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Just as AI-based field service software changed the way service calls are dispatched and prioritized, intelligent consumer portals are changing the way customers are contacting and interacting with their service providers, enabling new levels of digital engagement, self-service and visibility. 

Customer Portals are the End to Service Requests as We Know Them

Ever since Alexander Gram Bell invented the telephone, the process for requesting field service has been: 1) customer has problem; 2) customer calls for service; 3) customer waits for call back or is offered an appointment; 4) tech is dispatched; 5) tech or service operations calls to provide an ETA; and lastly 6) customer waits for service. New, integrated consumer engagement portals revolutionize the service request process, making the old process as antiquated as the rotary phone. We’ll probably always refer to consumer requests as ‘service requests’, but with customer portals, service clicks is perhap the term of the future.

Portals are Much More than a Place to Request Service

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Service providers with websites that provide digital portals to meet the needs of their customers offer the ability to request service without the need for a phone call.

There are several advantages to this digital process. Instead of describing a problem to a person whom might not relay the issue correctly, customers can either choose from a predetermined list or type in a problem description themselves, making it easier for field techs to triage requests, providing more accurate ETAs and ensuring parts required are stocked on the truck.

Customers can also entitle their service requests, inquire about specific times for service, check appointment status, and communicate directly with the technician assigned to their service call.

The best portals even provide an interactive map that shows tech location at any given moment.  Intelligent customer engagement portals also enable customers to drive their own experience, providing the ability to upload photos, videos, or other information, perhaps an IOT sensor alert, which speeds triage, and ultimately the time at which they are back to normal operation.

Integrated, smart portals provide field service organizations with more information prior to arrival, decreasing the time to service and the number of truck rolls required to solve issues, making customers happier, faster.

Automated Portals Communications Provide a Huge Benefit to Technicians and Customers

Experienced field service technicians understand the value of communication between customers and the service force. Technicians take ETAs seriously, especially when those ETAs are created using AI-based schedule optimization solutions and communicated to customers at booking. However, sometimes, the best-planned routes and service calls can turn sideways.  What is sometimes supposed to be a simple problem with a quick fix sometimes turns into a longer, more challenging service event.

When technicians are neck deep in a difficult repair or maintenance situation, their minds are so concentrated on the resolution that time seems to stand still. Nothing but fixing the machine and making the customer happy is important. Stopping to make a phone call or send a text message to update the next customer regarding an ETA in jeopardy interrupts their train of thought and shifts the focus from the customer in front of them, to someone else, creating the opportunity for dissatisfaction with not one, but two customers simultaneously. 

Intelligent consumer portals take the burden of communication off of the technicians' shoulders, automating communications via methods the customer selects in the portal when setting up service calls, and also by providing a variety of mapping information which benefits the customer, as well as the technician and field operations.  

Empowered Engagement

Intelligent consumer portals empower field service customers by allowing them to be a part of the process rather than feeling like they’re just the next service call in the queue. Intelligent customer portals provide a seamless, self-service mechanism to provide job status, and information regarding whether an ETA will be impacted, keeping the customer apprised of unforeseen changes in arrival times.  Consumer portals enable technicians to be more effective and more transparent, automatically relaying information which helps improve first time fix rates, as well as information related to location and arrival. Consumer portals are also great revenue generators for field service operations. Using asset and service history, combined with AI-based predictive intelligence, portals can provide new services and products that are relevant to each customer, personalizing the offers and capturing new revenue streams automatically. 

Customer expectations of how and when they interact with service organizations have changed in lockstep with emerging technologies. Integrated, intelligent consumer engagement solutions, especially those within an end-to-end field service management suite, keep pace with technologies and your customer's new service reality. 

Check out ServicePower's new Customer Engagement Solution today!

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Donald Stephens | Service Power
Donald B. Stephens has worked 32 years in the field service industry. He is currently a Senior Customer Service Engineer for the Xerox Corporation. Freelance writing has become his passion and a wonderful way to discover more about the trade that has taken care of him all these years. To find more information about how he can provide content for your site, visit donaldbstephens.com