Having previously worked together on a white paper entitled the Radical Age of Uberization, Field Service News and Localz were reunited on the topic when the software firm hosted a morning briefing and invited Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief, Field Service News to chair the day’s discussions...
Here we see some of the key takeaways from an excellent and insightful panel session that sat at the heart of the day’s debate…
Lagging with Legacy Systems
We are in a state of flux at the moment. Our field workforces are changing, customer expectations are evolving, and the tools that are empowering them are adapting. Yet, one of the most significant points of contention discussed during Localz’s inaugural UK customer event, was that while existing technology systems being used to assist field service delivery were adequately designed to plan the delivery schedule for a business, they are not necessarily built with the customer in mind.
All too often, we see examples of customers having to wait at home for an overdue appointment. This can lead to frustrated calls into the call centre as a disgruntled customer is forced to chase their service appointment. The alternative is they give up and go about the more pressing chores of their day-to-day lives resulting in a dis-satisfied customer and a missed appointment that needs to be re-scheduled. In a world where we are chasing the delicate balance of customer satisfaction and operational efficiency – the proverbial ‘win-win’, the aforementioned customer scenario is a lose-lose. Yet, for many service companies, it remains a worryingly regular occurrence.
Bad Communication is Costly
This is an issue that needs resolving. Indeed, it was highly appropriate that such matters were coming to the fore at the event hosted by Localz - an organisation who are at the vanguard of pushing forwards a wave of solutions that crucially seek to mitigate such scenarios. Scenarios that invariably arrive in the face of increasing pressure to deliver field service in a manner which of the tools we use in our daily lives such as Deliveroo or Uber.
The Uberization of field service has become something of a holy grail for many organisations in our sector, and tools such as Localz are set to play an essential role in that search. Indeed, we are now seeing the emergence of solutions that bring the customer into the service delivery loop.
Such tools that are capable of not only delivering frequent communications via text, email, or phone – essentially automating ‘CX 3.0’ - but also adding in that fourth layer of real-time, visual-based mobile experiences as well. Of course, such solutions must be cloud-based to meet customer demand and offer a communication solution integrating technicians, customers and technology. In today’s world, why shouldn’t it be?
Yet, looking beyond the technology, what Localz provide to field service companies is simply the ability to deliver a suitable customer experience in today’s ‘uberized’ world. With real-time map tracking of the arrival of service and easy two-way communications between customers and mobile workers via SMS, email or voice call – one of the most critically overlooked aspects of the ‘day of service’, communication with the customer is being addressed.
“It’s not how complicated you want the tech side to be. It’s how simple can you make it for your teams to deliver their services and those customer experiences..."
Speaking to this point, Emma Lambert, Head of Global Customer Success, Localz commented: “It’s not how complicated you want the tech side to be. It’s how simple can you make it for your teams to deliver their services and those customer experiences. Technology should always support the users’ requirements. You can adopt technologies and apps you need to give that to an end-user in a way that that they’re going to trust and use.”
Indeed, the benefits of improving the day of service communication with the customer are not just about building the softer benefits often linked with improving the customer experience.
As Phil Sperring, Director, Wates commented: “The biggest challenge for us is to ensure that the customer is there. Day-to-day life reasons can sometimes get in the way so a customer could miss an appointment. Every time we send a van out, it costs us money, even if there’s nobody there. If we can improve that customer experience by enabling customers to track the van coming, then this has great potential to increase our first-time access rates.”
Yet for Heavy Equipment and Tool Hire company, HSS Hire, the ability to improve customer service levels and thus to solidify customer relationships is crucial in a market that is becoming increasingly commoditised. As Dave Raywood, Group Procurement and Marketing Director, HSS Hire said:
“Our biggest challenge was centred around cementing the customer relationship. In our world, there is an increasing commoditisation of what we do. Our customers want the right tool for the job on the date and time they need and for the lowest price. It can take one failed delivery to lose a customer to a competitor,” he explained. “We have seen a huge impact on our business by communicating more. If we text a customer to let them know what time we will be there and then text them again five minutes before arrival, then the delivery or collection is likely to be much quicker and easier for both parties.”
However, the benefits have been seen in both directions for HSS as their engineers have seen improvements in their day-to-day working lives.
As Raywood explains: “Our drivers are ecstatic. For the first time, customers are waiting at the gate for them. That’s never happened before, and it means we’re able to collect and deliver more kit to more customers every day.”
Building in Redundancy
As field services “Uberize”, each part of the process will become connected, it is therefore essential for every person involved to ensure their responsibility in the customer service chain is handled correctly. Creating great customer experiences isn’t one person’s job but a little bit of everyone’s. By joining the dots and sharing out the responsibility for delivering excellent service across the various moving parts involved in field service, we can build in a layer of redundancy. If one aspect falls down the options are in place to make sure that it is not a critical failure that results in an uninformed and unhappy customer.
“You have to accept that you will not have perfect up to date data from all of the parts of the supply chain at all times,” said Claire Rowland, UX Specialist and Author who opened the day with an excellent keynote presentation.
“There will be a degree of uncertainty and inaccuracy, but you have to design for that. You need to think about which jobs are likely to fail, why they’re likely to fail and to build in preventative measures...”
“There will be a degree of uncertainty and inaccuracy, but you have to design for that. You need to think about which jobs are likely to fail, why they’re likely to fail and to build in preventative measures,” she added.
A similar message was echoed by Julian Burnett, VP, Global Markets - Distribution Sector (UK) at IBM. Burnett urged the group not to overlook the crucial workflows that are essential to service excellence as we rush to embrace the technology reshaping the way we operate.
"We’ve got to reset expectations,” he said, “the technology is there, but you can’t remove certain physical barriers from the field service sector.”
This is an important point that we have touched upon within the pages of field service news many times before. Technology can and must be an enabler of exceptional service, yet technology will not solve service challenges alone. It must be implemented as part of a well thought out service workflow built upon robust service design and intuitive customer-centric thinking.
Changing Consumer Behaviour
Yet, is establishing intuitive customer-centric thinking is becoming harder to achieve as our world becomes increasingly complex? Modern life is connected and impatient. Expectations for Everything as a Service and demanding that ‘everything’ comes with instant gratification is becoming the new norm.
Has become the Uberized standard consumers are becoming accustomed to of receiving instant services at their fingertips. Delivering field services isn’t as simple as getting an item from one place to another, there are many unknowns, and therefore, it is vital that we set expectations at every step of the process.
One aspect of this conversation that is often left unsaid is how we can use technology to sometimes push back against unreasonable customer expectations and ensure that customers themselves also play a role providing the service cycle isn’t disrupted.
As Raywood explained, this is something HSS Hire have been able to implement to great success.
“When we deliver and collect our goods, our drivers take photographs which are geocoded and time-stamped and shared with the customer. We now have all the evidence we need to resolve disputes, and for the first time, we can start levelling charges that have always been in our contracts but are challenging to enforce. For example, when a customer isn’t there at the arranged time for us to collect our equipment.
“That, of course, starts driving a change in customer behaviour because now they’re standing at the gate ready to had our equipment back.”
The benefit of such solutions is threefold. Firstly, HSS Hire has its equipment available to hire again quicker, increasing potential revenue. Secondly, they can reduce the costs of unnecessary second visits and thirdly, the relationship with the customer benefits from the introduction of greater transparency.
As Lambert commented: “Localz is connecting some of those moving parts. How do you give the customer control without massively impacting on your operations, shift expectations and adding transparency? We provide these connected ‘uberized’ experiences.”