Guest Column | August 17, 2017

The Four Pillars Of Field Service Engagement

By Claudine Bianchi, CMO, ClickSoftware

Field Service Customer Experience

Field service engagement is both a mantra and a model; it’s the connective tissue between technology and customers that defines every service interaction. Today, every service organization can take for granted that customers are calling the shots. We’re at a point where individual customer experiences (CX) can make or break a business. Companies that take the time to understand their customers’ needs and incorporate technology to meet those needs stand a better chance of surviving in the long run.

There are four main pillars of field service engagement that every service provider should embrace in 2017: disrupt, unlock, operationalize, and optimize. Understand these four pillars and how companies can use them to take meaningful steps toward optimizing their service strategies and surpassing the competition.

1. Disrupt

Field service is at a crossroads: companies can continue on the path that they’re on, exhausting their outdated practices without considering customer demands, or they can embrace change by redefining their service strategy. Some of the outdated practices that define the former include eight-hour appointment windows and route mapping technology from the ‘80s. These practices paired with a skills gap between older and younger workers and higher operational costs due to increased customer demands are threatening to put some companies out of business. Studies show that today customers want to interact with companies through mobile devices, and yet less than five percent of customers have ever experienced this. It’s time for a change. By accepting that your service strategy is in need of a makeover, you’ll allocate resources with a goal of providing a more personalized, satisfactory experience for your customers. And the benefits are numerous.

2. Unlock

Once you understand the need to disrupt your current operation, unlocking service interactions is your next priority. The foundation lies in delivering the right CX. This takes time, but is critical, with more than 90 percent of organizations expected to compete for business primarily on the basis of CX this year. The first step in improving CX is educating employees. Begin by ensuring your employees understand the purpose behind the changes you’re about to make. Next, make a business case, a budget, a list of objectives and target outcomes. Use whitepapers and videos, and conduct open conversations to explain the transformation that will be taking place inside the organization. Keep it positive.

Once everyone understands the goal of the transformation, get technical. According to a recent study, the top complaint among service professionals is that current field technology is not fast enough and they can’t access all the information they need. Focus first on delivering better technology to field techs. Why? Once in the field, your service professionals are only as responsive and effective as the technology supporting them. Meeting this need is not difficult and impacts both the worker and in turn, the company. Win.

3. Operationalize

While performing service functions at scale is core to the DNA of field service organizations, a much less common trait is identifying the potential—and impact—within individual customer interactions. The key is maximizing human potential: activating employees and encouraging them to become brand ambassadors. This can happen within your organization through eLearning, classroom trainings, certifications and field-based mentoring. According to a study by Aberdeen, 76 percent of best-in-class field service organizations have formal mentoring or coaching programs in place. Whatever you choose to do, every level of the organization has to buy in to the transformation. This means C-level executives getting back in the trenches and reading customer complaints and shifting their mindset accordingly to respond. It means middle management going on ride-alongs with service professionals once a month. It means service professionals mastering the technology that they’re given. All of these actions can help companies better understand their offerings and better equip them to respond to issues in the future.

4. Optimize

Optimizing service to deliver top-notch CX is every company’s end game. This requires developing a feedback-first organizational culture. Feedback can cause great frustration, yes, but it can also uncover new directions for your organization to move in. It’s all about identifying the most relevant, accurate feedback and using it to constantly adapt your approach to field service. Without this mindset, your organization’s transformation will fail.

Before getting in touch with customers, develop a model for how you’ll benchmark and improve customer satisfaction. Once you have made some distinct changes in your service strategy, track their impact on overall customer satisfaction. The most common benchmarks for field service providers include average response time and cost, average repair time and number of new project acquisitions. Finally, learn from what you’re seeing. Review your key metrics and seek to improve your offerings as appropriate whether every couple of months, or years.

The four pillars of field service engagement will set you and your customers up for success. This fundamental shift in thinking requires the belief that while technology will support improved field service, the true test of an organization’s CX is revealed in individual customer interactions. By turning old service practices on their heads, unlocking new service touchpoints, operationalizing the right technology and utilizing feedback over time, you’ll gain a competitive advantage and ensure that customers continue to use your services in an era of unprecedented competition.