By Brian Albright, Field Technologies magazine
Mobile computing in the field can not only improve customer satisfaction and operational efficiencies, it can also lead to increased customer loyalty.
Mobile technology can directly improve field service operations through increased efficiency, reduced waste, fuel savings, and other key performance indicators. But, mobility can go further — getting a technician to a location on time and with the right tools in hand can positively affect customer loyalty and retention rates.
Taking the customer experience into account, we notice field service automation has to encompass more than simply reduced drive times and more efficient scheduling. Technicians must be empowered with information. “The major reason for field service customer complaints is that service tasks aren’t completed on a first-visit basis,” says Sumair Dutta, research director for service management at Aberdeen Group. “Mobile tools provide field workers with the information they require to effectively and efficiently resolve service issues.”
Indeed, efficiency gains for your field force do translate into customer service benefits. Timely arrivals, paperwork reduction, error reduction, and optimized routing all enhance the customer experience. “Automation creates the opportunity for a more streamlined process, which provides a better customer experience,” says Steven Phillips, CEO of Swyft Technology.
But, it is the ability to access technical and customer information in the field and the ability of the technician to address unexpected service issues that can make all the difference in impressing a customer and resolving their issues quickly. “This is the new reality for service businesses — they need to connect all of the stakeholders in the customer service value chain,” says Yuval Brisker, cofounder and CEO of TOA Technologies. “With a Web-based solution and a mobility app, you obtain a new level of visibility. Not only for the traditional users such as dispatchers and management, but also to bring the customer into the loop through realtime access via the Web, social networks, voice, text, etc.”
Aberdeen has found that organizations that satisfy more than 90% of their customers see significant loyalty, retention (92% versus 26%), and profitability advantages over those that satisfy less than 50% of their customers. “While those bounds may seem extreme, it shows that there is a real monetary impact to improving customer satisfaction, and organizations are getting savvier around quantifying this impact,” Dutta says.
Measuring The Impact Of Mobile
Customer satisfaction is generally considered a soft benefit, but there are metrics available to help measure how mobility is improving customer service: the time that elapses from a customer call to the arrival of a technician, the time required to resolve the problem, and the number of visits required. “However, collecting this data is almost impossible if your field techs aren’t leveraging mobility,” says Jim Hare, senior VP at FieldOne Systems. “Paper doesn’t work because it is not in real time. With mobile, when a tech gets on a job or leaves a job, the system can track these activities in real time, so if a tech does not perform a task, you can immediately give feedback. With paperwork, the lag time could be weeks, and it is very difficult to keep up.”
In that way, mobile technology not only helps improve service, but also provides the tools to measure those improvements. “With real-time data transfer, every aspect of the process can be captured, reported, measured, and submitted instantly,” says Phillips. “Because of this automation, results from the application of mobile technologies can be quickly and easily compared to past results. Predictors of improved customer satisfaction from the use of mobile technologies are easily measured: increased sales penetration, higher dollar amount per sale, and — over time — improved customer retention.”
That necessitates taking the time to solicit more customer feedback. “Perhaps the most actionable way that mobility ties to the continued enhancement of customer satisfaction is the postappointment survey,” Brisker says. “Customer experience management shouldn’t end once a job has been completed. It’s critical that organizations know whether customers were satisfied with their performance and take action if that performance wasn’t satisfactory.”
This data cannot be gathered in a vacuum, however. Knowledge management is an important part of the process, and service information should be available to management, to the sales team, and to other stakeholders. “Organizations need to have the processes and capabilities in place to allow for the cross-functional access to vital customer, service, or other performance data to support collaboration,” Dutta says. “If a tech captures information at the point of service, but that data continues to reside in an isolated service system, then that information serves no value no matter how mobile the organization is.”
Well Trained Service Techs = Satisfied Customers
Service organizations must evaluate who will be using the technology they deploy in the field to ensure they have a positive impact on customers. According to Dutta, service agents have to be appropriately trained in order to resolve service issues, and organizations have to take a greater interest in the steps taken to hire, train, motivate, and engage service workers. There is increasing interest, in fact, in performance management and analytics technology, knowledge sharing/collaborative tools, and customer self-service tools to help improve first-time fix rates. “The truth is, the end user really doesn’t care how the service company fixes their problem; they just want it fixed fast and the first time,” Hare says. “Mobility helps you accomplish that.”