As the director of Commusoft, I always put myself in our clients' shoes—coming up with new experiences, thinking about how engineers can be more efficient on the road, and so on—but until I had an interesting experience with a field service business myself, I had never put myself in their customers' shoes.
The Best-Worst Customer Experience
One time the cooker hood broke in my London flat. I went to the estate agent's website and noticed they have a nifty portal where you can lodge problems with your flat, so I entered in the details. I quickly got sucked into being a 'work address'—the person I don't normally think about when I'm looking for ways to help field service companies improve their business.
A day later I got a text from the estate agent's field service company to say they had been given the job, and I should call to book an appointment. 'Oh, that's good!', I thought. When I rang, the person who answered said, 'Hello, Mr. Morjaria, are you calling about your cooker hood?' That was pretty clever—they knew who I was just from my calling! I booked an appointment, and the engineer was to show up the following Tuesday between noon and 5pm. It was all very professional, all very nice.
That's where it all started to go downhill.
That next Tuesday, though I never received a confirmation, I took the day off of work and sat at home, waiting. As the day progressed I started thinking, 'When are they going to show up? I haven't heard from them. Maybe they forgot. Should I call?' I’m used to receiving confirmations from pretty much any business I deal with, so the fact that I didn’t get one from this field service company out me on edge.
Finally, at 20 before five, the engineer showed up, did his thing, and left. All I could think about after that was what I now call 'communication anxiety'—that anxious feeling I had as I kept one eye on the door all day, wondering when the engineer was going to show up. I started wondering, what would be the perfect customer communication experience? How much is too much communication, and how much is not enough?
Use What You Have
I decided that more communication is better, because people are anxious—especially if they're taking time off work, they have children and are running around between out-of-school activities, or they're a vulnerable person at home alone.
I also realised that Commusoft already provides this experience: When a job is deployed, the end customer gets a text or email saying, 'We need to access your property, please call us to set an appointment'. They then receive a reminder text or email the night before or the morning of the appointment, and then again when the engineer is on their way to the property.
If you're a Commusoft customer and you aren't using these tools, you definitely should be. There's no excuse: It's an automation, which means you set it up once and it does all the work. If you're having trouble setting up these tools, contact us and we'll help you out. (And if you’re not a Commusoft customer yet? Watch our 15-minute demo to see how we can help you become more efficient and profitable.)
Soon you'll have even more tools to offer your customers the best communication experience: We've started developing an Uber-style portal where, when an engineer clicks 'travel', the customer will get an SMS with a link that shows a photo of the engineer and the engineer's bio and professional accreditations. The tracking system will then show the engineer's travel route and when they should arrive.
How to Think Like a Customer
If you're not lucky enough to experience another field service business's poor customer communication, how can you put yourself in your customers' shoes and improve your own communications process.
1. Make a flowchart.
2. Look for inspiration from other businesses.
This is the simplest approach, and it's what I did. Using a piece of paper or a white board, and going from left to right, sketch out your customer's journey. Focus on communication: What happens when a customer calls? How quickly do you respond to a voicemail? If the engineer arrives and discovers they need to order a part that will arrive in two weeks, is the customer kept up to date?
There's an element of empathy: Think about how your customer might feel at each step. When you see that something goes wrong at a certain point, and you're using words like 'frustration' and 'anxiety' to describe the customer's feelings, you can drill down to figure out what the real problem is and how you can fix it.
Amazon is a good example: Think about the user experience on their website, the buying journey, and the delivery process where the customer can see when the purchase was dispatched and where it is.
People think that only huge companies like Amazon can do all that, but actually the technology exists for everyone to achieve this level of consideration for customers. Just take a bit of time to sit down and think through how you can replicate another business's success on behalf of your customers.
Ready to Win Estate Agent Contracts? Here's How.
We at Commusoft want you to win estate agent contracts so your business can grow from small to medium-sized—or from medium-sized to big. That's why we created a detailed guide and workbook on that very topic. Our guide walks you through each step, from prepping your marketing materials to writing a bid and proposal—and it has a big focus on perfecting your communication process to give you an advantage over the competition.
Download our free guide below—and start winning those contracts today.