As we begin to enter the final articles in our serialisation of Jim Baston’s excellent industry focused book Beyond Great Service we conclude the section on seeking feedback - an area that has become increasingly important today as field service companies en masse are putting the customer at the heart of their entire service strategies...
Before rolling out the strategy of engaging technicians in business development, Charlie wanted to seek feedback from customers. Last time he spoke with Joe Costello of East Side Property Management. Joe’s response encouraged Charlie that he was on the right track. Joe offered a suggestion for the initiative.“Way back when I first got into the industry, I ran into a bit of trouble that cost me my job, and almost my career. I was assigned as the building manager for a condominium for Chelsea Property Management. It’s still there, and it was at least 25 years old then. You may know it—829 Becket Avenue?”
“Yeah, I know it. My sister and brother-in-law used to live there.”
“Okay, so you will know it’s a pretty prestigious building. I am not sure why I got it, since it probably should have gone to someone more senior. Management must have been desperate. Anyway, I got it. I was pretty cocky back then and had no fear, so I guess I thought that I deserved it. Here I was just out of college and managing a big building. That was in December. The next spring, I guess it was April, the service technician suggested that I consider changing out the boiler. It seemed to be running fine, but it was as old as the building and parts were almost impossible to come by. It might have continued to operate fine through the next winter, but maybe not. That would’ve been the time to make the decision so that a new boiler could’ve been installed during the cooling system when there is no demand for hot
water for heating.”
I would suggest you encourage your technicians to set up an informal meeting every six months or so, for them to go over any outstanding proposals that have not been responded to. “I told the tech that I wanted to mull it over. I was nervous about bringing this up with the Board at this time, since we were working on a number of capital improvements including a new roof, repaving the parking lot and repairing the pool, and these were seriously depleting the reserve fund. I thought I would wait until the June Board meeting to mention it. By then, the approvals for the major expenditures would be behind us and we’d be thinking about getting things in order to prepare for winter.”
“Well, as I said, I had a lot of things on my mind and I forgot about the boiler altogether—until October, when the heating season was upon us. It was at that point I remembered the boiler, but it was too late. Fortunately, the start-up went fine and I thought I was in the clear. In January, however, the boiler
went down. As luck would have it, it was the coldest day of the year and the forecast was for at least a week, maybe two, of the same. To complicate matters, the parts that were needed were not readily available. It took the service company three days to find the parts and another two days to get them installed and the boiler back in service. We were without full heat for almost a week, and you can imagine the uproar from the unit owners. Some threatened to not pay their maintenance fees. Others wanted to change the building management company. It was absolutely crazy, and all because of my carelessness. When the dust settled, it came out that the service company had actually recommended changing out the boiler way back in the spring. For my company, that was the last straw. I was gone within a week.”
“At first I was bitter about the situation. It was an honest mistake, albeit a careless one, but not one that I thought I should’ve lost my job over. And, it could have been avoided. Had the technician reminded me that I had not made a decision on the boiler, or had he simply asked what my intentions were with regards to replacement, it would have saved my job. Was it his job to remind me? As I reflect on it now, I don’t think it was in the truest sense of the word. However, it would have provided a valuable service to me.”
“Anyway, the reason I am telling you this story is that I would suggest you encourage your technicians to set up an informal meeting every six months or so, for them to go over any outstanding proposals that have not been responded to. The customer can then tell them if they have decided against the idea or if they are waiting for budget approval. They might also thank the tech for reminding them that they have not attended to the issue. If it makes sense, your technician could also use this time to take the customer on a tour of the facility to showcase work and discuss new opportunities.”
Thinking about your business:
- Is your business development strategy clearly tied to your overall plan to provide each customer with an exceptional customer experience?
- Does everyone know what they are expected to do to delivery on the strategy?
- What hurdles stand in the way of fully engaging your field service team?
- Do you include steps like reviewing existing recommendations with customers to ensure important ideas are not lost?
- Have you sought feedback from your customers on your initiative?
Next time Charlie seeks summarizes the components of the strategy to engage technicians in business development. He calls this new service “Intelligent Service”.
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