Guest Column | April 26, 2018

Creating An Intentional Customer Focus

What Will Help Your Field Service IT Clients Enhance Customer Experience?

Creating an intentional customer focus goes far beyond taking care of customers and achieving acceptable levels of customer satisfaction. An intentional approach also shapes a company’s culture, improves employee engagement and performance, and positively impacts financial growth. Popular tools such as work objectives, surveys, and metrics are a good start but are like small hand tools compared to the “power tool” usage of a true “intentional customer focus.” The end goal is to achieve customer loyalty for repeat sales and referrals, constantly developing strategic customer relationships. 

The importance of intentional customer focus for the entire corporation is having competitive advantage in brand equity, product/service pipelines, operational performance, employee recruitment and retention, and sustainable growth. 

To build an enterprise of intentional customer focus the design must frame a “customer focus system” starting with marketing, customer, process, people, and technology strategies as pillars that work together to build an intentional customer focus system. 

Each of these pillars works with one another and is interrelated. 

Marketing

Start with segmenting your customer base into transactional versus strategic and determining service levels required to support the nature of the relationships.  Depending on the variations of the lines of business an organization has, there can be blended segments with various products and services provided to one customer.  The old saying is true, “we can’t be all things to all people.”  Nor are customer care and technical service representatives the “master of all trades.”  Segmenting and providing tier levels of support is a foundational step, defining both support process and roles downstream. 

Customer 

Collecting information about the customer’s business, applications, key contacts, and buying influences is the basis of professional account management and relationships. A best practice is to have deliberate voice of the customer input for services provided, product preferences, interaction styles, and focus groups. An organization that is in tune with their customer’s business and future direction is better able to serve, sell, and develop future offerings.  How often does your organization review its key customer information and feedback with product and service development and key executives?  Previously I worked with a large, market-leading corporation that was extremely deliberate in account reviews both internally at the field level as well as hosting key customer contacts at their global vision center to have dialogue and establish a shared vision for the future relationship. Annual renewals and discount levels were always secondary events to the shared vision. Customer “centricity” was a cultural element for this corporation as frequently stated by the CEO. 

The significant perspective of customer focus is the ability to go beyond simply solving the customer’s immediate problem. Often field technicians make the mistake of focusing their attention on just fixing the equipment. Of course that is important, but intentional customer focus goes beyond that and empowers the field technician to leverage their time in front of a customer(s) to make sure they are also nurturing the relationship. With an intentional customer focus, the field technician also explores, inspects, recommends, and positions future alternatives as part of adding value in their relationship. An intimate knowledge of the customer’s business defines the account management tactics. This is intentional field service: always thinking, how can we add value in all that we do? Customers can be single individuals but are often multiple contacts or dynamic accounts with complex buying roles, and team plans must address all aspects of account management.

Process

How do you design your business process steps to accomplish the expected service outcome? Often internal business process can have a life of their own that get away from customer and employee convenience, or simply do not match the vision of customer segments and tiered support levels. Recognizing there are multiple potential customer contacts within your organization, you need to determine how to define the interactions, steps, and transactions that occur with customer care representatives, service dispatch, sales representatives, field service technicians, depot or repair, as well as return departments, credit, web sites, and many other possible contact points. Think through all significant customer touch points, including process steps such as order confirmation, system installations/upgrades, invoicing, contract renewals, emergency field repair, scheduled maintenance, and decommissioning. I typically start with these significant customer interaction processes and create new designs to achieve customer focus and operational efficiencies. Escalation is a perfect example of the opportunity to be intentional in customer focus with automated business rules that are proactive in catching a pending customer delay or inconvenience. 

People

Every good process defines personnel roles, and intentional customer focus is also a team endeavor. We can’t take for granted that each player on the team understand the new process or new role. Key stakeholder alignment and team development are key to truly being intentional. Technology and the pace of business have changed customer support in many ways. Higher expectations are being set for the field service technician to pre-diagnose the problem and have training, equipment, and parts to complete the job with one visit. Augmented reality and IoT systems are now expected process and design features (Voice of the Customer) to ensure predictive failure and reduced downtime. Employees expect a clear on-boarding program offered with 24/7 support and micro-training in their job. Field personnel need and expect vital customer information at their mobile devices to provide solutions and the best customer care possible. Hiring requirements for support roles have shifted to emphasizing soft skills or problem solving and for those who thrive in developing relationships versus solely technical skills. Finally, alignment in work objectives, metrics, and incentive plans must be in place to focus on customer success. All combined, these are factors with your workforce; role definition, team plans, training, technology, customer expectations and compensation, that drive intentional customer focus. 

Technology

Often new technology such as IoT, mobile applications, CRM/FSM, and telematics drive customer focus both internally and externally. Their capabilities have challenged us all to be more customer focused and design around the system capabilities. Technology is a frequent employee request to do their jobs in a more customer-facing manner with vital information at their fingertips and to also use their device for training and support. With mobility, we are now finally seeing the opportunities to further automate and improve productivity but to also enhance the customer experience. A key caution is to not simply deploy technology, but frame the use of technology for the business benefit, both externally with customers and also internally for customer-facing employee usage. This process should come from strategic planning, intentional customer focus, and field service optimization tactics set to deliver specific ROIs. Today’s workforce and customers expect to be mobile 24/7 and connected for many applications and preferences. 

Clearly, capturing both the Voice of the Customer and Voice of the Field Technician will define many technology ideas and business use cases to provide intentional customer focus. My point is the technology is a requirement that has enormous ROI benefits and must be phased and configured relative to the other pillars: marketing, customer, process, and people. Doing so will help you to achieve the ROI and measurable service business outcomes as you become an intentional customer focused organization. 

Intentional means to be deliberate and logical in a system’s design to encompass marketing, customers, process, people, and technology to earn market leading customer loyalty.

Bruce Breeden is the founder of Field Service Resources, LLC and author of the book and training program, “The Intentional Field Service Engineer”.