As the margins on hardware, software and services revenues continue to be impacted by intensifying competition, customers are also becoming more knowledgeable about the growing number of available service and support options. The result? Customer service is now an even more important factor to establish and maintain a strong position in the global services marketplace.
SEE ALSO: FSD University — Customer Loyalty
Services organizations increasingly rely on field service to differentiate their offerings to bring in customers make them happy and keep them loyal. To find out how your organization’s customer service stacks up, start with some self-reflection.
Here are five sets of questions that service pros should ask themselves — plus guidelines to ensure field staff profile stellar service:
Customer Service Infrastructure
Does your organization have a formal customer service or customer care function? Does it have a well-defined customer service mission or charter? Is it adequately staffed and empowered?
Surprising as it may seem, some services organizations have no formal customer service infrastructure. Even in cases where other departments may be managing portions of the company’s customer service activities, there may be no formal company-wide process to manage customer service. As a result, customer service activities are likely not performed in a consistent manner. And in cases where customer service is performed as a secondary activity, a lack of adequate staff and empowerment may inhibit the customer service experience.
Standard Operating Procedures
Is there a formal process for handling customer service activities in the field? Are specific responsibilities defined and assigned? Is ownership trackable and accountable?
To be effective, all functions within the organization require formal processes. That’s even more important when the functions involve customers and other external parties, such as vendors or dealers. But process alone does not get the job done. The appropriate employees, who have defined roles and responsibilities, must follow them. The capability to track which person (or group) has ownership of each customer service activity is critical to managing overall company performance.
Does company management promote and encourage customer service? Are there incentives for doing it right — or sanctions for doing it wrong?
Field service employees must be fully supported by management at all levels. Management must do everything possible to articulate its philosophy of customer service throughout the organization to empower its services employees to get the job done — and reward them for being successful.
Healthy Feedback Loop
How interactive is your field organization with its customer base? Does it communicate with them enough? Does it provide them with a means for providing their customer service input and feedback?
A one-way street for customer service is never adequate. A services organization’s customers must also be able to communicate their concerns to the organization. But how? The organization should have a formal process in place for soliciting field service performance feedback from customers. The process should be well-documented and promoted, easy to access, user friendly and sincere. Most importantly, all communications coming from the customer base must be quickly and satisfactorily answered. It is generally also a good idea to summarize some of that feedback, plus related company responses, to customers via a newsletter or the company website.
Proper Service Toolkit
Are your field technicians properly trained in customer service? Do they have all of the necessary tools to get the job done?
Just because employees are “good with people” doesn’t necessarily mean they are fully equipped to handle all customer service situations. Sure, they could have the “right stuff,” but they still need the proper training and access to all relevant customer support tools, including guidelines, procedure manuals and mobile devices.
There are, of course, dozens of additional questions that will still need to be addressed before service leaders can be certain their field techs respond adequately to key customer service issues. But the questions above are a solid starting point from which to audit the organization’s performance.