Business customers of the field service industry rely on service workers to provide expedient, quality support to ensure that their operations are not interrupted. Each service call is an opportunity to validate that providers are operating as an extension of their business to maintain and repair their equipment, rather than as an outside third party. From the customer’s perspective, performance indicators such as response time, service arrival time, system integrity (mean time between failures, or how often the equipment is down), and the how well the service worker can answer questions without escalating an issue are opportunities to build confidence in the relationship.
A service-oriented culture helps to establish expectations throughout the customer journey. Even early touchpoints such as an online ad, email, phone contact, or events help to develop a rapport that can lead to referrals and encourage customer loyalty. Each role, and each employee, can contribute to these desired outcomes. Optimizing a service-oriented culture that extends throughout the business keeps the customer experience as a priority.
1. Company culture
The first step begins with the field service provider’s company culture. Establishing clear core values for the brand that are centered on customer satisfaction helps to set expectations for a customer-centric ideal. A business that considers how each role may impact the customer’s perception of the business and aims to reduce frustration has the foundation for success. This focus can be reinforced from the top down, by encouraging executives and management teams to develop KPIs around the quality of customer care.
2. Employees as customers
Employees are who make it possible to be in business, and a culture that embraces, as well as promotes their value creates a mindset that is more easily shared with customers. If employees feel good about their employer, they will want to share their experiences with the customers they are there to serve. Encouraging, and showing value for their feedback can help to accomplish this. Demonstrating that all roles contribute to the success of the business will not only help to build their confidence, but make them greater assets to achieving overall objectives.
Encourage sharing of ideas that can potentially improve customer satisfaction and loyalty and reward those that are used. In the field, not every service call will be positive. Just as customers call to vent frustrations, employees need this too. Provide a safe place for them to vent to their managers, following up with recommendations on how to resolve similar issues in the future so their frustrations aren’t passed on to the next customer or spread to co-workers.
3. Hire like-minded workers
Some individuals are simply not cut out for service-oriented jobs. Those that believe their time is more valuable than the customer’s should not be responsible for representing your brand. Throughout the hiring process, make it a priority to identify candidates that share the customer-oriented values of your brand. This insight may be gained through evaluation exams. Interview questions that reveal this focus in previous jobs or personal community service work may help you to determine if the candidate will be a cultural fit.
Once hired, encourage and reward extra effort that is considerate of internal and external customers. It doesn’t mean you have to buy a Jaguar as a reward for a kudos, however, recognition for good work goes a long way. Those who fall short may be offered an opportunity to improve or provided referesher training to reinforce values. On the other hand, any employees who repeatedly fail to rise to customer-focused expectations should be released for the sake of the culture and the customers.
4. Training and education
The field service worker, and everyone the customer comes into contact with, should be skilled and adept at their role, as well as have a clear understanding of what’s offered to the customer. By providing a roadmap to answer questions and resolve issues, especially those that may require escalation, employees appear knowledgeable and helpful, even when they may not provide the answer the customer is seeking. This helps the customer to feel heard and reduce frustrations for both parties.
Internal onboard orientation and training helps to set the tone right out of the gate. And because of the nature of technical responsibilities, continuing education provides the resources needed to ensure that the customer receives accurate guidance and is serviced as efficiently and professionally as possible.
5. Optimized operations
Although optimized operations may be a part of a general business strategy, it should also be looked at as a step in building a customer-centric culture. Squeezing more in more appointments per day is most beneficial if the customer receives the absolute best experience possible.
A mobile field service operation relies on technology to ensure each service call is executed with efficiency. Reducing the travel time between appointments through route planning and territory management not only reduces fuel consumption, but also reduces stress for the crew. Helping drivers to have fewer distractions behind the wheel provides for safer driving, thereby causing a decrease in accidents and stress caused by multi-tasking.
The contact center that schedules a service call should communicate clearly what the customer is to expect. This includes the service window, the work being performed and any warranties or costs that are associated with the work. Although the field service worker may not know every step of operating the equipment being serviced, they can provide resources for education to the customer. This may help to eliminate misuse of equipment or additional service calls. For example, a medical equipment repair worker may leave collateral for training classes for a CAT scan machine. Or, a field worker in commercial HVAC can direct customers to a website that teaches how to determine if a heat pump has iced up in the winter.
6. Customer feedback
The last, but equally as important step, is to place a high value on customer feedback. Customers are far more likely to share a negative experience than a positive one. This may occur as a phone call or email to the company, through networking or on social media. To reduce negative feedback from spreading, be proactive in conducting customer surveys, especially after a service interaction. When possible, demonstrate to the customer how the issue will be addressed. And for the things that work and are reported to be positive, encourage that behavior throughout the business. Customer feedback loses its impact if it’s not made to be actionable. This is achieved by establishing a process that evaluates, responds to the customer, enforces the positive, implement changes, and reviews the results of actions taken.
Establishing a service-oriented culture in the field service industry begins with the brand and works its way through the employees to the customer. Congruency throughout the organization, listening to customer feedback, tracking KPIs, and making any necessary adjustments help to keep the customer as the priority and provide a quality experience.
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