Seth Robert, Director of Field Service (Americas), Elliott Group
A senior executive comes into your office and says, “I have a great idea that will change the way we do business and redefine the way we take care of our customers.” The organization plans to implement a new software application that would automate and consolidate a dozen different processes, spreadsheets, and existing software programs.The main benefit pitched was that it would give us more time for our customers by increasing efficiencies and reducing the redundancy in our current processes, and ultimately save the organization a lot of money.
You think to yourself, this would be a great opportunity.
Field service organizations often use many different software systems to complete the customer order process. Systems range from customer relationship management (CRM) software to call center solutions software that interfaces with field service applications. Field service also relies on scheduling, learning management, asset management, and GPS tracking software to dispatch the appropriate technician with the correct competency to the correct location to complete a job, and to record an accurate maintenance and troubleshooting history.
Sometimes, when the field service technician arrives on location and realizes that parts are necessary to resolve an issue,the field service organization also uses inventory management software and invoicing software. Job completion requires yet another software to track employee hours worked on the job.The senior executive says, “We are going to take all of those software systems and combine them into one. It’s going to be great!”
Over the next few years, this project becomes one of the largest in the organization’s history, requiring millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to complete. In the end, the cost of implementing the new software is double what was initially budgeted.
Remember not to lose sight of the fact that the most important KPIs are employee and customer loyalty. Software does not drive this, people do
The new software requires more time to complete the order process than the independent and semi-integrated systems that had been used prior to implementation of the new software.The data collected is barely usable in measuring performance and, in many cases, is unreliable. The company was able to eliminate only half of the existing applications. The new system did not deliver what senior leadership promoted.
Have you ever had this kind of experience when implementing a new software system? The primary goal of the senior executive was to take care of the customer. In this case, why was software the solution? Maybe it could have been, if it had been better planned and integrated and had the buy-in of the teams using it.Imagine what the organization could have achieved, if it had instead used the money and the time to invest in its employees, by training them, improving technical competency levels, and teaching them how to truly take care of customers.
The field service business is really about front line employees taking care of the customers. Most times, they are the people who are the least trained in customer service. An organization can look at different initiatives whereby technology can optimize service delivery; however; it should never discount the value of just taking care of the customers.
Now imagine this scenario. The senior leader comes in and says, “I have a great idea that will change the way we do business and redefine the way we take care of our customers. We are going to listen to the customers and treat them the way they want to be treated. It’s going to be great!”
Then over the next two years, the company takes on one of its largest initiatives to improve the customer experience. They train their employees to not only improve their technical competency,but also include soft skills training. They promote best practices and conduct customer surveys. The organization truly spends time listening to its customers.
The result? Customer loyalty has greatly improved, repeat business has jumped, and new customer acquisitions are the highest they have been in over a decade.
The field service business is about people taking care of people – listening to customer needs and creating solutions. If your organization is looking for the best return on its investment, and wants to spend significant time and resources improving the customer experience, ask yourself what the customers really want. Are you investing in what really matters to customers? And remember, your most important assets are the people who represent your organization. When you invest in your people, you will see a lower turnover rate, increased competency levels, and higher moral. All of this leads to increased revenue and higher profitability. While software systems can improve operations based on key performance indicators (KPIs), this cannot be achieved without employee buy-in and involvement in planning. Remember not to lose sight of the fact that the most important KPIs are employee and customer loyalty. Software does not drive this, people do.