This post was written by a guest blogger, Aleksandr Peterson from TechnologyAdvice. Here he shares advice from his research on field service organizations.
In many ways, your field service unit is the face of your company. Whether you serve consumers or business clients, your field technicians are on the front lines interacting with customers. The quality of those interactions can make the difference between loyal customers and lost customers.
The service call is an opportunity to solve problems, strengthen relationships, and even grow profits — but not if it’s being managed poorly.
Are your customer satisfaction levels low? Are your field operations costly and hard to track? You’re not alone. These and other problems are endemic in the field service industry, but you don’t have to chalk it up to fate. A little awareness and planning can go a long way. Try to zero in on your areas of weakness, name their underlying cause, and develop a clear plan of action.
You can start by auditing your company for these common field service management mistakes:
1. Second and Third-Time Fixes
The “first-time fix rate” is the Holy Grail of field service, which makes sense: it’s a measure of how effectively your business can solve problems. The most competitive field service companies have a first-time fix rate of 89 percent, according to Aberdeen. But failure to plan adequately means a lot of companies have to send technicians out two and three times to address the same service call. This reflects poorly on your brand’s competence and wastes time, money, and resources.
To avoid extra, unnecessary visits, make sure your technicians have the tools, parts, and skills to get the job done in one trip — and keep the lines of communication open between the field and the office.
2. Keeping Customers in the Dark
Your customers want to know what’s happening with their service call, how much it’s going to cost, and the reason(s) for any complications. In that sense, customer accountability is a mark of effective field service. But a lot of companies fall short here. They focus on internal communications and leave customers in the dark about job status, technician whereabouts, or reasons for delay. When field service technicians are late, only about 27 percent give the customer a specific explanation.
An easy way to keep customers in the loop, if you have the right technology in place, is to set up a self-service portal where they can check the status of their request, see estimates and invoices, and even sign up for text or email alerts.
3. Working from a Clipboard
Speaking of technology, the next common mistake is when companies try to manage operations without field service management software. They send their technicians out each day with clipboards, carbon copy forms, and a binder full of paperwork. Since workers don’t have access to a centralized system, they have to key in data at the end of the day, which leads to wasted time and careless mistakes.
Field service management software helps your team coordinate operations between the field and the office, automate routine tasks, and streamline the service order process. Most systems provide features for dispatch, inventory, job and agent tracking, route optimization, and more. They also give technicians access to service knowledge and back-end systems in the field (manuals, schematics, diagnostic tools, etc.). Very few of the world’s leading field service companies still work from paper.
4. Failing to Build Trust and Rapport
Every service visit — whether reactive or preventative — is a chance to strengthen your relationship with a customer. If your technician shows up on time, performs well, and delivers a pleasing experience, they reinforce customer loyalty. Loyal customers will refer others to your business and be more receptive to upsell and cross-sell conversations.
But it’s common to miss the mark here. In a survey from May of this year, only about 55 percent of customers said their recent service visit had a positive effect on their opinion of the company; the rest were indifferent or displeased.
5. Letting Your Data Go to Waste
Field service operations generate tons of data about workers, equipment, routes, territories, and assets. If your company isn’t using this data to your advantage, you might be missing out on some valuable opportunities. With the right reporting tools, you can quickly identify service bottlenecks and recurring problems and create a plan for working around them. Data analytics combined with remote sensors and monitors can even help you predict problems before they occur (for example, GE does this with their jet engines).
Service companies that use analytics technology have seen profits increase as much as 18 percent, customer retention by 42 percent, and service level agreement (SLA) performance by 44 percent.
Customers tend to have very little patience for mistakes and inefficiency. Many have left a service company simply because of one or two poor experiences, which doesn’t bode well if you’re committing any of these mistakes. To strengthen your competitive edge and keep customers committed for the long-haul, you need to deliver more than a “fix.” You need to deliver excellence — and excellence is only possible with the right tools, training, and technology in place.
Aleksandr Peterson is a technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice. He covers marketing automation, CRMs, project management, human resources, and other emerging business technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
Last modified: November 22, 2016