The customer-centric business models of today are geared up to meet the ever-increasing needs of customer service from buying to after-sales care. It has never been more important for businesses to wake up to digital disruption and have an edge on their competitors by being innovative.
Retailers have recognised that it isn’t just about offering a digital presence either; the traditional way of buying physically in the store is as strong as ever. Companies on the high street are realising that it is the connected blend of services being offered to consumers through mobility which is becoming the differentiator.
Once those giant leaps of transformation have been made, it then remains a question of how to evolve further, providing the after-sales service they desire. This is where a proactive customer service comes in, anticipating a problem before it has started and offering them a service before they come to you – it’s all about showing them how much you want their business and loyalty.
Field service and customer care, which helps to maintain the customer relationship, is providing a service to a business/consumer that predicts what you want and when you need it from its existing services. Over the years the role of self-service has had a positive effect on the way we communicate with organisations, now with 24/7 as opposed to business opening hours, the business/consumer has the power to take control and be kept updated on their status when they want it.
A brave new world in field service
The service model has now shifted from a supply (vendor) and demand (customer) to a new world in service management.
Traditionally in a business, if something breaks down, let’s say a vending machine (yes, the thought of employees not being able to grab a daily fix of chocolate on a break is important, you know), this would involve calling the supplier to report the problem or that stock needed to be replenished, but this has all changed.
New advances in Machine-to-Machine (M2M) software has revolutionised field service by use of wireless technology, to send signals back to a host that would alert them if there was a fault that needed repairing or it had run out of stock. For businesses, this is ideal because it not only takes away the strain and time required to report to a vendor, but it offers the company and their staff round the clock service. If that isn’t enough, there are also touchless vending machines that use motion recognition devices to interpret user hand signals to indicate what products they want. Thanks to wireless technology, there are even machines that allow users to purchase products by sending text messages from their mobile phone and its all part of the service.
From a consumer perspective, the needs of customer service have never been greater. The opinion of service after a product has been bought can strengthen preference or loyalty to a brand.
Although the link for the individual consumer in field service has yet to be fully recognised, new innovations have delivered smarter technology to improve the customer experience. We experience this in our everyday lives from using mobile apps to recording TV programmes or sending a command to a washing machine to run a chosen cycle. By using an app to program washing, users have remote control and visibility which gives them an insight into the progress of the wash. Within the same app, users can also be notified to identify minor problems that they would be able to fix without the need to call out an engineer.
New service, new opportunities...
With the new reach of technology in the field comes new opportunities for the vendor supplier or company to improve their customer service by:
Using mobile software applications - the vendor supplier can now take advantage of getting up to date information from any one of their products being used by the customer. This enables a faster response to manage fixes, scheduling in a date to visit or the anticipation that a routine appointment is due for its customer.
Onsite representatives making a difference - whilst on-site the value added opportunity is for its representative to train staff there on how a problem can be dealt with and sharing knowledge of up to date work instructions as a visual. Growing this type of trusted relationship also has its benefits. A repeat business customer who is happy with the service is more likely to be engaged in an upsell of a product or repeat business.
Cutting out the paperwork - enabling the use of smart devices for field representatives while working remotely also brings with it the opportunity to renew contracts and services electronically sooner and keep the competition at arm’s length.
A better understanding of the customer needs - with new technology comes the ability to understand customers better, insights into their buying behaviour and what products suit their needs over a period of time. These are essential metrics to reap the rewards of repeat purchases.
What will the future hold?
Within a customer service model, companies will see the continuing benefits of managing their customer’s activities through connected channels. The hub of this, likely to be the contact centre will incorporate the field service as part of the profile of a customer in one omnichannel experience.
To achieve that, companies will need a knowledgeable workforce to manage it. This was recently evidenced in a Salesforce connected manufacturing service report. Executives within that survey ‘understood the need to adopt new technologies into their field service departments, as more than half (52%) say it is very important for drivers or field service agents to be able to incorporate new technologies into their service activities’.
Bringing a service to the customer and using new technology to empower field representatives will enhance the customer experience but the challenge will be the transfer of knowledge from one generation to another. Companies should act now to train and manage this space of learning. The resource challenge of field staff will be another factor but will be countered by the use of GPS tracking service software and the continuing increase of customer self-service knowledge.
Bespoke services, such as Bouton Darcy, are already trailblazing the next generation of instant support to customers through their after sales offering.
To serve or not to serve?
We know that companies who fail to serve their customers and are not proactive are losing loyal customers. In field service, companies now have a chance to increase loyalty through new technology and be part of a great customer care experience. Is your organisation only thinking about this or doing it right now? Imminent action is needed to sustain businesses and deliver customer’s expectations.