The assembly line was Ford’s greatest achievement and proof that you can boost efficiency tremendously by automating certain parts of the production process. In doing so, people could then take care of other, more cognitively complex tasks that require a human touch.
Although much more of the assembly line has been superseded by other technological advancements, it still stands as an example of how automation makes scaling a business not only possible, but profitable.
The Role of Customer Journeys
Rather than applying the generic business strategies that are designed for other industries (who work in fundamentally different ways), it’s important to map the customer journeys that are unique to service companies. And no, that’s not a typo. We do mean customer journeys, as a plural. That’s because the complete sum of interactions between a customer and a field service business is not singular; their experience is made up of many interactions that require individual attention , but ignoring this fact is an error that many managers make.
While it’s not necessarily an error that means your business will fail, it can mean that because they’re looking at journeys in such a narrow way, leaders can hamper their ability to optimise the complex individual interactions that make up a customer’s overall experience.
Think of it this way: imagine you had a customer come up to you and say: “I want my house to be the best house,” and that’s all they said… You’d probably tell them that they need to be a bit more specific: do they want to upgrade their ventilation system, perhaps install a security system, or change the roof? Each of those options is a large project of its own, that’s also part of a greater whole. The same goes for wanting to improve your field service customer experience.
This is a situation that calls for you to “divide and conquer”; it’s an essential approach to take and will require you to identify the individual customer journeys (e.g. booking journey, payment journey, etc.) that you need to improve.
Focusing on each individual journey will give you a better understanding of the processes and how they influence your customers. As a result, you can identify any weak links and develop a feasible strategy to improve how customers interact with your business (and vice versa). As a result of creating cohesive journeys, you can go on to win more work, improve customer satisfaction and boost your revenue!
How do great customer journeys scale field service businesses?
If you find yourself thinking “My customers are happy enough as it is”, that doesn’t mean it should be the end of your efforts. After all, the benefits of creating frictionless customer journeys aren’t simply centered around customers alone. Understanding and perfecting the journeys you provide them will also benefit both your field service business and your team of employees.
This trifecta of beneficiaries (customers, operations, employees) is what keeps your company thriving (as opposed to simply surviving) because it brings in the three elements necessary to sustain a growing business:
1. Return business. It’s hard to deny the value of recurring customers. They often spend more than new customers, are easier to reach, and will actively recommend your valuable services to new, potential customers. At the same time, the market moves very quickly and there is a lot of competition for field service companies, so retaining customers requires going above and beyond in terms of overall experience, rather than, say, focusing solely on the quality of your workmanship, or your prices. Loyalization journeys are essential in this effort.
2. New customers. Identifying, isolating, and improving the customer journeys that attract and convert new customers is a strategy that can save you a lot of money. You won’t have to spend as much on buying leads and you’ll be making a lot more from the same advertising budget. For example, if you invest in Facebook advertising, having a perfect booking journey is essential so that when leads come through via clicking the ads, the experience of booking a service is just as smooth.
3. Additional sales. It’s reductive to think of services as the sole source of income for your company, despite the fact that you’re running a field service business. Upselling products (or even different tiers of service like basic or premium) can be a great revenue stream. However, this implies an excellent relationship with vendors that starts with great inventory strategies, as well as perfect quoting journeys that can show customers (commercial AND residential) the benefits of working with you.
By achieving your full potential in these three key areas, you’ll be scaling your field service business without massive capital injections. Of course, big campaigns and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising is a lot flashier, but at the same time it’s a lot less efficient. You’ll need to make so much more in the end just to break even therefore the risk is also higher. Sitting down, tweaking, analysing and improving strategies takes more dedication, time and, why not say it out right: managerial talent, but chances are much higher that it will work and bring in the profit.
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How does each customer journey impact revenue?
Now that we’ve covered the revenue sources that good field service customer journey mapping can boost, the next step is understanding how each individual customer journey influences one or more of those sources.
Field service companies, whether they specialize in plumbing, HVAC, fire safety, security, or any other type of business sending out technicians on the field, have a distinct sequence of events that customers go through. But if we reduce it to “customer has a leak > customer hires a plumber > customer pays a bill”, it becomes difficult to isolate the steps where the customer might encounter sources of friction that give them a reason to consider hiring somebody else: that’s because the process was straightforward, and easy.
Imagine if you had to wait a week for a waiter to bring you a menu. That would be more than enough time to Google another restaurant – one with an online menu – and take your business elsewhere. This is why we have to break it down:
1. Booking journey
When trying to increase the number of new customers, as well as your website lead conversion rate, the goal is to make booking a job as easy as possible. Causing any hesitation in the customer through things like only taking phone appointments or email requests (with no automatic confirmation) simply creates opportunities to lose them.
It might not seem like much; after all, what’s so hard about picking up a phone? But the fact of the matter is that if another company offers an automatic booking portal and it only takes a few seconds to choose a day, a time-slot, and a type of service, why would anyone who isn’t familiar with your work waste so much more time calling you? At the same time, automatic booking portals save your admin from having to waste their time on scheduling routine jobs.
2. Pre-appointment journey
Peace of mind is essential to both new and recurring customers and your behavior before the appointment is essential to impressing them. Automatic confirmations and notifications are simply the norm nowadays; people expect to receive emails when they book a service. The same goes for getting a reminder a few days before (and even another reminder on the day itself), as well as information pertaining to their technician’s location.
If this reminds you more of your last food delivery, you’re absolutely right and knowing that most people order food more often than they have AC units installed, it’s no surprise that tracking notifications are a kind of service they want and expect from others (particularly if they’re spending a lot of cash)!.
Keep in mind that even if a customer is booked in, that’s not money in the bank just yet. You could still lose out on new customers who change their mind and on securing recurring customers by offering an experience that is less than perfect.
3. Call-out journey
An essential part of providing great service is consistency. Regardless of circumstances, customers will always expect exemplary behavior. However, this is easier said than done; we’re only human after all, and it’s likely that we’ll make the odd mistake along the way.
Hiring technicians for their soft skills as well as their workmanship and supporting them with an optimized mobile app that includes pre and post-job reports, will help you ensure the experience they provide is up to your standards. It’s a great way to remind them to fill in the customer on measures they’re taking to keep them safe from Covid-19 risks, to clean the work area, or to offer usage advice for new installs.
Providing the perfect call-out journey every time encourages new customers to hire you again, recurring customers to recommend you, and puts you in a great position to gain additional sales, thus keeping the wheel spinning at full speed.
4. Inventory journey
Thinking of technicians as salespeople isn’t the most obvious thing, but a good field service manager will aim to make the most out of every employee. At the end of the day, a technician is usually the only face to face interaction a customer will have and the quoting and inventory phase is where you can get the most “additional sales”.
For example, being aware of your inventory and able to provide a tiered quote will put the customer in control of their experience. It’s as simple as providing a choice between basic, average, and premium services. In line with that, you can offer a range of appliances to choose from on the spot, rather than provide an estimate, and it takes weeks to confirm the details. There’s obviously a better way to impress new customers and retain existing ones.
At the same time, this kind of insight into your inventory and your customers’ buying process puts you in a better position to negotiate with vendors, who, in turn, can offer better wholesale prices, helping you make more profit from up-selling to customers.
5. Invoicing journey
Getting paid should be the easiest part of the process. The hard part is over, the customer is (hopefully) satisfied and all that’s left is to send an invoice and wait for the money. If this were true, however, then no one would ever have to deal with non-paying customers and debt chasing. A poor invoicing journey can negatively impact your revenue and discourage customers from re-booking.
To help minimise this issue, you need to analyze every potential source of friction in your payment process; this means taking into account:
– How long it takes to generate an invoice and send it. Ideally, this would be done automatically when a technician marks a job as done on their app.
– Do you offer as many payment methods as possible? Cash hasn’t been king for a while now.
– The number of erroneous invoices you send. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but recurring invoicing errors are a big source of stress for your customers and for your employees.
6. Loyalization journey
The loyalization journey is a lot more than a tool for you to gather feedback. Sure, getting positive reviews definitely helps you gain new customers, but it’s also an opportunity to encourage people to re-book with you (especially if you’ve installed an appliance that requires a maintenance service), as well as a relationship building tool. Having as many reliable sources of recurring income is what makes a business stand the test of time and whether any challenges the market might throw its way.
Asking for feedback, getting people on a newsletter list, offering incentives to re-book or promote on social media are all ways to make sure that the next time a customer needs a field service company, you’re top of mind.
All-in-all, approaching the field service industry with the clear-cut goal of being a forward-thinking company that values both efficiency and customer satisfaction can be the recipe for long-term success.
If you like the sound of the customer journeys detailed above, then it’s essential to have the tools to make it happen. An all-in-one software can help you provide frictionless customer journeys that exceed expectations every time, while also keeping your employees happy and productive. Who wouldn’t want that?