Field Service Leaders: Stop Trying to Cut Costs and Start Focusing on Making Money
PART 1 Don’t expect different results if you keep doing the same thing
Jobs per day. First time fix. Wasted truck rolls. Rerolls. Then there’s mileage, efficient routing and service parts management. These are the metrics field service leaders strive to optimize every day, every hour. In an industry facing rising costs and customers expecting more, it’s no wonder executives are constantly seeking new and creative ways to reduce field service operations expenses.
More recently, best-in-class organizations have focused on driving better customer service around field service as a path to better margins. The connection to efficiencies: happier, more informed and less frazzled field service customers are less likely to cancel their contract or service, less likely to miss an appointment and less likely inundate customer support channels looking for answers or apologies. Customers benefit from a less stressful experience, and field and customer care teams complete work more efficiently.
Revenue is an important field service metric
Extending the happier customers logic to measure field service revenue, organizations have learned that informed customers who keep their appointments begin generating revenue immediately. Empowered customers with the flexibility to change a field service well in advance are less likely to churn and become lost revenue. Here, also, is where many early adopters are implementing new strategies that involve connecting the IoT, machine learning and predictive analytics to proactively identify and solve issues without a customer’s involvement – demonstrating value and streamlining their own operations simultaneously.
Many best-in-class organizations also connect customer-focused field service to customer loyalty and lifetime customer value, and have focused transformation strategies on this approach. The common refrain: field service appointments are the only in-person interaction a customer has with the business and the experience they’ll most likely judge the entire brand on. If it’s a positive experience, they are more likely to recommend a brand to their friends (Net Promoter Score) and more likely to keep doing business with the company (higher CSAT leads to higher lifetime customer value). When it is time to reach out again – whether to seek support, buy more or extend/renew a service – that field service interaction is the one they’ll remember.
Data supports this approach. A NewVoiceMedia study that found that 49 percent of consumers switched vendors due to poor customer service. This number increases for 24- 34 year olds, where 62 percent of consumers have switched to another business because of subpar customer service.
A path to more immediate revenue
While reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction both contribute to healthier margins and long-term revenue growth, many field service organizations can benefit from reassessing what role they can play as an active revenue generator for the business now. There are more direct paths to generating field service revenue. Strategies that focus solely on continually cutting costs and improving service levels as a means to improve profitability will only create expectations from ever-cheaper, ever more “delightful” service from management and customers alike. Unfortunately, this only perpetuates the vicious cycle of pressure to do more with less. It’s time for field service leaders to break that cycle and begin pursuing outcomes that will put them at the forefront of organizational growth.
PART 2 Becoming an organizational change agent
One logical question most will have on this topic is: Why should field service executives put their necks on the line to pursue yet another challenging KPI when achieving operational and CSAT targets are already nearly impossible with limited resources?
Win competitive funding for projects, faster
There are projects, updates and technology deployments every field service team is required to do. And then there are the projects they want to do – the innovative passion projects. For example, the employee training and communication platform that will ensure technicians feel more prepared and empowered to do their jobs, leading to job satisfaction that, in turn, leads to better employee retention.
Unfortunately, these well-intentioned projects often get stuck behind major system upgrades and tech debt that can take months, or worse, years to complete. Even when there is a strong business case for an innovative project that can also save the business money, that project is often “funded” by cutting the budget of the team that is leading it.
It’s a given that building a strong business case for any field service project is essential. However, if leaders would build a case for an important and exciting new project around new revenue generation rather than cost savings they are sure to stand out. Thinking this way prevents a field service initiative from stalling out or losing funding to another department’s initiative, or even worse, to a cumbersome but necessary field service project. Waiting for the right time is not an effective strategy; creating a sense of urgency based on projected revenue growth always is. Moreover, leaders who can get out of their own way habitually earn the trust and flexibility amongst their peers to implement even those passion projects that have no impact on revenue whatsoever.
Field service already owns a critical section of the customer journey
A field service interaction is the first, and often the only, face-to-face interaction many businesses will have with their customers. It’s a deeply personal interaction because it is in a person’s home or workplace, and it’s often happening at a critical moment when customers form strong perceptions of a brand – at the start of the relationship or when something is broken or wrong.
Considered in context of the holistic customer journey, field service owns what happens at a pivotal moment in the customer relationship. It’s a prime opportunity to stop thinking of field service as an operational necessity with costs to be minimized and start positioning it as a lucrative engagement channel. This becomes even more powerful for field service leaders who can transform not just the on-site field service experience, but every point of customer engagement leading up to and immediately after that field service meeting. It’s a chance to own and transform a major gap in the typical customer journey for the better. Seize the moment!
Create stronger, mutually beneficial alliances with different departments
How often does the field service group collaborate with customer care? Most likely every minute of every hour. How often with the C-Suite? Maybe monthly or quarterly. With sales and marketing? Likely never.
The rally cry for the “un-siloed” organization isn’t new. But in the face of such a lofty goal for completely united customer-facing experiences, there must be an achievable starting point. Data makes a strong case that marketing teams have a lot to gain from a more strategically managed customer journey. Research from Aberdeen Group demonstrates that companies that invest in customer journey management achieve a 54 percent greater return on marketing investments.2
Marketing wields more discretionary budget and influence. Yet, the percentage of marketing budgets allocated to technology decreased slightly last year and only about half of CMOs judge themselves effective at acquiring technology, according to Gartner.3 Field service leaders own a key moment in the journey and are adept at evaluating enterprise grade technology. Marketing and field service organizations would do well to partner on initiatives that change customer behavior and influence purchasing behavior during the last mile of field service.
PART 3 How to identify field service initiatives with revenue-generating potential
Step 1: Demonstrate value to establish trust and credibility at a critical moment
The quickest way to demonstrate value is by solving a problem for customers. Two of the biggest factors leading to poor service in the field service segment
are clients waiting for service providers to arrive and not having them arrive on time. Trimble’s Field Service Index found that 51 percent of customers said that their biggest frustration is failure of technicians to show up on schedule. Another study5 conducted by CSG found that 89 percent of respondents were willing to pay more for shorter time windows.
Yet another study by Forrester found that 73 percent of consumers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good customer service. While much historical data shows that customers don’t like to wait and many even logically understand the impossibility of predicting highly variable field service with precision, it’s more often a lack of communication and respect for a customer’s time that leads to customer frustration.
While respecting customers’ time is always a good idea, the perception that service providers respect customers’ time may be even more important. A study conducted by Harvard Business School asserts that customer satisfaction is based on transparency and letting your customer see that you are working on their behalf. The study showed that customers who waited longer for results from a web search that scoured travel options but were shown the process of sifting through different possibilities were more satisfied than the ones that saw nothing and waited a shorter amount of time. Essentially the customers who observed the computer working for them were more satisfied than those who did not.
Field service teams that use Glympse demonstrate respect for customers’ time by providing multiple, progressive updates about the status and estimated time of arrival for an upcoming field service appointment. The Glympse experience includes a real-time map view of a technician en route to a customer, like the many ride sharing apps customers today are familiar with. While this is just one example of how to create value and establish credibility during the field service process, it is a strong one. That’s because the continuous notifications and interactive web viewer that Glympse enables offer the added benefit of captivating customers’ eyes and attention during a period that would otherwise be a major dead zone in the customer journey. Look for similar scenarios when devising your strategy
Step 2: Elevate the experience for your captive audience
Most are familiar with the saying, ‘It’s less expensive to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.” We like to take that one step further by saying, “A captive audience makes for a much easier sale than a distracted one.” The key is leveraging those precious seconds of focus to extend the experience from one that is merely helpful, to one that generates revenue.
That said, we return to the previous Glympse example. Data indicates that, on average, when a customer accesses the Glympse interactive web viewer containing appointment data, live map and ETA countdown, they’ll spend more than five collective minutes on that experience. Five minutes.
Think of what more could be done for your customers with even just a single minute of their undivided attention. Our customers have found that it’s critical to collaborate with marketing and sales teams to determine how and what types of personalized, contextually-relevant offers are worth testing during this part of the customer journey
Step 3: Don’t neglect post-appointment revenue opportunities
The Aberdeen Group study also found that companies with a customer journey management program earn 3.5 times greater revenue from customer referrals and increase positive mentions on social media by 24 percent.
This reveals two opportunities. First, it’s essential to collect customer feedback immediately after a field service interaction. Ideally, feedback capture should be part of the field service process, and it should be interactive. What better time than to capture revenue from add-ons or offer incentives for referrals than when a happy customer is thinking about your brand. Waiting too long reduces the impact of the positive experience, and means customers will be less likely to take action.
Second, it’s important to make it easy for customers to extend positive feedback, incentives and referral programs to their own social networks. The exploding popularity of lifestyle and meal kit delivery kit services, built primarily through signups from social network referral programs, demonstrates that customer advocates can be a powerful channel to drive revenue.
Field service leaders face incredible challenges to continually bring new solutions that reduce costs while increasing customer satisfaction. These pressures will always exist. Shifting strategy to focus on, or at least include, a revenue first approach for improving the customer-facing field service journey can help break this vicious cycle and position field service as a strategic business unit.
Glympse for service technician appointments
Today’s on-demand economy drives customer expectations for higher levels of engagement, communication and transparency from brands during field service appointments. Glympse offers a powerful location platform and solutions, including proactive notifications, a customer-facing digital journey viewer, a mobile app for technicians and a back office dispatch dashboard. A custom-branded digital journey confirms critical appointment details and connects customers with support channels and allow for personalized marketing offers. Real-time location sharing offers a live map view and ETA countdown when a technician is en route, so customers know exactly when the technician will arrive. Instant feedback collection enables repeat business and empowers customers to become social advocates. With Glympse, brands can engage customers
and eliminate customer stress and anxiety during every step of the appointment process, improve operational effectiveness, reduce customer care costs, speed time to revenue and increase NPS/CSAT.