No matter how punctual or competent your technicians are, don’t assume your best-laid customer service plans are actually delivering great service. Flavio Martins, a customer service “fanatic” and blogger at Win the Customer!, spoke to us recently about a common mistake field service companies make: assuming their customer service is great — without asking their customers. Martins also offers smart insights about the role of emotional connections in great customer service, and why rotating field techs through other company support roles can improve service.

In what ways do service managers think they’re getting it right but really aren’t?

flavio-martins-customer-serviceOne area where there’s quite a bit of a breakdown is that it’s easy, especially nowadays when there is a greater emphasis on providing great customer service, for management to put ideas down on paper, create mission statements and preach customer service — and then not review the interactions that take place with customers.

Companies sit back and proclaim that they’re focused on customer service, but then they let service happen the way it’s always happened without any follow-up with customers themselves to see if the service made a difference or if the customers appreciated the service.

In what other ways do they mistake good service for bad?

Another area where companies tend to fall short is they simply have someone available to assist customers and then consider that great customer service. Companies need to address the actual needs of the customer to provide a better overall experience.

I tell a lot of companies that I work with that it’s great to publish a phone number on their website, but customers might prefer to engage by accessing information on their own, whether through Facebook, Twitter or online live chat. Companies can have a phone number and an army of experts available and still fall short. If customers go away feeling disappointed, even if they received the correct answer, then the service wasn’t good.

How do you balance the need for customer self-service with great quality?

You can have the greatest field service technicians, but customers’ problems don’t always require a technician — even if he or she showed up on time. We’ll see more self-service opportunities, but at the end of the day, field service will never go away. In the future, I think field service will shift toward the upper-tier, escalated issues. Field service technicians will transition into doing more remote-based work.

How can technicians make the transition to more online support?

It varies by industry, but one hot area that I’m seeing, especially in the technology industry, is enabling more telecommuting opportunities for field service technicians where they work on semi-escalated issues from home. They’re out in the field, close to potential customer sites, but a lot of their work is done remotely, through either a remote desktop or through live chat, but they’re still dispatched when needed.

What other ways can service teams hit the mark?

Organizations that are able to take their service execution to the level where they actually have an emotional connection with customers are successful. Customers are really hungry for that, and they show loyalty to companies that interact with them on a personal level, whether through more human corporate communications or companies that allow field service technicians to be more personal. Put a human face to the organization so customers connect with the company almost as they would a close friend.

Also, invest more in getting customer feedback — and using that feedback. The last thing you want is for a customer to post a review that you may or may not see online. Hopefully it’s positive, but especially if it’s negative or contains constructive criticisms, you need to provide a channel where customers feel comfortable suggesting small adjustments when it comes to service delivery.

Best ways to solicit customer feedback?

I don’t advocate for one model. It’s something that each organization figures out by evaluating their customer base and how customers engage with the company. However you think your customers will respond best is a good way to try. But, at a minimum, have a channel that’s active, open and honest.