Field service managers spent a lot of time thinking about how their company can get to know customers better, improve overall service and, ultimately, increase sales. Bill Pollock, president of Strategies for Growth, a research and consulting firm, suggests a succinct approach he calls “LOTS.” The acronym stands for “listen, observe, think, speak,” he writes — and it’s surprisingly easy to grasp:

  1. Listen. Customers dealing with broken equipment want to tell the service techs all about it, writes Pollock, including the machine’s history, what went wrong and how critical it is to get it up and running again. Let them have their say. “[I]t is more a matter of showing the customer that you do listen, and that what they have to tell you is important.”
  2. Observe: Pay attention to the customer’s mood. “It is always beneficial to be aware of exactly where you stand when you enter the customer site; for example, will you be welcomed with ‘open arms’, or will you be more likely to get ‘shot off at the knees’?”
  3. Think. You’ve listened. You’ve observed. The next step is crucial: “Since the first words out of your mouth once you arrive at the customer site are likely to be the ones that set the tone for the entire service call, it is absolutely critical that you choose them carefully.”
  4. Speak. Be “concise, focused, and informative,” writes Pollock. “[F]ocus primarily on items such as asking about the specific problem at-hand, collecting information…telling the customer what you are going to be doing, about how long it should take, and what you expect the ultimate result to be.”