In field service today, sometimes it can feel like you are swimming upstream, with no opportunity for a break. For telecommunications service providers specifically, the current challenges include supporting a seemingly endless onslaught of new technologies and services, and fending off new competition in the form of low-cost and over-the-top (OTT) service providers.
Consider the following key trends:
- Competitive OTT services are siphoning off significant revenues. New OTT apps are diverting traffic from carriers. As a result, many telecom service providers are seeing 30% less SMS messaging, 20% less international voice, and 15% less roaming.
- Smartphones drive data usage. In 2017, analysts predict 32 billion smartphone users globally—a 70% increase over two years prior. And over 300 million of those smartphones will have onboard neural network machine learning capabilities.
- Infrastructure continues undergoing upheaval. Telecom providers face another infrastructure overhaul with the coming of 5G.
- M&A remains steady. Deregulation being pursued by the Trump administration paves the way for more mergers and acquisitions.
Figuring out how to profitably provision and service new offerings in this environment requires a Herculean effort in and of itself. But achieving that goal is useless without also fully satisfying growing customer demands. As has been the case for many years, customer satisfaction reigns supreme when it comes to ensuring a future in the telecom business.
With companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Uber raising the bar when it comes to service, customers expect more from every encounter with every company. When you consider the fact that 64% of consumers have switched providers due to poor customer service, heeding customer trends is imperative to the very survival of telecom service providers.
These days, satisfaction increasingly resides in the hands of field service technicians. In a world that grows more automated with each passing day, it’s the face-to-face interactions that truly set an organization apart.
With that in mind, here are three ways to make service the linchpin for your telecommunications business in today’s increasingly complex field service landscape.
Optimize the Customer Experience
While consumers gravitate to the telecom provider that offers the products and services they seek, these offerings are not enough to differentiate in an increasingly commoditized sector. The same way it is radically changing businesses across industries, the customer experience is becoming a priority with telecom providers. Bain & Company insists that it takes a deep understanding of and ability to design customer experience “episodes,” which represent a chain of interactions associated with a variety of shopping, usage, or service activities.
After deconstructing the customer experience and identifying key “episodes,” telecom service providers could set themselves up to serve customers at critical episodic points, instead of whenever it’s convenient for the enterprise. An example would be to house contact center agents with field service technicians who can easily collaborate to resolve customer issues, within context of service. As in, no more starting from scratch with every customer service call.
These “episodes” stand to improve efficiency, which in turn could reduce the overall number of expensive truck rolls, while delighting customers with faster resolution.
Show Respect for Customer Time
In an increasingly digital world, it seems customers are adopting technology faster than telecommunications providers. It’s ironic, for certain. The numbers are quite staggering; a full 40% of customers want more digital interaction than what companies are currently providing. As more spend their valuable time on web chat and social media channels to engage their telecom providers, companies that train their call center agents to handle these digital interactions are the ones that will win big.
By extending this training to field service technicians, telecom providers can gain a quick boost in customer satisfaction.
Second, and most important, is reducing customer wait times. Picture this; a customer waits between 6 and 8 hours at home for a new broadband service technician provider to show up. Does the tech ever show up at the beginning of the allotted time? Nope.
An article on Verge posed a scathing review of the notoriously bad Comcast service with new data surfaced a few years back about poor scheduling practices. This included everything from dispatchers overbooking appointments, to recycling equipment into customer homes that was known to be faulty. As a result, Comcast is facing one of the largest threats to its very existence in a massive cord-cutting trend. Customers are turning to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or even YouTube for entertainment. And why wouldn’t they?
The bottom line is no one likes to be left waiting and wondering if their scheduled appointment will happen as planned. Training field service techs to proactively provide customers with updates via chat or text can go a long way to showing respect for customers’ time. In fact, 73% of consumers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with quality field service.
Improve First-Time Fix Rates Through Technology
Repair times are a key metric for good reason: equipment or service downtime is disruptive to customers, no matter if they are consumers or businesses. Telecom service providers can tap into the combined capabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) and emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR) to help field service techs make short work of repairs. Best-in-class field service organizations are 72% more likely than peers to utilize visual collaboration tools in service.
With smart sensors embedded on equipment or parts within their existing infrastructure, telecom companies can collect data and monitor network and equipment operations in real-time. Imagine that instead of equipment breaking down, the equipment would simply send a notice via an embedded internet-connected sensor, when the equipment is performing poorly. Before the customer even knows there’s an issue, a service rep could contact the customer and proactively inform them their equipment requires service.
Field service technicians could then be dispatched, and using augmented reality goggles, readily pinpoint the issue via on-screen prompts. By using these goggles, they would also be working hands-free. Which means they could call remote equipment experts who could help them troubleshoot an issue, if need be.
This application of technology would ensure that gaining a first-time fix was the norm, instead of being a rarity.
Proactive service speeds resolution, which in turn satisfies customers. It also helps telecom service providers create efficiency among field service techs that could stand to spend less time on the road.
Simply put, field service technicians are your company ambassadors. In an increasingly digital world, they offer the best, more personalized path to profitability and customer satisfaction for telecom service providers today. The companies that equip their techs to best serve customers in the field will drastically set themselves apart.
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