Many smart service organizations have put in place initiatives to encourage their field technicians to promote the company’s products and services. These companies recognize that the field service team is in the best position to help customers because technicians have:

  • Knowledge of the technology
  • Appreciation of their firm’s capabilities
  • Understanding of their customers’ equipment and processes
  • Insight into their customers’ goals and aspirations
  • Access to customers

Who better to recognize how their firm’s products and services can be helpful and bring them to the attention of their customers? And, when these recommendations are made in order to make their customers’ lives better, they provide a valuable service — a service as important as their ability to maintain and fix the equipment that they service.

But not all organizations see the proactive efforts of their technicians as a service. Many still see the technicians’ efforts as selling, a perspective that can significantly limit their success.

The Sales Perspective

In my experience, the most prominent view in the industry today is that the technician is “selling” when he or she is promoting their firm’s products and services to their customers. You can see evidence of this in many places:

  • Sales courses are available to service technicians.
  • Online discussion groups debate about whether technicians should be selling or not.
  • The language used to describe the activity is usually sales-centric.

This sales perspective limits the potential of the initiative because it confines our thinking about what’s achievable. For starters, a sales perspective tends to create an opportunistic and short-term focus. When not considered an integral part of the service that the technician provides, “selling” becomes an add-on to their work. When this happens, it is hard to get an enthusiastic buy-in from the technicians, as they don’t necessarily see it as part of their job description.

What if our focus for our technician’s efforts was not to get them to sell more services? What if our focus was to encourage our technicians to look for ways their products and services could be applied to help our customers to be better off?

This perspective also limits management’s perceived training options to promoting sales skills. The language, strategy, and tools presented in sales courses can be uncomfortable for field service technicians to accept and adopt. Many technicians resent being considered salespeople and will resist any efforts to turn them into one. Although they may attend the course, it is unlikely they will adopt the skills or change their behavior significantly.

A sales perspective can also erode trust between the field technician and the customer. Technicians tend to have the highest level of trust with their customers because they are not there to sell but rather to serve. However, if our customers get the feeling that our technician is selling to them, they become confused about their role and the foundation of trust begins to erode.

The Service Perspective

What if our focus for our technician’s efforts was not to get them to sell more services? What if our focus was to encourage our technicians to look for ways their products and services could be applied to help our customers to be better off? I realize that this is a subtle difference in perspective, but this small change in thinking will be responsible for a huge change in results.

When we ensure that our technicians’ focus is on uncovering and serving the needs of our customers, it becomes much easier to demonstrate to the technician that making these recommendations is a service and therefore an integral part of their jobs.

A service perspective helps management recognize the importance of supporting the proactive activities of their technicians just as they would any other service. This includes ensuring that the processes and systems are in place to empower their technicians and that they have a broad range of skills to build stronger bonds of trust and professional credibility with their customers.

A service perspective also provides a tremendous opportunity for service organizations to promote the proactive recommendations that their technicians make as a valuable competitive advantage. This approach can be used to differentiate the service organization and give it a leg up on its competitors.

ABOUT Jim Baston

Avatar photoJim Baston is president of BBA Consulting Group Inc., a consulting and training firm located in Ontario, Canada. Since founding BBA Consulting Group in 2001, Jim has focused his attention on helping technical service companies develop and implement strategies to transform field service personnel from reluctant into enthusiastic promoters of their company’s products and services. He is also the author of several books about how service companies can improve customer satisfaction and revenue, including "Beyond Great Service: The Technician's Role in Proactive Business Growth."