The field service technician or installer is truly the ambassador of good will, representing the company in the far-flung regions of the community. Who else does the customer actually see, wearing the insignia of your company, outside of your brick and mortar store (if indeed you have one)? The customer may be completely happy with your products, but those kudos will go to the manufacturer or the designer, but customer satisfaction with your company will depend a lot on this point of contact with field services.
Adding Focus on Customer Satisfaction:
Companies heavily dependent on field services as touch points with customers have a special responsibility to themselves to look after the "softer" side of field service operations if they want to retain satisfied customers. The Aberdeen Group's report "Secrets to Optimize Field Service for Better Customer Experiences" found that the trend has been for the best performing companies to move attention away from operational metrics and more on customer satisfaction metrics in evaluating field service performance.
The standard practice has been to focus on the operational and cost-reduction side, reducing travel time, increasing worker productivity in terms of number of job completions. They have found that exclusive focus on operations may be misleading. These operational metrics such as time to completion and travel time may, indeed have an effect of customer satisfaction. If technicians can fix more appliances in a day, that may seem great because more customers have things fixed. The problem comes with the quality of the repair and the way the technician relates to the customers.
What if the piece of equipment fails again tomorrow because the technician didn't take the time to find the true cause of the original problem? What if the customer's schedule does not fit in well with the compressed schedule the company imposes on the technician in order to optimize travel time? All of these efficiency steps may not improve customer relations and retention, but could actually lead to negative experiences.
Adding Customer Satisfaction Metrics:
Customer satisfaction forms have been springing up as a new source of important metrics. One such form includes customer ratings of:
- Ability to arrive on-site as scheduled.
- Product knowledge and competence.
- Timeliness of resolution.
- Quality of resolution.
- Courtesy and professionalism.
- Professional appearance.
- Overall satisfaction.
An interesting format can be seen here in documents sent to customers after a service call.
Apps are available for collecting customer satisfaction metrics via smartphones. This kind of data collection enables field service managers to collect customer satisfaction metrics in close to real-time, once repairs are completed. Follow-up customer satisfaction data should be collected for an extended time after the service contact as well, to see if things change.
Customer data can lead to improvement in customer satisfaction and retention. This data is also valuable for personnel management. Supervision of field service personnel is one of the most difficult aspects of field service management. Off-site customer satisfaction ratings can provide a window into where individual service personnel may need extra attention.
The Complete Customer Journey:
Another point of view is that customer satisfaction is a core concern of field services, where these services represent the point of contact between the company and its customers. A company may receive millions of phone calls about a product and may be able to handle each one very well. But the customer may not see his or her relationship with the company as simply a single product call, but as an ongoing relationship, especially where the company is banking on contract renewals. Organizations able to skillfully manage the entire experience of the customer, extended over time, reap enormous benefits: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction.
Focus group studies have found that even if your company evaluates customer satisfaction every time a customer calls or makes contact, customers can be unhappy with their overall interaction and can be lured away by competitors. The deeper customer dissatisfaction might not be with individual contacts, but might slowly erode over multiple contacts and over time as small problems are not addressed. Often customer service focus on efficiency or on closing new sales leads them to ignore ongoing complaints, or not to handle customers' needs to change the relationship in ways that would please them.