Partner Connect 2022 brought together industry experts to share best practices for digitizing, automating, and optimizing service operations. The full day of presentations led by Zuper’s partners from different fields showcased the latest innovations in field service management and highlighted how Zuper could help FSM businesses scale rapidly!
In the expert talk session, David Nour of The Nour Group, Michael Blumberg of Blumberg Advisory Associates, and Michael Israel of Zuper offered expert advice and knowledge regarding service lifecycle management, completed service work, field service KPIs, and sentiment analysis.
Michael Blumberg is a leading consultant and research analyst for field service and reverse logistics operations. He is a pioneer and an expert in helping companies manage service operations as a strategic profit center.
David Nour is a leadership mentor, senior leadership/board advisor, best-selling author, and keynote speaker who has helped many people succeed through his mentoring and books.
Michael Israel has spent his entire career working in various aspects of field service and field service software, including managing service teams, service financial planning, and field service software design, marketing, sales, and implementation.
What is the role of field service?
Field service executives and managers in this audience might say that the role of field service is to fix things when they’re broken. However, field service can be much more than that. It’s a very strategic aspect of the business and I think all businesses have one objective and that’s to ensure customer happiness.
Tell us more about field service customer service relationships and how important relationships are in delivering an exceptional service experience.
I want to build on Michael’s comment that there’s a tactical or transactional part of field service and there’s a strategic part. The tactical part is when something breaks and you want it resolved quickly. This could be handled if your operations are streamlined. However, the strategic part is a bit tricky as it all comes down to your ambassadors.
Field service technicians and back-office staff are ambassadors of the brand because they are the people who represent the company to customers. They are the ones who go out into the field and interact with customers, and they are also responsible for handling customer inquiries and complaints in the back office.
The real customer relationship starts after a sale is closed. The brand promise that your sales team made becomes brand equity as you nurture that relationship. As service organizations assign the right technicians to solve a customer’s problem without making them jump through hoops, it really nurtures the relationship. Additionally, it also solidifies how customers think about your think about you, your company, and your brand. These customer service relationships are the deciding factor whether or not your customer recommends you to their network.
So, field service is really a relationship enabler for organizations to build deeper, more meaningful relationships with their customers. And, that’s why service technicians should be strategically considered as brand ambassadors or relationship ambassadors, and not just technical experts.
What is completed service work?
To explain this concept better, I would like to narrate a story. If you listen to Zuper FM, you may be familiar with this story. I bought a brand-new dishwasher from a major manufacturer last March. It finally got delivered on May 3, but one week later, it stopped working and I made a service request.
The manufacturer sent out a technician and he couldn’t fix it. He told me that there was a problem with a specific part and that it must be reordered. The technician came back a couple of weeks later and had the parts. However, that didn’t fix the problem either.
And, so he was laying on the kitchen floor looking into the side door of the dishwasher talking to technical support while taking and sharing pictures with them. However, they could neither figure it out nor fix it. They couldn’t replace the dishwasher because there were no replacements available. I had to argue over a series of phone calls to get a refund. That’s one part of the story.
I got another new dishwasher from a different brand. Ironically, that one didn’t work either, there were issues with drying. So, I got their customer support on the line and I was fortunate to get a hold of some young lady who was knowledgeable and courteous.
She gave me some advice on what kind of settings I should set to solve my problem. What’s more, she promised me a call back at two o’clock that afternoon to check whether the problem was resolved. I believed there would be no callback but I was proved wrong when I got a call from her. As I still had the same problem, she gave me some more tips to try and promised a call back on Sunday.
To my surprise, I did receive a call back on Sunday to check how things were going and sure enough, her new recommendations worked and we cracked the problem together. Now, that is an example of completed service work because she could have given me her first recommendation and never bothered to call me back.
I would have had to pick up the phone and call the manufacturer again and say it still isn’t working. Not only did she call me back at two o’clock but she called me back on Sunday again to check whether the service work was complete. I think that’s an example of someone taking the extra mile and building a relationship and trust with her display of the culture of service.
Michael, you are exactly right. I would just like to add to what you shared. First, that particular dishwashing manufacturer and the team have built a culture of service, a culture of relationships that says Michael Israel is not just a transaction. He’s not just yet another dishwasher that we send out but let’s ensure that we build a nurtural relationship.
Secondly, that particular young lady has that built-in fundamental DNA of the heart of service, really taking pride in her interactions with you. Then, last but not least is building processes building tools, and really empowering her to deliver a wonderful customer service experience.
How do you measure success in field service?
If your culture is how quickly can we get customer service people off the phone you’re measuring the wrong things. A lot of people think good service is merely service with a smile but there’s so much more to that. It is making sure that your field technicians have the right parts and providing them with the right infrastructure to allow your people to perform very well.
I’ve just never believed in lighting a fire under someone, it never works. It is lighting a fire within them that makes people want to show up and take pride in what they do. In Michael’s story, his support rep took pride in ensuring his success. This is where output vs. outcome comes into play.
In this case, her output is sticking to the checklist and running troubleshooting steps. But, it’s not nearly as impactful as the outcome which is Michael Israel’s dishwasher works and he’s happy. The processes which she recommended worked on and created the outcome he was after. I’m still perplexed by how many organizations do checklists really well but we lose sight of the outcome that needs to be delivered.
How can service organizations overcome their talent retention problems?
The service industry right now is struggling with the whole talent agenda. We can’t find enough qualified people and we can’t retain them. You know one of the things that has come up in a lot of conversations recently is the reciprocal purpose. We talk a lot about a company having a purpose company and talking about its purpose. But what we often miss is the employee’s purpose.
If you don’t understand what motivates your employees, what moves them, what inspires them to come and do their best every day, you might have a transactional employee who stays for a short term but you’re not going to have a long-term committed person.
What is a key goal for field service delivery? List down some key performance indicators that service companies are trying to achieve?
Obviously, you need to have measurement systems in place because what gets measured gets improved and gets done. I think the key goal is revenue generation. You want to have metrics measurement systems in place to determine how good you are at acquiring customers. There is a KPI called contract attachment rate which is the percentage of companies that opt in for a contract.
The second metric related to revenue generation is the renewal percentage. Measure the percentage of your customers who renew every year or when their contract expires. While this metric doesn’t apply to some field service businesses, the first-time fix rate is an important metric to track. When you dispatch a technician they must get there and complete the job right the first time. Sending in the right talent and providing the right tools and resources to get the job done is critical.
While this is not exactly a KPI goal, understand what your customers want and need and design offerings to meet what meet their unique requirements. If you don’t know what your customers want to need and don’t provide value to them, they’re not going to become your customers or they’re going to leave pretty soon.
The last one is having the systems and processes in place to ensure you can deliver the service at a high level of productivity and efficiency and quality so you meet your SLA commitments. Remember, only when you meet your KPIs, the customer satisfaction and customer retention goals are met.
The entire industry often talks about key performance indicators. However, in many ways, you’re looking in the rearview mirror at what happened in the past and that’s great. At the same time, I don’t want to take anything away from KPIs, because they’re obviously important. But you should also focus on obtaining one source of data that is really relationships centric and not lagging indicators like KPI but leading drivers.
Let me give you an example. Most of you may have heard of net promoter score (NPS). It is a single question based on your customer’s experience asking them whether they would recommend you and seeking a rating on a scale of one to ten. Zero to six is negative, seven and eight are neutral, and nine and ten are positive. Believe it or not that number matters.
Irrespective of the number you received, it gives you an opportunity to ask a follow-up question: What made you give us that number? And if that’s an open text, they start to comment on their experience, it could be anything about when your technician showed up to how proactively you kept them in the loop.
You need to do sentiment analysis on your NPS data because it can help them understand how their customers feel about them. High NPS scores usually indicate that customers are satisfied with a company’s services, but low NPS scores could be a warning sign that customers are considering leaving. In order to keep high-value customers from fleeing, you need to investigate why customers are unhappy and make the necessary changes.
Additionally, doing sentiment analysis on NPS data can help you track customer satisfaction over time. This information can be used to identify areas where your company is doing well and areas that need improvement. As customer sentiment shifts, businesses can adapt their services accordingly in order to retain more of their valuable customers.
Sentiment analysis should be looked at not just from the standpoint of negative things but positive things as well. You need to know what your best employees are doing well so that you can instill those habits and those behaviors in other people in the organization and build upon that strength.
What are the core foundational systems that FSM businesses need to have in place to achieve their goals?
First of all, you need a good financial management system in place. It must track the cost that you’re spending and keep a note of your revenue. Then, you need a system that captures the contract-related information.
One of the challenges that services companies have is they either give away too much service and lose money or they’re not giving away enough, making their customers frustrated and unhappy. So, if you want to give away more service and you think that’s good for your customers and good for your business you do that but you want to know how much more you’re giving away. That’s what the contract management system will help you understand.
Lastly, and most importantly I’d say it’s high time they invest in field service technologies with functionalities like the work order management system. So, you’re telling the technician what job needs to be done, what’s the complete service work that they’re going to be committed to. and also the ability to schedule and dispatch the technician or the field worker.
What are your thoughts and interpretation of the concept of completed service work? How can companies achieve that?
Field service businesses need to understand how their customers expect work to be done and if they can meet those expectations. Relationships go bad with misaligned expectations whether that expectation is with a customer or an employee.
One of the best things you can do early and often is to align and realign expectations. Create a crystal clear vision and guidance on what it takes to succeed in a role, what it takes to deliver value, and what kind of resources that individual will need to feel empowered. Emphasize the fact that it is not merely customer service anymore but customer advocacy.
Amazon coined the phrase customer obsession and I think more service organizations need to genuinely become obsessed with their customers. They need to understand why those customers buy from them, what they do with the products that they buy, and more.
You need to get a 360-degree view of your customers and get more mind share of customer touchpoints to complete service history. Embracing field service systems like Zuper can help you deepen customer relationships and scale up your business growth. Exceptional service builds brand loyalty and ensures future revenue. And don’t forget, word of mouth is an important driver of growth.
Regardless of what you do for a living, I believe that we’re all fundamentally in the relationship business and don’t ever lose sight of that. The product and service are merely enablers of the relationship. If you focus on that first and foremost, you’ll do a great job on the product and service side. If you do a great job at service, you can overtake your competitor brands and make your customers switch to your brand.