With all the latest talk of social technologies, online training, mobile integration, and cloud automation, it’s easy to lose track of what customers really want out of field service organizations: good service.

What ticks customers off the most? John Ragsdale, vice president of research for the Technology Services Industry Association, conducted an informal poll on his “Eye On Service” blog. We asked Ragsdale, fresh off a nationwide tour to promote his book Lessons Unlearned, to reveal his findings and break down the most commonly cited gripes.

1. The 8-Hour Appointment Window

(37 percent of respondents)

John Ragsdale: To me this is still the one complaint I hear the most grief about. It’s just no longer acceptable in this day and time to give an eight-hour appointment window. We all have cell phones; the technicians all have cell phones. There’s no reason service companies can’t be more granular about scheduling.

Related post: How Comcast Killed the 4-Hour Window

2. Technicians Unfamiliar with the Equipment or Job

(21 percent of respondents)

J.R.: Sometimes you actually get an appointment and get a warm body to come out and it turns out they’re not even trained on the equipment.

If you’re consumer support for DirecTV or Verizon or Comcast, you’re going to know how to do everything, because the scope of possible jobs is relatively small. If you work for IBM or Xerox, there can be a million different types of equipment that need servicing. In big B2B companies, techs likely haven’t been trained on everything, which is one of the primary cases for mobility, like an iPad app.

John Ragsdale

For example, if a field tech shows up and has never seen the equipment before, he can pull out an iPad to watch a step-by-step video on how to fix it. Technology can really help with customer complaints; if you’ve got someone with the right skills but not the right training, a video or tutorial or just being able to reach out to an online community can really make a difference in fixing the problem.

Related post: Where Streaming Video Fits Into Field Service

3. Return Visit Needed

(21 percent of respondents)

J.R.: If the issue isn’t fixed on the first visit because of the tech’s own ignorance, that’s one thing. But if they need to order a part on the job, it’s beyond their control. They didn’t know what they were going to find until they showed up. If they need to order a new water heater, there’s not much they can do about that at 5 p.m.

With each field service truckroll costing a company an average of $1,011 a second visit brings that total to $2,022. The economics say you need to get it right the first time.

Related post: 4 Ways to Improve Service Without Raising Costs

4. Missed Appointment Times

(16 percent of respondents)

J.R.: The appointment time thing is a constant thorn in customers’ sides. The technology has been around to solve this problem for a long time now, and clearly companies aren’t prioritizing their spending and process improvement and investments in things that are visible to the customer.

They have a verbal contract with the customer with an appointment time, and they have to honor that agreement. It’s such a basic thing that customers understand and if techs can’t deliver it, they need to let the customer know. Customers take this seriously and many companies don’t. This isn’t incredibly sophisticated technology — it’s a phone call.

Related post: How to Avoid Botched Service Calls, Extra Rolls, and Angry Customers

5. Unfriendly Technicians

(5 percent of respondents)

J.R.: We put so much emphasis on technical training and customer-service skills training. But based on the low numbers in the poll, it looks like customers feel that as long as the tech can can get there on time and fix it, they can be as rude as they want.

If you ask someone what their opinion of their wireless provider is, you’ll get a lukewarm response at best. It’s kind of the same with field service, especially around consumer issues. People immediately react negatively to the subject because they’ve had so many bad experiences.

We’re coming to that point in society where friendly isn’t an automatic assumption anymore. The days when J.C. Penny put its salespeople through 25 hours of training before even being let out onto the sales floor are gone. We’ve got some problems so broken that friendly isn’t a big concern.

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