When I wrote my synopsis of Field Service Palm Springs, one of the themes I mentioned is a discussion around Customer Success. In an ask-me-anything session, an audience member asked the panel if their organizations currently have customer success roles and, if so, how they are structured – what the responsibilities entail, where they report into, and how they are funded.
Keeping the panelists anonymous, let me share some of the highlights of the answers:
- “Yes, we have customer success managers within the aftermarket team and they are responsible for putting together a cross-functional team to help achieve customer outcomes. Each customer success manager is responsible for three to four accounts and we’ve had this in place for about 10 years. They are funded within the value we receive from large customer contracts and we’ve had success with this approach.”
- “We have customer service managers within our IT services. They perform quarterly business reviews on each customer and generate a lot of data, including customer satisfaction. We focus on ensuring the data is actionable and their cost is built into our services.”
- “Our customer success managers exist fundamentally to deeply understand customer expectations and to translate that into service requirements. Their cost is built in.”
These answers make me think about what the future of customer success within field service may look like. As we progress more toward delivering outcomes and rely more heavily on the use of self-service, remote service, AI and ML, we know the role of the frontline technician will evolve. Yes, evolve – not disappear. But with less unnecessary on-site visits and a move toward more technical versus mechanical work, those resources will be freed to spend some degree more time on value-add efforts.
Would it make sense for some of that value-add work to include aspects of customer success? It may. Of course every industry and every company varies, so it is impossible to give a universal prediction or recommendation. That said, in the present-day world of outcomes being customers’ primary focus (versus products or services), the purpose of customer success in ensuring outcomes are being delivered, customer expectations are clear and satisfaction is understood, and ample data is compiled on value delivered are all very important.
During our Paris Live Tour event, we talked quite a bit about what the future of the field technician role may look like. And I brought up the point that perhaps what we need to be considering is some sort of segmentation – rather than a “one role does all” approach, as the value being delivered shifts from transaction to outcome, perhaps we need to examine the potential of a combination of roles. You could still have the technician, who does the hands-on, on-site work when required. You could have a sort of customer success role, who handles some of the remote service work and also ensures expectations are being met. And then you’ll need to determine if a third, relationship-focused role is required – essentially someone responsible for selling and managing the account by developing relationships with key stakeholders within the customer.
Some sort of segmentation may work well when it comes to leveraging talent, because not all traditional field technicians have the inclination or even capacity to do more of the customer-facing, relationship work. Maintaining a role that is more technical and mechanical and leaving the trusted advisor status to someone with more passion for building relationships could work best in certain scenarios. Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but we’re piecing together a puzzle of many pieces including service evolution away from break-fix, customer expectations for outcomes and insights, the need to modernize service with self-service and remote service capabilities, the talent gap, and the development of the traditional field technician role into something – or multiple things – different.
For today, know that those questioned at the event are not only using customer success in service but finding real value in doing so. If you have moved beyond a transactional model (which hopefully you have or are!), I think putting customer success in place is an important step to ensuring your customers achieve the outcomes they’re looking to you to provide and feel you are invested in their success.