Giving customers control over how they choose to interact with your field service business could be the best decision you’ve made in years, and even help you win more work...
It’s encouraging to see the positive reactions that many businesses have had over recent months, despite the obvious challenges. Interestingly, success for many has been the result of finding to balance of a customer’s needs, with those of your business, and getting them to overlap.
Of course, the real challenge is not only ensuring that field service businesses—be they plumbing heating, gas, electrical, garden maintenance, and more—can maintain the adaptive changes they’ve adopted, but that they can take things even further and use these valuable solutions to thrive well into the future.
“Technology is a powerful enabler [it helps to] not only weather this storm, but set the stage for a strong recovery and [carries] immense future potential” - Field Technologies Online
Looking into the long-term power of software (or upgrading your digital tools to ensure they meet your needs) can empower both your staff and your customers to enjoy the benefits of world-class customer journeys.
Then customer self-service is something you may want to consider more seriously...
- Defining customer self-service
- What are the benefits of customer self-service?
- Service reminders and enhanced communication
1. Defining customer self-service
One area that many field service businesses will want to be sure they’ve got optimised is the way they communicate and serve their customers, whether it’s online or in person.
It not only helps to keep the work coming in, but ensures that everyone is on the same page, trusts each other, and helps work to flow smoothly.
In this context, customer self-service means offering to your customers a choice about how they interact with your business. Whether it's on the phone to converse directly, or digitally via a Customer Portal, or even individual portals (see below).
By providing these choices that make getting to a solution easy (and without having your staff get bogged down by laborious admin and repetitive processes), it can help your business to win more jobs, keep up with renewed demand, and even improve customer satisfaction (more on these points shortly).
“Companies that are reacting nimbly are embracing Servitization and outcomes-based service concepts [...] the move [..] provides peace of mind to customers while providing recurring revenue” - Field Technologies Online
But what exactly is Customer Self-service?
Simply put: customer self-service is when a customer does all the work and—stick with us here—is completely happy about it!
Customer self-service isn’t anything new, and you likely encounter it nearly every-day in some form. Consider supermarkets as a prime example. Many have self-service checkouts where you scan your items, bag them up, pay, get a receipt, and leave without any hassle.
While we’re not saying that exact form of self-service will work in your business (no one’s expecting customers to install their own boilers, after all) the idea becomes easier if you think about it in terms of online shopping.
Customers fill a digital basket, see a summary cost (with any potential discounts), choose a day and delivery slot, pay, and voila! If you think about it, they did most of the work but the simple feeling of having a choice in the matter is what makes all the difference, resulting in a positive experience.
Being able to get through customer journeys for your business (from bookings, getting an estimate, making payments, or leaving reviews, to name a few) is something you want to make easy in much the same way.
All sorts of self-service methods are being adopted by a wide variety of industries, from ordering food, to even booking a dental appointment. After all, it’s simple, it’s easy, it’s fast; not to mention the level of control, clarity, and convenience it gives customers is something many are especially keen for at the moment and will be into the future.
So, what if you could set your business up in such a way that you can give your customers control over how they use your services, and make life easier for your staff?
After all, the more straightforward and clear something is, the easier it is to get a positive result, and with software, you can achieve precisely that goal.
2. What are the benefits of customer self-service?
It’s a constant challenge to reassure customers and staff, particularly when you’re dealing with complex tasks for larger businesses, like planned preventive maintenance on a commercial scale. Besides, you know in the world of repairs, maintenance, and emergency fixes, things can get complicated quickly, so it pays to be prepared. If you can make things easy, even better!
Due to the benefits of customer self-service, which include winning more jobs, keeping up with demand, saving time, and improving customer satisfaction, there’s been an undeniable uptick in the way that customer service operates, particularly during the pandemic, but these developments were certainly occurring beforehand, as Gartner reports:
“In 2017, Gartner predicted that, by 2020, 10% of emergency field service work would be both triaged and scheduled by AI, up from less than 1% in 2017. Of the surveyed reference customers this year, which represent a small but often leading portion of the overall market, 23% indicated that they already schedule some work automatically.
Getting this right starts with a robust customer experience tool, and emanates from asset management as well. Solid IoT systems can dispatch technicians before customers even realize there’s a problem, and chatbots can be calibrated to respond accurately to challenges and recommend the right solutions.” - Field Technologies Online
Evidently, even if you’re already using software, there’s still a lot you can do to improve the systems and process you already have in place (and you’re probably already considering that if you’re reading this post).
It’s not simply about using software to fix one problem, but making sure you’re using the right software to solve many others and achieve the targets you set now and into the future. In many ways, your job management software is your service business' best asset.
Briefly, let’s explain a little more about some of those benefits we mentioned before:
Win more jobs
With self-service, you can streamline the work you do day-to-day. We have a specific example below concerning service reminders, but in simpler terms, using self-service can let you hand over some control to the customer, so they can query and confirm the solution they’re looking for, and build it naturally into your diary.
This frees up your staff to commit to organising more complex tasks, all whilst letting you comfortably fulfil requests that range from simple and straightforward, to bolder queries that require a little more attention.
Keep up with renewed demand
One of the most important features of self-service is how it gives customers access to inquiries and booking 24/7. You’ll have had emergency call-outs before, but sometimes dealing with an emergency can be impossible if there aren’t staff in the office, or the on-call engineers are otherwise unavailable.
With a self-service tool in place, this friction is all but entirely removed, meaning customers can make a request or even confirm a booking any time of the day and it’ll slot right into your diary, thanks to intelligent scheduling and notifications. Happy days.
Improve customer satisfaction
We’ve touched on this point throughout this article, but really, self-service is all about improving satisfaction. Customers want to know a solution can be achieved easily, and many people don’t want to spend time on the phone these days. If a job can be booked and arranged on an app, it means it’s done quickly, cleanly, and if a confirmation comes through, a customer can be satisfied with an outcome in next to no-time. That's great customer service.
It’s perfectly understandable why scaling something like this can be daunting, or even be seen as a burden for your service business, but this is often due to inefficient software and training, rather than the practical capability of your business being able to use it well.
With the right software that lets you take advantage of intelligent scheduling and gives customers insight (and your business oversight), you can react faster and more efficiently to improve customer journeys, optimise schedules, and make everyone’s lives much easier.
3. Service reminders and enhanced communication
With all that in place, it’s worth taking a final moment to consider a more specific use-case where self-service can help you in a big way.
Getting control over your service reminders can make a huge difference to securing healthy recurring revenue, especially if you’re scaling en-masse. You may already be sending out automatic notifications to email, text, or otherwise inform customers that a service is due, but how about levelling that up?
With a Service Reminder Booking Portal you can do precisely that.
Using intelligent scheduling, you can let customers book a service appointment directly through a portal when they receive a service reminder notification. By following a link in the message, they can go to a webpage that lets them check appointment availability that’s informed by live-data pulled directly from your diaries.
This gives them the flexibility to choose a slot that works for everyone, without leaving staff to make phone calls, fill in forms, or send confirmations with all that manual effort and potential for mistakes.
You can learn more about some of the features we’ve discussed today by checking out Commusoft’s own Service Reminder Booking Portal. It’s a great way to discover more about how the software tools you already use can be enhanced and improved to take your business even further!
Of course, the heart of the matter is all about communication and creating convenience for both your business and your customers and we understand you’re working hard to balance accessibility and maintain a human touch.
With software helping you, we believe you can achieve both and keep customer relationships going strong, even whilst working remotely.
With that in mind, we’ve prepared a checklist that’s designed to help you, so take a look at the The Essential Checklist for Running a Service Business Remotely. You can download your copy by clicking the below!