The New Customer Service Standard: From Fast Food to Fine Dining

Consumer behavior is changing at a torrid pace. Immediate access to messaging, social media, and smartphones has created customers with expectations for fast, simple, and convenient customer experiences. Companies like Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google, and Uber have changed the cultural definition of right now by minimizing use of the customer’s time, whether waiting for a package or hailing a cab. Other players are focusing on consumer convenience, enabling new trends like the sharing economy in which bikes, cars, and apartments are available when and where needs arise. No inconvenient phone call, no hold music. Just one-touch access to what consumers want.

Every industry must keep pace to succeed, and the field service industry is no exception.

It used to be that field service was somewhat equal to a fast food experience. Customers were given a big window of time for a service call, a technician finally arrived, grunted a few words your way, had you sign a piece of paper to prove he completed the job, and left for the next destination. The expectations for an in-home visit were as low as at the drive-thru window and just another box on the to-do list of the service technician.

Today's expectations are on the rise, and smart service organizations are falling in line, offering more of a fine dining experience for customers, complete with customized time reservations and a menu of enhanced options to choose from that ultimately add value for the organization too.

You are no longer competing with the experience your industry peers provide. You are competing with the customer experience provided by every other company in their lives. Customer demands are greater than ever, and when it comes to quality service, at home or at the office, we all want flexibility, efficiency, and effectiveness from our service providers.

There are many ways service organizations can up their game, not just to meet customer demands, but to work to the organization's advantage as well. Most often, the service professional is the only interaction a customer has with its provider; so smart organizations are actually leveraging field service as a marketing function, in addition to filling the need for service. But if the quality of the interaction is not excellent, then the interaction has been wasted.

Alternatively, this provides the company an opportunity to speak with the customer face to face, find out his needs (met and unmet), and leverage that intelligence for the opportunity to upsell (who wouldn't want HBO added to their current lineup?).

So what are some of the steps field service organizations can take to get the job done while promoting customer loyalty and engagement? First and foremost, field service organizations must leverage technology to the benefit of customers, users, and the business. Field service management (FSM) technology should provide ease of use for professionals and customers while guarding sensitive consumer data and supporting the service strategy.

The important thing to remember is that FSM technology is not just a scheduling and dispatch or mobile efficiency tool. That was what service was back in the fast food days. It now provides a menu of fine dining options for improving customer experience with complete visibility into customers' service experiences to date, which proves invaluable for improving the service experience. What benefits do consumers see from an increased level of service? They include the following:

  • More informed, efficient, and engaged service professionals;
  • More customized offerings: A good field service pro now knows what products customers have, their preferences, their service history, and which appointment slots they prefer;
  • Increased flexibility, with the ability to conveniently schedule, change, and provide feedback about the service visit and service professional via any device;
  • Automatic updates, with access real-time info on where the field service professional is and his estimated arrival time; and
  • Convenience, quality, satisfaction.

In addition to the customer improvements, enhanced field service management can also help increase efficiency for the field service professional. Some of the more important changes to note include minimizing disruption and delays, with easy access to processes and policies that support dynamic changes and maximizing the opportunities to leverage unexpected idle time due to early completion or cancellations, both of which help to improve the organization's bottom line.

We are living in what James Gilmore and Joseph Pine coined as the "experience economy" a decade ago. Or are we? What we know is that businesses won't survive by doing what they've always done and the bar gets higher and higher all the time. Competent service is hard to deliver. Exceptional service is even harder. But it has become a necessity for the survival of your business. Regardless of the starting point, the future of service is a critical component for our companies, our industries, and our economies, and is an exciting new frontier that has yet to be fully realized. But we are well on our way.

Claudine Bianchi is chief marketing officer at ClickSoftware.