Let’s cut right to the chase. Everyone’s had some sort of nightmare encounter with a service technician, according to Forrester’s 2010 Customer Experience Index — cable and satellite guys, appliance guys, you name it.  The quality of customer service in the field ranks right up there with public approval ratings of Congress. Customer satisfaction with cable & TV techs ranks about the lowest of all, barely above 50 percent, behind every other category.  Customers are souring on Internet service techs in particular — satisfaction ratings have been in a free-fall since 2007, dropping from 62 to 57 percent.

On Connected Planet, Leslie Parker details a recent example of a disappointing run in with her Internet and TV service provider. Her gripes? Everyone has recounted a tale like this:

  1. The first available appointment was 4 days after my call.
  2. They came late in the appointment window.
  3. They were missing parts to complete the work, forcing them to leave and come back.
  4. Once they finally left our house, we had to reconnect all of our devices – Blu-ray, printer, PCs, etc.

So what is the core problem with these businesses that they simply blow it so often with customers? The service techs themselves are not to blame. Instead, Parker identifies one of the chief challenges facing service organizations around the country — lack of operational flexibility to respond to different scenarios and problems in the field.

Parker notes: “The problem is operators’ field service delivery models are not inherently built for flexibility. They may have limited availability of specialized technicians, limited hours potentially stipulated by collective bargaining agreements, mindsets closed to the art of the possible, and a need (albeit legitimate) to control costs. Would it surprise you that, according to Gartner, for one cable operator, 20% of their installations did not happen on time? Would it further surprise you, as it did one quad play, that because of their new service offerings the operator lacked the number of technicians required to complete work orders by 20%?”

Nope — no surprises there, sadly.  Based on responses from 4,653 consumers, Forrester’s report paints a dismal picture of the state of customer satisfaction across the sector. And with more gadgets and devices finding their way into homes than ever before, consumers will require more, not less, tech support in the field. So what’s the answer here? Parker offers some timely advice for service managers:

  1. Flex It. “Some operators successfully supplement the existing field service team with outsourced providers and other field specialists.”
  2. Smart It. “Be more aggressive in building a technician pool that can work in the Connected Home – the technicians become a profit center and growth engine. More Geek Squad, less transactional technician.”
  3. Mine It. “Leverage social networking and the blogosphere to capture even more customer feedback.”

    More on customer service issues on The SmartVan.

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    ABOUT Sara Suddes

    San Francisco-based contributor Sara Suddes writes frequently about small business, the economy and technology.