Sumair Dutta, Chief Customer Officer at The Service Council offers his insight on how to leverage the untapped power of your field service operations to build additional revenue streams...
There is an increased responsibility on field service organisations to complement operational and customer facing improvements with commercial results. In The Service Council’s (www.servicecouncil.com) 2016 field service research, the lack of revenue opportunities was seen as a major strategic challenge by 40% of organisations.
To counter this challenge a number of organisations were looking at their front-line field service personnel to identify new business opportunities (aka Leads) or to sell when in front of the customer.
Most organisations currently have some form of a field service lead program in place and more are beginning to equip their engineers with the tools necessary to sell. There’s not enough room to debate if field engineers should be selling in the first place. In our research, we’re finding that more field service customers are accepting of a sales approach from a field service engineer if they have a relationship with that engineer or if the engineer has resolved their current challenge and is working to provide them with additional value.
In terms of field service lead generation, there are several best practices to consider when building a program. These best practices are compiled from our 2015 research on service sales and revenue growth and from a recent IdeaShare discussion that we hosted with several business leaders.
Develop a Dedicated Lead Management Process and Support it With Technology
Typically, the two major failure points occur around lead follow-up by sales and in lead affiliated compensation for field service engineers.
A lot of the core areas of lead management can be automated with the aid of mobile and CRM solutions. That said, its essential that there is well thought out process for how leads are managed throughout the entire sales cycle, all the way from identification to closure.
Deliver Training Materials at All Levels of Field Service
Change management is essential in the rollout of any new program. Poor attention to this often leads to unsuccessful adoption of the program and poor attainment of desired goals. Its likely that field service engineers will resist when asked to participate in lead generation as they will see this as a proxy to selling.
Therefore, organisations need to prepare this engineers on the purpose of the program and then reinforce the impact of the program on all stakeholders impacted, including the customer.
Once purpose has been established, the ‘how’ of lead generation needs to be reinforced with training sessions and materials. Preferably training content and scripts are available on-demand for engineers to refresh their knowledge as needed.
Its also essential that relevant instructional content is developed for multiple parties in the field service chain, starting with the engineers and moving up to supervisors and regional leaders.
Communicate and Then Communicate Some More
In this day and age of mobile content and self-service portals, it might seem silly to develop flyers and brochures to reinforce the message of a lead program, but these methods do work.
The message is simple, the more a program is discussed and reinforced, the more it is adopted.
In addition to reinforcing steps, best practices, and procedures, its also beneficial to reinforce the value of the program in the form of engineer success stories or customer results.
What’s even more impactful is an actual testimonial from a customer of how the extra time spent by a front-line engineer directly impacted the customer’s results and outcome.
Ensure Visibility Across the Lead Lifecycle
Part of the communication process involves giving engineers visibility into the status of their leads. If its assumed that leads are just going into a black hole, the lead pipeline will eventually dry out. Engineers don’t need to see every lead be successful, they just need to know that their effort is being followed up on.
Push for Sales Accountability
The monetary value of a service lead might not compare with that of a regular sales opportunity.
While the field engineer cares about the amount of recognition received, they care more about getting recognised in a timely and painless manner.
Therefore, its essential that sales leadership is bought into driving accountability for a service lead program. An easy way to do this is to show the impact that top performing regions or districts are having when it comes to top-line revenue.
If sales isn’t motivated by that performance, business leadership will be.
Compensation – Make it Timely
Most organisations develop a financial reward system for field service engineers based on leads closed. Some offer incentives for lead generation.
The issue is that most programs stop here. While the field engineer cares about the amount of recognition received, they care more about getting recognised in a timely and painless manner.
They shouldn’t have to fight for the recognition or have to wait for it for a considerable amount of time. Therefore, its essential that the reward system developed, monetary or otherwise, is efficient enough to deliver the reward to the field engineer in an expedited manner.
Evaluate Metrics that Drive Action
Activity drives results and while its essential to measure the impact of a lead generation program to garner further buy in, its absolutely essential to track activity-based metrics as leading indicators.
[quote float="Right"]Activity drives results and while its essential to measure the impact of a lead generation program to garner further buy in, its absolutely essential to track activity-based metrics as leading indicators.These metrics could include participation rates, referrals per tech, and average cycle or follow up time for leads. One of the organisations participating in our IdeaShare uses an engineer confidence index to measure the health of their lead program.
The index measures how confident the engineers are in their ability to get paid on leads. The higher the confidence, the greater the activity.
We’ve worked with organisations that have developed and grown lead generation programs into significant revenue contributors. These programs don’t require a great deal of investment from a technology point-of-view, but they do require leadership, a rigorous process, and a focus on change.
Sumair Dutta is the Chief Customer Officer at The Service Council. He has over 12 years of experience as an analyst in the field service management space. His work can be found at www.servicecouncil.com.