September is the Worst Month for Customer Service Providers
It is that time of year again, when those cities across the U.S. that have multiple colleges (I.e., Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia) go through the annual influx of new student residents. Beyond the inconvenience of increased traffic and depleted parking spaces, all these students will challenge the capacity of cable providers, home delivery retailers, installation service providers and other firms to provide timely and adequate service. For the rest of us it means, historically, September stands out as a challenging time of the year to be calling on customer service.
We’ve noted before that using a contracted workforce to fulfill service calls in the field can be a huge boon to business. Outside contractors can support many business goals: for example, accessing specialized expertise that is not continuously or routinely required, supplementing limited company resources during periods of unusual demand, and providing staffing increases without the overhead cost of direct-hire employees.
In September, this opportunity becomes more pronounced, particularly on the above-referenced points. With all those net-new customers eager to get set up with services, companies can bank on this month being a highly lucrative time of year.
On the other hand, the September crunch also puts more urgency on going above and beyond with customer service, every time. The impact of social media on company reputation is a documented phenomenon; it can make a mountain out of every service slip up; but, on the flip side, good service gets its due rewards as well. Companies just need to be more buttoned up than ever so that, if they find themselves in the viral conversation, it is for the right reasons.
To be sure, service-based companies must be aware of the unique challenges that come with contracting for field-based service delivery, regardless of time of year. By its nature, contracting puts companies under more pressure to maintain consistency across service delivery and customer experience, as well as to retain enough visibility and control over scheduling and other facets of service. A recent ClickSoftware survey of executives from companies in service industries found that, specifically for firms that use contractors to deliver some form of service in the field, there are a number of gaps that tend to surface when using contractors. Namely:
- Two-thirds of complaints about service by contractors were tied to scheduling issues: late arrivals, early arrivals that led to customer frustration, return visits and missed appointments altogether
- 80 percent of businesses surveyed say contractors need to do more for client satisfaction
The question becomes, then, how do service organizations best deploy contractors to both handle the college move-in rush, and keep the service experience high for new customers and year-round residents alike?
We’ve found that it all boils down to communication. In-house managers must be able to communicate in a way that ensures contracted work is completed well, in a timely manner and in accordance with expectations of the customer. There are several technology solutions now available for contractor management, including mobile workforce management software and solutions, which better connect everyone and ensure successful contractor management.
In the future, field service firms may turn to a model akin to the Uber model today, where they have a contingent of independent, third-party contractors at the ready that can instantly flex staffing up with seasonal surges. If that strategic shift does take place at the business level, it will be even more important to ensure all parties stay in close contact for consistent delivery of a company’s brand promise.
At ClickSoftware, our mission is to help the very service providers that will be called upon most in September (retail, home services, CSPs and utilities) take advantage of contracted field personnel, so they can both capitalize on the customer surge and stick out as the brand that delighted. More importantly, contracting successes gained in September will have a natural carry-over effect to the rest of the year, so that flexible staffing can remain a key component of consistent overall growth.
Are your ready for September?