If you run or work in a trade business, you’ve probably heard of field service customer service before. In this article, we’ll dive into the higher-level concepts around the topic, how it relates specifically to tradespeople throughout any industry and how to build a customer service system that’s a cut above your competitors.
But let’s start with a quick refresher on the basics of field service customer experience before we get to the service side of things.
What is field service customer experience?
To put it simply, field service customer experience is the experience a client has when you or your tradespeople visit their home or premises to provide a service. It might be to fix a leaking tap, or it might be to install a new air conditioner. But regardless of the task that needs doing, you and your employees need to be working hard to create positive customer relationships that leave your clients feeling happy and satisfied with the work you’ve done.
In the trade industry, the success of field servicing is often indicated by its efficiency. Whether a task is completed promptly and whether it caused minimal disruption to your client’s life are important factors to remember. It’s also important to remember that field service customer experience can begin before you even arrive on-site to help. Take the example of our leaking tap from earlier. A client with water gushing onto their kitchen floor will value timeliness more than our other example client who just wants their air conditioner installed (unless it’s a stinking hot summer day). With so many different considerations on the table, it can be intimidating to approach field service customer experience with the intent to change how your business interacts and builds positive relationships with its clients.
However, good field service customer service is an essential part of running a business that stands out amongst its competitors, and it’s the experience that clients remember long after the service has been provided.
Here’s why we don’t talk enough about field service customer experience.
Why does customer experience matter for your business?
In many other industries, field service customer experience is often dismissed because providing in-person services is seen as a lesser alternative to handling issues remotely through digital means. The trade sector experiences none of this unwillingness, as most servicing jobs are performed in person due to the tangible nature of the work. These unique working circumstances put the trades sector in an interesting position. Clients expect and sometimes demand a top-quality in-person experience from your business because there isn’t really any other alternative to administering trade work by hand.
It makes sense then that field servicing is seen as the ultimate option for customer care within the trades. What you do during an on-site visit showcases the professionalism of your business and brings return clients back to you as they see no better alternative to your superior services. Some see field service customer service as a box-ticking exercise, where a tight script runs everything and unforeseen interactions with clients are kept to a minimum. Other trade professionals adopt a more casual approach, working the human element of the interaction between tradesperson and client as much as possible and often to great benefit. But the main takeaway from this is that customer experience is crucially important to the success of a trade business, so much so that many methods for achieving top-quality customer experiences exist and are employed by professionals daily. This article won’t delve into the different methodologies, though, as it’s important for every trade business to develop a field service customer service system organically, with as much input as possible from stakeholders within the business.
Instead, we’ll outline what you need to focus on in both a Business-to-Customer and Business-to-Business field service customer relationship to account for the unique needs of both sectors.
Business to Customer (B2C)
In a business-to-customer (B2C) environment, the one thing to remember is that your clients likely don’t have anywhere near the same level of technical experience as you have in your trade. To put it bluntly, your clients are dependent on you to provide a service and help them understand the service you’re providing, which is why trust is the key factor in establishing great field service customer experiences with B2C clients.
Allowing a field service technician into your home requires trust and effort, and a negative experience can leave a lasting impression on someone when it happens in or around their living space.
It’s essential to remember as well that a home visit for your field technician is part of the job, but it’s a less than normal situation for your customer. The anxiety of having a problem and then waiting for a professional to arrive and the potential that they’ll need to let you into private parts of their home are huge points of worry for your average customer. Add to this that they may need to take time off work, move vehicles or do some small amount of trade work on their own to prevent a problem from getting worse, and it’s easy to see why experience is everything in the B2C space.
Countering these negatives is important, and something as simple as thanking a client who’s gone the extra mile to make your work easier can have amazing results. Always be proactive in looking for ways to shift the interpersonal dynamic between you and a client from negative to positive, and you’ll quickly see how much your field service customer experiences improve as a result.
Business to Business (B2B)
In a business-to-business (B2B) environment, you’ll find that clients are much more knowledgeable about your service and are far less likely to be apprehensive about letting you into their businesses than B2C clients letting you into their homes.
Trust is still a key component of B2B field customer service, but convenience is the battleground where you and other trade professionals in the market will compete. Whether an experience was smooth, rapid and whether you did the job as efficiently as possible are factors that B2B clients care about most. If a client thinks that your service was inconvenient or wasted their time, they’ll look for another trade business in the future.
Luckily, the needs of B2B clients often align with the needs of the trade business providing the service. Operational efficiency and job expediency are critical to functional and profitable trade businesses. If your business runs like clockwork, chances are you’re already a great fit for B2B clients who expect the same of your service. This isn’t to say that there aren’t many ways you can improve your efficiency and effectiveness in the field, so always be on the lookout for ways to grow and surpass your competition.
3 Tips for optimising your field service customer experience in the office and the field
Now you understand the constraints you’re working within, it’s time to discuss how you can improve your field service customer service and craft better experiences for your customers.
We’ll start with the office, as it’s often forgotten in the field service customer service space.
1. Focus on good office response times
On-time and on budget are the metrics that many tradespeople use to measure the success in their work. However, timeliness is also essential in responding to clients who need your services sooner rather than later. Getting back to prospective clients should be the priority for your office team, as it helps foster a positive working relationship with a new client and prevents work from slipping through the net.
2. Invest in top-notch job management software
We’re biased when we say that job management software is the most powerful addition you can make to your field service customer experience, but it is. Automating the parts of your work that don’t need direct attention so your office team can focus on the human interaction part of the job is incredibly powerful. We recommend checking out what a job management platform can do for your business. It’s a cost-effective way of improving operations and customer service across the board.
3. Make interactions unique to each client
Prospective and ongoing clients love when you make them feel like the centre of attention. By briefing your office staff on the need-to-know names, businesses and other essential information before they make contact with a client, you can create more personalised interactions that show your business cares about its customers on a deeper level.
Now let’s discuss optimising your customer service in the field.
1. Focus on good office response times
It’s the point so nice we’re bringing it up twice, but this time in the field. It sounds pedantic, but even appearing 5 minutes late for a job can seriously impact how a client perceives both you and the business you work for. No matter how good you look doing the job and no matter the quality of the work you do, if you make a bad impression, it will cost you down the line.
2. Collect customer feedback in person
One of the great benefits of providing in-person services is that you can gather feedback on your business in the moment when you’re most likely to get a real answer from a client. If something hasn’t lived up to their expectations, they’ll tell you on the spot where they might not if you gave them a day or two to cool off. It’s sometimes difficult to hear instant feedback, but your business will be better for it if you take it on board.
3. Streamline every interaction
Understanding how much customer service is too much is an important part of optimising your field service customer experience. Clients often like to chat while you work, but this doesn’t mean you should shift your focus from the task at hand to discussing the footy. Understand how much interaction is enough to put clients at ease, then get back to the job, it’s an art, but you’ll get it down eventually.
So, you understand field service customer service and creating great experiences through optimisation. Now what?
Measuring the success of your field service customer experiences
Change isn’t worth pursuing without data to back up its effectiveness. The best quality data you can get is gathered from real customers giving real opinions on your business and your services.
There are two major fields for measuring the success of your field service customer service, and we’ll start with the one most people know.
Field service customer satisfaction
A singular factor won’t determine how satisfied your customers are with your work. You can’t be friendly and supportive then provide second-rate work, just like you can’t appear on site, rudely ask the customer where the problem is, then fix it in five minutes and leave.
Your customer’s view of you and your work is a combined package, and one can’t function without the other. Satisfaction measures both considerations in tandem and indicates whether your entire process, from initial contact and quote to job handover, provides positive customer experiences.
To collect data on customer satisfaction, you might ask questions like:
- How satisfied are you with the work?
- Do you feel like your needs were met?
- Were our technicians polite and willing to help?
- Would you recommend our service to others?
- Was it easy to organise a job with us?
- Are you likely to work with us again?
Field service customer engagement
Measuring engagement can be tricky, especially if your trade business isn’t particularly active in social media, advertising and branding. It’s a big plus if clients already know who you are before they contact you, but engagement isn’t just about pre-contact knowledge; it’s also about creating clients who willingly want to seek you out when they have an issue you can solve for them.
To collect data on customer engagement, you might ask questions like:
- Was our business your first choice?
- How did you find out about us?
- Are we still your first choice now the work is done?
- Did we put you at ease when we arrived on the job?
- Did we keep you up to date with the job details?
By measuring both satisfaction and engagement through direct feedback, it’s easy to craft a better field service customer service system and start crafting experiences your clients won’t forget.
Just remember the golden rule of field service customer experience.
Efficiency doesn’t always create satisfaction
We’ve talked about efficiency a lot in this article, and it’s important to embody efficiency in every part of your business, not just the field service customer service space.
However, being overly efficient can take away the human element of your trade business, which can quickly lead to a drop in overall customer satisfaction. Technicians who are primed to always think about timeliness will often cut corners to meet their deadlines, which opens the door to shoddy work and unhappy customers.
Try to blend satisfaction with efficiency, as both will keep the other in check when balanced correctly. If you find that efficiency is slipping but satisfaction remains the same, empower your employees to make executive decisions about when to chat and when to stick to the job.
That’s all there is to it.
- What is field service customer experience?
- Why does customer experience matter for your business?
- 3 Tips for optimising your field service customer experience in the office and in the field
- Measuring the success of your field service customer experiences
- Efficiency doesn’t always create satisfaction