It’s a brave new world for service technicians. They’re using iPhones and tablets to manage their daily workloads, some are driving cool hybrid vans and even the equipment they fix can talk to them and tell them what’s wrong. Beyond all that, the service-tech demographic is changing rapidly: service technicians from yesteryear (the days of clipboards, parts manuals and pagers) are getting sunsetted. A younger, more tech-savvy generation of service techs is beginning to fill the void. The next-gen service tech is also learning a bunch of critical new skills.
“The ability to accurately forecast what customers want and need is one of the more valuable aspects of field service today,” says Denis Pombriant of Beagle Research. Client knowledge and intuition comes not only from new tools that collect and analyze data, it also comes from a set of interpersonal skills each new technician in the field should be versed in.
Here are 3 skills areas that matter most:
Service strategist Alex Alexander puts it plainly: “There’s nobody that has more impact on future purchases of service or products than field service engineers.” Alexander and others aren’t championing technicians in hopes they will put salespeople out of business, in fact, quite the contrary — now salespeople actually have their own workforce in the field, as well. And, as opposed to door-to-door salesmen, service techs are actually being invited into customer homes and places of business. Instead of being turned away by clients and dismissed for a cold-call — technicians are there for a purpose. If they perform their other duties efficiently and successfully, a client is certainly more apt to be open to learning about new products and practices from the company.
Engagement goes a long way. If you can provide your field workers with pertinent client information before they arrive on-site, they can use this information to personalize their service and create a more meaningful relationship with the client. Plus, if you already know what they’ve bought — you’re less likely to try to sell something they already have or don’t need. Attention to detail when it comes to clients is important and shouldn’t fall solely on your company’s sales team.
Social Skills and Customer Service
Customers must feel comfortable with the people they allow into their space. Conversation is key to customer service and client comfort. Of course, speed is tantamount — everyone’s busy — but small talk can create a level of trust between your worker and the client. People are more inclined to raise an issue in person and when they are feeling more comfortable, so arm your field workers with the appropriate customer service tools and information. Clients may raise an issue totally unrelated to the service call, but if your service technician brushes the query aside because they don’t know how to respond, trust (and maybe even the client) will be lost.
Mastery of Mobile Tech
Next-generation field service is powered by the cloud — no longer by file folders, clipboards, and gas-hog Econolines — and your teams in the field need to reflect that. Not just in the new toolset they carry around (rugget tablets, GPS devices, smartphones), but in how those tools change their behavior and productivity — being able to pull up a parts diagram on a smartphone display, tapping into parts inventories, filling out job orders on the fly. Not only is new technology helping FSEs learn more about their clients, it is also helping them complete tasks more proficiently. Because technology is constantly evolving, being able to adapt and learn how these new tools work is a must for today’s field tech. People with a vested interest in the happenings of the technology world will be more enthusiastic to try new gadgets or implement a new system. Be wary of the technicians that are set to sticking to the “old ways” — this will only slow down the inevitable and can cause fissures between the tech and the customers as well as the techs themselves.