How to Join Forces and Learn from the Field: The Service Manager’s Direct Link to the Customer and the Market
There’s no mistaking that service has become the hero—saving many companies on the brink of failure. As many businesses struggle to compensate for a steady decline in product sales while differentiating themselves from their competition, those on track to succeed have been rescued by adopting a services-related business model. This shift has happened, in large part, because of a growing demand by customers for suppliers to have more of a vested interest in customer outcomes and satisfaction.
From hardware and equipment manufacturing to OEMs and the technology industry, services are picking up the slack (or at least helping mitigate the damages) where old product-centric business models have failed over time. For instance, in TSIA’s The State of Field Services 2018, revenues from the service side of hardware businesses have climbed from 28% to 41% (Q1 2011 to Q3 2017), as product revenue has dropped 56%. TSIA’s research publication notes, however, that service organizations within the hardware industry need to “start moving beyond “product-attached” service offers to solidify their standing in the board room.” They maintain that long-term profitability is possible when companies move from “selling products with attached services to delivering better customer outcomes.”
Who is better positioned to help Service Managers understand and deliver these desired customer outcomes than the Field Service Technician?
Field Service technicians can provide Service Managers a direct link to the customer—offering first-hand experience, practical advice, and unique insight to the market that only someone on the front lines of customer interaction can.
By forming a dynamic duo with field techs, lagging companies can transform their business practices and strategies, ultimately becoming the customer outcome superheroes they were destined to be.
Eyes on the Prize: the Field Service Tech Perspective
Looking at the service life-cycle through the eyes of a field tech will give Service Managers an invaluable real-world perspective and vital customer information. Service organizations can use this information to help establish and measure KPIs, optimize service delivery, provide enhanced customer outcomes, and reach their full potential within the market.
Optimized Customer Service Delivery
The key for Service Managers to facilitate better customer outcomes is find out how to optimize the service cycle. A field service workforce operating at peak efficiency is poised to deliver the service and solutions customers crave. A large piece of the puzzle can be filled with increasing field techs’ wrench time, which ultimately benefits all stakeholders.Techs will tell you (if you ask) that freeing them up from redundant or tedious administrative tasks will allow them to use their talents in a way that makes everyone happy. The Service Council reports that 77% of techs name “solving customer problems” as the favorite aspect of their job. Fortunately, increased wrench time not only keeps the mobile workforce happy but opens time to complete more work orders, which translates into better customer outcomes, and increased revenue for the service organization. Techs can supply their Service Managers specific details on those things that impede on-the-job efficiency.
Here are several field service bottlenecks a field technician may reveal:
• Scheduling issues:Antiquated (manual) paper or ad hoc scheduling processes can force downtime in a couple of ways:
o Techs may frequently have to wait around for modified agendas as dispatchers scramble to respond to emergencies or changing circumstances in the field.
o Manual dispatching systems with no GPS technology also are helpless in finding optimum travel routes, or re-routing techs to avoid traffic or accidents.
• Paperwork:Aside from being the least favorite part of their job (according to TSC’s report), manually completing paperwork and administrative tasks can bog techs down throughout their day.
Techs will undoubtedly share stories of how physically logging in work orders, hours, purchase orders, notes, requisitions, and manually processing invoices prevents them from performing hours of billable service work.
Service Managers will find that millennials in the workforce have definite expectations of technology helping them perform their jobs more efficiently. This growing group of technologically-savvy workers will have little patience for repetitive and arduous tasks they know can be taken off their plate with the right app.
• Unpreparedness:Service Managers may be surprised to find out how many times (through no fault of their own) techs arrive on site without the knowledge, tools, assets, or resources to fix a problem on the initial call. The Aberdeen Group’s study, Excellence in The Field: Put the Customer First, reports this as being a service team’s “first and foremost” objective. The Service Council bears out what many techs already know: the following key resources are accessible to them only half of the time: o Service and account history
o Service manuals
o Knowledge base
o Parts inventory
o Training videos
• Disconnect between Back-Office and the Field
Being improperly matched to the task at hand is another challenge beyond the tech’s control as well. This is a source of frustration to everyone involved, and often is the result of a disconnect between the back office and assets and talent in the field.
This critical component to fulfilling first-time fix rates is part of the dispatcher’s responsibility. Yet, without real-time field visibility, how can the back office be expected to find and dispatch a tech with the necessary skill set and equipment? Add to the mix the extra pressure of responding to an emergency situation, and this task becomes all the more difficult without the aid of intelligent scheduling resources.
Opportunities to Offer Long-Term Service
Allowing techs to do what they do best also helps position them as trusted advisors to the customer.
If Service Managers discover that their techs feel awkward or uncomfortable suggesting maintenance contracts or upselling parts and labor, it is most likely an indicator that they are not properly supported or trained.o SUPPORT:
If a field tech is improperly supported and ultimately unable to perform their jobs efficiently, the customer will not be satisfied. Techs will not be in a position to make credible offers of additional or on-going service.
Conversely, service reps that are able to provide great customer outcomes are more inclined to—and successful at—bringing in additional revenue streams. This is especially true if they know their firm has technology to manage and fulfill service contracts successfully.o TRAINING:
Even when a tech is armed with the tools, resources and processes they need to do their jobs properly, Service Managers may learn that many service reps are hesitant about offering additional services and products to their customers.
The reason may be that techs do not know how to go about it without it feeling forced or outside of their comfort zone.
It will become clear that these techs need help in changing any misconceptions they may have about being a “pushy salesperson”.
With training, Service Managers can help techs see and present themselves as confident advisors offering customers long-term solutions.
As H2insider suggests, training techs to recommend a product is more palatable (and ultimately successful) than selling it.
Fighting Poor Customer Service Everywhere
Field techs provide Service Managers with a direct link to customers and the market, thereby helping them make informed decisions to: improve customer experiences, recruit and retain the best talent, differentiate themselves from the competition, leverage evolving technologies, and ultimately grow their business. When Field Technicians and Service Managers join forces, service organizations can go from zero to hero in customer outcomes.
Learn what are the essential characteristics of a successful field service business.Customer Outcome Heroes: How Service Managers Can Learn from Field Technicians by Mike Pandl