In the Big Discussion we will take one topic, bring together three leading experts on that topic and put four key questions to them to help us better understand its potential impact on the field service sector...
In the first instalment of this topic our experts answered the question "It is often said service technicians are the greatest salesmen – what are your views on this?" and the second time out the question was Is there a difference between selling service and selling products?
and now onto the third question of the topic...
Is incentivising service technicians to “sell” opening up new revenue streams or putting their “trusted advisor” status at risk?
Technicians represent a ready and available channel for generating incremental service revenues.
After all, they are at the customer site almost every day.
However, service technicians may become over-zealous or pushy about selling, and jeopardise their “trusted advice” status, if they lack proper sales training or if their performance measurement system and company culture are too focused on sales.
A sales professional is a very different person from the service expert in terms of how they think and what motivates them. The service person is more motivated by relationship and recognition of their skills and it is this that allows them to develop the trust-based relationships that make them so special from a commercial perspective.
Companies should use this relationship to increase value, but be aware that as soon as the balance swings from supporting customer success to earning a sales commission, this trust immediately evaporates. To be successful, the question of incentives is critical yet very contextual to the business environment and company culture. Rarely is sales commission the answer as service peoples are not typically sales animals.
Usually having incentives through management objectives or even reward and recognition will encourage the desired behaviours without risking the Trusted Advisor relationship
I am very wary about incentivising service professionals for making recommendations. When we provide commissions or other forms of compensation for selling services to the customer, it sends a message that promoting a service to the customer is an act outside of their normal job.
We are asking them to provide “something extra”. It’s the “while you are there” approach. If making recommendations that will benefit the customer are perceived as an “add on” activity, then this suggests that service professionals can opt out. As I indicated above, I see promoting services as a service itself and therefore as much a part of the job as everything else that they do. Incentives can also encourage the field service professional to make recommendations for the wrong reasons (to get the commission as opposed to acting in the best interests of the customer).
Evidence also suggests that incentivising can actually discourage the type of behaviour it was intended to boost. Daniel Pink’s book Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (New York: Riverhead Books, 2009), provides a wonderful and often counter intuitive account of the impact of extrinsic rewards on employee performance.
Finally, what if the customer asks? What does the field service professional tell their customer if asked if they are getting compensated for make the recommendation? The customer may feel uncomfortable if the technician answers yes. How would you feel if you found out that your auto mechanic was commissioned on all parts sold?
Look out for the final part of this series when we ask our panel "What impact does the rising uptake in outcome based services have on the relationship between service and sales?"