Seven Questions to Evaluate your Proactive Service Effectiveness

Mar 28, 2019 • FeaturesManagementBBA ConsultingJim Bastonselling serviceService SalesStrategy

Jim Baston outlines some key considerations for companies looking to improve the service of their sales by fostering a proactive approach to selling service amongst their field service engineers.

Proactive Service® is a term I use to describe the proactive efforts by field service personnel to promote their company’s products in services to help their customers achieve their business goals. It is an excellent way to differentiate your service and stand out in today’s ultra-competitive environment.

If you encourage your field service team to look for opportunities to promote your services, here are seven questions to ask yourself to help you ensure that you are getting the most from your efforts.

1. Is opportunity identification part of your service deliverable?
This is the most important question and is the biggest determinate of overall success. When the subject of field service personnel promoting services comes up, it is often viewed as a selling activity that is in addition to regular service work. This is unfortunate since when our field team take steps to uncover opportunities that they feel will benefit the customer in some way, they are providing a valuable service – a service as valuable as their ability to maintain the equipment in top running condition.

As a service, the act of finding new opportunities is not an “add-on” activity for the field team to do “while they are there”, but an integral part of the field service person’s expected service deliverable. Our field teams have an obligation to bring forward ideas that will help the customer achieve results they may not have thought possible. When we take this perspective, it becomes easier to win enthusiastic support from our team of field service professionals. From this perspective, it is also easier for us to recognize the importance of implementing specific tools and processes to formalize this “opportunity identification” role. (See Question 4 below).
How well do you integrate business development by your field team as part of your service to your customers? 

2. Do your technicians recognize the valuable service they provide by making recommendations to help their customers be more successful?
Many of the service professionals that I have met do not see their role as a salesperson. They tend to leave sales activities to the people with the expense accounts and fancy cars. What these service professionals fail to see is that, with a service perspective, we are not asking them to sell at all.

By identifying and speaking with the customer about the actions that the customer can take that will help them improve operational performance, reduce costs, improve tenant satisfaction, etc. is a valuable part of the service.

This is important because, it will be difficult to get enthusiastic engagement from your team if they don’t see their proactive business development efforts as part of the service that they provide. They may give it lip service, but it is unlikely that they will put their hearts into the effort.

How about your service team? What do they think of your expectation for them to promote your services? Do they talk as if their efforts are a sale or a service?

3. Do you “talk the walk”?
Language is important. Your team will scrutinize what you say in an effort to understand what you mean. For example, if you tell everyone that their proactive efforts is a service but you talk about it as if it is a sale, then they will think that your service idea was just for show. Or if you reward individual team members for their “sales” efforts but do not put emphasis on the “service” they have provided to the customer, your words will not be consistent with your purpose.

How about you? How do you describe the proactive efforts of your field team? How well do you talk the walk?

"Many of the service professionals that I have met do not see their role as a salesperson..."

4. Do your processes support your business development strategy?
There are implications from this approach on the processes used to support business development activities by technicians in the field. Because lead handling becomes just as important as lead generation, the successful firm will have to ensure that they have a failsafe process for handling leads from the field and following up on them in a timely manner.

What processes do you have in place to help the field service professional uncover opportunities? What questions do you require them to ask when they arrive on sight that might reveal problems that you can address? What steps can they take before leaving?
Think about your processes around the proactive efforts of your team. Are they consistent in quality and scope with the processes and systems you have in place to support the other services you provide?

5. Does your field service team have the skills and knowledge to deliver on the strategy?
Skills development is an integral part of the strategy. Service technicians will have to become as good at interpersonal skills as they are with their technical ones. They will need to be comfortable in speaking with the customer about their ideas and the benefits of taking action. Service management will need to be skilled at coaching and in opportunity management. Training on these interpersonal and communication skills will drive improved learning and skills adoption.

Knowledge is also critical. How well does your team know about the various products and services you offer and how they benefit your customers? You might be surprised by the answer. In my experience, there are gaps in the field team’s knowledge about their company’s capabilities. If the field service person doesn’t know of a product or service or if they do not know enough about it to engage the customer in a high level conversation about it, they will not bring it up to the customer.
What about your team? Do you ensure they have at least a conversational knowledge about all of the ways you can help your customers?

6. Do you tell your customers what you are doing? If you were to add a new service to your portfolio, would you tell your customers about it? Of course you would. So, if your field team is providing an exceptional service by using their knowledge and expertise to identify ways to help your customers be more successful why not tell your customers?

We should tell our customers this, just like we would tell them about any other service that we offer that would benefit them. Perhaps the conversation might look like this:

“We have encouraged our field service team to use their knowledge and expertise to identify opportunities to help you achieve your business goals. If they identify an opportunity that will benefit your business, would you have any objection if they bring their ideas to your attention?”

Do your customers know what your field team is doing through their proactive efforts and how it benefits them?

7. Do you measure the effectiveness of your efforts beyond revenues? If you engage your field service team in the promotion of your products and services, chances are you measure the increase in revenues. What additional business have we won that can be attributed to the efforts of the field team? But, if these proactive efforts are a service, shouldn’t we expect more results than simply improved sales?

What about customer satisfaction and retention? If a customer sees value in the proactive efforts of our team, should we not expect to see improvements in these areas? How about the amount of unplanned emergency work as a percentage of the contract base? If we take proactive steps to help our customers avoid unexpected failures, would it be reasonable to expect to see a change in the relationship between unplanned and planned work? And what about our customers’ level of satisfaction with the proactive efforts of our field team? Are they comfortable with their proactive efforts?

When it comes to assessing the impact of the proactive efforts of your field service team, what do you measure? What do you manage?

There is a tremendous opportunity to differentiate our service from our competitors through the proactive efforts of our field service professionals but unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we may not be achieving the results we had hoped when we embarked on the initiative – either for ourselves or for our customers.

Asking questions to help us reflect on our efforts may give us some insight to improve our effectiveness and further increase the level of service we are providing our customers.

Jim Baston is President of the BBA Consulting Group Inc.