Field service organizations are under pressure to complement operational and customer-facing improvements with commercial results. As a result, many organizations are looking at their front-line field service personnel to identify new business opportunities or sell when in front of the customer. It’s safe to say that most organizations currently have some form of a field service lead program in place and more are beginning to equip their technicians with the tools necessary to recognize leads or to sell.
The debate on whether technicians should or shouldn’t be selling can evoke a great deal of passion from the CSO and technician community. What is true is that field service customers are more accepting of a sales approach (advice, lead, quote) from a field service technician if they have a relationship with that technician or if that technician has resolved their current challenge and is working to provide them with additional value.
Interestingly, research from the Aberdeen Group found that best-in-class service organizations were twice as likely as peers to incentivize technicians to identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. These same best-in-class firms realized a 7 percent year-over-year increase in service revenue, compared to 3 percent for average and 1 percent for laggards.
This increase in service revenue could be explained by the positive feedback loop that happens between technicians who are empowered to sell and salespeople who actively pursue service-driven sales opportunities.
Even if technicians aren’t directly selling, it is beneficial to have your field service teams capture and share installed base information as well as opportunities that can drive additional value for customers. These opportunities can come in the form of follow-up work attached to a preventive maintenance or inspection visit, or a competitive replacement opportunity when that asset is nearing its end of useful life.
In building a field service lead generation program, there are several best practices to consider:
1. Have a Dedicated Lead Management Process and Support it With Technology
Lead generation must be easy and effective if the field service team is going to bother with the added responsibility. Field service technicians will abandon the process immediately if it doesn’t work. Typically, the two major failure points occur around lead follow-up by sales and lead-affiliated compensation for field service technicians. A lot of the core areas of lead management can be automated with the aid of mobile and CRM solutions. That said, there must be well thought out process for how leads are managed throughout the entire sales cycle, all the way from identification to closure.
Be mindful of the fact that sales and service people have a different definition of a lead. A salesperson is used to selling big things with big intervals, whereas a service person identifies multiple smaller opportunities. A typical response from a salesperson is to disqualify a service lead as being too small (for the effort). Consider establishing a function that bundles multiple service leads into a larger package and then hand over that package to sales.
2. Establish the ‘Why’ and Enable it With Training
Change management is essential in the rollout of any new program. Poor attention to this often leads to unsuccessful adoption of the program and poor attainment of desired goals. Field service technicians will likely resist when asked to participate in lead generation as they will see this as a proxy to selling. Therefore, organizations need to prepare these technicians for the program and then reinforce the impact of the program to all stakeholders, including the customer.
Once the purpose has been established, the ‘how’ of lead generation needs to be reinforced with training sessions and materials. Preferably training content and scripts are available on-demand for technicians to refresh their knowledge as needed. Its also essential that relevant instructional content is developed for multiple parties in the field service chain, starting with the technicians and moving up to supervisors and regional leaders.
In addition to the ‘corporate why’ and training, it is worthwhile to tap into a deep-rooted want from technicians to be a hero on site. If a technician sees a lead, passes it on to sales and sales takes action, then the technician’s advisory role is reinforced. If sales does not act, the customer will bug the technician with follow-up questions that they cannot answer, making the technician lose face.
3. Don’t Forget to Communicate Customer Impact
In this day and age of mobile content and self-service portals, it might seem silly to develop flyers and brochures to reinforce the message of a field service lead program, but these methods do work. The message is simple, the more a program is discussed and reinforced, the more it is adopted. In addition to reinforcing steps, best practices, and procedures, it’s also beneficial to reinforce the value of the program in the form of technician success stories or customer results. What’s even more impactful is an actual testimonial from a customer of how the extra time spent by a front-line technician directly impacted the customer’s results and outcome.
4. Make it Easy
This applies to all levels of the field service lead lifecycle – from the creation of leads to follow-up to closure and associated reward. When it comes to lead creation, the capture process must be simple and not require a whole host of clicks. A simple field in debrief that allows the technician to capture notes and images is usually sufficient to get started. Additional information can be sought once the field service lead program gets off the ground.
Many ServiceMax customers have developed and grown lead generation programs into significant revenue contributors. These programs don’t require a great deal of investment from a technology point of view, but they do require leadership, a rigorous process, and a focus on change.