This article was written by David Yarnold, CEO of ServiceMax, for Forbes, and is excerpted here with permission. ServiceMax sponsors the SmartVan.
I was speaking recently to the general manager of a $9 billion service subsidiary of a Fortune 50 manufacturing company, and I asked him the question in the headline of this post. He thought about it, and said “I’m not sure why that’s the case. We’ve always looked at service in such a blue collar way. Clipboards and sneaker nets. And yet our service engineers carry our brand to our customers more than any other group of employees.”
Let’s face it: For the most part customer service really does suck. Especially for consumers. Automated phone systems, press this button for self-service, etc. It’s horrible. For many companies, the goal is cutting costs from the service department, which has typically been a profit drain. These companies slash costs by eliminating personal interaction, using consolidations of call centers, call deflection technology, robotic implementations of call scripting and workforce optimization tools. Get off the call, get out of the client site, move on to the next appointment as quickly as possible! The result is a reduction in the amount of time their people spend in direct personal contact with customers. It’s a short-term means of saving money, but is it truly profitable in the long run?
A large office products company I spoke with implemented a workforce optimization tool designed to squeeze another half of a service call per day out of each of the company’s 2,000 field technicians. He was moaning that it was an abject disaster. Customer satisfaction plunged to the lowest levels in history as the company abandoned the intimate customer relationships their service engineers had built up over decades. With customer satisfaction goes customer loyalty, and soon customers are defecting to competitors. Costs are lower, but consumers are disgruntled and revenue takes a beating.
It’s time to change all of this. We as customers want it, and it makes perfect business sense!