As the sad news of the passing of field service industry legend Bill Pollock still hits home, Field Service News is proud to continue to shine a light on his insights that so many in the industry have learnt from. Here we hear Bill's thoughts on how we must embrace a strategic approach to service delivery to ensure we meet our customers' expectations...
Every day, more services organisations are relying on customer service to differentiate their otherwise commodity-like offerings in order to bring customers in, keep them happy, and make them loyal. However, while it is not "rocket science", any services manager can look like an "Einstein" if he or she embraces the rudimentary aspects of customer service throughout all phases of services marketing and promotion, sales prospecting, writing the contract, and managing the customer relationship over time.
While there are many ways to go with respect to defining and establishing a strong customer service mentality within the organisation, the most direct path to determining whether your organisation is on the right track is to test yourself on a number of questions that will indicate how well positioned you are from a customer service perspective.
The basic questions that any sales, marketing or customer service professional should be asking, and a corresponding set of guidelines for addressing each of them, may include:
1. Does your organisation have a formal customer service or customer care department? Does it have a well-defined customer service mission or charter? Is it adequately staffed and empowered?
Surprising as it may seem, some services organisations have no formal customer service or customer care infrastructure. Even in cases where other departments may be managing portions of the company's customer service activities (e.g., handling complaints, responding to inquiries, etc.), there may still be no formal companywide procedures or processes for managing customer service. As a result, any customer service activities provided are probably not being performed in a consistent and cohesive manner. Further, in cases where customer service is performed essentially as a "secondary" activity to the department's otherwise self-defined "primary" activities, lack of adequate staffing, empowerment and accountability may become major inhibiting factors.
2. Is there a formal process for handling customer service activities? Are specific responsibilities defined and assigned? Is there accountable ownership?
All functions within the organisation require formal processes to ensure effectiveness. Documented processes are even more important when they involve customers and other external parties (e.g., vendors, dealers, alliance partners, etc.). But processes, in and of themselves, do not get the job done. They must be managed by designated personnel, with specifically defined roles and responsibilities, in order to be effective. The capability to track who actually has ownership of each customer service activity as it is being performed will be critical in measuring overall company performance, as well as providing an ongoing record of success (or failure) in meeting the company's customer service goals and objectives.
3. Does your company management promote and encourage customer service? Are there incentives for doing it right, or sanctions for doing it wrong?
Regardless of where your customer service personnel get their primary inspiration, they must still be fully supported by management at all levels. However, this is clearly a case where actions speak louder than words. Management must do everything possible to articulate and communicate its philosophy of customer service throughout the organisation in order to empower its customer service personnel to get the job done – and reward them for being successful at it.
4. How interactive is your organisation with the customer base? Does it communicate with them enough? Does it offer them with a means for providing their customer service input and feedback?
A one-way street for customer service is never adequate. A services organisation's customers must also be able to articulate and communicate their concerns to the organisation, and they will need to know how to do so. Accordingly, the organisation should have a formal process in place for soliciting and receiving customer service input and feedback directly from customers. The process should be well-documented and promoted, easy to access, user friendly, and sincere. Most importantly, all communications coming from the customer base must be quickly and satisfactorily answered. It is generally also a good idea to summarise some of the customer feedback and related company responses in a communicated format such as a company newsletter or Blog, or on the company Website (e.g., FAQs, Customer Service Update, etc.).
5. Are your customer service personnel properly trained? Do they have all of the necessary tools and resources to get the job done?
Just because certain individuals are "good with people" does not necessarily mean that they are fully equipped to handle all types of customer service situations. It may mean that they have the "right stuff" – but they will still need to receive the "right training." Even with the proper training, a customer service representative is often only as good as his/her ability to get the job done. This requires access to all of the necessary customer service and support tools, such as guidebooks and procedure manuals; software systems that allow them to log-in calls and track how and when corrective actions are required; and state-of-the-art mobile communications capabilities.
As you can imagine, there are dozens of additional questions that will still need to be answered before you can be certain that your organisation is addressing all of its key customer service issues. However, these five questions should be at the top of your list in order to make an initial assessment of exactly where your company stands with respect to its customer service philosophy.
Steve Mason, COO at FieldAware, a cutting-edge, cloud-based, mobile field service management platform that empowers companies to transform their field service organisation through automated processes and streamlined operations, agrees that, “It is the planning process that helps services organisations to establish the goals, objectives, targets and vectors that they must follow in order to, first, survive, and then, thrive especially in the current pandemic reality. Once they have a sound plan in place, they will require the tools to empower them to take the necessary steps forward. This is where we come in to assist our customers with both their planning process, and their ability to implement, monitor and measure their success over time”.
The planning process is critical for services organisations of all types, sizes, and industry segments, as offered by Emma Lampert, Global Head of Customer Success at localz, a global provider of real-time customer communications and service tracking solutions for field, collection and delivery teams on the day of service, who explains that, “Before you can progress your customer service plan, you will need to listen to customers’ needs. Feedback can be used to tackle their concerns head-on, as well as shaping your long-term strategy. With this in mind, we provide a range of tools to communicate with customers before and after a service is delivered. You can easily configure the communication journey to meet the needs of your specific segment.”
First and foremost, management commitment is what is required for getting started, and the plan for services management is what is needed for getting organised. Direction and focus assists in setting the appropriate targets, and teamwork and structure help to provide the proper environment for plan execution. Finally, it is with leadership and training where all of the services management components are "pulled together" so that the organisation can be successfully led through plan implementation and roll-out.
In assessing the quality of your organisation's strategic services planning effort, it is important to remember that the strategic puzzle is only complete if all of the pieces are fit together in the proper placement. When any one piece of the puzzle is missing, the process is incomplete. Your organisation may already have most of the puzzle pieces in place, but only through the adoption and utilisation of a formal planning process will the services management puzzle ultimately be put together in an efficient and effective manner.
The more of the planning elements your organisation already has in place, the more ready it is to move forward toward plan implementation:
- Leadership is critical to the empowerment that is required to "get the ball rolling"
- Information and Analysis provides you with the tools required to measure and assess your services management effectiveness
- The Strategic Services Plan is the framework from which your organisation will operate
- Human Resource Development and Management assures that you have the right personnel to "get the job done" and reviews legislation to ensure requirements are fully complied with in the service delivery model
- Management of the Process assures the appropriate levels of quality are built into the design of the organisation’s products and services as well as the processes that bring them to your customers
- Performance and Operational Results provide you with a benchmark for evaluating your performance
- Customer Focus and Satisfaction assures that your organization will always strive to provide its customers with the levels of products, services and support they require
If carried out successfully, the key outcomes of the ongoing strategic services planning process would be:
- The ability to predict/anticipate changes that the business will have to face in the immediate-, short-, intermediate- and long-range
- The ability to manage/control the way in which the business evolves and grows
- The ability to keep your employees, customers and society safe during COVID-19 and other pandemic-related situations
- The ability to act/react to both evolving and sudden market events and occurrences
- The ability to positively impact the environment whilst reducing operating expenditure
- The ability to dampen/soften the impact of negative economic downturns, market trends and/or competitive threats
- The ability to plan/support the most effective actions for positioning the organisation for growth mode
For more information, or to download a complimentary copy of the companion SFG℠ Analysts Take paper, please visit either the FieldAware or Localz Websites.
- Read more exclusive Field Service News from Bill Pollock @ https://www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/tag/bill-pollock
- Read more about Managing the Mobile Workforce @ https://www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/tag/managing-the-mobile-workforce
- Read Bill's personal blog @ https://pollockonservice.com/
- Read Bill's Obituary and comment to leave your respects @ https://www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/farewell-to-one-of-the-very-best
- Read more about the offerings Localz offer to Field Service Companies @ https://www.localz.com/
- Read more about the offerings FieldAware offer to Field Service Companies @ https://www.fieldaware.com/