Beyond great service: The Hurdles (Part 1)

May 05, 2017 • FeaturesManagementbeyond great serviceJim Baston

Jim Baston continues Charlie’s journey as the serialisation of his service oriented book beyond Great Service continues...



If you missed the earlier parts of this series you can catch up by clicking here



Last time, we saw Charlie come to the realisation that proactive recommendations by his technicians must be positioned as an integral part of the service provided. The challenge now is to get everyone on the field service team to enthusiastically embrace the idea. Ken, Charlie’s service supervisor, is instrumental in helping Charlie uncover two of the possible hurdles that could sabotage their efforts.

Still debriefing the earlier service meeting, Charlie tries to sum up what they have uncovered: “So you’re saying that we need to help our technicians realize that discussing opportunities they feel are in the customer’s interest is a service, and not a sale. In other words, you’re recommending that we not teach our service people to sell, but rather that we should teach them to serve.”

“Right!” responds Ken. “By and large our service people resent being considered salespeople, so a big hurdle to our success is going to be getting our technicians to understand the difference between ‘selling’ and ‘serving’.

The fact that making recommendations they believe will truly help the customer may, at first glance look like selling, but it‘s really one of the most important services they can provide.”

Charlie goes over to the whiteboard in his office and writes: Hurdle – Service person’s view of the salesperson. Solution – Show them that they are serving, not selling. “This is great, Ken. Now that you have explained this to me, it makes sense. It seems obvious, but I have never thought of it in this way before. I can’t wait to get started.”

Ken smiles. “Not so fast, Charlie...while you’re at the whiteboard, put a # 1 beside the hurdle that you have identified, and below it write, Hurdle # 2.”

“You mean there’s another one?” asks Charlie.

“Several. After Hurdle # 2 write: The customer’s image of the service technician.” Charlie writes this down and looks quizzically at Ken. “I don’t know what you mean.”

The customer trusts the service technician to give them objective advice based on their skill and expertise

“The customer trusts the service technician to give them objective advice based on their skill and expertise. As you point out, unlike salespeople who are paid for what they sell, service people are paid for their knowledge and experience, which they use to do their job well—installing, fixing or maintaining things. They are viewed as honest brokers—telling it like it is, with no hidden agendas. It is tempting to exploit those trust-based relationships to build more business, and that’s where the trouble lies.


“The logic goes something like this. Our technicians have great relationships and our customers trust them. If we can get the techs to just put a little more effort into selling more of our products and services to those trusting customers, then they will be successful in building more revenues and profits without adding to our overheads. Unfortunately, from my experience this doesn’t work—at least not in the long term. When the customer senses that they are being sold, they become confused—and rightly so—about the service technician’s intent. The technician starts to look like a salesperson.

In the mind of the customer, the technician has just changed from being a ‘trusted advisor’ to just another ‘salesperson’ and the relationship advantage is lost.”

To address these hurdles, Ken points out that the solutions for both of these hurdles are the same.

Show the field service technician that any new business opportunities they identify should be based solely on solving the needs of the customer

“Show the field service technician that any new business opportunities they identify should be based solely on solving the needs of the customer—not on the need to sell the services of our company. This directs the field service technician to change their focus from selling Novus and our services, i.e. what we have or do that can be sold—to serving their customers, i.e. what their customer needs and how they can best address it using the resources and capabilities of Novus. Keep in mind that when we encourage our techs to focus on the needs of the customer and discern how Novus can best solve those needs, we are also addressing their concern about becoming a ‘salesperson’. Although we can help our techs by training them on the selling-based skills to engage the customer (such as exploring for customer needs, presenting recommendations and providing compelling supportive information), this approach is not a typical ‘sales’ call. Rather it’s simply a conversation with the customer.


Thinking about your business:

  • Would your customers say that they are uniquely better off by dealing with you?
  • How do you continually remind your customers of the unique value you are providing?
  • Does your field service team see their role in speaking to your customers about your company’s capabilities as:
    • A valuable service?
    • A selling task?

What other hurdles exist that would prevent your technicians from providing this valuable service?

Next time we will look at two more hurdles that Charlie will need to address if he is to be successful.



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