Article | September 27, 2017

Establishing Effective Field Service Communication

By Bill Pollock, president & principal consulting analyst, Strategies For Growth

Field Service Communication

There is one thing constant about your customers – they are not shy when they want something from you It is only human nature that once someone (i.e., your customer) makes up his or her mind about something, they'll want as much information to support their decision as quickly as possible. For these types of customers, determining what information they would like to receive from you will typically be so easy that you won't even have to ask for it. However, not all customers behave in this manner.

For those few-in-10 customers that are actually shy about asking for information, it will generally fall upon your field technicians to help them obtain the information they want. However, in responding to customers, your field technicians may have some questions themselves, and will be relying on you for assistance. Again, one of the byproducts of establishing strong customer relationships is the ability to know what your customers want, sometimes even before they know it themselves – and this is where your field technicians can play an important role either directly, or as an intermediary.

Most of these questions can be answered by your field technicians themselves; however, there are still some where you may still need to intervene. For example:

  • What do you think may have caused this particular failure?
  • Is there anything we could have done to prevent the equipment from failing this time?
  • What kind of things should we be looking for to act as a warning that the equipment may be likely to fail again?
  • Do you have anything new, or on the horizon, that may make it easier for us to handle our increasing workload or throughput?
  • What are some of your other customers doing with our type of equipment that we're not presently doing?
  • Do you have any nearby reference accounts were we can go and see one of your newer units in operation?
  • You know how we use the equipment; do you have any further advice on how we can use it more efficiently?
  • Do we really have to use your brand of consumables for this machine? Can't we just use anything that's reasonably priced from a third-party source?
  • How come it always takes you so long to get here for a service call? You always seem to just beat the contractual obligation by five or 10 minutes every time. What's the deal?
  • Why is it so difficult to get a technical answer from your company’s telephone help desk? We keep calling, but it's like pulling teeth to get an answer from anybody.

The questions that customers have for you and your field technicians will typically range all over the place – from product, to service, to service level agreements, to customer service, to technical support, and everything else in between. In addition, since the 80-20 rule will almost always be in play (that is, that roughly 80 percent of the questions you hear will focus in the same general areas), you can still expect that at least 20 percent of your customers’ questions will virtually come from "out of the blue.” However, even these questions will still need to be answered – generally sooner rather than later – and your field technicians will always represent the first tier of response not only for the easy or routine questions but for the more difficult or ad hoc questions as well.

There are obviously many other types of questions that your customers can ask on a regular basis and, as you can imagine, the more information your organization can provide them on a real-time basis, the more appreciative they will be at the beginning – and the more loyal to your organization they will be over the course of their overall customer relationship.

The true key for success is the ability to build a vibrant communications channel between your customers and your field technicians, and your field technicians and yourselves. The better the communications channels you establish with your field technicians, the better they – and you – will be able to respond to any and all of your customers’ questions and concerns.

Your field technicians will likely use a combination of their experience, common sense, judgment, and their support from management to help in responding to their customers’ questions – but, sometimes, that may not be enough. Only through the establishment and continuing use of open communications channels between and among all parties can your organization provide its customers with what they want, and when they need it. And that will make you look as “smart” as possible with respect to understanding what it will take to make – and keep – your customers satisfied.