Your office staff are used to providing stellar customer service. Your engineers? Maybe not so much.
The real test of your business's customer experience takes place once the engineer is sent to the customer's home or business.
Your engineers have so much on their shoulders! They're not only expected to arrive on time and successfully complete the job, but they're also the only representatives of your business that the customer will encounter in person.
In our post Perfecting Your On-site Experience, we asked you to imagine that you're a customer of your own field service business. The engineer has arrived and is working on your repair or installation, and may need to schedule a second visit to complete the job. During this imaginary trip, you looked for happiness-busting problems in this part of the customer journey.
As promised, here we have the solutions to the problems you might have uncovered in your HVAC, electrical, plumbing, or fire and security business as you went through our thought exercise—from getting the wrong engineer to trouble rescheduling a follow-up visit.
Want to read this offline or share our solutions with your staff?
Download our full guide that contains all the problems we're tackling in our four-part series, plus the solutions.
Looking for the previous posts in this series?
Here are our expert tips on how to improve the on-site experience for your customers.
Customer Touchpoint #5: The repair or installation process
Competent installation or repair is nothing to brag about...it's 100% expected as the most basic part of your service. So once you have that down, what else can you do to bump up customer happiness?
You can start by busting these common problems.
Problem: You've sent the wrong engineer.
Solution: Your engineer shows up on the site...and doesn't have the correct skills or certification for the job. Not the best look for a field service company.
To make sure you send the right engineer every time, consider creating a spreadsheet where you list each field service engineer and their skills and certifications. When a customer calls for service, your office staff or operations manager can simply check the spreadsheet and select the best engineer.
The right tech tools can help, too. A free online mapping system like Bing Maps will let you select the closest engineer from among the best candidates on your spreadsheet.
Also, ask if your field service management software provider offers a feature like intelligent scheduling, where the system automatically chooses the engineer with the shortest travel time and the best credentials for the job.
Problem: Your engineer doesn't keep the customer updated on the job.
Solution: While the customer doesn't need minute-by-minute updates on a repair or installation, leaving them in the dark for hours can make them feel frustrated, worried, and impatient.
The problem may be that your engineers simply don't think to update the customer on their progress. The fix? In Help Your Field Service Engineers Deliver the Best Customer Service, we talked about treating your engineers to customer service training. During this training, instruct them on how frequently they should give the customer a progress report.
(We suggest talking to the customer an hour in to give them a quick update and an estimated finish time—and also inviting the customer to ask questions at any time.)
Problem: Your engineer doesn't have the right part for the repair.
Solution: When your engineer discovers they're missing a crucial part, they have to order the part and reschedule the service—sending the customer straight back to the beginning of the customer journey (and causing lots of frustration). Here's how to keep the customer happy when this happens.
Have suppliers on your side.
Develop a relationship with parts suppliers you like. If they have customer portals, join them for trade discounts and easier ordering. When you work with the same set of suppliers, you'll get an idea of how fast and reliable they are so you can accurately schedule the follow-up visit.
Also, ask your field service management software provider if they integrate with any parts suppliers, which will let you quickly order and track parts.
Keep track of stock.
Maybe your business has a stockroom or warehouse, but it's overflowing with a jumble of parts and your engineers can't find what they need. Invest in a stock control system that lets you view your inventory in real time with accurate information.
Underpromise (and overdeliver).
'Avoid giving speculative or optimistic information, like rough cost and timescale estimates, before you have the information needed to inform these things,' says Peter Cain of Anamosys in a LinkedIn Pulse article called Keeping Customers in the Loop—Prep.
Customer Touchpoint #6: The follow-up visit
Your customer may be slightly irritated that the job wasn't completed the first time around, so restore their confidence in your field service business by eliminating these common obstacles.
Problem: The customer isn't kept in the loop.
Solution: Your office staff say they'll call the customer when the part arrives, but the more time that goes by without a call the more anxious your customer becomes.
Think about how online stores handle it: They usually send emails announcing when they received your order, when the order has been shipped (with a tracking code), and when the order was delivered.
Creating a similar system for your business, or using an off-the-shelf solution, can help your customer feel confident and comfortable...instead of nervous and irritated.
Problem: The part doesn't arrive.
Solution: So what happens if your order never goes through or the part gets lost in the postal system? This situation just heaps annoyance on top of annoyance for your customer, and erodes the positive customer experience you've built up so far.
A good reminder system and solid relationships with reputable parts suppliers are key. Your office staff will know when the part should arrive, and will receive an alert to check if it hasn't been received on time. Having a solid relationship with the supplier will come in handy if there's a problem, too.
You can buy all-in-one systems that will keep track of orders automatically, or try adding reminder notifications in your calendar system or scheduling time-based email alerts on a system like Boomerang for Gmail; this will bring a customer email back up to the top of the inbox after a certain amount of time.
Above all, be sure to keep your customer up to date on the parts order; customers would much rather get the bad news up front than be left waiting and wondering.
Problem: The rescheduling process is chaotic.
Solution: You (finally!) have the parts needed to complete the job. Set the customer experience back on an upward trajectory by making the rescheduling process as smooth as possible.
If your office staff have trouble getting follow-up appointments scheduled quickly and efficiently, take a look at why.
Do your office staff not know who's calling and why? Ask if your field service management software has a feature that pops up a window with the customer's data and job history when they call in.
Do your office staff make the customer wait on hold for 10 minutes as they sift through piles of paper to find the information they need? Consider moving towards a paperless office to tame the paper and streamline the customer experience.
Tools for success
Thanks to the right tools—and the right moves—you can now delight your customers with a perfect repair or installation process.
If you think that now your job is done and it's time to move on to the next customer, think again.
Next week, we'll be talking about everything that happens once the engineer is finished with the actual repair or installation, from invoicing and payment to service reminders. This final part of the customer journey is loaded with obstacles, so we'll help you clear the way to 100% customer satisfaction.
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.
Here's to creating a perfect customer experience!