During my last corporate stint, I spent countless hours servicing customers in the field. This experience has proven invaluable when working with clients with field service personnel. Servicing customers in the field requires one to possess both the skills necessary to meet the customer’s needs as well as customer service skills to provide a complete experience. It’s my opinion that it’s critical that customers receive the best of both skills from field service personnel. Here are five tips that will help to insure your field personnel are providing great customer experiences.
Verify Skill Set – When field service personnel encounter customers, more often than not they find themselves on the customer’s turf. The customer is depending upon the field service person to possess the skill set to perform the required tasks. Before putting your field service personnel in front of the customer, take the time to make sure that they possess the skills to address, resolve, repair, install, build, test or whatever it is that they’re required to perform for the customer. Provide sufficient product/service training to insure your field service personnel can confidently answer customer questions. Develop scenarios that field service personnel will face when servicing customers and gauge their ability to complete the task. Make sure your field service personnel understand that exercises of this type allow you to identify training opportunities. Let them know that you want them to be confident in their ability to exhibit the highest possible level of skills when servicing customers. Monitor your field service rework levels as this too may be an indicator that certain field personnel may need additional training. Your customer certainly receives a better experience when your field service personnel possess the proper skills to complete the task right the first time.
Balance the Workload – My own experience shows that field service personnel can possess the proper skill set, but may not provide the best quality of work because they may find themselves distracted by something in the near future – the next assignment. When one is faced with more assignments than can be properly completed during the workday, sooner or later the tendency to take short cuts becomes an issue. This is a tw0 headed dragon as this can lead to both employee and customer dissatisfaction. Remember that your dispatch/work assignment procedure impacts the experience received by your paying customer. Does your customer complain that your field service personnel seem to be in a hurry? Are they short on conversation when answering customer questions? These may be indicators that your field service personnel may not be allotted the proper time to provide a great customer experience. Remember that we mentioned rework earlier? Concern with checking off each assignment as completed at the end of the day may lead to work quality issues which more than likely will require rework to resolve. How much does rework cost your organization?
Tag Along! – Here’s one of my favorite ways to get an employee’s perspective of their daily experiences. Regularly schedule time to ride with your field personnel. Get in their environment to see what they encounter when providing service. Ask open ended questions that allow them to elaborate on how they feel about your organization. Take notes on improvement opportunities. Are the “office people” negatively impacting field service personnel? Are field personnel receiving enough pertinent appointment information? Does anyone understand just what information is deemed critical by field personnel? Make others within the organization aware of what’s important to the field service personnel. When “tagging along” with field service personnel, jump in to assist with the various tasks. It’s okay to get those hands (or feet or maybe both!) dirty. More than likely you’ll get an education on “real world” scenarios when you spend time in the field.
Develop Standards – Are all of your customers receiving the same level of service? Are your field service personnel aware of what their finished product (repair, installation, test, build-out, etc.) should look like? Make it easy for them by developing standards. Doing so not only makes it easy for the field personnel to gauge their performance against the standard, but it also helps to insure that all customers receive the same level of service. The ability to consistently meet the customer’s requirements helps to build a long term service provider/customer relationship. Random inspections after service completion is a simple way to measure field service personnel performance to the set standards. Standards also provide an opportunity to afford field service personnel with an objective performance evaluation. On another note about standards, how should your field service personnel present themselves to your customer? If your industry requires your field personnel to get dirty, sweaty, etc when providing services – how about a clean uniform at every appointment – especially when entering the customer’s premises! What about the company vehicle – Is it clearly marked? Is it clean? Include standards that address customer perceptions about your organization.
Provide Basic Customer Service Skills Training – In knowing that your field service personnel will have direct face to face customer contact, remember to provide basic customer service skills training. Don’t assume or leave to chance that they should know how to deal with a customer. Remember we just said they’re more than likely meeting face to face with your customer – and more than likely on the customer’s turf! Educate them on the importance of voice tone, voice inflections and body language. Stress the importance of refraining from the usage of industry jargon when communicating with customers. Stress the importance of providing timely updates and regular status reports. Some customers may be angry or upset for whatever reason so equip your field personnel with the skills to effectively deal with someone who is not so happy with your products or services.
If field service personnel actions are critical to your organization’s success it’s probably a good idea to Verify Skill Set, Balance The Workload, Tag Along, Develop Standards and Provide Basic Customer Service Skills Training. Taking these basic steps will surely drive up both employee and customer retention.