Everyone talks about what it takes these days to grow profits in field service and to keep customers happy. But what does that really mean in practice, day in and day out — from year to year?
Rosemary Coates and Jim Reily, two longtime consultants to field service operators, think they have an answer — or, at least, the closest thing possible to one for such a wide-ranging industry. It’s called 42 Rules of Superior Field Service, and it was written by Coates, the president of Blue Silk Consulting, and Reily, a principal at a service logistics and operations consulting firm called R&R.
42 Rules of Superior Field Service is full of sharp and surprising insights, delivered with a healthy dose of wit and humility (Rule #1: “Rules are meant to be broken.”). Here’s a peek at some of the 133-page guide’s other tips and tricks:
Rule #2: Product Failures Are Opportunities to Delight
Like it or not, products fail. The challenge isn’t the malfunctioning product — it’s how field service operators deal with the customer from the moment a problem is identified until its resolution. “The way you deal with failure can enhance customer loyalty,” explain Coates and Reily. “But, if handled poorly, it gives your customers the excuse they need to buy from your competitors.”
The authors offer this nugget from Morris Cohen, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School: “Satisfaction results from the difference between the customer’s perception of service versus the customer’s expectation for service. If the perception is greater than the expectation, the customer will be satisfied or even delighted.”
#5: Know the Competition to Avoid Surprises
Don’t ignore your rivals. Whatever information you can easily find about your competition online, so can your customers. Keep abreast of rival products and services, newer capabilities and offerings, and shifts in strategy. Customer expectations change any time a competitor raises the bar. Your service has to change, too.
#12: You Can’t Get What You Don’t Measure
What key performance indicators (KPIs) do you measure? In order to truly improve customer satisfaction, field service firms need to measure their performance against customer-oriented metrics. Take first-time fix rates, suggests Cohen of The Wharton School. “For many customers, first time fix is the most important metric for field service quality.” Another way that companies track KPIs is by collecting customer feedback after a field service call. Organizations can measure this feedback to identify areas that need improvement and customers benefit from being able to have a voice.
#26: Inventory Turns Are Irrelevant
When products break, a rapid response is key, which is why field service companies spend a lot of time making sure the right parts are stocked and tracking inventory. But it’s never a full-proof system, and there are always missing parts that need to be ordered stat. For companies whose business depends on the smooth operation of its machinery, field service companies can ensure that certain critical replacement parts are on hand for when an unexpected crisis occurs — for a fee. Think of it as an insurance policy.
#36: Training Can Be Profitable
Offering to train customers on how to operate and maintain their equipment creates a lucrative revenue stream and provides customer with a return on their investment. Most field service companies stratify their training into several levels, writes Coates and Reily, and offer the introductory levels as part of a initial sales packages. Charging for special equipment certifications that give those certified the ability to train others, is another way that field service companies can profit from having a training program.
#40: Build a Strong and Effective Relationship With IT
While IT can be a pain to deal with when it comes to field service due to restrictions that can prevent a project from getting done quickly, they are essential to the overall company’s success, write Coates and Reily. IT systems contain a wealth of data on customers, products, and repairs that can be used to streamline and optimize an organization’s business processes.