Aly Pinder, research analyst and mobile workforce specialist with the Aberdeen Group joins Field Service News with a new monthly column. In this first feature he looks at how companies can stand out in 'the age of the customer'
How would you rate your organisation’s ability to deliver great service?
Now, how would your customers rate your service?
I think both questions can lead to valuable insights into how the service organisation needs to evolve in 2014. But the customer’s take on your service is becoming more important than ever. Aberdeen’s recent research on the State of Service Management: Roadmap to a Profitable 2014 (March 2014) highlighted the top pressure facing organisations is increased competition both in products and services (52% of respondents, n = 170). No longer can service and manufacturing organisations rest on their laurels that the customer will not find someone else who can provide similar if not more value. For this reason, it is imperative that organisations re-train their focus on improving the service experience and providing value to the customer relationship.
In order to achieve this heightened level of service to the customer, a few lessons should be learned from top performers recently sampled from Aberdeen’s research. These best practices are just a starting point, but should be followed to ensure competition doesn’t eat away at your profits or customer base -
Craft a culture of service.
Exceptional service can only be achieved if the entire organisation is on board to deliver value to the customer. Often times we view service as a “problem” for field service or the contact centre. This is not a winning approach. The field service team is often the function which is in closest proximity to the customer, but each team within the organisation can have a positive impact on the relationship. For example, engineering has the opportunity to make products that are easier for customers to use and doesn’t break as frequently, marketing has the ability to highlight products or services that most align with customer needs, and operations can make service delivery more efficient by removing clutter from the service chain.
Learn from your customers.
Customers are more than just a means to more revenue. Customers show a window into the future of innovation and viability for the organisation. Top performers in Aberdeen’s research were 50% more likely than peers to proactively capture customer feedback in regard to product and service performance (66% vs. 44%, respectively). Organisations that do not listen to customers’ needs will miss out on finding that next great product or service. Furthermore, customers have more clout than ever, so neglecting them will not only impact one sale it may also negatively influence their connected ecosystem of current and future sales.
Design products for improved service.
Continuous improvement is a topic often denoted to manufacturing or operations. However, I propose that all organisations and functional areas should strive to continuously improve the offerings for their customers. The best performing organisations in Aberdeen’s sample were twice as likely to design products for improved serviceability (56% vs. 28%, respectively). These firms relayed customer and usage data from the field to engineering and design teams to enhance future products. An emerging concept for service organisations is “ease of doing business” for the customer, designing products for serviceability is the next frontier of this concept.
Find out what motivates your great service team.
Does your organisation know what motivates its field service teams? Not many organisations do. We just assume that an hourly wage is all it takes to have a technician who is excited to provide exceptional service. And this may be true at times, but organisations need to provide customers with even more valuable experiences. Thus firms must take a look at the employee’s motivation to create a link. Organisations are missing opportunities to identify gaps in service because technicians are not engaged to go beyond just turning the wrench to see the customer’s true needs.
Field service excellence is no longer a simple proposition of meeting a schedule. Top performers are looking to the service organisation to provide enhanced value to customers and become a willing partner for innovation.