There’s great customer service — and then there’s great customer field service. Service-sector veteran and consultant Errol Allen knows the distinctions between the two, having spent 25 years in the field, managing service organizations on security systems, software, cable television, and insurance. This week on Business2Community, Allen lays out some practical ground rules for improving service in the field — which, as he argues, “requires one to possess both the skills necessary to meet the customer’s needs as well as customer service skills to provide a complete experience.” Here are five ways, according to Allen, that service managers can raise the bar:

1. Lock Down the Required Skills

“When field service personnel encounter customers, more often than not they find themselves on the customer’s turf. The customer is depending upon the field service person to possess the skill set to perform the required tasks. Before putting your field service personnel in front of the customer, take the time to make sure that they possess the skills to address, resolve, repair, install, build, test or whatever it is that they’re required to perform for the customer.”

2. Balance the Workloads

“My own experience shows that field service personnel can possess the proper skill set, but may not provide the best quality of work because they may find themselves distracted by something in the near future – the next assignment … Concern with checking off each assignment as completed at the end of the day may lead to work quality issues which more than likely will require rework to resolve. How much does rework cost your organization?”

3. Ride Along on Service Calls

“Here’s one of my favorite ways to get an employee’s perspective of their daily experiences. Regularly schedule time to ride with your field personnel. Get in their environment to see what they encounter when providing service. Ask open ended questions that allow them to elaborate on how they feel about your organization. Take notes on improvement opportunities. Are the “office people” negatively impacting field service personnel? Are field personnel receiving enough pertinent appointment information?”

4. Enforce Consistent Standards

“Are all of your customers receiving the same level of service? Are your field service personnel aware of what their finished product (repair, installation, test, build-out, etc.) should look like? Make it easy for them by developing standards. Doing so not only makes it easy for the field personnel to gauge their performance against the standard, but it also helps to insure that all customers receive the same level of service.”

5. Double-Down on Customer Service Skills

“In knowing that your field service personnel will have direct face to face customer contact, remember to provide basic customer service skills training….Educate them on the importance of voice tone, voice inflections and body language. Stress the importance of refraining from the usage of industry jargon when communicating with customers. Stress the importance of providing timely updates and regular status reports.”

Read Errol Allen’s complete analysis on Business2Community.