Is it time to redefine the role of field service engineers?
Your engineers are often the only people in your company that a customer sees. Because they are the first and sometimes only point of contact for your customers – acting as your “eyes and ears” in the field and at customer locations – why not guide them to get to know customers better?
Of course, you may think that your engineers are already customer-focused. But is that the reality in the field? Do you train your engineers to focus on really helping your customers? Or is their focus on only the technical side of their work? While their main focus will always remain technical, such as performing annual maintenance or repairing a piece of equipment, it may be time to help them go beyond being a technician and guide them to acting as a customer-focused representative of your brand.
Guiding engineers to be the face of your business – sort of like a human business card – will help ensure that the impression they leave with customers about your company is positive and will lead to greater customer satisfaction and increased customer loyalty.
The value of understanding your customer's journey.
What will happen if your engineers become interested in providing added value to your customers? What if they really understand your customers and get to know more about the businesses they operate? Imagine an engineer visiting a customer for an annual maintenance job but also sharing some ideas on improving the customer’s daily business. Based on his knowledge of other customers in similar businesses, he knows what can work for others and can share tips and techniques for improving the customer’s processes and experiences.
But it doesn’t happen on its own. You have to set expectations and train engineers to behave differently, to think proactively, and to be more aware of “the entire experience” they deliver to customers. Consider the following five steps to developing a customer-focused organization.
"Products are made in factories, brands are made in the minds of people."
- Jan Gunnarsson
Five steps to becoming a more customer-focused company:
1. Hire the right people.
Some people have a natural tendency to please others. They enjoy their work and want to provide value in any way they can. They don't see your customers as customers, but as human beings who need help.
When hiring new engineers, you should focus on people who are naturally good with others. Look for people who light up a room when they enter it, people who want to make a difference for others through the work they do, and people who go the extra mile to please you and your customers.
Does this mean you should fire the rest? Of course not. And even if you try to hire only those who are naturally comfortable with others, it’s not likely to happen. Not every person is naturally comfortable with others, but everybody can be trained to be more customer-focused.
2. Set the right targets.
Good employees focus on the targets you set for them. If you want to provide exceptional customer service, you need to communicate that objective to your field crew. You also need to formalize customer-feedback initiatives so you can measure customer satisfaction. Ask your customers to rate your employees, your brand, your company, and provide feedback about their experiences. Look into increasing your Net Promoter Score*, instead of only lowering your costs or increasing revenue.
If you evaluate your engineers only on costs and time spent, they’ll focus only on those variables when doing their work. They won't care about the service they deliver, as long as they meet the targets set by management. It’s what happened in the package delivery industry: mail carriers are paid to deliver letters and packages, regardless of whether they are appreciated by customers.
This “deliver and go on to the next house” mentality has resulted in a lot of competition in the package-delivery business. Customers use many different carriers these days, because there were dissatisfied with the service provided by traditional carriers, such as the post office.
3. Help engineers “surprise” customers in positive ways.
Engineers can and need to surprise your customers on their visits. Of course, they ‘re expected to do their work correctly; when the customer’s equipment fails, your engineer is expected to fix it during his visit. If he can't fix it the first time and a follow-up visit is necessary, you disappoint the customer – which is often a surprise, but a negative one.
How about trying to surprise every customer in a positive way during engineer visits? You may ask, “How can I positively surprise my customers?” You can surprise them by exceeding their expectations.
There are a lot of ways your engineers in the field can exceed your customers’ expectations: Clean up after the visit; leave a thank-you note; send a follow-up email thanking them for the opportunity to serve their needs; or mail them a special coupon or a coffee shop gift card. Doing something for them that they don't expect will increase their satisfaction and help ensure their loyalty. It will help people see your engineers – and your company and your brand – as technically efficient and customer-focused.
4. Train engineers to adeptly answer customer questions.
When a customer asks a question, every engineer should be able to give a correct answer.
Training is a big part of helping engineers become customer-focused. Train them to look beyond what’s in their job description and deeper than the task at hand. Train your employees to answer the three most frequently asked questions about your company or about the business you're in.
Just like in a restaurant, every waiter should know every item that's on the menu -- and especially what the soup of the day is. I’m always surprised at the number of times the server doesn’t know. Their response is, “Let me go back to the kitchen and ask the chef.” How could he or she not know? And just as important, how could the manager or the chef not inform the front-line staff of the soup of the day or other specials they need to know about?
Don’t let your engineer be like that clueless waiter, and don’t you be like that ineffective manager. Instead, do a little homework: a) Come up with the top three questions your customers ask your engineers; b) Create the best responses; and c) Train engineers to answer the questions correctly.
5. Let technology help engineers become more customer-focused.
Another way to help engineers become more customer-focused is to provide the right tools to help them exceed customer expectations. If you need to use or order materials to fix a failure, your engineer should know the correct prices and should be ready and able to inform the customer about what the total costs will be and when the installation will be done.
Why should your customer wait a few days or weeks before your sales team is able to provide a quote or proposal from their desk? Your engineers should be able to do that right on the spot!
That’s possible if you give them a tool that provides the specifications, price, and availability of materials so they can give the customer a quote on the spot. When the client agrees on the price, give the engineer the ability to order the materials right from an app on their mobile device. No need for any delay in service to your customer. This is just one example of how technology can help you deliver 5-star service to your customers.
Gomocha offers the right toolset for customer-focused engineers and technicians, and we would love to give you a test drive so you can check it out for yourself. Sign up for a demo of FMP360 and you’ll see the many ways you can deliver 5-star service to your customers.
*According to Wikipedia, Net Promoter Score is “a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships. It serves as an alternative to traditional customer satisfaction research and claims to be correlated with revenue growth.”