Sure, a uniform or linen delivery or an alarm installation might technically be a delivery in the sense that you’re bringing goods to the customer’s home or business—but field service specialists know that these jobs are really service calls. That means that there’s a heightened set of expectations around every encounter that businesses delivering parcels simply don’t have to deal with. Simply put, you need to delight your customers and meet their needs with every encounter.
Obviously, a lot goes into stellar customer service, from making sure your service technicians are friendly and knowledgeable to ensuring that you’re leveraging the highest quality cleaning products, lawn care products, or other goods as part of your services. But a huge fraction of great customer service comes down to the processes and technology that underpin your service runs. That’s why it’s so important to find the right capabilities and leverage them in a way that puts the needs of the customer first and foremost. Here’s some of the top ways to make that happen:
1. Arrive on Time
According to research conducted by Salesforce, speed is the second most important element of a great customer service experience. (Expertise, which we’ll get to shortly, was listed as the most important.) If we expand “speed” a little bit to also mean “timing” in this context, it’s easy to see why this would be important. If your clients depend on you to clean their carpets at a regular time each week, they’re probably scheduling around your expected arrival—if you show up early or late, those schedules can easily be upended. If they have a carpet-cleaning emergency and need your services ASAP, you want to be able to get there and help out as quickly as possible.
Delighting your customers by showing at the right time, every time—and further delighting them with speedy service when needed—comes down to route optimization and planning. Specifically, it comes down to your ability to accurately predict ETAs over the course of a given field service route.
This is easier said than done. Accurately predicting when a technician will arrive at a jobsite depends on a host of factors: predicting how long the drive time will be, predicting when they’ll leave the previous job, predicting service time for every job on the route, adjusting for differences in service and driving speed between different technicians, etc. Frankly, it’s more than a human planner can realistically account for—which is why AI-powered route optimization is so critical to elevating your customer service capabilities.
2. Communicate Clearly
Part of servicing customers at the right time comes down to accurately predicting when the service personnel will actually arrive on site—but an equally large part is letting customers know when they should expect the technician to arrive.
Sounds simple enough—and it is, really—but you have to make sure you’re equipped to communicate with customers at multiple touchpoints throughout the process, and you have to do it at scale. That means being able to send out real-time information automatically to let customers know their ETAs, when their stop is next, when the driver has arrived, etc.
In a perfect world, you’d be able to automatically segment your customers into groups (e.g. for different kinds of services) so that the communications they receive are specific to their actual needs. Likewise, you’ll want your customers to have the ability to communicate with dispatchers and managers simply by responding to system-generated texts and emails. This way, if an issue crops up you can immediately work to resolve it and set the customer at ease. When customers feel informed and connected, they’re happier and more likely to become repeat customers in the future.
3. Empower Your Technicians
We promised we would talk about expertise later in the post, and here we are: The customer-driver relationship in industries like janitorial and sanitation, uniform and linen distribution, facilities maintenance, etc. are absolutely paramount. Other industries might see a little bit of driver affinity for certain clients, but in these situations your field service personnel often act as trusted advisors to your clientele. Customers expect to see the same person at the same time every week or every month precisely because they’ve developed a feeling of trust.
To keep a strong emphasis on that trust-based relationship, it’s crucial to make a point of empowering your technicians however you can. This might mean a few different things:
- Scheduling jobs based on skill sets: This assumes that different jobs will require different skills—but assuming they do, you want to make sure your most expert technicians are going where their skills will be most valuable.
- Enabling upselling at the jobsite: You never want a technician to be in a position where the client needs more support than they initially thought and your personnel can’t accommodate them. Whatever mobile app you’re using for workers in the field, it should have the option to add line items and note additional charges once a job is already underway. Ideally, your system would also be able to empower drivers to act as sellers by offering you robust sales territory planning capabilities integrated with your route optimization.
- Upskill technicians in real time: Every once in a while, a task will come up that’s not quite within the wheelhouse of the particular technician on site. When that happens, you can empower them with customizable, interactive instruction guides within their mobile apps to walk them through these processes. At the same time, you can offer live communication between the back office and teams out in the field to help resolve issues in real time.
4. Leverage Real-Time Visibility
Modern technology gives field services businesses the ability to collect real-time data from every service run as it unfolds—including the status of every stop, every job, and every technician as the day unfolds. But how do you leverage this to improve customer experience?
There are two primary ways:
- Provide real-time visibility to customers: When customers can track the progress of their technicians in real time throughout the day, they can be more confident about when they’ll arrive.
- Spot exceptions before they have an impact: If you can spot a driver running behind schedule, or a job that couldn’t be started, just by glancing at a centralized control tower dashboard, you can devote your energies where they’re going to have the biggest impact—e.g. calling customers who might be experiencing delays or service disruptions to make things right.
Simply put, this is a matter of having the right data in the right place at the right time to provide the best possible service to your customers.
5. Avoid Data and Decision-Making Silos
Ultimately, great customer service comes down to executing on your plans in an efficient way. Doing that requires a holistic approach to service delivery planning that goes beyond the last mile. You may need to integrate your route optimization technology with your route accounting software to better understand your service costs—and your technicians may also be acting as sellers, in which case there needs to be connectivity between your field service routing software and your point of sale. Simply put, the left hand needs to know what the right is doing, and that comes down to robust data integration.
How does this impact customer experience? For one thing, it helps you ensure that your plans are feasible from the perspective of the entire supply chain—meaning that you only make promises you can actually keep. It also puts you in a better position to anticipate customer needs and provide smarter service. At the end of the day, data integration is a cornerstone of a successful tech stack, which means it can help set you up to delight your customers more consistently, and more efficiently, than ever. That’s a surefire recipe for customer loyalty, whether you’re installing alarms, delivery uniforms, or offering any other sort of field service.