What happens after your customers have scheduled plumbing, electrical, HVAC, or fire and security service with your company?
If their experience is anything less than perfect, read on for savvy ways to overcome any obstacles your customer might encounter when they hire your business.
First, if you haven't already, check out Perfecting Your Engineer Management. In that post, we ask you to imagine yourself as a customer going through the process of working with your company—from when the engineer is dispatched to the job site, through to when the engineer arrives and gets started on the job. During this imaginary trip through the customer journey, you can look for any problems that might spoil the customer experience.
We'd never leave you scratching your head over a bunch of problems, which is why In this post we focus on the solutions.
Want to read this offline or share our solutions with your staff?
Download our full PDF guide that contains all the problems we tackle in this four-part series, plus all the solutions.
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Now let's talk about how to help your field service engineers deliver the best customer service.
Customer Touchpoint #3: Waiting for the engineer
This is where you can gain a 'forever' customer and loyal fan—or lose them for good. When a customer is waiting for an engineer to arrive is an especially vulnerable time: 'Is the engineer running late?' 'Will they arrive at all?' 'Should I call?'
Here's how to bust the most common problems at this point in the customer experience.
Problem: The service window is too wide.
Solution: Since customers often have to take time off of work or rearrange their plans to be available during the service window, the shorter the better. However, you also need to create a window that's wide enough to give you flexibility and the ability to get to everyone in your appointment diary.
To reduce the size of your service windows, you need more accurate ways of measuring the length of jobs and optimising your schedule. The solution? Technology, of course.
An increasingly popular feature in field service management software is intelligent scheduling. This feature lets the software automatically select the engineer with the shortest travel time and the best credentials for each job.
Some solutions also offer a "map view", where you can see where jobs are in relation to the one you're booking at the moment. Ask your provider if they offer these features, or other ones that can help you shrink your service window.
And of course, letting your customer know when the engineer is on the way will always improve the customer experience—no matter how wide your appointment window is.
Problem: The customer has no clue when the engineer will actually arrive.
Solution: Sure, your customer knows the engineer will arrive between 12 and 5 pm, but this doesn't help ease their anxiety. Can they take a shower, make a phone call, or run out to the corner store for milk—or will the engineer arrive right then?
Ask your field service management software provider if their app offers a GPS tracking feature where they can follow the engineer's journey. 'When a technician is en route to a customer, leveraging technology to provide real-time notifications—think Uber—is becoming a standard customer expectation and method to positively impact CX,' writes Ivan Moore of Jolt Consulting Group in an article for Field Technologies Online.
Using some kind of GPS tracking system will let customers know exactly when the engineer will arrive, so they can go about their day with confidence.
Customer Touchpoint #4: Meeting the engineer
Once your engineer is in the customer's home or business, it's game time. We hate to put so much pressure on your poor engineers, but they are the on front lines of customer happiness in your business. Your office staff may be super competent and sweet as pie, but your engineers are the ones customers see IRL.
Let's tackle the most common customer experience problems you may encounter at this point.
Problem: The engineer is late.
Solution: For many customers, this is not only a customer experience fail—it may also be the deciding factor in whether they hire your business again.
Many field service companies can claim they have skilled, capable engineers, but not many can claim they also have on-time, customer-centric engineers. Here's how to solve your tardiness troubles.
Turn to tech.
With a little research, you can put together a system that will help you increase your on-time record; for example, one of Commusoft's clients uses Bing Maps to figure out the most efficient routes and order of jobs.
Also ask your field service management software provider if they offer any features like intelligent scheduling that will help you optimise your engineers' schedules; you may find that you already have access to features that will solve this problem for you!
Train your engineers.
It could be that your engineers simply don't understand how important it is to arrive on time. Engineers aren't necessarily customer service pros, but you can train them to tune in to the customer's needs.
Schedule a training session, and be sure to stress to your engineers how important they are in the company's relationship with the customer.
Stay in touch.
If you know an engineer will be late, be sure to let the customer know ASAP via phone call or SMS. (The GPS tracking system we mentioned above will help, too.)
Are late engineers your business's main weakness? We cover the solution to that problem in more detail in our free download How to Solve Your Five Biggest Customer Satisfaction Problems.
Problem: Your engineer is...well, less than pleasant.
Solution: In this series we're going to keep hammering in the importance of training. If you don't have the skills or resources to insource training, you'll find plenty of firms that specialise in customer service training for field service engineers.
If your engineers simply can't handle the customer service aspect of their jobs, the problem may lie not in training, but in recruiting. This means you're not hiring the right engineers for your business.
To attract the best engineers, above all your business has to be a good place to work.
In a Huffington Post article on what makes a company a great place to work, author Robin Hardman reports that it comes down to simply being nice. Do you help your engineers with their careers...encourage fun and relaxation...understand the need for work-life balance...and act in the best interests of your employees, your community, and the world?
We understand this may require a huge cultural shift in your field service businesses. Take small steps to improve the work environment and you'll soon be attracting engineers who are not only good at fixing and installing things—but also at improving the customer experience through excellent service.
Problem: Your engineer neglects to upsell the customer on helpful products.
Solution: It's hard to imagine upselling as a benefit for customers—you're trying to sell them on new appliances, upgraded equipment, or service contracts, after all—but if you have the customer's best interests at heart, they'll appreciate it when you recommend a product or service that will make their lives easier.
Your engineers are not salespeople, but they are perfectly positioned to suggest additional products or services, according to a post on the Capterra blog about cross-selling for field service engineers.
There are two ways (beyond sales training) to help your engineers become comfortable with selling:
1. Reframe it.
Ask your engineers to think of of cross-selling and upselling as education. Part of their job is to educate the customer on how to get the most out of their equipment and appliances. Sometimes, this means replacing old equipment, upgrading systems, or scheduling regular service.
This reframing makes selling feel less uncomfortable to engineers who are not used to it.
2. Incentivise them.
Try offering an incentive to engineers who sell products or sign customers up for service plans. Cash can work, but non-cash goodies—like days off, tech devices, and entry into a 'club' where top performers go on group trips—work even better, reports a Hubspot article on non-monetary sales incentives.
For the love of customers
Now your customers are experiencing a smooth, pleasant beginning to their journey with your business.
Now, your engineer will be doing the installation or repair—another area that's fraught with customer happiness landmines. Next week we'll be posting the problems (and solutions) for that section of the customer experience.
If you prefer to read offline or want to share this info with your staff, download our full guide, How to Create the Perfect Customer Experience—From First Call to Final Invoice (And Beyond), by clicking the banner below.
You'll get everything you read here, plus the solutions to the rest of the customer experience problems we discuss in this four-part series.
Onward to happier customers—and more jobs!