Karo Kilfeather | 07.01.16
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Internet Service for a Startup

For every stellar field service story that we encounter, there are several less-than-stellar examples to serve as warnings for how field service can go south. It’s bad enough when the service isn’t provided on time, but some truly eye-opening cases involve businesses fleecing their customers or demanding additional fees for underperforming services.

To recognize this week’s #FailFriday, let the following story serve as a call to action for good field service management—and for good business practice in general.

The scene: Installing internet service for a startup

A California startup company sought internet service from a major communications provider. Before setting up their office space, the startup’s CEO was assured by the provider that internet service would be available at their new address.

To the CEO’s surprise, they were later informed that service was not available—after they had moved into the office space and signed a lease. Subsequent calls resulted in more confusion regarding the contract terms, delays in construction of new fiber optic infrastructure, and immense frustration for the startup team.

After several months, the startup sought to terminate their contract, having received none of the service they were initially offered. They were then hit with a $60,000 bill from that same provider to cover construction costs during the length of the contract.

None of this was made clear throughout the construction and sales process. As a result, the startup was forced to move out of their office space and manage their business on home Internet connections.

So to sum up: Provider promises service in a specific area, can’t deliver, and demands $60,000 to cover construction costs. The startup was able to get that fee waived, though only after working with the provider’s PR team instead of the standard sales and support teams.

In the end, it resulted in a complete breakdown of effective field service best practices.

The issue: Lack of communication on service levels/areas

When your company (or website) promises one thing, and you deliver something else (or nothing at all), that’s grounds for immediate customer dissatisfaction. In this case, the provider repeatedly assured the startup that service was available, yet failed to adequately check the address before pursuing the sale.

This is where a modern field service software system would benefit the entire process. Had the provider sent out a technician to test the startup’s proposed office site before proposing a contract, they would have avoided any of the resulting chaos.

The provider also failed the customer by breaking several other customer service tenets, including:

  • Not clarifying that their online service area map is subject to change
  • Claiming that the signed agreement with the customer was dependent on local surveys (after the agreement was actually signed)
  • Trying to upsell to a faster (and more expensive) connection after it was clear that the lower tier would not work
  • Lack of communication regarding construction delays

Communication is at the heart of all these mistakes. A recent TechnologyAdvice study noted that 56.2% of customers were not routinely informed about service delays, leaving plenty of room for improvement.

The solution: Real-time visibility and responsiveness to requests

Now imagine if this same provider had used a more real-time model to assess the startup’s viability for service. They could have contacted a nearby technician to quickly determine service viability at the proposed site, relayed that information to the customer, and altered the service proposal based on that assessment.

In the case of this provider, it would have meant lost business, because they didn’t offer service in the area. But it would have also saved $60,000 in unnecessary construction costs and endless hours of  troubleshooting contract issues.

The TechnologyAdvice study further explained how field service management software could have helped the provider better manage the customer experience:

  • Supports end-to-end service delivery, with back-office system integration
  • Allows for greater preventative asset maintenance, which can reduce overhead costs and avoid service interruptions
  • Optimizes routes in real time to enable quicker scheduling, overcoming any logistical hurdles and enabling more visits
  • Creates frequent mobile reminders and push notifications to keep customers informed without needing to call back

The story has a happy ending for the startup, as they were relieved of that $60,000 fee. But the headaches still remain from a lengthy—and completely avoidable—customer service blunder. For the provider, it’s a lesson in communication that won’t soon be forgotten.

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