While many service leaders believe that providing service is the core of their business, it isn’t what ultimately drives their business’s success. Senior service leaders quickly realize it is the ability to win more sales and improve profitability, or their overall financial position, that will ultimately decide the fate of their organization. Aligning a service organization behind these “non-service” objectives can be challenging, but service leaders who’ve successfully grown their businesses have mastered this complex balancing act.
From the operational efficiencies that can be gained in scheduling, dispatching, service operations, and payment processing, to marketing and lead generation, business analytics and customer communications, every aspect of a field service business can be seen through the lens of creating a better service business that also delivers greater financial return. What, then, is the unusual approach these successful leaders are taking, and how is it driving their success?
Digital transformation – is it worth your time?
Admittedly the talk of “digital transformation” is getting a bit wearisome. At its core it is about using technology to create seamless efficiency across an entire organization, and this message resonates with service personnel. They get it. But the best digital leaders understand it should be thought of as much more if it is going to be worth it. It is the vehicle that allows people to connect with the business, both internally and externally. From appointment scheduling to payment processing, throughout the entire service lifecycle, employees must connect to each other and to customers. And most of these interactions must occur without human intervention so that only the potential problems are highlighted for personal attention. At the same time, digital transformation seen this way also allows business owners to more easily keep track of their teams, manage profitability, communicate effectively, intervene and make more informed business decisions. Just as easily, it expands to include winning new customers, generating online reviews, increasing digital presence, and managing leads.
To successfully transform, a company needs the right technology platform in place. And this technology allows field technicians and back office workers to work more efficiently within their processes, ultimately saving time and money, and creating a better experience for their customers. Service leaders can focus on gaining these operational improvements, but deep down they know that what they are really working on is enabling this much larger transformation in how people communicate.
Open lines of communication
Even before COVID-19 created the need for more distant interactions, the move towards timely and on-point, yet fully-automated customer interactions was underway. Driven by technology, the right field service solution opens the lines of communication not only between employee-to-employee or the technician to the back-office, but most importantly between a company and its customers. Especially with remote work, employees and customers need to stay updated on important information, and be able to easily contact one another.
For example, live notifications when employees arrive on location can help limit customer and field technician interaction in the wake of COVID-19. This improves the experience for customers, because today’s consumers prefer real-time updates from their service partners, while also making the technician’s job easier (and more in alignment with post-COVID expectations). Customers can also receive updates when a job is finished or get notified if there is a change in status, as well as leave reviews and be added to email communications during the time when they are not receiving a service. Opening the lines of communication from the company to field technicians to customers creates an exceptional customer experience, full of trust and transparency, and it also helps increase operational efficiency for the company. In the duality of this message, service leaders find a way to both gain employee support, while also moving their company forward with less fear of change.
The ability to maintain open communication also allows field technicians to easily access the right tools and information they need in order to better do their jobs while onsite. This could include job details, locations, contact information, and even notes on past related jobs, which can also help with cross sell and upsell opportunities. It also includes communication-oriented steps within customer interactions that include activities such as taking payment. Software solutions that have highly integrated payment capabilities create a win-win for both the organization and the customer by offering customers what they prefer (whether it be through credit card, card on file, eCheck, Google Pay, Apple Pay, etc.), while reducing the load on technicians, and speeding the movement of cash through the organization – something every executive cares about.
A better experience does have a hard ROI
According to a recent WorkWave survey of over 150 service companies, online reviews, word of mouth, and referrals from existing customers are the top three ways that these companies are winning new customers. And you can be sure that a customer that will not refer someone else to you, won’t return to you when they have their next service need. All of this relies on a customer having a good experience.
Errors made in the field cost companies far more than they understand. A lost invoice could result in the company never being paid, and never knowing it. And it can result in a frustrated technician that might carry that frustration into the next customer interaction. The right software solution can help reduce both human error in the field, and alert management when potential problem situations like this occur. Perhaps just as important, it makes the technician’s job easier. Technicians running rural routes in the midwest don’t want to carry around customer checks (and potentially lose them) any more than companies want to wait an extra week or two to deposit these checks into their business account. These seemingly small errors and inefficiencies can be prevented, and again, reinforce that the customer, the employees and the company can all win together.
An individual error might ruin the experience for one customer, but when added up they make or break a company – and as socialized as the importance of a good customer experience is these days, employees aren’t going to see it as potentially company-killing. Customers want a partner who keeps them updated not just on their services, but who also keeps them updated about the fact that they are updated. They want a company that runs efficiently and reliably, so that they feel they can trust them. At the heart of doing this effectively lies the right technology, but savvy service leaders know that they have to position technology as something that doesn’t just highlight errors, but helps prevent those errors by making individual employee jobs easier. The end result will be customers that are more likely to call back for another service, enter long-term contracts or make that all important referral.
The hidden ROI in employee satisfaction
One of the few times a client (an owner) completely surprised me in recent years, was when he said that the best thing he ever did to increase employee satisfaction and reduce technician turnover was to implement route optimization. We try to sell route optimization into every customer, not just because we sell software, but because it produces a greater overall ROI than almost any software component we sell.
Owners and executives love huge efficiency boosts, employees usually don’t. He explained that his technicians like providing service, and they hate driving, getting stuck in traffic, and criss-crossing back and forth across their territory day after day. Their frustration goes up and when they get a call to jump ship and go to a competitor they take it. Route optimization reduced this frustration for his employees. Behind the scenes it allowed them to do more of what they love, fixing and installing things, and less of what they didn’t – wasting time.
In today’s technician starved landscape, it isn’t only the customer experience that matters. Great leaders know the employee experience matters too. Tremendous focus has been applied to giving technicians the proper tools and technologies in order to be successful while they are onsite with customers. But the right technology can increase efficiency, while also building employee confidence and satisfaction, which is essential for retention and even recruiting. Simply put, a happier technician is also more likely to provide a better experience and go the extra mile for your customer – win, win, win.
Today, every service operation relies on a field service platform to drive their success. But it is the successful adoption of this technology that will help a company move beyond just thinking of operational efficiency as the key to its success – that technician effectiveness when on-site can yield more than just a better first time fix rate. The key to success at this next level is changing the way service leaders have long thought about service as the main driver of their company’s performance.
Today’s best service leaders understand that the right technology can prevent failure, provide critical information, prepare employees to answer questions, deliver services, and provide accurate, up-to-date information to customers. But it can also control, influence and monitor performance in a way that helps make each employee’s job easier, identifying top performance areas where you can help other employees to learn and improve. All of this can add up to employees who feel their company is investing in them and their abilities by providing tools necessary for the job and increasing efficiency, which has higher job satisfaction. And these great leaders also know that all of these things will add up to the bigger wins that the company needs to truly succeed.
About David F. Giannetto
David F. Giannetto serves as Chief Executive Officer of WorkWave, where he leads all aspects of Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Success, Product Design and Engineering, Development and Technical Operations. David’s extensive experience across software-as-a-service (SaaS), cloud, service, performance management and emerging technology allows him to further align the WorkWave functions that touch customer needs in a strategic way. David is also a respected thought leader, published author, keynote speaker and frequent writer for national magazines. He authored two books, Big Social Mobile, How Digital Initiatives Can Reshape the Enterprise and Drive Business Results, and was co-author of The Performance Power Grid, The Proven Method to Create and Sustain Superior Organizational Performance. He was also a former columnist with UBusiness Review, Strictly Marketing Magazine and the American Management Association.