Chasing the Field Service Unicorn: Customer Loyalty
“Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.”
-Sir Henry Royce, Founder of Rolls-Royce
According to a Microsoft study, 97% of consumers said customer service is important to their choice, or loyalty to a brand. Depending on the study you read, gaining new customers costs between 5 and 15 times more than what it costs to retain existing customers.
In an age where 76% of field service providers are struggling to achieve revenue growth, why aren’t more folks talking about customer loyalty?
Because at many organizations, loyalty is like chasing a unicorn. Loyalty is magical, mythical, and seemingly out of reach. Teams trying to understand customer churn don’t know why customers go away, what motivates them to stay, or how to go about keeping customers satisfied long-term. After all, it’s hard to get data from customers that don’t want to do business with you anymore.
Loyalty is even more confusing for organizations providing top-notch service. After all, why would customers walk away if the service experience is spot on?
The answer is simple. The service experience is just one small part of the customer journey. Far too many organizations are focused on optimizing a single customer touchpoint, or fixing one-off problems. Year after year they chase new silver bullets, hoping each will finally solve their customer churn.
One year it’s, “we need an app!” The next, “get that self-service portal up pronto!” Soon you’ll be hearing, “service techs need augmented reality goggles!”
It’s time to stop thinking silver bullet, and start thinking long-term customer journeys. The loyalty unicorn is out there. The road to catching it is simply longer than we realized.
Whether improving the customer experience at an education phase, or retention phase, the key to catching the customer loyalty unicorn is connecting the dots between channels and experiences.
We recently reported that maximizing satisfaction through the use of customer journeys has the potential to lift revenue by up to 15% percent while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20%.
According to recent Aberdeen research on the relationship between quality service and customer retention, companies that achieve service excellence enjoy 3.9 times greater year-over-year increase in customer retention rates, when compared to companies that fail to meet buyer needs.
But how can service teams get there?
1. Move from Touchpoints to Journeys
When a customer requires service, they’ll likely be talking to multiple parties, and interacting with many of your technologies or products along their journey. They might email, check your website, call a help desk, deal with your scheduling software, and eventually see a technician face-to-face.
Even if you optimize every one of these touchpoints to be incredible experiences in their own right, the overall journey can still be poor.
Let’s look at Uber as an example of a gold standard customer journey.
When ordering an Uber, users simply enter their credit card information (once), and their destination. That’s all that’s required of the customer.
They then are presented with convenient options, and useful information including:
- The type of vehicle they prefer to ride in
- A preview and picture of the driver
- The option of canceling if this driver’s rating is not to their satisfaction
- The amount of time they’ll wait for their driver
- The length of the journey
- The estimated cost of the journey
Here’s what happens when the driver arrives:
- The rider enters the car
- The driver takes them to their destination
Dirt simple, right?
Now, let’s compare that to a fairly common service journey.
- The customer contacts a call center, or sends an email about a broken part or problem
- The customer fills out multiple forms, or has to answer questions about the product, their problem, and history of service
- The customer might get passed to another professional in scheduling
- The customer schedules a service window, typically 4-8 hours long
- The customer waits days, even weeks for their appointment with a field engineer
- The customer must take paid time off or work from home while waiting for the engineer to arrive
- The customer has no indication of when the technician will arrive (what if they are using the bathroom when a tech comes knocking?)
- The field engineer shows up to assess the problem, sometimes leaving without fixing the problem due to not having the right part, or deciding the equipment needs replacing
- The customer schedules another appointment
- Weeks later, the equipment is serviced
It’s painful even reading through the whole list.
To get closer to an Uberized experience, organizations should focus on streamlining and connecting customer touchpoints. With modern technology, information gathering and scheduling processes could be completely automated. By breaking down silos and connecting systems, service resolution could happen significantly faster.
Even implementing simple functionality into your website, like allowing customers to upload photos of equipment requiring service, could allow techs to assess or fix problems at much higher rates.
2. Get Everyone Laser-focused on the Customer
Every service organization has customer-centric goals. In fact, I’m betting if you looked around your office you’d find a picture with fancy lettering framed up real nice that says something like, “The customer is always right.”
While these sayings are inspiring, they don't offer specific direction for how professionals that aren’t customer-facing can incorporate customer-centricity in their daily work lives.
In fact, many processes adopted at service organizations actually end up further insulating and distancing professionals from the very customers their organizations serve.
For example, let’s say an IT manager is selecting a new billing software for his field service organization. Will she select the software that’s easiest for her team to implement? The most cost effective? The safest? Or, the software that makes it easy for customers to pay online? Without formally including the customer considerations in this process, the customer will likely be last on the list.
Likewise, a dispatch manager might schedule service at the earliest possible window for a customer (say, 7 AM sharp) thinking it’s more convenient. Now, what if the customer isn’t a morning person? Do they want to answer the door at first light? Probably not.
Again, without a formal mechanism for including specific customer needs in the dispatch process, the customer needs will take a backseat to enterprise assumptions.
The key then is getting everyone focused on the customer. At every turn, we must be asking:
- How will this impact the customer?
- Will this improve the customer experience?
- If the customer had to choose, what would they select?
3. Develop a Regular Customer Feedback Loop
Between wearables, the Internet of Things, social media and web chatbots, customer behavior is evolving faster than ever.
So, when was the last time you checked in with your customers? Do you have any means of gaining regular feedback? Do you know how the changing landscape is impacting your customers?
All too often service providers rely on industry reports to decide how to approach customers. Or executives simply ask their peers what the latest and greatest means for satisfying customers might be. While gut-checking against industry trends and within your network can be helpful, nothing beats out straight dirt from your customers.
Getting customer feedback can happen in a variety of ways. Sending out formal surveys might work, but frankly, who has time to fill out surveys? Embedding feedback boxes right on your website might work, but you need the technology to support it.
In today’s digital landscape, reaching out directly to customers can be the most impactful means for gaining their feedback.
Consider setting up a reminder system after each customer interaction. Whether it's a call, email, or custom web form, ensure your customers have the opportunity to weigh in on every service experience.
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