3 FIELD SERVICE BOOSTS THAT KEEP CUSTOMERS HAPPY—AND COSTS DOWN

It’s been apparent to companies for some time: when it comes to satisfying customers, you’re never just competing with your competitors.

Regardless of your industry, your customers compare you to the app they use to have groceries delivered or a rideshare driver pick them up. They apply those standards of ease and flexibility to everyone they do business with, whether it’s a cable provider or appliance repair service.

As Executive Director of Field Service Management at CSG, I talk to a lot of businesses that see this “transfer of expectations” happening. A leader at one of our customers, Telecom Argentina, described that phenomenon in an interview: “A customer that had a really good experience asks for that same level of service from all their providers. All the companies are then competing against each other on providing the best experience.”

So what are businesses doing in response? They’re changing objectives. Four out of 5 companies say customer experience (CX) has become a top priority.

Businesses are extending their intensified CX focus across the enterprise, including their field service operations. In its recent Smart Innovators report for field service management (FSM), research and consulting firm Verdantix noted customer experience is “gradually becoming the top cross-functional KPI for an organization.”

What impact does that CX focus have on FSM? From what we can tell, it’s causing a fundamental shift in how field service achieves its goals.

AUTOMATION IS THE DRIVING FORCE OF CX IMPROVEMENTS AND COST SAVINGS

For many companies, field service constitutes one of their largest cost centers, from the technician workforce to the vehicle fleets, equipment and dispatchers that support it. Field service faces continuous pressure to trim budgets, and many traditional KPIs, like first-time fix rate, are based around economy. Naturally, companies gravitated toward FSM platforms designed around reducing costs.

That’s changing. Companies are now telling their field service operations, “We need you to cut costs and deliver a better customer experience.”

Those sound like competing priorities, but they’re not, and I’ll explain why. CSG has long been designing FSM solutions with CX in mind. In the report I mentioned, Verdantix named CSG among the “vendors who incorporate the best customer experience and engagement functionality” in FSM. And we’ve seen functionality to improve CX has reduced field service costs, and vice versa. I’ll share some examples.

1.    STREAMLINED SCHEDULING AND DISPATCHING

Before cloud-enabled servers and microservices, field service dispatch centers would group work orders each day using hard-copy maps and spreadsheets. They would assign jobs to techs based on geolocation and the techs’ skills while balancing tech capacity. But then FSM platforms started streamlining those tasks, eliminating the overhead that came with those manual processes.

In the days of spreadsheet-driven job assignment, the tech-to-dispatcher ratio maxed out at 10 to 1. Now some companies manage having 75 techs per dispatcher, and modern FSM solutions make that possible.

So how do these cost-saving advances in dispatching also improve the customer experience? The FSM solution can now make assignment decisions that consider a host of other CX variables, like whether a customer requested a Spanish-speaking tech.

More importantly, FSM solutions eliminated one of customers’ most common complaints with field service—the long appointment windows, which forced them to rearrange an entire morning or afternoon to accommodate a tech who could show up on their doorstep anytime in a four-hour period.

Thanks to analytics-driven FSM solutions, companies know travel times, how long the techs will likely spend on each job that day and other factors, allowing them to narrow tech availability down to a 60-minute window they give customers two days in advance.

Companies see their Net Promoter Scores rise when they use FSM solutions for more efficient and detailed routing, because the end result is a customer who can choose an appointment time that’s convenient for them and have the tech arrive as scheduled.

2.    OMNICHANNEL CUSTOMER COMMUNICATIONS MANAGEMENT

Customer notifications—appointment confirmations, reminders and updates—are table stakes for companies in field service today. But many companies don’t have what they need to keep customers informed. For one, some of them only have their customers’ email address, which in many cases can be a secondary account they use to catch spam, so the customer could be in the dark on important appointment updates because they don’t check that account.

This underscores why companies need an omnichannel notification approach. It’s not for the sake of having more customer profile information, but for keeping the customer updated and setting them up for a good customer experience before the tech even arrives. Not only do customers expect those proactive communications, they want them on their preferred channel, whether it’s email, SMS or a voice call.

If coordinating that volume of notifications across multiple channels sounds labor-intensive, that’s because it is for a lot of companies—unless they’re automating them.

FSM can now send notifications to customers when the tech finished a job and is on their way and, using the tech’s GPS location, provide an accurate arrival time. Companies can also standardize appointment reminders so they’re sent within a specific time before the appointment. By eliminating the manual scheduling and sending of volumes of communications to customers, field service operations save time and money as they carry out the omnichannel customer communication strategy that’s become a standard requirement in today’s CX environment.

3.    REMOTE VISUAL TROUBLESHOOTING

In the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies needed a way to continue providing technical support while minimizing the health risks to their customers and techs. In response, companies adopted remote visual troubleshooting capabilities, like CSG Visual Connect. Using these tools, techs can enable customers to share what they see via their smartphone camera, and the tech can easily guide the customer through a self-install or simple device fix. Remote visual troubleshooting allows the field tech to assist customers without entering their homes, creating a safer situation that customers appreciate in the midst of a pandemic.

But remote visual troubleshooting is an even more powerful capability in the contact center, where it helps prevent truck rolls altogether. Live agents can use a solution like Visual Connect to more easily resolve trouble calls without ordering a visit to the customer’s home. One CSG customer used it to deflect 57 percent of truck rolls.

This is an example of a capability companies initially launched to minimize business disruption during the pandemic, yet it will pay dividends for them in customer satisfaction and cost savings long afterward.

If you want to learn more about how a CX-minded approach reduces costs in field service operations, I gave a deep dive presentation at a WBR Virtual Summit you can watch here.

It’s an exciting time to be in FSM. With the right digital solutions and CX mindset, businesses truly can do more with less.