In recent years, technology has given rise to a huge shift in the field service management space, both in terms of thinking and operations. Through evolving platforms and applications, service is now rightly seen as an opportunity to interact with customers and deliver great experiences that will deliver better retention and long-term revenue. Simply put, every single customer interaction has become a means for disruption and a point of competitive differentiation.
The rise of mobile, AR and IoT all support the ability for businesses to stay closer to their customers, and it’s great to see a growing number of companies with mobile workforces beginning to adopt and experiment with these in order to stay ahead of the game. Indeed, escalating customer expectations – brought about through the ‘Uberisation of service’ – have given rise to an increasing pressure on field service organisations to deliver top notch service and ‘first time fixes’. Customers now expect more, and suppliers need to deliver on this.
So, how do we create that balance between customer experience and delivery?
Customer satisfaction – the industry measure
In terms of measurement, customer satisfaction remains the industry’s key performance indicator. Yes, customers want a field service engineer with the right skills and equipment to deliver a first time resolution, but punctuality and minimal ‘wait in’ window times, are equally as important, as is quick time to appointment date.
In line with this, there has also been a change in how field service engineers are viewed by their employers. Encouragingly, more and more business leaders are seeing the potential for engineers to contribute positively to an improved customer experience through friendly and professional face-to-face interaction. In essence, these skilled employees are no longer working only in an operational role, but also in a marketing one, as brand ambassadors.
The critical importance of communication
Organisations now recognise that tailored, effective and real-time communication is essential for optimising the customer experience, and retaining and growing a customer base.
More often than not, businesses still rely on the field service engineer to telephone customers directly and keep them informed of changing arrival times. SMS and email are other commonly applied communication methods and, increasingly, we’re seeing a rising demand for the use of social communication channels such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.
It’s here that we see the impact of ‘Uberisation’ on the field service industry, because customers know the technology to improve their experience exists, and this has led to a more demanding and harder-to-satisfy customer base. At the same time, however, field service organisations need to meet these expectations in a cost-effective, seamless and positive way – and it’s a constant juggling act.
Elsewhere, some field service organisations are creating their own apps in an effort to improve customer convenience and communication. While these can optimise communication, the barrier of downloading and installing apps can create a negative impact in convenience terms.
Convenience is EVERYTHING
Convenience is perhaps the greatest opportunity for competitive advantage in the field service industry. It’s here that technology also enables suppliers to adopt better, more optimized systems that will enable them to instantly tell customers who is coming to them and when.
We know, for example, that accurate waiting periods are also critical to an overall good customer experience and location tracking of engineers has enabled suppliers to reduce wait in window times to just two hours in some instances – a great improvement compared with historic industry targets. Companies are using this to their own advantage as well as their customers’, and many are now also using text messages as a means of increasing customer convenience by pinpointing specific arrival times very precisely.
Across field service management, we’re seeing the recognition that, given the ‘one-off’ nature of field service, the sole interaction customers have with a company is via their field service personnel. A single visit – and the journey wrapped around it – can therefore make or break a customer’s relationship with your business, and thereby strengthen or damage brand loyalty.