In October 2020, the World Bank released the 17th version of its Doing Business report, which ranks 190 economies globally on the ease with which business can be done there. The rankings are based on quantitative indicators tied to business regulation, protection of property, and more. It’s an interesting concept and one that should be replicated with organizations as ease of doing business has a significant impact on the customer experience. There has been an incredible amount of research done on the topic of Customer Effort, and the impact of a lower effort on customer loyalty. The first well-documented stab on this topic was taken by the Conference Executive Board and ServiceMax’s Global Customer Transformation team continues to engage with customers and prospects around the impact of ease and effort on the customer experience.
Do you measure Customer Effort Score (CES) or its more relationship-oriented counterpart Ease of Doing Business? If not, you should. Most companies get caught up in the question of what score is more pertinent to measure — NPS or CES? The answer to that question depends on what you are trying to do with the score. In my opinion, it is more effective to use Customer Effort to uncover inefficiencies and issues in transactional connections with the customer (i.e., the effort to book a service visit). Net Promoter Score is better used as a health of relationship metric. Even then, it should be paired with Ease of Doing Business to truly measure relationship health. I would also argue that Ease of Doing Business will play a significant role in changing the supplier-customer dynamic when we move towards outcome-based service models. It should also be used as a key metric in evaluating which ideas or areas of innovation need to be pursued.
Ease of Doing Business in Service
Ease of Doing Business extends beyond the reach of the service organization. To be effective, the metric needs to track ease across the entire customer journey. This involves the sales journey, the onboarding journey, the support journey, the renewal journey, and the exit journey (Yes, make this easier too to drive loyalty and referrals). A weakness in any of these journeys, and the associated touchpoints, could significantly impact the overall perception of Ease. (See McKinsey’s excellent research on journeys vs touchpoints).
In looking at the Ease of working with your service organization, it’s always good to document what customers are most frustrated with.
Some of the areas could be tied to the asset(s) being serviced:
- Reliability of asset (or lack thereof as seen in downtime)
- Cost of maintenance (labor and parts)
- Inconsistency of service-related disruptions
Others can be tied to issues around specific service calls (See Bain’s outstanding research on the impact of mastering the fundamentals):
- Time to get a service issue logged
- Time to get a field service agent onsite
- Time to receive an accurate quote for service work
- Professionalism and competence of service agent
- Time to repair/maintain/resolve
- Number of visits required to resolve a service issue
- Wait time for parts (if applicable)
- Invoicing delays or inaccuracies
Others can be tied to overall issues with the service provider:
- Limited knowledge of customer instance
- Poor customer support access options (portal vs. email vs. web)
- Limited self-service options
- Poor attempt to proactively resolve or pre-empt future issues
The items typically captured in the 2nd and 3rd lists have a direct impact on the customer concerns with the asset (as tracked in list 1). This goes back to the discussion of the individual touchpoints having a direct impact on the overall customer journey.
Making It Easier with Asset 360
Technology can have a measurable impact on making things easier for customers. For instance, self-service portals or applications can make it easy for customers to review their assets, check entitlements, update coverage, purchase parts, or create new service requests. These portals can also provide customers with ready access to past service reports and invoices for their record-keeping and budgeting initiatives. That said, a portal with inaccurate information can actually lead to a greater customer effort and totally eliminate the value of such a self-service channel.
What’s most important when it comes to effort is using technology to empower key stakeholders in service delivery. In some instances, these stakeholders can be the customers themselves, but in most arenas, they will be the support staff who are interacting with and solving problems for your customers. Making it easy for stakeholders to access and work with key service information will have a direct impact on the effort that the customer has to expend. In this, two areas of information should be prioritized:
- Asset information – history of work, as-maintained Bill of Materials
- Entitlement information – coverage and pricing under warranty or service contracts
It needs to be emphasized that having access to accurate information is only half the solution. Having this information integrated into the flow of service work is another key element that impacts the ease with which service employees can engage with customers. If entitlement information has to be re-entered at every stage of work execution by various stakeholders, then the value of information access is diminished. Let’s envision this at work on a standard customer call for onsite service:
- The call taker can easily locate the asset and associated entitlements to reduce the number of questions upfront. The customer can also be made aware of service work that will be billed and not covered under contact
- The triage team can easily review asset information or history to determine the appropriate resolution path forward
- The scheduler or dispatcher can easily determine the right resources based on contractual commitments and expectations
- Once onsite, the technician can easily locate the asset, review its history, and complete the necessary service work. If needed, the technician can make recommendations to the customer and quote for additional work that needs to be completed.
- The back-office team responsible for invoicing can easily review work completed, make necessary adjustments, and invoice accurately and expeditiously.
Now, this might seem like a simplified scenario, but it does highlight the areas where a lot of effort is typically extended. This added effort, whether on behalf of the customer or the stakeholders at the service organization, leads to a poor customer experience.
Acknowledgment of the link between relevant asset-specific information and the end customer experience is a major factor behind ServiceMax’s development of Asset 360 for Salesforce Field Service. In working with asset-centric customers for over 10 years, ServiceMax has recognized the areas where incredible effort is typically extended and how automation and associated best practices can be inserted to make things easier.