By Bill Pollock, President & Principal Consulting Analyst at Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM)
Every service technician has to walk a fine line between doing everything the customer wants vs. doing only as much as the company — and time — will allow. Sometimes that fine line is clearly demarcated — and sometimes it is not. However, this is all relative because as far as the customer is concerned, that fine line does not even exist — the customer basically wants what they want, and won't be satisfied until they get it!
This is basically the dilemma that each of us face virtually every day in the services business — and it won't be going away anytime soon. The good news is that there are always a variety of ways in which we can "shine" by providing our customers with superior service — going over and above the “call of duty.” Let me provide you with some examples.
Sometimes, it is just the little extras that we build into our customer service presence that make us look that much better. For example, checking out some of the customer’s other installed units while you are still on-site may help to identify — and prevent — a potential problem from occurring further on down the road. Customers like that. In fact, many of them have probably already asked you things like “While you're here, can you please take a look at our equipment in the other room? You know, the one that's been giving us all of those problems over the past few months?”
By proactively offering to take a quick look at the equipment — before being asked — you undoubtedly will earn some "brownie points" from a relieved customer who may otherwise be fearful that the equipment will fail as soon as you leave the premises. The company will also be pleased with your taking a quick look at the equipment as well, since, if it is already under contract, you may be able to arrange for a quickly scheduled preventive maintenance call later that day or the next; or if it is not, this would be an excellent opportunity to suggest to your customer that they should consider covering that particular unit under a service level agreement. Either way, the customer wins, the company wins — and you win.
But, service “over and above the call of duty” does not necessarily only mean doing things better; in fact, it is more likely to involve a combination of doing things quicker; more professionally; with more communications before, during, and immediately following the call; and simply working in a coordinated and professional manner with the customer to ensure that the service call is minimally invasive, destructive, or otherwise traumatic.
Sometimes it may be as simple as understanding when a service call is to be made, as opposed to how or how quickly. For example, in the restaurant vertical segment, most establishments cannot — or will not — allow a service technician onto the premises during peak breakfast, lunch, or dinner hours. By understanding and conforming with the unique needs of this vertical segment, and scheduling your on-site calls accordingly, you may ultimately be perceived by your customers as going the extra mile in terms of customer service delivery.
In some vertical segments, customers may want all of the repairs on their equipment performed just before, or just after, normal business hours; while in others, certain types of repairs (e.g., preventive maintenance, other scheduled maintenance, etc.) typically need to be scheduled off-shift or during scheduled downtime.
Again, the more you know about your customers’ unique needs and requirements, and the more you schedule your calls around them, the more you will be perceived as performing over and above what would normally be expected. This may not sound like rocket science, but you would be surprised as to how many services organizations — and the field technicians who work for them — simply don't get it.
For still others, all it takes to be perceived as performing over and above the call of duty is to have a smile on your face when you show up at their front door; as you’re performing the repair; and as you’re telling them why the equipment failed, and what you've just done to prevent it from happening again.
Think about it — one service technician can arrive at the customer site, perform the repair, and leave without saying anything to the customer — all without a smile on his or her face, providing little to no information, and offering little to no meaningful communications. However, for the same type of call, another service technician can similarly arrive at the customer site, perform the repair, and brief the customer on what he or she has done to bring the equipment back up and running — although this time, with a smile on his or her face, providing all of what the customer would consider to be important information, and offering enough meaningful communications to assure them that there truly is an interactive partnership existing between them and their vendor.
We would venture to guess that the customer will be much happier with the latter scenario, and would interpret such a customer service experience to indicate that there is, in fact, a real partnership between them and their vendor (i.e., you), and that you are truly working on their behalf.
Customers rarely have the time to "shoot the breeze" with a vendor — particularly at times when their equipment is down, and their day-to-day operations have been interrupted. However, if what the vendor has to say to them is important, they will listen — and they will be appreciative.
Accordingly, you should always relying on the “Listen, Observe, Think, Speak” (LOTS) approach to make sure that what you have to say to your customers addresses what they want — and need — to hear. By providing them with useful information, suggestions, or guidelines for operating their equipment more efficiently, you'll be doing more than simply fixing their equipment and, they will likely interpret that to be just another facet of your "over and above the call of duty" customer service.
About The Author
Bill Pollock is President & Principal Consulting Analyst at Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM), the independent research analyst and consulting firm he founded in 1992. Bill is a prolific author and speaker on all things service, and a long-time contributor to Field Service Digital. For more information, Bill may be reached at (610) 399-9717, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill’s blog is accessible at www.PollockOnService.com and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/SFGOnService.