Magazine Article | March 28, 2018

Creating A Customer Experience That Drives Field Service Profitability

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
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By David F. Giannetto, COO, Astea International,

Leading service organizations are succeeding by striking the perfect balance between technology, flexible processes, and sales psychology-driven behaviors.

Great service organizations don’t just give their customers a good experience — good service companies do that. Great service companies give their customers a good experience while also maximizing the profitability of the relationship. Achieving this isn’t easy. It requires a delicate balance between technology features, adaptive business processes, and even sales psychology — things that the average service manager rarely has time to focus on.

Consider customer self-service. Companies that provide self-service save an average of $1.2 million in annual labor costs. They also achieve 71 percent higher annual improvement in customer satisfaction rates compared to companies without self-service tools (source: “Self-Service: Create Happy Customers & Reduce Costs,” Omer Minkara, January 2018, Aberdeen). It works because it gives customers exactly what they want — a quick solution to their problem — while also creating a more profitable customer interaction. But it doesn’t maximize profitability. To do that the customer would have to purchase something new or additional during the interaction. The service team would have had to create business processes that intentionally upsold, cross-sold or resold the customer during this process. In this example, a self-service technology could do that. But most service activities take place in the field, where a technician is alone with the customer and under pressure to work quickly, and they are inherently opposed to “selling” something.

But when this is done well, it doesn’t feel like selling. Consider the use of Astea mobile technology in the residential pest removal industry. Technicians can quickly kill a wasp colony in an attic while the homeowner hides downstairs, and the customer will be happy. If the technician then shows the homeowner the dead, but large and scary-looking, wasp’s nest still hanging in the attic, a high percentage of homeowners will ask them to remove it — for a small additional fee. The mobile application makes it mandatory that the technician take a picture of the dead wasp’s nest and get the customer to “sign-off” that the work is complete. This is technology and business process adapted to sell, even though the technician never felt like they were selling.

Your Technicians Don’t Want To Sell
Technicians don’t want to sell. And customers don’t want to be sold. But customers do want their service provider to be a trusted partner who recommends products and services that will provide a tangible benefit. The trick is to find the intersection between service need and service offering that adds value for the customers and then rely upon the technician’s natural inclination to solve customers’ problems. Good service technology can then turn this into a well-defined and adhered-to business process.

Today, many of the processes that will most effectively capitalize on these opportunities to sell will be facilitated by technology itself. Customer self-service functionality is an example. What was once a traditional service-oriented portal in the Astea Alliance™ field service and mobility platform has evolved into a feature-rich portal that includes live chats, appointment booking, and searchable knowledge bases; a shopping cart where customers can purchase products, spare parts and consumables; and other capabilities that empower service providers to not just make customers’ lives easier but also demonstrate their value.

This same logic applies to a customer’s smart phone. Average users check their phone 150 times per day, or once every 6 minutes they are awake (source: Big Social Mobile, David F. Giannetto, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Great companies take advantage of this by giving customers an “Uber-style” service experience and then maximize the screen time by allowing customers to submit tickets, request and approve quotes, and focus their attention on other activities that benefit both the customer and service provider.

What makes a good service company great is the ability to deliver an experience across all channels that gives customers what they want while also giving the company what it wants — a more profitable relationship. The world’s best service organizations accomplish this by striking the perfect balance between technology, flexible processes, and sales psychologydriven behaviors. That is how the world’s best service managers think. And these great organizations and managers are likely your competition.