A few days before Christmas — the height of the gift delivery season — a pretty mind-blowing (and, OK, funny) video hit the Web. In it, a FedEx deliveryman is seen hurling a new computer monitor over the would-be recipient’s front fence, landing with a thud. Then he casually walks back to his truck, as though it was the most natural thing in the world to do. So far, that video has been seen almost 9.5 million times.


A Google search for “FedEx” also turns up that video — it’s the fourth-highest entry! Let that be a lesson about the dangers of less-than-stellar customer relations in the digital media age.

“Social media makes everything so visible now,” said John Ragsdale, the vice president of technology research for the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA). “You have to realize that when field service employees are in your customers’ homes, they’re the embodiment of your brand. When you’re having that one-on-one, you want the customer to remember a fantastic experience.”

Even a few isolated negative customer interactions can severely damage your brand (see above), so it’s imperative to make sure your face-to-face interactions with customers go well, according to Ragsdale.

And for many companies, the closest they’ll ever get to a customer is through a field service worker. So make sure your field service operations satisfy customers’ highest expectations.

Ragsdale points to four main points field service firms need to focus on:

  • Promising and hitting exact appointment times
  • Dispatching a friendly and properly trained field tech
  • Fixing the problem during the first visit
  • Ensuring fast and accurate billing.

The Era of Always-On Service

“The days of four- or eight-hour [service] windows are fading,” Ragsdale says. “Customers are less likely to tolerate those long appointment times. Today they want to know exactly when a tech is coming, and they want a phone call saying they’re on their way.”

The rise in cloud-based management programs and mobile phones and tablets can help address each issue: Dynamic, push/pull scheduling programs can help make sure that the right technician is automatically dispatched to the next, closest, call they’re qualified for. Digital signature-capturing technologies and time-stamping can speed up the billing process. And the ability to video chat, or instant-message, or send short messages from a phone or tablet computer also helps techs figure out a repair on the first visit, without having to return to the shop.

Service Gets Social

Social media channels can help in this regard, as well. Besides just being a way to interact with customers, sites like Facebook and Twitter (and their countless competitors) can help companies and employees interact with each other. Imagine a field service tech confronted with a repair he’s unfamiliar with. Snap a photo, post it to Twitter or to a forum dedicated to field service techs, and let your online community help you out.

In customers’ minds, that stuff adds up.

In a customer loyalty seminar, Ragsdale referenced a TSIA case study that showed customers were 14 times more likely to be satisfied with the resolution of their problem if their time expectations were met. Further, satisfied customers were 8 times more likely to recommend the company to friends, and customers who were likely to recommended the company were 2.5 times more likely to make another purchase than those who weren’t.

Translation: “If you get nothing else right, get the resolution time expectations met,” Ragsdale said.  It’ll go a long way.

Oh, and don’t be this guy:


Check out Ragsdale’s customer loyalty webinar below.


ABOUT Ian Stewart

Avatar photoIan is a veteran journalist who has covered sports for various news outlets. Previously, he was managing editor for an electronic-book publishing company and a public relations writer.