No one wants to be “that guy”. The field service professional that can’t answer a simple customer inquiry until they get “back to the office” and are sitting in front of a computer. Or, worse, the contractor that delays a customer quote – or even the service itself – another week because they don’t have the right tools or information access to follow through right then and there. Yet, this is a regular occurrence.
Just last week my colleague was telling me that she had five different service professionals out to her house, each expected to complete various repairs on a house they were moving back into after being tenant-occupied for six years. Yet only one was able to complete the assigned job right then and there: The alarm company technician armed with a rugged tablet and, therefore, the information and tools he needed to address any issue on the spot. Three of the other four “professionals” pulled out a pen and paper pad to take notes on what needed to be done, and one opted for a mental notation strategy. The problem? All four non-tech equipped pros walked away from a valuable sale the second they walked out that front door without completing the job. Not because of their incompetence, rather because they…
- Chose to delay a service the customer couldn’t wait another week to complete;
- Later forgot key elements of the scope of service discussed (no, they didn’t capture accurately via paper scribbles) and therefore misquoted the customer on costs, losing the customer’s trust in their ability to thoroughly complete the job; and/or
- Ultimately failed to communicate with the customer (prior to the job) or colleagues (during the job) to verify the service requirement and come prepared with the right tools and insights to fulfill their obligations the first time.
That’s why I find it so hard to believe that 52% of companies continue to use manual methods to handle field service. Service quality is critical to success, no matter your industry, and 83% of executives agree that their service department plays a strategic role in the overall business. It certainly plays a direct role in customer recruitment, satisfaction and retention. Yet those same executives report that their service agents’ top frustration in the field is that current tools are not fast enough (45%) and they can’t access all of the information they need (38%).
Whether those undefined “current tools” are pen/paper or an iPad is a moot point. The fact that they lack the proper connectivity to information hinders the “continuity of care” as I like to call it: The handoff of the customer from the call-center customer service representative (CSR) or dispatcher to the field service representative. Now, continuity of care is something you most often encounter in the medical field; the handoff of the patient from the emergency response team (EMTs) to the hospital, or from a primary care physician to a specialist. But continuity of care is becoming just as critical to the survival of field service organizations as it is to a patient’s recovery in the aforementioned situation. That’s why data mobility is now essential to both types of organizations as well.
Just because field service tasks require a lot of manual work doesn’t mean that data collection, communication and customer care should be handled via manual processes. In today’s times, you don’t want to be “that guy” that refuses to embrace technology because it seems hard to justify the cost or too challenging to manage a mobile IT environment. You could literally lose customers, and money, over the misperception that mobility is more hassle than help. Software is essential of course to make mobile tools worthwhile. But the advantages of mobility are so great, even using email, Google maps, and other simple tools has been proven worthwhile. Better yet are field service software packages that are designed to automate and mobilize any field organization. There are many of these to consider. Step one is to talk with your equipment supplier about the software offerings they are familiar with, and start with a pilot project.
There are so many professional-grade mobile computing options available today at every price point, that the “cost of mobility” is no longer an issue for anyone – not even one-man shops. In fact, you will likely get your money’s worth and more after that new mobile device is applied once or twice in the field to facilitate a service call through to completion and, in turn, close a “sale” or aid in customer satisfaction and retention. That is, if you don’t torpedo service quality with slow consumer-grade tablets, laptops or smartphones that prove unable to reliably provide access to workflow software and customer information.
(More on that point can be found here, but I can’t stress enough that a rugged tablet is not the same as a tablet “ruggedized” by a case.)
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that the value of your mobile investment – the ROI – is not exclusive to your field-level “care” capabilities. The technician isn’t the only one benefitting from the presence of the mobile device in that technician’s hand. CSRs and other back-office team members are reliant on the data collected by the technician in the field as part of the ongoing “continuity of (customer) care” in the following days, weeks and months. Remove the mobile device from the equation, and even the most hands-on organization is going find the health of their business in decline.
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