By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
We know that delivering excellence in the moment of service is crucial in achieving customer satisfaction, but what exactly goes into making the most of those moments? Honestly, quite a lot. Today’s customer expectations are no small feat to deliver – they want seamlessness, simplicity, personality, reliability, peace of mind and much more.
To stay focused on achieving service excellence and delivering a standout customer experience, it’s important to think both about how you can make incremental improvements but also how your service value proposition will need to evolve to keep pace. I’d suggest you focus in on these five levers, because they represent some of the biggest areas of opportunity for customers looking to differentiate through service.
Lever #1: You MUST Master the Basics
If standout service is your goal, you must run before you walk. There’s no shortcut past mastering the basics of service excellence. Today’s customers won’t tolerate long appointment windows, late arrivals, and repeat visits. They expect far more from their service providers, yet many companies have yet to master the basics – and often this is because they’re trying to rush ahead to more advanced transformation without first setting a strong foundation.
Begin by ensuring you’re fully leveraging your service management solution to capture accurate data, arm field technicians with all the knowledge they need on site, dynamically schedule and route your workforce to maximize utilization, execute on-time arrivals, and increase first-time fix. Ensuring you have nailed the basics prevents you from making customer missteps that are unacceptable in today’s service climate, but also sets you up to add more sophisticated layers of capability successfully.
In a session from the Future of Field Service Live Tour in Stockholm, Berit Hallgren, Program Director at Tetra Pak shared, “We have a clear vision where we want to go, but we need to do that in a step wise journey, always putting the customer and employees first. We went a bit wrong 10 years back, it was all about the ‘cool’ stuff, but what will you do with the cool technology if the backend isn’t working? And that’s exactly what happened. The transformation we’re doing now is really to get the foundation in place for the future and then we can build on that.”
Lever #2: Respect the Correlation Between Employee Engagement and CX
I saw Elizabeth Dixon of Chic Fil A present at the Service Council Symposium in September, and I really appreciated this quote from her session: “Your Customer Experience is the overflow of your Employee Experience – it will never be better than the experience your teams have working for your company,” she said.
The field technician of yesteryear and the field technician of today are very different. Today, your frontline workforce is the face of your brand. They are the ones you’re relying – depending – on to execute your customer experience vision. Are they engaged? Satisfied? Companies who are getting it right have realized that we must ensure our workforce is satisfied if we aim to deliver a competitive CX.
There are many contributing factors that go into employee engagement. Technology is one – if it is cumbersome, viewed as a draw on their time versus the enabler it should be, engagement will suffer. Employees appreciate having a voice in what tools are selected and how they are used – and they often have insights that benefit not only their end experience, but the company’s initiatives.
But this lever goes far beyond technology use to more deeply rooted and often philosophical company and leadership elements. Everything from company culture to management style to communication methods to recognition and appreciation factor in. As the field service workforce continues to change, and companies quite universally struggle to recruit talent at the pace they need to, putting ample emphasis on all of these elements of employee engagement is an absolute imperative.
Lever #3: Focusing on Outside-In Innovation
If you’ve ever felt like your organization is beholden to its legacy, you aren’t alone. It isn’t uncommon to get stuck inside the box – sometimes habits, processes, and even assumptions can get in the way of a truly stellar CX. Even with the best of intentions, if we assume we already know what our customers want and need, we may miss the mark. Outside-in innovation is really important in delivering customer satisfaction, not only today but into the future.
Let’s look at four factors to keep in mind about innovation:
- It must be clearly defined within your organization so everyone is working toward the same objective
- Service innovation often means business transformation when what’s changing in service impacts the value proposition, go-to-market strategy, or revenue model
- Companies too often narrow their view of what’s possible – look outside of your own industry and remove restrictions on creative thinking
- Customers, not your company, define value – and today’s customers value outcomes
While you should innovate outside-in, you must also innovate inside to keep pace with what’s demanded. Many customers today value outcomes more than they do individual products or services. Delivering outcomes is an evolution that depends on not only customer intimacy, but infrastructure.
Take, for example Rema Tip Top who is migrating to outcomes based on the needs of its customers. As Thomas Moser, Head of Product Management for Digital Solutions points out, companies often cannot meet the modern demands of customers, like delivering outcomes, without investing in technology that enables new capabilities.
“The functionality of the IFS platform is what allows us to execute on our claim to keep our customers’ systems up and running. Further, it allows us to maximize the efficiency of our service delivery through the intelligence and automation build into the system,” says Thomas. “We can’t accomplish this evolution by selling service packages and offering manpower, because with manpower alone is far too expensive to meet outcomes. By monitoring the condition of our customers systems and then using the intelligence and optimization within IFS when manpower is needed, the value proposition of outcomes becomes achievable.”
What each of your customers wants and needs from you, and how you’ll get to delivering it, is different – but the need to innovate with their perspective at the forefront is universal.
Lever #4: Focus on (Truly) Becoming a Trusted Advisor
To this dismay of many a marketing organization, “Trusted Advisor” isn’t a status you can simply claim – it is a reputation you earn with your customers. If you think about building up to that status with your customers, the first concept that should come to mind is – you guessed it! – trust.
But what does it take to build trust?
For some external perspective, PwC reported in its Trust in Business Survey what respondents said were the top drivers of trust in company (asked of both employees and consumers). The top responses were:
- Accountable to customers and employees – 50%
- Clear communications – 48%
- Admits to mistakes – 40%
- Delivers consistent customer experience – 39%
- Appropriate employee compensation – 32%
To deliver that consistent customer experience, it takes intimate knowledge of their business, the ability to collect and analyze data that is relevant to their business AND the expertise to translate that analysis into simple, actionable insights they can benefit from. It also takes trust.
For many of our customers, achieving trusted advisor status is the next level of innovation they are focused on beyond delivering outcomes. Having that foundational, single source of truth plus customer intimacy and deep knowledge of desired outcomes sets companies up to consider what insights they can provide that will progress them to be viewed as a trusted advisor by their customers.
As Klaus Glatz, Chief Digital Officer of ANDRITZ states, the role of the frontline is imperative – and so is arming them with technology that enables them to act in the trusted advisor role. “Field service is key in our mission to expand and build upon our service offerings. Downtime wreaks havoc on our customers, and better managing our service operations is critical in minimizing and preventing that downtime,” he says. “Furthermore, equipping our frontline workforce with more sophisticated technology allows them to take on more services responsibility, create greater trust among customers, and act as a business advisor.”
Lever #5: Master Continuous Change
Jack Welch said, “When the rate of external change exceeds the rate of internal change, the end is near.” It can be overwhelming, but change isn’t slowing – we must learn to keep pace.
Companies who excel are embracing this fact. They are learning how to manage change more adeptly within their organization and with their frontline and are working to create a culture where change feels like a shared experience versus a directive. They are creating more agile processes around strategy setting and decision-making and they are using today’s technological capabilities to remain informed, to leverage automation, and to assess opportunities for growth.
Mike Gosling of Cubic Transportation, who has helped lead the company in the transformation from break-fix to outcomes-based service, has a great outlook on continuous improvement. “This journey is one of continual improvement. If you pop the champagne and put your feet up as soon as you hit your success criteria, you’ll fall back below quickly. When you master one area, you keep watch of it and move on to another,” he says. “You constantly assess where you are and where you’re going next, and out of this process is where the new innovative ideas are born. But you must be in a constant state of assessing and looking ahead.”