Fielding Customer Service: The 4 Stages of Customer Service Excellence

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A homeowner recently went on a roofing company’s social media to vent. It seems that after a recent hailstorm, she was approached by a company rep going door-to-door, offering free inspections for storm damage.

“If we find hail damage, we can work with your homeowner’s insurance to get you a new, free roof, minus whatever your deductible is,” he said.

This sounded like a great deal to her, and so she allowed him access to her roof to have a look around. Sure enough, she had hail damage, and the rep was confident he could get her insurance company to agree.

He did just that, and after signing what seemed like never-ending paperwork and picking out her shingle color, the homeowner anxiously awaited her new roof to be installed. And waited. And waited. Just when she was to give up hope, she received a call.

“Great news,” the roofing company rep said, “We should be starting your roof sometime this week.”

“Sometime this week?” she thought to herself, “Can you narrow it down a little bit more?

“Not really,” the rep said, “But it will be this week for sure. Oh, and we do need you home when we start, and make sure your driveway is completely empty, too.”

“In this day and age,” said the homeowner on social media, “shouldn’t you be a little bit more conscious of people’s time? It doesn’t say much about your company if this is what you think of your customers!” she opined. “I certainly won’t be recommending you to anyone if this is how you treat customers and how you run your projects.”

In the past, these comments would’ve been directed at the poor receptionist who answered the phone at the roofing company, or possibly in a letter that got put in someone’s mail pile and eventually forgotten. But in today’s hyper-connected, all-access world, these are comments that are getting noticed by lots of potential customers, and are shared on your social media channels, their own social media, and popular customer review pages like Yelp! And Angie’s List. Today, one bad customer experience with your field service operations can cost you, as much as 22% of potential customers, and cost as much as $3,750 – $15,000 in marketing dollars.

Welcome to the age of the “Experience Economy.” For industries with a heavy field service operations presence like the lumber and building materials sector, creating a positive customer experience has become a big part of getting and maintaining customers in both the B2B and B2C world.  In this article, we will define the four stages of customer experience excellence for field service management. Targeting a plan to evolve to stage four, Autonomous Field Service, is how to build stronger customer loyalty and court a new client base by mastering customer knowledge through data management and automated processes.

Customer Service Reflects on Brand

For field service management, providing a great customer experience involves two crucial factors: time management and regular communication. Making your customers wait for services or not communicating with them on deliveries is the surest way to create a negative customer experience.

The path for top-notch customer service (CX) in field services management has four key stages:

Inbound Field Service

The primary attention of inbound field service organizations is centered on resolving incoming requests from clients. Their attention is on minimizing customer churn and their primary tools are using phone and email to engage and maintain relationship with customers. They participate in little proactive marketing or service models; nearly all actions are driven by reactive responses. This is primarily due to field services being siloed from the rest of the business, and inefficient use of data or process. They typically:

  • Still use paper-based and manual hand-off operations to manage workflows and orders.
  • Use only reactive responses to plan fleet and manpower capacity.
  • Collect little to no data on their customers.
  • Don’t use the data they have to build predictive models to plan.
  • Have little to no online automated systems in place.

Because of these deficiencies, field service operations at this stage often find it difficult to keep up with any growing number of incoming service needs, and therefore develop a serious backlog of jobs, as in the roofing story above. As the backlog increases, customer complaints can start surfacing, as well as cancelled orders, resulting in lost revenue, and an ever-increasing online reputation for poor CX experiences.

Foundational Field Service

Field service operations at this stage have been able to incorporate more customer and job data to provide better real-time service management and become less reactive and more proactive. They have typically analyzed some data to build-in certain automated processes for scheduling and routing fleet and mobile resources. Most field service operations at this point:

  • Experience greater support channels to increase CX.
  • Have decreased response times.
  • Use technology to implement customer self-service modules and better knowledge management to decrease the amount of service calls coming in.
  • Establish KPIs to measure and improve field efficiencies such as: travel time, number of jobs per day, response time, and order delivery time.
  • Are siloed from the rest of the business and lacking a fully integrated approach to customer service management.

Provide a better but still fragmented CX that will eventually result in customer dissatisfaction and turnover.

While on their way to providing the best CX possible, those stuck at this level are just prolonging the inevitable. To stay competitive, it’s essential that they continue to grow by using data to inform increased automation of services and better integration.

Advanced Field Service

Once a field service operations channel has hit this stage in CX excellence, they are well on their way to optimum performance and results.  Advanced field service operations:

  • Motivate strategic growth across the entire organization by leveraging data from field service interactions to provide insight and inform strategy.
  • Utilize advanced automation processes for scheduling, fleet, manpower, and supply planning.
  • Employ field technology and use mobile devices to speed up service and order time.
  • Focus on increasing customer acquisition and retention through collecting data, asking for feedback, and providing an automated chain of communication to customers.
  • Share data across all customer service channels in the business to increase collaboration and speed up service delivery.

Once the walls of internal communication have been broken down and field service management is no longer siloed, business can start sharing data, continue to build automated processes, and create a more well-rounded CX for their clientele. This builds performance predictability in your customer, where they feel they can count on always getting a delivery on time and receive a terrific CX.

Autonomous Field Service

Once a field service management team has achieved this level, they are cruising at top-speed. They are using data at an optimum level by building predictive analytic models to inform all CX service models and make them as superior and as automated as possible. Their primary focus is building long-term customer relationships through knowing the entire customer journey.

Additionally, they:

  • Drive more revenue for the company by adding value, service innovations, and higher KPI results.
  • Build enhanced customer self-service options and are able to perform pre-emptive service or place advanced orders through predictive modeling.
  • Use technology, AI, the Internet of Things and their own data to predict customer issues and orders before they happen.
  • Nearly all their operations are automated, with a particular focus on communication and providing pre-emptive service to their clients.
  • Listening to customer feedback on the regular and sharing that information across all service channels within the business to create a truly focused customer experience.