Field Service and The New Imperative of Customer Experience
People have a habit of getting swept up in the latest trends, and forgetting their bread-and-butter. In the race to embrace self-service, we should not forget the continuing importance of human-to-human, face-to-face interactions and how this customer experience can be improved. Field service is a perfect example.
Field service operations typically comprise individuals spread across many locations moving from one customer or job to the next. The most common manifestation is field technicians who are sent out to homes or businesses to repair washing machines, fridges, printers and photocopiers. But there are plenty of examples in other industries: from health professionals providing in-home care to engineers dispatched to deal with gas leaks.
Common to all field service functions is a need to provide agents with the tools and skills which enable a positive customer experience.
Field Service Representatives Are Quite Literally The Face of Your Business
They Can Make or Break The Customer’s Perception of Your Brand
After all, customers in these environments are often irate, wanting immediate assistance, with no patience for long waits or loose appointment times. This means effective prioritisation of service requests, clear communication and expectation-setting, and optimal workforce management, are absolutely critical. Overlay that with issues of employee safety (getting to customer premises quickly and operating safely once there), and it’s fair to say field service is a dynamic environment with constant internal and external pressures.
There is much that can be done to ease this pressure-cooker environment and create a positive experience for all parties. Let’s start with deploying workforce management software to make the field force more productive, so that customers can be given, say, a 1-hour rather than 4-hour window during which their technician will arrive. Just as Uber and Domino's Pizza allow the customer to track driver arrival times, there is no reason a similar service couldn’t be extended to a whole range of companies providing field service. Giving customers visibility of where things are at also deflects unnecessary calls to the call centre and allays their frustration.
The field agents need technology and tools at their disposal to provide a good service. Whether it’s a smartphone or tablet, technicians should be able to check manuals online, record job notes and completion times, and collaborate with other team members to get advice or share tips. The worst scenario is when the technician leaves the premises with the problem unresolved and the customer is left in limbo. First-time fix rate is considered by many the important KPI for their field operation.
Some companies are empowering their field force with a complete view of customer history. This allows the field agent to provide a more informed, personalised service.
Field agents, like any customer-facing employee, can also benefit from customer service training with tips for creating a happy on-site experience from the moment the customer opens the door.
The biggest change in field service is no doubt in the range of software (IoT, mobility) applications which allow companies to track field agent movements, predict technical issues before customers are even aware of them, and remove paper-based processes to improve both speed and accuracy.
Field service, once a laggard in customer experience, now has an exciting opportunity to show leadership.
About The Author
Sharon Melamed is a digital entrepreneur and Founder of Matchboard - a B2B matching platform specialising in sales, service and back office.
In 2017, Westpac named Matchboard one of Australia’s top 200 Businesses of Tomorrow. Sharon was awarded Powerprofile status by LinkedIn for having one of the 50 most viewed profiles in Australia. She is an avid blogger and thought leader in the customer experience space. Sharon speaks 5 languages and holds a double honours degree from Sydney University