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As service providers, we are very much aware of the advantages of preventative maintenance programs and equipment tune-ups. Part of our job is to convince our customers of their merit so that we can help them reduce or eliminate unexpected failures, extend asset life and improve operational efficiencies.
If preventative maintenance and tune-ups provide such benefits for our customers, would it not make sense to apply the same logic for ourselves? When was the last time you conducted a tune-up on your initiative to engage your field service professionals in business development activities?
Engaging our field team in making proactive recommendations to our customers provides a valuable service. By identifying ways our customers can improve their business, our field team contributes to their ability to achieve their business goals. Our field service professionals, because of their knowledge of the technology and of the customer, are in a unique position to see opportunities that no one else can see. Therefore it makes sense that we maintain this initiative in a finely tuned condition so that our field team can perform this valuable service at the highest levels.
Here are four areas to focus our tune-up efforts to ensure that our field service team’s business development efforts are performing at their best:
1. Check the processes and systems that oversee opportunity capture and management to ensure they are working efficiently and without error.
Opportunity capture and management systems and processes are the backbone of the business development initiative. If the systems are not working smoothly, then opportunities get lost, field professionals get frustrated and customers become disappointed. Failure to maintain the processes and systems will be a sure way to bring the entire initiative to a grinding halt.
To keep systems and processes operating in tiptop condition, check to ensure that there is a clear and simple process to capture opportunities and that the process is clearly understood. Take proactive steps to simplify the process further. Check to ensure that there are no opportunities falling through the cracks. Ensure that management responds quickly to address any anomalies when problems in the process do occur.
2. Assess how familiar your team is with ALL of your services and capabilities.
Conducting maintenance in this area will contribute to the efficiency and consistence of the initiative. Teams that have a high awareness of your overall capabilities, will be in a better position to recognize opportunities where that capability will help the customer and be more comfortable in engaging the customer in a conversation about it. Evaluate how well your team understands the complete range of services that you provide.
Assess your strategy of bringing new members up to speed and ensuring that everyone is familiar with any new services you add. Evaluate whether your team recognizes the value of learning about your services and how it contributes to the overall benefit of your customers.
3. Evaluate your opportunity follow up strategy.
Not following up on recommendations will result in lost opportunities and contribute to the overall inefficiency and effectiveness of the initiative. Not following up will also have a negative impact on the customer. Many years ago I was asked to do some research for a service organization to gain insight into some specific actions that could be taken to improve their service delivery.
I met with several customers and one related a story to me that highlights the negative impact on the customer of not following up on recommendations. In this case, the field service professional made a recommendation to avoid an anticipated equipment failure.
The recommendation was not acted upon by the customer and several months later the failure did occur. The cost of responding to the resulting emergency situation was many times more that the cost of taking the recommended preventative action. The customer was angry with the service provider. It turns out that the customer had forgotten about the recommendation and the service provider did not follow up to remind him.
Evaluate your process for following up on opportunities. Is it clear who is to follow up? Are they provided with the information needed to do this in a timely manner? Are they following the process? What failsafe measures are in place to ensure that no follow-ups are missed? How well are these measures working?
4. Assess how well you and your management team are supporting the field team.
Management support is both the fuel and the lubricant of the initiative. Consistent and engaged management support will contribute to the efficiency and longevity of the efforts of your field service team. Initiatives that are poorly supported by management will never achieve the planned performance levels and will lose whatever momentum they have quickly.
As you assess management support, consider the following:
• How often do you speak of the initiative? Is it part of most conversations?
• Do you speak of it as part of the overall strategy to serve the customer? Are the proactive efforts of the field team referred to as a service to the customer?
• When was the last time you provided training to enable your team to perform capably and comfortably?
• Do you offer reminders and refreshers to keep the initiative fresh. Do you provide an opportunity like role-playing to let your field service professionals practice their customer conversations in a safe environment?
• Do you make time to regularly coach the team on the desired behaviours?
We provide a valuable service when we engage our technicians in business development by making proactive recommendations to our customers. In order to ensure that we are providing this service at the highest level, it is important that we maintain the effectiveness of the initiative through regular tune-ups.
If it works for our customers, then it will certainly work for us.
Jim Baston is President at BB Consulting Group.
If you are in the service business, then you know just how much technology is changing the way service is being delivered. Just about everything to do with field service has been impacted by technology innovation and it is revolutionizing the way we do business.
Technology has allowed us to improve efficiencies and to get a more accurate picture of the effectiveness of our business practices. It has improved our ability to diagnose and solve problems. It has facilitated the sharing of expertise with less experienced employees. It has also allowed us to empower our field personnel. Most of these changes have been good for the customer, for us and for our field teams.
But the adoption of technology takes resources – primarily time and money and because of the sea of technological innovation we encounter everyday, it is easy to lose focus on the personal touch of service – the simple interactions that our field service professionals have with our customers and which contributes to the overall customer experience. This comes at a time when it is now that we need that personal touch the most. This is because the implementation of the latest technology is increasing the relative importance of the softer skills of the business – the personal touch of our field service team with our customers. Technology is creating a shift in the relative importance between the “soft” and “hard” skills of service and soft skills are winning out. This is not to suggest that soft skills were not important in the past – they certainly were – just that they are more important now.
Shrinking Competency Gap
Emerging technologies in the field service business are reducing the competency gap between top service professionals and less skilled service providers. The result is that it is becoming harder to differentiate on technical skills. With remote diagnostics, artificial intelligence, visual reality and embedded information in the serviced equipment, the field service professionals rely more on the new technology to troubleshoot and repair and less on their experience and technical expertise. This opens up the door for less experienced individuals who use these same diagnostic tools to give comparable levels of technical service. This means that, even though it is highly competitive now, it will become even more so in the future.
Customers will have an increasingly difficult time distinguishing between service providers based on technical competence. Service professionals and service organizations alike will have to rely more on the service experience that they create when interacting with a customer to differentiate them from their competitors. The basis of competition will shift from who is doing the best job of servicing the equipment, to who can create the best service experience while doing the job. This is not to say that technical competence will go by the wayside. Obviously, it won’t. Technical competence is and will remain critically important.
Providing a positive interaction without the ability to solve the problem is not a sustainable service strategy. But as technology levels the playing field between service professionals of different capabilities, technical competence of the individual and the organizations that employ them will become less of a factor of differentiation.
Limiting Personal Touch
"It is becoming harder to differentiate on technical skills..."
Technology can limit personal contact opportunities with the customer. For example, when problems are diagnosed and repaired remotely, we save both the customer and ourselves time and money. That’s a good thing in that it gets the customer back on line more quickly and reduces the cost to service. However, it also creates a lost opportunity to expand our personal relationship with the customer. If that is the case, how does the customer distinguish us from our competitor who can provide a similar service?
It may be tempting to use technology to avoid the customer. Although this is something that service providers have been grappling with for some time, it is no less prevalent today. Why spend time explaining the work completed when the details can be sent to the customer at a touch of a button? Why not use email or texting to share information rather than picking up the phone? As a field service professional, this approach may improve their efficiency in the field, but it may not contribute positively to the customer’s overall service experience.
It’s All About Maintaining a Personal Touch
The winning service organizations of the future will be the ones that can find ways to maintain a personal touch while implementing the efficiencies that technology provides. They will clearly define the service experience they want to create and invest in the processes and soft skills training of their field service team to achieve it. Perhaps the best way to avoid allowing the sea of technical innovation drown out the personal touch in service, is to create a clear picture of the service experience you want your customers to feel and have clearly defined expectations of the nature of all interactions with your customers to achieve it. Technology can be evaluated, at least in part, in how well it facilitates these interactions. Here are some questions to consider.
• Do you have a clear picture of the service experience you want your customers to enjoy?
»» Can you describe how you want customers:
»» To think about you?
»» To feel about you?
»» Can you articulate what you want your customers to say about you
• Does everyone in your organization share this picture?
• Have you translated this picture into action?
»» Do you have clear expectations about how your team interacts with the customer in order to deliver this service experience consistently over time and across the organization?
»» Do you provide soft-skills training to ensure everyone has the skills to create the defined experience?
»» Do you provide coaching and reinforcement of these skills to help your team adopt and maintain the behaviour change you require?
• As managers, do you model the service experience through your words and your actions?
• When you consider new technologies, do you evaluate how its adoption will contribute to your ability to deliver your service
experience as part of your assessment?
It’s a thrilling time for service – full of change and new experiences. The future is really quite exciting. The challenge for service providers will be to maintain a personal touch with their customers while adopting new technologies to ensure their continued service leadership. This challenge can be summed up by the direction often given by a manager that I worked for many years ago.
When confronted with “I just don’t have time to get everything done. Which do you want me to do, this or that?”, he would typically answer “Both”.
Jim Baston is the President at BBA Consulting Group Inc.
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.
The survey gathered comment from over 125 Field Service Directors from global manufacturing firms, and revealed visual-based technologies including VR, AR, Visual Assistance and Video Calling could address the growing disparity between mature field service engineers and less experienced workers.
Commenting, Field Service News contributor and BBA Consulting President Jim Baston said: ‘‘As they [experienced engineers] rely more on their tools to troubleshoot and repair and less on their experience, it opens up the door for less qualified individuals who will be able to give comparable levels of technical service.’’
The survey also identified the need for an open digital eco-system between partners, suppliers and customers to encourage collaboration.
You can download the report's findings here.
Jim Baston, outlines why companies with strong field service delivery have a huge opportunity to add both value to their customers whilst improving their bottom line by tapping into easy accessible revenue streams...
Jim Baston, outlines why companies with strong field service delivery have a huge opportunity to add both value to their customers whilst improving their bottom line by tapping into easy accessible revenue streams...
Ask your customers this question:
Which type of service provider do you prefer?
- Reactive: Quietly goes about performing their service duties with a singular focus of completing the work correctly and efficiently.
- Proactive: Performs their work correctly and efficiently while keeping their eyes open for opportunities that they believe will help them achieve their business goals.
If the majority of your customers choose “A”, there is no need to read further.
On the other hand, if most of your customers choose “B”, then read on.
What follows is intended to help you provide the highest level of service that you can.
Our field service professionals have a wealth of knowledge and expertise. They understand their services and the value that they can deliver. They are familiar with the equipment that their customer is using and what that customer is trying to achieve. And, hopefully, they have an insight into their customer’s goals and challenges. Like the pieces of a puzzle, this information provides the field service professional with a unique insight into the customer’s business.
They can see opportunities that will help the customer that others with less information cannot. By bringing these opportunities to the awareness of the customer they are providing a valuable service, which a proactive approach does not provide. This is the value ad in business development by field service. Their recommendations can help their customers achieve results they would never have thought possible.
"The challenge for service providers is to encourage their field team to see this proactive role as a critical component of the overall service that they provide..."
Of course, the field service professional must be proactive in both looking for opportunities and in presenting their recommendations to the customer in order to deliver on this value. The challenge for service providers is to encourage their field team to see this proactive role as a critical component of the overall service that they provide.
The following suggestions are intended to help you support your field teams efforts to incorporate these proactive steps as part of their everyday activities.
Remove the word “sales” from your vocabulary
Having proactive discussions with customers about products and services is often represented as selling. “If only we can get our field personnel to sell” is a common refrain. Unfortunately, words like “sales” and “selling” often brings up an image of a pushy salesman who will doing anything to meet quota and this is not what a service professional is all about. They don’t see themselves that way and may resist when asked to take on the “sales” mantle.
Instead, call it what it is – a service. A service designed to add value to the customer by capturing the expertise of the field service professional to recognize opportunities that improve business performance. This is a service as integral and as important as the field service professional’s ability to troubleshoot and repair the equipment.
Clarify the service role you want the field service professional to take to deliver this service
Ensure that everyone on the team recognizes the service value they are providing when they take these proactive steps and develop some approaches to help them to do so. For example, when arriving on site, consider providing questions for your field professional to ask that may uncover opportunities to help. Do the same for departing the site. Ensure that your team understands that the goal of these activities is not to generate more sales for the company (although it will), but to improve the service level delivered to the customer.
Train your field team to communicate opportunities effectively
If a field team member finds an opportunity that will truly help the customer, then it is likely in the best interest of the customer to take action. However, this will only happen if the customer sees the value in the recommendation.
Train your field team on how to engage in these conversations and how to communicate the value of the opportunity of moving the customer closer to achieving his/her goals.
Check your processes
Just like every other service you offer, you must have good processes if you want to ensure that the service is delivered efficiently and effectively.
There are several areas to consider here including opportunity capture, management and follow-up. You might also want to consider how information about the status of an opportunity is shared amongst the service team.
Coordinate with internal groups that are necessary to execute the recommendation
Your field team may uncover opportunities that may need to be executed by another area of your company. For example, if the field team finds an opportunity that could lead to a large project of some kind, then the pricing and execution of that project may be the responsibility of a separate operating division.
Ensure that you have the full support of the other division and that they will seamlessly respond to the opportunity. Any slip-ups in these handoffs will result in reluctance by the field service team to make recommendations that will involve others in the future.
Educate your customers
Let your customers know what you are doing and why. Show them how the proactive efforts of your techs will directly contribute to their success. Let them know what they can expect and how you will be measuring the success of the initiative. Get their permission to engage your field team in this way.
You may also wish to consider holding regular (annual?) meetings with your customers to review progress. What recommendations have been made?
Which ones are still outstanding and why? How have the recommendations acted on to date impacted the operational performance of the customer? What are the customer’s goals for the next 12 – 24 months? Etc.
Measure your success
As a service activity, the proactive efforts of your field service team can be measured. From a customer’s perspective, their measure of the value they see in the recommendations made by your field service professionals is a good indication of the field team’s ability to address the needs of your customers. This should also translate into improvements in customer satisfaction and retention.
"The proactive efforts of the field service team provides the service organization with an opportunity to deliver a higher level of service while generating more revenue, higher levels of customer satisfaction and retention..."
From a service operational perspective in addition to the increase in business, you can expect to see the percentage of unplanned emergency work go down since you will be proactively addressing pending problems through your team’s recommendations. This will make labour planning easier. You should also experience an improvement in employee satisfaction as their jobs become more interesting and rewarding.
The proactive efforts of the field service team provides the service organization with an opportunity to deliver a higher level of service while generating more revenue, higher levels of customer satisfaction and retention.
To ensure success, it is important to ensure that everyone understand the service we are providing and support that service through systems, processes and training. We should also engage the customer in our efforts by letting them know what we are doing and why.
Our efforts will be rewarded through higher revenues and more loyal customers.
Jim Baston is President @ BBA Consulting
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Dec 11, 2018 • Features • Management • mobile workforce management • field service • field service management • field service technicians • Jim Baston • Service Management • Service Revenue • Selling Service Beyond Great Service
I was asked recently if my thinking has evolved since writing Beyond GREAT SERVICE, The Technician’s Role in Proactive Business Growth. The book is based on the premise that field service professionals add tremendous value when they use their...
I was asked recently if my thinking has evolved since writing Beyond GREAT SERVICE, The Technician’s Role in Proactive Business Growth. The book is based on the premise that field service professionals add tremendous value when they use their experience and expertise to make recommendations that will help their customers to be better off.
As I reflect on the book, that view has not changed. In fact, it has been reinforced as I have worked with more and more companies across North America and in Europe and with their local offices around the world. I have seen how field professionals react favourably to this description of their role and how managers see the value of this approach. It squares the circle between service and sales.
Although there is nothing specific that I would change about the strategy described in the book, there are two things that I would add. Firstly, I would spend more time and provide more guidance on strategies to implement a “Beyond GREAT SERVICE” approach. Secondly, I would focus more attention on the service nature of the field service team’s proactive efforts.
"I have seen managers struggle to provide the ongoing focus necessary to achieve the type of cultural change needed to ensure that business development by field service professionals becomes an integral part of service delivery..."
I have seen managers struggle to provide the ongoing focus necessary to achieve the type of cultural change needed to ensure that business development by field service professionals becomes an integral part of service delivery. To achieve this requires systems, processes and most importantly, constant coaching and support. Not everyone on the team will be convinced of the service value of proactively making recommendations to customers, and many of those that do will be uncomfortable in those situations. Without the support structures and ongoing encouragement, even those field professionals with the best of intentions will gravitate back to how they have always done things in the past.
The reason that some managers struggle with the implementation of business promotion as a service is due to the very nature of the service business itself. The day-to-day immediacy of service pulls management away from the thoughtful, important but not urgent work that is needed to successfully engage technicians in proactive business development. Much of service is, by its very nature, reactive and that means much time is spent responding rather than initiating.
Although this is changing somewhat, there will always be a significant element of responding to unplanned emergencies that demand immediate attention and draws managers from the task of implementing a “Beyond GREAT SERVICE” approach. The irony in this is that, as progress is made toward implementing the “Beyond GREAT SERVICE” approach, the increasingly proactive efforts of the field team will reduce the number of, and resources required for, unplanned emergencies as many issues will be addressed before they become a problem. That means that the more progress managers make in implementing this approach, the more time they will have to support it – almost the opposite of what is needed.
It is also important that the Beyond GREAT SERVICE approach be viewed as an integral component of the service provided – as much a part of the service as troubleshooting, repairing and maintaining. Sure, you could argue that they are “selling” when they make a recommendation to the customer, but semantics aside, when the field team makes recommendations for the purpose of helping the customer achieve their goals they are really serving in its truest sense.
"Most service companies fail to achieve the results they desire when they engage their field service team in business development..."
The serving vs. selling perspective is a unique and critically important differentiator. From my experience, most service companies fail to achieve the results they desire when they engage their field service team in business development. In addition to the reason cited above, a contributing factor for these less than ideal outcomes is that managers don’t integrate these efforts as part of the service. Promotion of services is often treated as an “add-on” that many within the field team see as “optional”. Some even feel that promoting services is an unreasonable expectation by management.
If the field service professional’s efforts are part of the service, it is easier to get the field service team to buy-in. They can see a direct connection between what they are doing in promoting their services and the impact on the customer’s business. Customers see value in this too. When explained to them that the field service team is being asked to use their expertise to proactively identify steps that can help the customer achieve their business goals (as opposed to looking to increase revenues), they can see the benefit for their business.
So, to address these two issues, I would add this challenge for the reader of my book:
Assume for a moment that you will be adding a new service offering to your service portfolio. The new offering has the following characteristics:
- It is an add-on to existing services (does not replace)
- It’s a new concept – the customer needs to be educated on the value
- New knowledge and skills are required to implement effectively
- No new tools or test equipment needed
- It has the potential to be highly profitable – efficiency in delivery critical
- The service relies on another division to deliver a part of the service
- There is a 1 to 2 year head start over the competition
When implementing a service of this nature, what steps will you take to ensure that you successfully and profitably introduce this service?
As managers ponder this challenge, they will come up with a list of things to be done such as: (Note: This list is far from complete)
- Define the service so it can be understood internally and externally
- Identify the processes needed to support the initiative
- Take steps to get buy-in from supporting divisions and a seamless coordination between groups
- Provide training and coaching to achieve the behaviour change needed
- Create the messaging and strategy to promote to our customers etc.
The point of this challenge is that the service described in the challenge is the service of promoting services to help the customer to be better off and this contributes to management’s efforts in two ways.
Firstly, it gives them a better perspective of all of the moving parts of a successful strategy in a meaningful way that is familiar to them (they have implemented new services before). Secondly, when the initiative is recognized as a service, management will see that its implementation is not a “part-time job” that is pursued if there is time but rather an important service initiative that requires continuous focus to ensure its successful implementation.
By devoting more space in the book to helping management implement the strategy as a service, I think that Beyond GREAT SERVICE would become an even more valuable resource for those organizations that want to truly help their customers achieve their business goals. I have a feeling that a second edition is in the works.
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Sep 14, 2018 • Features • Management • mobile workforce management • beyond great service • field service • field service management • Jim Baston • selling service • Service Leadership • Service Management • Service Revenue
In the final feature from our exclusive serialisation of Jim Baston’s excellent industry focused book Beyond Great Service we see the benefits that have resulted in Charlie’s efforts to establish a new sales-focused mentality amongst his service...
In the final feature from our exclusive serialisation of Jim Baston’s excellent industry focused book Beyond Great Service we see the benefits that have resulted in Charlie’s efforts to establish a new sales-focused mentality amongst his service engineers that doesn’t compromise their trusted advisor status and even more importantly that they as service professionals are comfortable with...
Over the past several months, we have watched as Charlie formulated and implemented a strategy to proactively engage his field service team in making recommendations to their customers to help them to be better off.
We saw how he came to realize that making recommendations of this nature was a service and not a sale and how he took steps to integrate this initiative into their overall service delivery.
Here we look in on Charlie as he reflects on how far they have progressed since initiating Intelligent Service just over six months ago.
It’s been six months since the new service initiative was launched and Charlie is preparing for the Monday morning service meeting.
He is planning to provide a report to the service group on the performance of the program to date. He sits back to reflect on all that has happened since he first introduced the concept to the service team.
Things have moved fast. Charlie listed in his mind all that had been accomplished since then.
- Sales materials promoting the new initiative (named ‘Intelligent Service’)
- Changes to Novus’ maintenance contract proposals and terms, reflecting the nature of the service to be provided, and outlining the formal and informal customer reviews
- A management process and tracking system to ensure that all opportunities are captured and followed up in a timely manner
- A training program for technicians to increase their confidence and effectiveness in having proactive conversations with their customers
- A monthly newsletter for customers, highlighting the latest in conservation practices and green technologies
- Changes to the website reflecting the new Intelligent Service, featuring an interactive learning portal with up-to-date information on products and services, including significant issues and trends affecting customers, and a place for customer questions
- Customer-focused seminars on pressing issues like energy conservation, new rules and legislations, etc.
- A revised customer satisfaction survey that includes questions about how proactive the technicians were in bringing new ideas to the customer’s attention
- An Intelligent Service Dashboard of key metrics to measure the effectiveness of the program
It is early yet, and some of the programs (for example the customer seminar program) are just getting underway and the initial signs are positive. New contract sales are up slightly, and John in sales has reported that the new initiative is getting lots of attention.
The contract kick-off meetings are getting favourable reports and overall customer satisfaction scores are trending upwards. Also on the rise is the percentage of additional revenue generated within the contract base.
There’s been no significant change in the contract retention rate, but Charlie concedes that not enough time has passed to give a true indication of what is happening there.
All of this is good, but Charlie knows that the real reason for this initial success has been due to the efforts of Ken and the technicians. For some, this process has merely validated their own personal (and successful) approach to serving their customers.
To others, however, what has been asked of them is a significant change in approach and with this change, a significant increase in discomfort. Charlie and Ken both know that without constant support and constructive feedback, people faced with significant change often revert back to their original habits over time.
That is why most initiatives of this nature fail. It’s also why Charlie feels that a major portion of the credit for the success of their new approach is due to Ken’s great example and leadership.
… stronger relationships continue to evolve between the service and sales departments, with John playing an instrumental part.
"There is a definite increase in the number of inquiries coming in as a result of the technicians’ efforts, and John is handling it all in stride. He painstakingly keeps each tech informed throughout the sales cycle..."
There is a definite increase in the number of inquiries coming in as a result of the technicians’ efforts, and John is handling it all in stride. He painstakingly keeps each tech informed throughout the sales cycle.
On occasions when his workload will not allow him to respond to a customer issue as quickly as he would like, he speaks to the technician as well as the customer to determine the level of priority that is required. In instances where time is of the essence, he’s quick to get Ken or Charlie involved so that nothing falls through the cracks.
Although the results have been positive on just about every front, Charlie knows that the customers will ultimately determine their success.
That is why he and Ken have each set up meetings with ten of their customers over the next three weeks to discuss the program and to get their feedback to date.
They want to ensure that the customers fully understand what the program is all about and recognize the value provided. More importantly, however, they want to ensure that Novus is delivering as promised, and through the eyes of the customer, if the promise made is being fulfilled to their satisfaction.
… Charlie is startled by the telephone.
It’s Joe Costello of East Side Properties. “Charlie, we’ve just won a contract to manage three buildings for a major building owner in town. I’d like you to come and see me about Novus doing the mechanical maintenance. How soon can you get over to see me?”
Charlie smiled. Things just keep getting better.
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In the penultimate feature from our exclusive serialisation of Jim Baston’s excellent industry focused book Beyond Great Service, we begin to see how our protagonist Charlie and his teams journey towards better understanding the balance of...
In the penultimate feature from our exclusive serialisation of Jim Baston’s excellent industry focused book Beyond Great Service, we begin to see how our protagonist Charlie and his teams journey towards better understanding the balance of building revenue streams from the service department has begun to formulate into a clear and workable strategic approach...
You can catch up with earlier features from this series by clicking here
Based on the feedback from several customers, Charlie is ready to roll out the strategy of engaging his technicians in proactive business development.
He calls the initiative Intelligent Service. We join Charlie as he presents the concept details to his team.
The key components and actions/comments are summarized in the table below:
Charlie reminds the team that the focus is not to sell but to serve. He clarifies that serving means taking a proactive approach to speaking with the customer about the actions they can take to run their facilities more effectively.
Only if the technician feels there is a valid need that could be addressed by a particular service offered by Novus, should the tech promote that service.Only if the technician feels there is a valid need that could be addressed by a particular service offered by Novus, should the tech promote that service.
Charlie emphasizes that in no way do they want the techs to talk up Novus’ services just for the sake of sales.
Charlie is about to move on to the next slide showing the implementation steps and associated time frames when Peter stands up. Peter is a quiet, thoughtful technician and rarely speaks at the service meetings. When he does, he usually has something valuable to say. This was not to be an exception.
“Charlie, with all due respect,” opens Peter, as he pauses and looks down at the floor, “this is a good approach and I am all for the initiative. Frankly, it makes perfect sense to me. In fact, I think we all do this to some degree now...” Peter paused again, and Charlie waited in anticipation.
“But, if we do all the things that you point out here, we won’t have any time to do productive work. We’ll be spending all our time gabbing with the customer and I don’t think they’re going to like that, and neither will Novus.”
Charlie smiled. It was a good point and he was glad it came up, especially by someone as respected as Peter. It probably means that a number of techs feel the same way and it is important to clear the air on this.
“Thanks for that, Peter. You bring up a good point. I don’t think that this will have much of an impact on non-productive time if it has any at all. At the kick-off meeting, we will explain the program and ask the customer if they’re interested in participating. I expect that in most cases they will say yes, and by doing so, they will be giving us permission to discuss opportunities with them.
Also, as techs, you’re only going to be discussing items you feel are in their best interest, taking into consideration your experience and knowledge of the customer’s needs, so the time factor should be quite minimal.”
“Yeah, but what about this mid-year walkthrough stuff, and the time looking for opportunities. Won’t they take a lot of time?”
“It will take a bit of time,” conceded Charlie. “During the walkthrough, you can make the most of it by asking questions to get an even clearer idea of their needs and goals, along with pointing out areas where improvements can be made. I think it’s time well spent and I’m sure the customer will agree.”
Look and listen for evidence of problems as you walk to and from the work area. Be prepared to ask questions of the customers and their staff as you go about your normal routines“Remember too, that we will have already discussed the idea with the customer and gotten their buy-in at the kick-off meeting. As far as looking for opportunities, we only ask you to do that as you are doing your normal job.
Keep your eyes open for things that may not be right.”
“Look and listen for evidence of problems as you walk to and from the work area. Be prepared to ask questions of the customers and their staff as you go about your normal routines. Let’s see how things go. I suspect that the return on this effort will far exceed the time invested. Does that address your concerns, Peter?”
Thinking about your business:
- Is your business development strategy positioned as an integral part of the service you provide?
- Have you created a performance “dashboard” to monitor your progress?
- Do you have a plan in place to teach, coach and reinforce the skills development of your field team?
Next time Charlie reflects on the progress he has seen since implementing the Intelligent Service strategy.
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As we begin to enter the final articles in our serialisation of Jim Baston’s excellent industry focused book Beyond Great Service we conclude the section on seeking feedback - an area that has become increasingly important today as field service...
As we begin to enter the final articles in our serialisation of Jim Baston’s excellent industry focused book Beyond Great Service we conclude the section on seeking feedback - an area that has become increasingly important today as field service companies en masse are putting the customer at the heart of their entire service strategies...
Before rolling out the strategy of engaging technicians in business development, Charlie wanted to seek feedback from customers. Last time he spoke with Joe Costello of East Side Property Management. Joe’s response encouraged Charlie that he was on the right track. Joe offered a suggestion for the initiative.“Way back when I first got into the industry, I ran into a bit of trouble that cost me my job, and almost my career. I was assigned as the building manager for a condominium for Chelsea Property Management. It’s still there, and it was at least 25 years old then. You may know it—829 Becket Avenue?”
“Yeah, I know it. My sister and brother-in-law used to live there.”
“Okay, so you will know it’s a pretty prestigious building. I am not sure why I got it, since it probably should have gone to someone more senior. Management must have been desperate. Anyway, I got it. I was pretty cocky back then and had no fear, so I guess I thought that I deserved it. Here I was just out of college and managing a big building. That was in December. The next spring, I guess it was April, the service technician suggested that I consider changing out the boiler. It seemed to be running fine, but it was as old as the building and parts were almost impossible to come by. It might have continued to operate fine through the next winter, but maybe not. That would’ve been the time to make the decision so that a new boiler could’ve been installed during the cooling system when there is no demand for hot
water for heating.”
I would suggest you encourage your technicians to set up an informal meeting every six months or so, for them to go over any outstanding proposals that have not been responded to. “I told the tech that I wanted to mull it over. I was nervous about bringing this up with the Board at this time, since we were working on a number of capital improvements including a new roof, repaving the parking lot and repairing the pool, and these were seriously depleting the reserve fund. I thought I would wait until the June Board meeting to mention it. By then, the approvals for the major expenditures would be behind us and we’d be thinking about getting things in order to prepare for winter.”
“Well, as I said, I had a lot of things on my mind and I forgot about the boiler altogether—until October, when the heating season was upon us. It was at that point I remembered the boiler, but it was too late. Fortunately, the start-up went fine and I thought I was in the clear. In January, however, the boiler
went down. As luck would have it, it was the coldest day of the year and the forecast was for at least a week, maybe two, of the same. To complicate matters, the parts that were needed were not readily available. It took the service company three days to find the parts and another two days to get them installed and the boiler back in service. We were without full heat for almost a week, and you can imagine the uproar from the unit owners. Some threatened to not pay their maintenance fees. Others wanted to change the building management company. It was absolutely crazy, and all because of my carelessness. When the dust settled, it came out that the service company had actually recommended changing out the boiler way back in the spring. For my company, that was the last straw. I was gone within a week.”
“At first I was bitter about the situation. It was an honest mistake, albeit a careless one, but not one that I thought I should’ve lost my job over. And, it could have been avoided. Had the technician reminded me that I had not made a decision on the boiler, or had he simply asked what my intentions were with regards to replacement, it would have saved my job. Was it his job to remind me? As I reflect on it now, I don’t think it was in the truest sense of the word. However, it would have provided a valuable service to me.”
“Anyway, the reason I am telling you this story is that I would suggest you encourage your technicians to set up an informal meeting every six months or so, for them to go over any outstanding proposals that have not been responded to. The customer can then tell them if they have decided against the idea or if they are waiting for budget approval. They might also thank the tech for reminding them that they have not attended to the issue. If it makes sense, your technician could also use this time to take the customer on a tour of the facility to showcase work and discuss new opportunities.”
Thinking about your business:
- Is your business development strategy clearly tied to your overall plan to provide each customer with an exceptional customer experience?
- Does everyone know what they are expected to do to delivery on the strategy?
- What hurdles stand in the way of fully engaging your field service team?
- Do you include steps like reviewing existing recommendations with customers to ensure important ideas are not lost?
- Have you sought feedback from your customers on your initiative?
Next time Charlie seeks summarizes the components of the strategy to engage technicians in business development. He calls this new service “Intelligent Service”.
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Jim Baston, the author of Beyond Great Service, tackles one of the most prominent questions amongst field service organizations - can service technicians sell without jeopardizing their trusted advisor status?
Jim Baston, the author of Beyond Great Service, tackles one of the most prominent questions amongst field service organizations - can service technicians sell without jeopardizing their trusted advisor status?
Two years ago I gave a presentation about the customer service value inherent in business promotion by field service personnel. I had an audience of almost 100 service managers and business owners.
I asked, by show of hands, how many of them had formal or informal expectations of their field service teams to look for new business opportunities.
About 60 to 70% of the attendees put up their hands.
I then asked the group how many of them told their customers that they had encouraged their field teams to look for opportunities.
No one put up their hand.
Although my research involved a very small and somewhat unscientific sample, I think this anecdote provides an indication of how many service managers and executives view the role of selling by their field service team.
In most cases, it appears that their view is that this activity is a means to increase revenues for the service provider.
How excited would your customers be if you told them that you encouraged your field service team to look for more business so that you could make more money from their current service relationship with you?If this is the case, then it is understandable if they regard this activity as a benefit for their companies, but not necessarily as a benefit for their customers. As a result, they may be having difficulty articulating a benefit that they themselves may not see exists.
For example, how excited would your customers be if you told them that you encouraged your field service team to look for more business so that you could make more money from their current service relationship with you?
And so the idea of sales by service professionals is somehow tainted. It is sometimes viewed as a dirty word. When we feel that way, we may encourage selling by our field service team but we certainly are not going to let our customers know we are doing so.
But does it have to be this way? Does sales have to be a dirty word in service?
What if our focus on business promotion by field professionals was not on increasing revenues, but increasing service levels?
What if we saw selling by our field service teams as a way to help our customers to achieve results they did not think were possible? What if we positioned opportunity identification by the field service team as a service to help our customers realize their business goals?
What if we discouraged selling for the sake of gaining more business alone but rather insisted that any recommendations by field service professionals be directly tied to a benefit for the customer?
It seems to me that if we take this “service” view of sales by our field service team, then their efforts become an integral part of the service – as important a service as their ability to install, maintain, troubleshoot and repair.
If we take this “service” view of sales by our field service team, then their efforts become an integral part of the service – as important a service as their ability to install, maintain, troubleshoot and repair.Recognizing that business promotion is an integral part of the service suggests that this activity will also be more readily accepted by the field service team themselves. My experience suggests that, in general, field service people are not overly fond of salespeople.
Those that feel this way resent being put in a position where they have to sell and therefore do not approach this task enthusiastically if they approach it at all. But if they recognize their selling efforts as a service, they will more likely embrace the initiative.
When we regard selling as part of the service, we can be more comfortable in telling our customers about what we are doing.
In fact, we can use our efforts to differentiate our service from our competitors. Imagine the value you communicate when you advise your customers that you have encouraged your field team to contribute their heads as well as their hands.
That you have requested that your field team use their knowledge of each customer’s processes and systems combined with their technical expertise and understanding of the customer’s goals, to look for ways to help your customers make improvements aimed at achieving their business goals.
You could even ask your customers for permission for your field team to sell to them. “Mr. or Mrs. Customer, we have encouraged our field service team to use their knowledge and expertise to look for ways to help you be more successful.
If they find something that they feel will benefit you and your business in some way, would you have any objection if they brought that to your attention?”
It is also interesting to note that research suggests that our customers want us to be proactive in making recommendations.
One study found that 75% of customers that left one vendor to give their business to another were actually satisfied or very satisfied at the time that they left.One study found that 75% of customers that left one vendor to give their business to another were actually satisfied or very satisfied at the time that they left.
Further investigation showed that the reason that they left, despite the fact that they were satisfied, was that they felt that the vendor that they were going to, was in a better position to help them achieve their long-term goals.
So, thinking about your business, is sales, when conducted by your field service team considered a dirty word?
If you’re not sure, ask yourself this question.
“Would I tell my customers what we are doing?” If your answer is “no” or “not sure”, then perhaps you have some work to do.
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