These were so successful that we continued this format after the pandemic was over.

How do you motivate your field service team?

In the world of service, it’s a common joke that nobody calls to say everything is going great. Our days are filled with solving problems, and the better we do our job, the more invisible we become to the rest of the company. From my experience, service professionals are motivated by three key factors: Respect, Recognition, and Reward.


Every individual desires and deserves respect. Choosing a career in field service does not make someone any less valuable than a scientist or marketer. Service professionals have selected this field because they thrive on independence, enjoy solving problems, and take pride in helping people. It’s essential to show them the respect they rightfully deserve.


I often refer to Field Engineers in healthcare as “unsung heroes.” These dedicated individuals are on call 24/7, ready to drop everything, load up their vehicle, and head to a customer site at a moment’s notice. They often work through the night to ensure a customer’s equipment is up and running. As leaders, we must recognise and celebrate their extraordinary efforts and achievements.


Rewarding exceptional performance is crucial for maintaining motivation. This can take the form of spot bonuses, paid time off, or even tickets to a family event. Additionally, it’s vital for Field Engineers to have a clear vision of their career path. Whether advancing to a higher pay grade or transitioning to another position, they should know that continued outstanding performance will lead to career growth and opportunities within the company.


By focusing on these three areas—Respect, Recognition, and Reward—we can ensure that our service professionals feel valued and motivated. So that we enable them to continue to perform at their best and drive success for the entire organisation.

How do you improve confidence in those in the field service team who need it?

One effective method I employ to bolster the confidence of service professionals is by purposefully placing them in situations or assigning tasks that might initially lie outside their comfort zone. However, I ensure there’s a robust support network in place should they encounter challenges, and I provide continuous encouragement throughout the process. I emphasise that mistakes are a natural part of growth and coach them to strive for their best effort. Witnessing their success in overcoming these challenges visibly boosts their confidence levels.

How do you support someone in your team when things have gone wrong because of a mistake?

We all make mistakes. I make them all the time. In fact, I look to myself first whenever something goes wrong. Did I make the objective clear? Did I put the right person on the task? Were the processes in place to ensure success? I encourage people to push their boundaries and coach them that failure is OK, and to ‘fail fast,’ learn from it, and move on from it.

Recruiting and building field service teams without bias (conscious or unconscious)

Recruiting excellent teams of field engineers example group

How do you recruit, lead, manage and build teams of people with:

More experience/older

Recognise what they have accomplished in their career and show them the respect they deserve. Leverage their experience to help coach and mentor the younger people or new hires on the team.

Different gender, background, education, sector, industry

Having managed a global team, I value the different perspectives and experiences people bring to the table. I look to leverage their unique talents and viewpoints in support of the success of the whole team. Often, they will present solutions or approaches I may not have considered given my own personal experience.

Who have worked for themselves or in a very small organisation

Coming from a small organisation into a larger one can be a big change for someone. They will find they have fewer degrees of freedom and limited decision making. However, I recognise that they may have experienced and solved the same types of problems, just at a smaller scale and with faster results. I try to encourage them to keep bringing these ideas to the table but also to recognise the need to build consensus across the organisation and to be collaborative with others. I also coach them on the fundamentals of change management giving them skills they may not have needed in the past.

Without English as a first language

There is an old joke that goes something like this:

“People who speak three languages are trilingual.
Then people who speak two are bilingual.
However, people who speak one are American.”

In these cases, I recognise that the other person speaks more languages than I and I respect that skill set. You must be patient and stop the urge to think less of someone just because they are not fluent in English. Again, I respect the fact that they know more languages than I do.

Are very technical and skilled but with low literacy

This is a difficult situation, unless the literacy issue is related to language skills (see above). In our world, Field Engineers need to be able to read technical manuals and procedures. It would be unlikely that I would hire someone into that role who does not possess basic reading skills. However, if I did, I would be sure to first assign them tasks that do not require reading skills and I would encourage them to go to training to improve their literacy skills.

Are nearing retirement

Celebrate their accomplished career and help them plan for the big day! Keep them motivated by asking them to assist with mentoring the next generation and help them leave behind a great legacy with the company. They made a mark and are part of the company history, be proud of that!

Who are actively looking for another role

I measure my success as a people leader by how many people I have coached and mentored into bigger and better roles in the company. If this is not impacting performance, I work with them as a career coach and help them get the skills they need to take the next step. If it is impacting performance, then we have performance management discussion to see if it is related to job dissatisfaction and put in place plans to try to mutually address the situation.

Are undergoing difficult home circumstances (divorce, bereavement, illness..) or coping with a disability

Be empathetic. Give them the space they need and/or someone to talk to. Every person and every situation is different. Offer to help but, if they are not open to that, don’t press the issue.

The author – Richard Albanese, Field Service Team Leader

Richard Albanese

Prior to United Imaging, Richard spent 15 years at Philips Healthcare where he was a senior member of the global services leadership team. He also created the global customer services strategy and led the reliability and serviceability programmes for the imaging system business. Prior to that, Richard was the global customer service leader for the Philips Nuclear Medicine business, where he was instrumental in the successful introduction of PET/CT to the market and delivering world class customer satisfaction. Richard has also managed international teams of business process experts, service engineering specialists and field-based technical support engineers. Prior to Philips, Richard worked at both large, mid-size, and startup firms in the medical imaging industry, including GE, USA Instruments, and Picker/Marconi Medical Systems. Richard brings a broad technical knowledge of all medical imaging modalities to the team.

Richard is passionate about customers and customer-facing employees and has spent his career working to improve service delivery and customer satisfaction. He is a people-oriented coach and mentor to his team and enjoys developing the leaders of the future.

Richard holds a degree in Electronics Engineering from DeVry Institute and an MBA from John Carroll University. He is married and has a son. Richard enjoys the outdoors, woodworking, and home remodelling.

Further reading about teams of Field Service Engineers

Being a Humble Leader of Field Service Engineers

How to build successful global technical field support teams

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