Friday Service Recap: Customer Value, Amazon, a Mountain of Boxes, New Opportunities, and More Customer Service Stories for the Week

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

Every week, Sumair and I will post our most interesting service-minded stories for the week as part of a Friday recap. We’ll comment on one story each and then add 3 others for your review.

For the thirteenth installment, and week 18 of 2017:

Sumair’s pick:

Sumair will be taking this week off from posting. He will be back with his thoughts on customer service next week.

Aly’s pick:

Topic: Amazon, a Mountain of Boxes, & Hidden Consequences or Opportunities
Source: CNET: https://www.cnet.com/news/ups-will-save-you-from-that-mountain-of-empty-amazon-boxes/

Commentary: Recently my family and I moved into a new home. The amount of work mirrored that of our day jobs, both in stress and detailed tasks to be executed. One thing, in particular, floored me – the amount of boxes we needed in order to pack up our entire life. On one sleepless night, I had somewhat of an epiphany, instead of buying new boxes why not just move up some of my Amazon purchases so I could fulfill my need for shipping boxes with recycled ones. Now this dual purpose isn’t for everyone, and Amazon is beginning to attempt to address the overwhelming volume of cardboard entering the market. The ease at which most of us hit “confirm purchase” on a 2-day shipment has caused all sorts of issues in the supply chain. But as this article highlights, it provides an opportunity for Amazon and their partners to find innovative ways to not only make their processes more efficient but also to lessen the burden on the consumer. As seen in recent TSC research, most organizations see the customer experience as a differentiator for their businesses. This customer-first approach demands that organizations like Amazon continuously improve their internal efficiencies, while also ensuring they provide customer value. I needed the extra bulky boxes for my move, but not all customers are in my predicament. Savvy service organizations will continue to better understand their customer’s needs, focus on customer value, evolve the offerings they provide and do all of this profitably.

Our Three Other Articles:
1- Fisher & Paykel looks to AI for customer experience (ZDNet, 5/1/17)
2- Customer Experience Transformation: One CMO’s Powerful Story (Forbes.com, 5/3/17)
3- Meet LoweBot, a customer-service robot here to give you ‘superpowers’ (PRI, 5/4/17)

If interested in viewing our latest data and insight, please visit: http://info.servicecouncil.com/recent-content-and-events

We would love to have you become part of our research panel. If you would like to, please visit http://info.servicecouncil.com/tsc-join-a-research-group and select the area(s) of alignment. (* Participation in research groups is reserved for practitioners only. Consultants and technology solution providers are not allowed to join and will be referred to other ways of getting involved.)

Till next week.

Aly Pinder
Director of Member Research & Communities
ap@servicecouncil.com
@pinderjr

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com
@suma1r

Friday Service Recap: The Bank Branch, Labor Issues, MRO, and More Customer Service Stories for the Week

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

Every week, Sumair and I will post our most interesting service-minded stories for the week as part of a Friday recap. We’ll comment on one story each and then add 3 others for your review.

For the twelfth installment, and week 17 of 2017:


Aly’s pick:

Topic: Customer Service Needs a Human Touch
Source: Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/comment/metro-bank-pairs-bank-branches-with-customer-service-surprise-surprise-it-works-a7703206.html

Commentary: There are many articles and stories welcoming the end to the live, human customer service interaction. We have seen and heard of the looming threat of IoT, AR, VR, and machines which take over service interactions; mainly those that are repeatable and predictable. This emergence of automation and the cost efficiencies that it can bring has all but done away with the physical bank branch. This trend is prevalent across other industries too, just ask the retail industry. Consumers like convenience and the on-demand economy seem to require that service organizations work in an environment of 24/7/365. But something interesting is happening in the face of this type of change. Organizations like the Metro Bank of London have decided the best way to create better customer experiences is not to over-automate but instead provide human interactions in brick and mortar locations. As seen in recent TSC research, 57% of organizations state that customer management and experience initiatives are their top focus in 2017. And the customer wants better service and more value. Despite the higher costs associated with human employees and the overhead of the physical footprint, this bank is betting on the ability to differentiate through personalized engagements and interactions. I think we will continue to see organizations like the Metro Bank try to flip the prevailing paradigm to build loyalty through differentiated experiences. The race to the bottom of the cost structure may soon end, and organizations need to think of innovative ways to cement customer relationships.

Sumair’s pick:

Topic: Labor Issues in the MRO field
Source: MRO-Network: http://www.mro-network.com/maintenance-repair-overhaul/labor-technology-issues-could-hamper-mro-prosperity

Commentary: There are many parallels between the service management and MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) fields. The article above talks about some of the key trends in aircraft and aviation-related MRO and these trends are similar to what we see if field service management. In the research presented 78% of organizations indicated that it is becoming more difficult for them to find new talent and to compete with parallel industries for front-line technician talent. Organizations believe that the labor issue will come to an impasse in the next 5-7 years. We recently published similar results tied to the aging and retiring workforce in field service. 7 out of 10 companies that we speak to are concerned about the aging workforce in the next 5-10 years, an issue compounded by a greater complexity of service assets that need to be supported. You can access our recent report here.

On the MRO side, it’s also extremely interesting to see that 62% of organizations indicate that their IT infrastructures are ripe for transformation and that current investments in new technologies and data analytics are yet to have a material impact on their businesses. This too parallels what we see in field service management. There is a desire for organizations to revamp their IT infrastructure to support a more nimble and connected field service organization.

We encourage you to participate in our research groups around field service, service technology, and workforce and talent. In each of these groups, we will be conducting projects that focus on:

• Field Service: Mobility
• Service Technology: Build vs. Buy: The IT Stack for the Service Organization
• Workforce and Talent: The Future Service Workforce

Your alignment with a research group is tied to your area of expertise.

Our Three Other Articles
1- Comcast says customer service overhaul is showing results (The Oregonian, 4/23/17)
2- Insurers Increasingly Embrace Robots over Humans for Customer Service (Insurance Journal, 4/19/17)
3- How can they help you? By making a call to customer service painless (Boston Globe, 4/20/17)

If interested in viewing our latest data and insight, please visit: http://info.servicecouncil.com/recent-content-and-events

We would love to have you become part of our research panel. If you would like to, please visit http://info.servicecouncil.com/tsc-join-a-research-group and select the area(s) of alignment. (* Participation in research groups is reserved for practitioners only. Consultants and technology solution providers are not allowed to join and will be referred to other ways of getting involved.)

Till next week.

Aly Pinder
Director of Member Research & Communities
ap@servicecouncil.com
@pinderjr

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com
@suma1r

Friday Service Recap: Hulu, the Competition, Alarm Fatigue and IoT, and More Customer Service Stories for the Week

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

Every week, Sumair and I will post our most interesting service-minded stories for the week as part of a Friday recap. We’ll comment on one story each and then add 3 others for your review.

For the eleventh installment, and week 16 of 2017:

Sumair’s pick:

Topic: Considering a Solution to Alarm Fatigue with IoT
Source: WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/news/20170411/nurse-whats-taking-so-long

Commentary: As more companies consider investments in the Internet of Things to support their service businesses, there is a fear that organizations would be inundated with too much data and suffer from their own version of alarm fatigue. This was verified by a recent conversation I had with a data scientist at a large medical device manufacturing and servicing organization. Sensors allow for the creation of whole new set of alarms and organizations need to be able to identify which alarms are worth chasing. As per the research conducted in the article it’s extremely interesting to find that the personnel responding to alarms were able to diagnose and respond to the critical alarms while their response to non-critical events varied. Results seen here, as well as those identified in other case studies (here and here) on alarm fatigue, could provide valuable insight on how organizations might look to tackle the challenge of IoT-enabled data. The answer isn’t just to invest in predictive analytics or machine learning, but to truly understand which alarms are worth paying attention to. We’ve discussed some of our best practices tied to IoT strategy in a recent paper.

Aly’s pick:

Topic: Hulu Uses Customer Service to Beat Competition
Source: Tech Crunch: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/13/hulu-to-open-a-dedicated-customer-service-center-in-san-antonio-with-500-employees/

Commentary: With all the focus recently being placed on customer service and the lack thereof, it should come as no shock that organizations are rethinking their investments in service. However, what I think is interesting about the investments Hulu is planning on making is their desire to use the customer experience to beat their competition. They are thinking about customer service and the experiences they are able to create as “selling points” for their offering. This highlights how customer service can be a proactive value-add and not a response to a bad interaction or product. When we looked at focus areas for service in 2016, two of the top three were people development and customer-centric initiatives (as noted by 46% of respondents, respectively). People deliver the experiences your customers value, and in turn, you have the right to ask for their continued business. Engaged employees understand that dragging a customer off a plane is not good for anyone. Hulu has gotten the message that customer service should be a focus for the present and their future success.

Our Three Other Articles
1- Why Airlines Can Get Away With Bad Customer Service (the Atlantic, 4/15/17)
2- Improving Customer Service Can Make You More Money (The Huffington Post, 4/16/17)
3- Aeromexioco: First Advanced AI Customer Service Chatbot (eTurboNews, 4/19/17)

If interested in viewing our latest data and insight, please visit: http://info.servicecouncil.com/recent-content-and-events

We would love to have you become part of our research panel. If you would like to, please visit http://info.servicecouncil.com/tsc-join-a-research-group and select the area(s) of alignment. (* Participation in research groups is reserved for practitioners only. Consultants and technology solution providers are not allowed to join and will be referred to other ways of getting involved.)

Till next week.

Aly Pinder
Director of Member Research & Communities
ap@servicecouncil.com
@pinderjr

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com
@suma1r

A Few Thoughts from the Field Service Summit UK

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

After another week of poor customer service examples (i.e., United Airlines), it was refreshing to hear about good customer service at Copperberg’s Field Service Summit at the University of Warwick in England. The event was a day-long series of discussions from service leaders, field service technology providers, and the research community highlighting how service can deliver value to customers which exceeds expectations.

At these events, I typically look for trends that are in alignment with the data captured in my day-to-day research. I also look for key learnings that challenge me to look at an aspect of service which previously not on my radar. This event provided several nuggets which made the trip across the ocean more than worthwhile. Here are the three items which most drew my attention:

The balance between employee perks and productivity
For many of us, our work days are blending into our personal lives. Our always-on lifestyles which afford us to work 24 hours a day via the computer in our pockets with the capabilities to get and respond to email any time, schedule a meeting, attend meetings via video chat, and sign an invoice while on the go, also provides us with the ability to waste away our ‘free’ time on Facebook, Instagram, or Pokemon Go. The convergence of work and personal applications is causing IT departments to weigh in on the debate over engagement vs. cost and productivity in field service. What is too much (personal) data usage and does this access to personal apps during the work day improve or distract the field team? As seen in recent TSC research, field service engineers in Europe often feel isolated from their peers, their managers, and the rest of the organization. Based on the discussions at the Field Service Summit, I think organizations need to provide the field team with the technology to do their job, but also the tools to stay connected to their peers for collaboration, interaction, and camaraderie. There are protocols that can be put in place to monitor and curtail abuse, but these small perks shouldn’t be taken away as you may end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Technicians and skilled field staff are too difficult to find, and thus service organizations must provide incentives to hold on to these members of the team even if your data plan gets pushed to the limit.

The paperless field visit is a myth
For years now there has been a perception that with added functionality of mobile devices we could reach a point where a technician would only need one device to do all their work and wouldn’t need paper forms at all. This perceived nirvana doesn’t seem to be getting any closer (if this was the desired nirvana at all). The worst part of the technician’s day is, in fact, paperwork and administrative tasks as well as looking for information, as found in TSC research.

FT Europe - Worst Part of Day

But paper isn’t going away. Several service leaders detailed a field environment where an engineer needed to go on to a customer site where device access was restricted. This instance makes the paperless field visit impossible, as a technician must do their work via paper forms or service manuals, and then once back in the truck complete the task. This example highlights that there isn’t one size fits all for field service. Organizations must be able to adapt to their customer’s environments and demands while enabling the technician with the information (no matter the form factor) to solve problems on a first visit.

Connectivity, connectivity, connectivity
The ability to connect is something we often take for granted in our personal lives. While traveling, I assume I will have Wi-Fi in airports, and my frustration rises whenever I get a prompt to pay for a daily pass when all I need is an hour of connectivity until my next flight. For me, this is just an inconvenience, but for a technician attempting to access up-to-date work information, this is much more of a bother. This lack of connectivity can be the difference between prompt resolution on a first visit and the need to call back to a remote expert or worse yet the potential use of outdated information to try a series of “fixes”. The need to resolve issues faster for customers who have increased expectations is putting a strain on service teams who conduct work in remote areas where connectivity is limited and mobile information is of little use. In my opinion, the future of ubiquitous connectivity is far off, and organizations need to assume technicians will have to complete work offline at times. Success depends on equipping technicians with the right information and knowledge to solve problems regardless of levels of connectivity because it is not always available. Your customers don’t care if you have a connection, they need you to resolve their issues and ensure downtime is minimized.

These are just a few of the themes and takeaways from this year’s Field Service Summit. I look forward to attending again next year. If you would like to continue discussions like these, you don’t have to wait until next year to join in the conversation. Please get involved in The Service Council research here and mark your calendar for this year’s sixth annual Smarter Services Symposium to be held in Chicago, IL September 11 – 13 where all of these topics and more will be discussed. I hope to see you in Chicago later this year or next year back in the UK (or places in between).

Aly Pinder Jr
Director of Member Research & Communities
The Service Council
ap@servicecouncil.com
818-590-5373
@pinderjr

Are Augmented Reality Applications Ready? Service Leaders Respond

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Our current research project on Augmented Reality in service and support has yielded a treasure trove of data. The survey is still live and will be available for another week before we close and summarize results. To participate, please visit https://www.research.net/r/tsc2017ar

Only 12% of participating organizations (n=65) indicate that they are currently using AR in service and support (field service, customer support or training). However, interest in the technology is extremely high. Sixty-one percent of respondents are evaluating applications for use in the next 5 years. Of those evaluating, 40% are currently running live pilots.
Are AR Solutions Ready?

Based on what’s available, 30% of respondents believe that AR applications are ready for use in field service and customer support organizations. Another 28% believe that the applications aren’t ready yet, but they are close.

For those who believe that AR applications still need some work before they are ready for the service enterprise, the following are things that need to change.

  • Ease/speed with which AR content can be created
  • Integration of AR into current workflows
  • Ease of use
  • Integration of AR with existing applications

A number of these issues and challenges aren’t specific to the available applications, they’re more so a commentary on how companies need to transform or reconsider content to get the most out of AR. Organizations can currently insert basic video-related or AR capabilities for specific use cases in field service and customer support, but to get the most out of their investment, they have to consider their current service workflows and the role that AR-enabled connection and content can play in enriching those workflows.

As indicated, we’re still interested in opinions from other service and support organizations interested in the topic of AR. You don’t need a live project to participate. Results will only be shared in aggregate, and these results will be made available to all participants at the end of the month. To participate, please visit https://www.research.net/r/tsc2017ar.

We shared early results from our research on a recent webinar featuring TSC member Lee Company. Lee received a great deal of attention for their 2016 technology deployment, considered to be the largest rollout of wearable technology at that time. Listen in here.

Friday Service Recap: Jeff Bezos on Business Success, Artificial Intelligence, Generation Z

By Sumair Dutta | News | One Comment

Every week, Aly and I will post our most interesting service-minded stories for the week as part of a Friday recap. We’ll comment on one story each and then add 2-3 others for your review.

For the tenth installment, and week 15 of 2017:

Aly’s pick:

Aly was traversing the world this week and will send in his travel report next week.

Sumair’s pick:

Topic: Customer Obsession at Amazon
Source: recode: Link

Commentary: Jeff Bezos’s annual shareholder letter hasnt reached the acclaim of Warren Buffet’s but given all the accolades that Amazon receives, and for the fact that Bezos is now the 2nd richest person person in the world (besting Buffett), its worth a read. There are many interesting areas in this letter, but the one that stands out the most is his focus on customer obsession. I really enjoy this line:

“Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.”

In our 2017 benchmark survey of service leaders (GET INVOLVED), nearly 6 out of 10 indicated that customer-centric initiatives were their primary area of focus for 2017. While not all of these leaders are looking to invent on their customers’ behalf, they are beginning to understand that success requires more than an obsession with operational efficiency or with product development.
2017 Objectives - TSC Data

Our Three Other Articles
1- Can United Recover (Knowledge at Wharton, 4/13/17)
2- How Companies Are Using AI (Harvard Business Review, 4/14/17)
3- Amazon will pay you to stay home, work customer service (RetailDive, 3/29/17)

If interested in viewing our latest data and insight, please visit: http://info.servicecouncil.com/recent-content-and-events

We would love to have you become part of our research panel. If you would like to, please visit http://info.servicecouncil.com/tsc-join-a-research-group and select the area(s) of alignment. (* Participation in research groups is reserved for practitioners only. Consultants and technology solution providers are not allowed to join and will be referred to other ways of getting involved.)

Till next week.

Aly Pinder
Director of Member Research & Communities
ap@servicecouncil.com or @pinderjr

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com or @suma1r

Crisis Management: Some Survival Tips

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

There seem to be a lot of organizations in crisis and PR recovery modes lately. The good news is that it doesn’t take long for another organization to come along and take the mantle of “Crisis of the Week”.

I recently asked several service leaders in our community about how they would respond to a full-blown crisis as the one that United Airlines is facing right now. There have been some great response and here’s one of my favorites:

My response is pretty simple:
 

  1. Take full responsibility and apologize everywhere you can think of: Letter to customer base, Social media, Public advertising outlets
  2. DO NOT blame the agent/employee or try to pretend it was an isolated incident (that’s a losing strategy)
  3. Reassure your customer base that this will NEVER happen again
  4. Ask your customers to test your support whenever they like to verify your corrective action

The apology should be something like this … “We value our customers and don’t want them to leave us.  Clearly in our emphasis on that philosophy, we have over-stepped reasonable boundaries in our training and our oversight.  We want to take responsibility for this mistake, fix it immediately, and do that which is necessary to ensure that it never happens again.”
 
The mistake here would be to (a) blame the agent/employee, (b) not take full responsibility, and (c) pretend like it wasn’t a policy or oversight problem.If you go to great lengths to beat yourself up and admit your mistake … your customers won’t feel the need to do it for you.

That response comes from Rusty Walther, Vice President of Global Escalation Management, at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. At our 2014 Smarter Services Symposium Rusty took the stage to share his thoughts on how to deal with a service issue failure. I still remember the list of lessons that he had taken away from dealing with crisis situations across his many years as a service leader.

  • Swarm to the problem
  • Mirror the customer’s sense of urgency
  • How you’re organized is never the customer’s problem
  • Speak with “One Voice”
  • Ask good questions, but don’t force the customer to answer the same questions
  • Brainstorm in the background, not in front of the customer
  • Always have a contingency plan that focuses on now, next, and later
  • Lead from the front by modeling the behavior you want your team to display

Rusty will be one of the keynote speakers at our 2017 Smarter Services Symposium taking place September 11-13 in Chicago, IL. If you are a service business leader, and your’e interested in connecting with some of the best minds in service and support, I encourage you to attend. Feel free to connect with me directly at sd@servicecouncil.com to learn more about the event. You can also get latest information and updates at our our Symposium page.

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com
262-649-8721
@suma1r

Friday Service Recap: Baseball, Opening Day, KLM, Social Support, and More Customer Service Stories for the Week

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

Every week, Sumair and I will post our most interesting service-minded stories for the week as part of a Friday recap. We’ll comment on one story each and then add 3 others for your review.

For the ninth installment, and week 14 of 2017:

Aly’s pick:

Topic: Baseball and a Captive Audience
Source: wtop: http://wtop.com/washington-nationals/2017/04/nationals-pledge-customer-service-staff-opening-day-snafu/

Commentary: How often do we set ourselves up for failure in customer service? This article highlights the frustrations of customers at a baseball game as they attempted to use ATMs so they could willingly spend more money. What business would make it more difficult for their customers to buy more services?

This problem is not only faced by the Nationals on Opening Day. Service organizations in other industries have also found ways to turn away a captive audience of buyers based on either a bad service experience or poor infrastructure to support the customer interaction. For example, a service technician who is solely focused on the work order at hand, while missing the opportunity to proactively fix other equipment under warranty on the customer site. Or a contact center agent who should have full visibility into the customer’s contact information, but still asks you to repeat your information for the umpteenth time or doesn’t know which products you have purchased from them. These are missed opportunities to show the customer that you not only care, but that you can proactively wow them. Our research highlights that 94% of organizations plan to make the improvement of the customer experience a priority for the business. But too often this is a goal which isn’t tangible to the front line. It should be simpler – listen to your customers, provide them with offerings which they need and value, and when you mess up like the Nationals on Opening Day put a plan in place to fix the experience quickly and tell your customers that you have addressed the issues. Having a captive audience isn’t enough, you must deliver value and the experience customers want.

Sumair’s pick:

Topic: KLM drives revenue from social support.
Source: VentureBeat: https://venturebeat.com/2015/05/21/klms-150-social-media-customer-service-agents-generate-25m-in-annual-revenue/

Commentary: We don’t see much being discussed in the way of social support anymore. In fact, social has become the precursor to interactions via messaging. At Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference in 2016, KLM shared how its 235 strong social team reviews and responds to 100,000 mentions a week. A majority of new social interactions are tied to FaceBook Messenger where KLM has seen a 250% year-over-year growth in interactions. The Service Council’s research shows how more organizations are looking at messaging as a means to interact with their customers. Artificial Intelligence, provided by tools such as DigitalGenius, Kylie, True AI, is seen as a major enabler assisting live agents as they solve customer queries. Then there’s also the use of chatbots to solve basic / standardized customer queries. This is bound to be one of the most talked about spaces in the customer service and support space.

Our Three Other Articles
1- AI for Customer Service Agents (VentureBeat, 4/5/17)
2- Kudos to Chik Fil A (QSR, 3/27/17)
3- Amazon will pay you to stay home, work customer service (The News Tribune, 4/6/17)

If interested in viewing our latest data and insight, please visit: http://info.servicecouncil.com/recent-content-and-events

We would love to have you become part of our research panel. If you would like to, please visit http://info.servicecouncil.com/tsc-join-a-research-group and select the area(s) of alignment. (* Participation in research groups is reserved for practitioners only. Consultants and technology solution providers are not allowed to join and will be referred to other ways of getting involved.)

Till next week.

Aly Pinder
Director of Member Research & Communities
ap@servicecouncil.com or @pinderjr

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com or @suma1r

Friday Service Recap: Siri, Alexa, Hotels, Hacking Tractors, and More Customer Service Stories for the Week

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

Every week, Sumair and I will post our most interesting service-minded stories for the week as part of a Friday recap. We’ll comment on one story each and then add 3 others for your review.

For the eight installment, and week 13 of 2017:

Sumair’s pick:

Topic: Hacking Tractors for Service
Source: MotherBoard: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/why-american-farmers-are-hacking-their-tractors-with-ukrainian-firmware

Commentary: Equipment manufacturers are finding innovative ways to stave off competition from third-party repair shops. In their pursuit to capture and protect service revenue, OEMs are increasing their use of software and connectivity in their products to limit the reach of third-parties. While the article covers a situation where this is happening in farm equipment, this trend is also occurring in areas of medical devices and other industrial equipment. The issue arises when support resources aren’t readily or easily available to the end customer that needs assistance. While many industries are encouraging self-service to ease the burden on their support centers and to expedite service issues, other industries have yet to find the right balance between self-service and OEM-provided support. Till then, customers have to find unique ways to keep things working.

Aly’s pick:

Topic: Siri vs. Alexa Vying for a Place in a Hotel Near You
Source: TechCrunch: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/27/amazons-alexa-and-apples-siri-are-waging-war-over-the-hotel-room/

Commentary: The battle between Amazon and Google in the voice assistant market might seem like a reboot of the days of PlayStation vs. Xbox or VCR vs Betamax. But I think this battle royale will be more significant in relation to its impact on business and specifically on customer service. This may seem like sacrilege based on the $91 Billion dollars brought in from the video game industry in 2016, and the ubiquity of a VCR in just about every US home in the late 80’s and 90’s. But the reason I believe the battle for our wallet being waged by Amazon and Google will be bigger is the convergence of customer service expectations and the integration between apps in our world. Most of us, at least in the US, assume we will have seamless service experiences and at a high quality. In this environment, the virtual assistant will not only connect you to answers like “what is the weather outside right now”, but you will be able to order AA batteries with your voice when your kids remote control car dies. And that shipment might just arrive within hours saving a parent the agony of a sobbing child. The integrated nature of this technology to support not only information but also commerce and all at a high level of customer service becomes a game-changer. I haven’t made my decision yet on which product I will purchase for my family, but as this article highlights hotels might tilt this battle soon. And the hotel industry’s desire to incorporate this technology only further highlights its impact on delivering high levels of service. Hotel chains want to do whatever they can to provide patrons with anything they need, and Siri or Alexa have the ability to make this job much easier and seamless.

Our Three Other Articles
1- Wayfair’s Innovative Recruitment Methods Help Drive Their Award Winning Customer Service (Forbes, 3/28/17)
2- Why Luxury Brands Need to Focus on the Human Customer Experience (Chief!Marketer, 3/24/17)
3- Uber for Car Repair (GeekWire, 3/28/17)

If interested in viewing our latest data and insight, please visit: http://info.servicecouncil.com/recent-content-and-events

We would love to have you become part of our research panel. If you would like to, please visit http://info.servicecouncil.com/tsc-join-a-research-group and select the area(s) of alignment. (* Participation in research groups is reserved for practitioners only. Consultants and technology solution providers are not allowed to join and will be referred to other ways of getting involved.)

Till next week.

Aly Pinder
Director of Member Research & Communities
ap@servicecouncil.com or @pinderjr

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com or @suma1r

Building a Field Service Lead Generation Program the Right Way

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | One Comment

There is an increased responsibility on field service organizations to complement operational and customer facing improvements with commercial results. In our 2016 field service research, the lack of revenue opportunities was seen as a major strategic challenge by 40% of organizations. To encounter this challenge a number of organizations were looking at their front-line field service personnel to identify new business opportunities (aka Leads) or to sell when in front of the customer. Most organizations currently have some form of a field service lead program in place and more are beginning to equip their engineers with the tools necessary to sell. There’s not enough room to debate if field engineers should be selling in the first place. In our research, we’re finding that more field service customers are accepting of a sales approach from a field service engineer if they have a relationship with that engineer or if the engineer has resolved their current challenge and is working to provide them with additional value.

In terms of field service lead generation, there are several best practices to consider when building a program. These practices were reinforced in recent TSC IdeaShare focused on pertinent field service metrics. On the discussion, Jack Kleminich from Tyco SimplexGrinnell spoke of his learnings in developing a $50m+/yr field service lead generation program.

Develop 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 engineers will abandon the process immediately if it doesnt work. Typically, the two major failure points occur around lead follow-up by sales and in lead-affiliated compensation for field service engineers. A lot of the core areas of lead management can be automated with the aid of mobile and CRM solutions. That said, its essential that there is well thought out process for how leads are managed throughout the entire sales cycle, all the way from identification to closure.

Deliver Training Materials at All Levels of Field Service

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. Its likely that field service engineers will resist when asked to participate in lead generation as they will see this as a proxy to selling. Therefore, organizations need to prepare this engineers on the purpose of the program and then reinforce the impact of the program on all stakeholders impacted, including the customer. Once 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 engineers 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 engineers and moving up to supervisors and regional leaders.

Communicate and Then Communicate Some More

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 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, its also beneficial to reinforce the value of the program in the form of engineer 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 engineer directly impacted the customer’s results and outcome.

Ensure Visibility Across the Lead Lifecycle

Part of the communication process involves giving engineers visibility into the status of their leads. If its assumed that leads are just going into a black hole, the lead pipeline will eventually dry out. Engineers don’t need to see every lead be successful, they just need to know that their effort is being followed up on.

Push for Sales Accountability

The monetary value of a service lead might not compare with that of a regular sales opportunity. This might be enough to detract sales people from following up on service-generated leads. Therefore, its essential that sales leadership is bought into driving accountability for a service lead program. An easy way to do this is to show the impact that top performing regions or districts are having when it comes to top-line revenue. If sales isn’t motivated by that performance, business leadership will be.

Compensation – Make it Timely

Most organizations develop a financial reward system for field service engineers based on leads closed. Some offer incentives for lead generation. The issue is that most programs stop here. While the field engineer cares about the amount of recognition received, they care more about getting recognized in a timely and painless manner. They shouldn’t have to fight for the recognition or have to wait for it for a considerable amount of time. Therefore, its essential that the reward system developed, monetary or otherwise, is efficient enough to deliver the reward to the field engineer in an expedited manner.

Evaluate Metrics that Drive Action

Activity drives results and while its essential to measure the impact of a lead generation program to garner further buy in, its absolutely essential to track activity-based metrics as leading indicators. These metrics could include participation rates, referrals per tech, and average cycle or follow up time for leads. In our recent IdeaShare, Tyco SimplexGrinnell indicated that they use an engineer confidence index to measure the health of their lead program. The index measures how confident the engineers are in their ability to get paid on leads. The higher the confidence, the greater the activity.

We’ve worked with organizations that 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.

If interested in participating in our 2017 research on service sales and marketing and service lead generation, please join our dedicated research group to the topic. If you’d like to chat with members of our community on lead generation, including Jack Kleminich from Tyco SimplexGrinnell, drop me a line.

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Office
sd@servicecouncil.com

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