By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
I’ve spoken with a number of people recently about how I feel like in field service we’re amid a bit of a reckoning at the moment, and here’s why. When service began to be viewed as a potential profit center, companies became hyper-focused on customer experience (CX) and many failed to recognize the correlation between CX and employee experience (EX).
Layer on continuously increasing customer expectations resulting from our always-on, constantly connected environment; an evolution of what the frontline role consists of; a global pandemic and the resulting extreme talent pressures and now we’re grappling with the reality that seizing the potential of that service profit center simply isn’t possible without ensuring the employees who bear responsibility for that brand experience are not only engaged but fulfilled and empowered.
As Elizabeth Dixon, former Chic-fil-A executive and author, said in our recent podcast, we must remember that our CX will never be more than the overflow of our EX. “And that's not to say that we don't have to be prescriptive and detailed and super intentional about the design of the customer experience. We do,” she explains. “But if we're only doing that, we'll never get to where we want to be because all of that is the overflow of healthy, happy, contented employees who are in a great working environment.”
So we’ve recognized the importance of CX, which is great. And field service organizations have deployed a range of technologies and strategies aimed at giving customers better visibility, improving response times, shortening technician arrival windows, improving SLA compliance, and generally giving customers more control over their experience – which are also great things. But, with service-centric industries across the globe struggling to fill technician positions thanks to accelerating retirements, the pandemic-initiated Great Resignation, and a general drop in people entering the trades, we have to do more – and a big part of that “more” is equalizing our focus on EX to be on par with our focus on CX.
But like a sports team that over-invests in offense at the expense of defense one season, and then attempts to overcompensate by doing the opposite the following year, we must remember that the customer and employee experiences are inextricably linked and cannot be tinkered with in isolated silos. They feed into each other. So that, my friends, is why I think it is time to shift our thinking and approach toward the total experience (TX).
The Big Picture of TX
TX is a more unified view of the business that links the customer and employee experience across channels. It's a circular approach, where improving things for employees leads to better customer satisfaction, which in turn helps you align your team with your business goals. Gartner listed TX as one of the top strategic technology trends of 2022, noting that TX also incorporates user experience (UX) and multi experience (MX), with an eye on improving customer and employee confidence, satisfaction, and loyalty.
This more holistic view can give organizations a better chance to reach their business outcomes. In part, that is because to some degree employees and customers want the same things – more personalized and streamlined digital interactions; faster access to information about the service being performed; a more manageable schedule. Ignoring that fact can really erode your outcomes. Companies that have taken a more ham-fisted approach to customer service often do it on the backs of their technicians – insisting that they meet increasingly stringent CX requirements, but not giving them the tools or flexibility to do it without burning themselves out.
Streamlining employee workflows and empowering them in the field and within the organization can help companies improve customer satisfaction, which is a theme we have seen pop up multiple times in recent podcast interviews. But being able to do these things well requires strong leadership skills and a genuine appreciation for the connection between EX and CX so that the TX approach is prioritized in earnest.
In my recent conversation with Venkata Reddy Mukku, Vice President for Worldwide Service and Support at Bruker Nano Surfaces & Metrology, he shares some excellent input on how he and his teams focus on empowerment. “If they have that sense of ownership, they find creative ways of helping customers and also making sure the customer understands what our goals are so that we work towards a win-win situation,” he said. “With trust and ownership, people think out of the box, and they come up with solutions.”
You can also see the thread of importance of leadership pop up in my conversations with Dr. Elizabeth Moran about the neuroscience of helping lead your team through change, and in my interview about independent contractors with technician Tamika Fields.
Gartner’s research points to a pay-off for coordinating your customer and employee experience efforts, with companies that take a TX approach potentially outperforming competitors by 25% in satisfaction metrics. By 2026, they expect 60% of large enterprises to leverage TX.
The problem right now is that while there are plenty of platforms that can help you measure all of the experiences that make up TX, there isn't a unified platform that can link them all together. Organizations have to do some internal work to get visibility into how the employee and customer experiences affect each other and understand the impact of their efforts.
That work includes mapping out the customer and employee journeys (and seeing where they intersect and defining where you need to make improvements); establishing cross-functional teams to lay out the business case for TX; creating workflows so that customer and employee feedback leads to an actual business response; and figuring out how to integrate and manage data from the multiple systems involved and managing and measuring customer and employee experiences.
I think TX also highlights the importance and increasing need for trust, with your customers and employees. You have to trust that your customers know what they want, even if it does not cleanly align with your own business strategies. You have to trust that your technicians really want to help your customers, and equipped with the right environment and resources, will come up with creative ways to get to those outcomes. When Eduardo Bonefont took his current role at BD, he was faced with a disconnect in the EX – listen here to how he tackled that challenge, using eNPS and other tactics to equalize the focus between CX and EX and realizing the benefits of a more TX-centric approach.
Has your company tried to bridge your customer and employee experience initiatives? I would love to hear about your thoughts, insights and experiences.