Guest Column | November 10, 2017

The Importance Of Bedside Manner In Field Service

By Kelly Hoopes, Senior Consultant, Service Strategies Corporation

Bedside Manner In Field Service

5 Tips for Field Service Management on Creating & Sustaining an Effective Field Service Soft Skills Training Program

The term “bedside manner” most often refers to the way a healthcare professional interacts and communicates with a patient. There is a good chance that you have experienced either very good or very poor bedside manner from a healthcare professional when visiting a hospital or doctor’s office. Bedside manner also refers to the small things done by the healthcare professional that make a big difference during the health care experience and studies have proved that bedside manner can have a significant impact on a patient’s health and recovery [1].

If you can think of a time when you had either a very positive or very negative experience with a healthcare professional, what was it about this experience that stands out? There are many similarities between the bedside manner exhibited at a hospital or doctor’s office and the soft skills demonstrated by field service employee. For example, successful healthcare providers and successful field service professionals should both be capable at each of the following tasks:

  • Greeting patients/customers appropriately
  • Demonstrating empathy
  • Being able to manage and communicate difficult news or updates
  • Being able to modify their approach based on the patient or customer’s personality
  • Dealing with tense and stressful patient/customer situations
  • Listening to and responding well to patients/customers

Although we can agree that these skills are critical for a for any customer-facing professional, many field service organizations do not make the investment needed to ensure that their service teams have the soft skills required to be successful. As a field service leader, it is imperative that you evaluate and address the soft skill training needs of your team. Often companies feel that they do not have enough budget or time to make this investment, but if you fail to make this commitment, your customer satisfaction will suffer.

Any field service leader involved in a customer escalation will recognize the value of having field service professionals that have superior customer service soft skills. With that in mind, here are five tips to consider as you implement or improve your soft skill training and mentoring program:

Tip#1: New Hire Soft Skill Training Should be Mandatory

When you first hire a new employee, it is easy to get trapped in a routine of only providing the technical and product skills that the employee needs without considering the soft skills that are also required so that they can be effective at their job. A field service professional may come to your organization as a new employee with some soft skills after working in a similar role at another company. You may also have interview techniques to help you hire candidates that start with a solid soft skill base. But even then, this employee is new to your organization. Usually, they do not know your customers, they are not aware of the corporate culture, and they may not understand your management preferences for how you want them to work with your clients. As a result, it is critical to ensure that as part of your new hire training program, you have dedicated time where all new field service employees are required to attend a soft skill training course. During the course, you should do a thorough assessment of the employee’s soft skill competency and ensure they are prepared to handle customer situations as a representative of your company.

Also remember that as a new employee, they most likely will not know your products and the technology as well as your tenured team. During this ramp-up time, a new employee can avert their lack of technical knowledge if they can leverage their soft skills. Having soft skill training as a requirement of their new employee onboarding will help them during the first several months as they work with your clients while they are still learning your products, technology, and process.

Tip #2: Leverage the Experience Within Your Team

Consider opportunities to use experience from your employees that have the best customer service soft skills. Ask these employees to document some of their most memorable customer experiences. They should include their most challenging customer interactions and experiences. Once documented, you can turn this content into learning examples and use these situations during your soft skill training program. Keep in mind that the employees with the best soft skills may not be your most tenured or most technically skilled staff.

Tip #3: Expect Some Resistance

Be prepared that not every employee will appreciate the investment you are making to advance their customer-facing soft skills. There will always be the employees that may not see the value in attending and actively participating in these training opportunities. Most often, the employees that are most reluctant to participate in soft skill training are the employees that need the additional training the most. Expect this resistance and prepare standard and well thought out responses to the resistance, emphasizing the value of soft skill training.

Tip #4: Audit Your Partners

Don’t assume that your channel partners and outsource partners are training their team with the soft skills needed to support your customers and meeting your service standards. At a minimum, you should be auditing and more carefully reviewing any feedback you receive from customers after they have interacted with your partners. In an ideal situation, you should ensure that your partners are participating in the same soft skill programs that you provide your internal field service team. Participation in the same soft skill program will ensure consistency and alignment of your service philosophy with all service professionals serving your customers.

Tip #5: Never Stop Investing in Soft Skills

Remember that investing in soft skill training is not a “one-time” deal. Ongoing investment is required to ensure that the team serving your customers are consistently executing your service standards. Even the most skilled field service professionals need refresher training to hone their service techniques. Ongoing customer service soft skill training will also help to remind your employees that providing an exceptional service experience is critical, so your customers are less inclined to turn to your competitors for service.

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