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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