Field service is about more than quick repairs and installations — it’s about top-notch customer service. Service managers are turning to cloud technology to increase productivity and customize the experience for customers.

Take McKinley Equipment and McKinley Elevator, a leading seller of dock and warehouse equipment, residential elevators, wheelchair lifts and stair chairs. The Irvine, Calif.-based company didn’t really know its customers; all of their information was paper-based and stored in hundreds of filing cabinets. The disorganization came at a price.

“Every time we got a customer, we’d increase the paper we were moving through the system, and it would cost us a customer because we could not keep up, so something needed to change,” explains Kevin Rusin, McKinley’s chief financial officer.

A Customer Disconnect No More

At McKinley, customer turnover was higher than they would have liked, says Rusin. One McKinley field tech told him: “In order for me to take the best care of my customers, it’s essential to have all customer information at my fingertips in one place.”

The company’s solution? Out with the old — paper — and in with the new — cloud technology. McKinley called on ServiceMax, Salesforce Service Cloud and Salesforce Sales Cloud which, together, gave McKinley a 360-degree view of the customer, according to Rusin. “Now, every field techs is equipped with an iPad with ServiceMax,” he says. “It’s the only end-to-end service solution on and allows us to view contracts, scheduling, parts, social and portals.”

Here are five ways that McKinley has improved its customer service:

  1. Increased visibility of customer data. With the cloud, the information is available in a single click from anywhere. “I can ever show my customers information about their installed products and when they’ll need service or replacement. That’s powerful,” says Rusin.
  2. Instant inventory request. As soon as a tech knows that a part is required, he can instantly send the request to the parts department and have the request filled. “My technicians can change things on the fly, faster than you can snap,” he says.
  3. Community learning. With the social component, customer feedback is shared among all techs, so the feedback is knowledge for all to learn for improvement.
  4. Customers as partners. Instead of viewing the relationship with McKinley as a vendor-client one, customers view McKinley as a partner and trusted adviser, according to Rusin.
  5. Happier techs, happier customers. Techs with information at their fingertips deliver high-quality service faster because they have the right tools to do so, leading to more satisfied customers.

4 Features for Cloud Tech Success

Customers and technicians are happy with the results, says Rusin. The C-suite is thrilled, too: McKinley’s first-time fix rates increased by 18 percent and company revenues increased in the year following the cloud technology deployment.

Rusin credits these specific features for driving productivity gain and sales:

  • Real-time dashboards of all cases and work orders so nothing “fall through the cracks”
  • Simple parts ordering and visibility
  • Social collaboration via ServicePulse tool
  • Technician mobility via the iPad app

The Key to Field Tech Buy-In

Some field techs aren’t as eager to adopt cloud technology, because they don’t like change. The key, says Rusin, is to get the early adopters who can’t wait for the new technology to be the cheerleaders who rally any skeptics. To convert vocal opponents, managers can speak with them individually about the technology’s benefits — and give them one-on-one training. Thus, easing their fear of the change.

Rusin uses the example of “Joe D,” who’s worked at McKinley for nearly three decades. Getting him to use his new iPad was “like dragging a dog on a leash,” says Rusin. Joe got the training he needed, started using the tablet and then it broke. That’s when Joe realized he couldn’t work without it. “If you ever think you’re going to make me go back to paper,” Joe told Rusin, “I’m going to retire.”