For how long have you been in the field service industry? For a considerably long time I’m assuming.
In that case, you might have a fairly clear idea of where customer expectations are headed. You might even have gone over some of the overwhelming numbers on the level of service expected from providers like you, in the coming years.
If you haven’t already, well, according to a report by the American Express, about 35% of customers believe that companies who provide “excellent customer service” have “earned their business” and about 25% of them were found to place a high value on excellent customer service. For more interesting facts on this, read Is Your Business Ready for the Next Generation of Customer Service?
In our previous blog, we had discussed the importance of being proactive in field service and how much of a positive impact it can have in your business.
So now that you know that it is indeed going to be a matter of survival for you in the near future, here we have some pointers for you to get started on the major shift.
First off, you need to know that it doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming process. You are simply putting your customers first, as the bottom line of your proactive strategy. And we all know, it will be beneficial to your business, without a doubt.
Secondly, you need to make a few changes in your “online presence”.
Increase your availability: This does not mean just leaving a contact number on your website and addressing issues as and when they come. It means you should make yourself completely available to be contacted by your customers across a number of channels apart from your website, like email, phone, and most importantly, the social media. This makes it possible for customers to contact you whenever they want and through the channel of their choice, making your service much more effective.
Provide the basic help: This means that you would be allowing your customers to help themselves on small issues. You can do that by putting up an an FAQ page on your website or by providing a step-by-step guide on how customers can fix certain small issues themselves. More like a DIY guide. This in a way empowers them, which can work to your advantage ultimately.
Now let’s get into the steps:
Engage in the Conversations about you on Social Media
Let’s face it. Whether you like it or not, your customers are going to talk about you, either in private or through the social media (which is the case oftentimes). Now, when they do talk about you on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, you need to pay attention and see it as an opportunity for you to delight your customers, regardless of whether the conversation is in a good context or a bad context. Engage in those conversations and try addressing more of your customers’ needs.
For example, Morton’s Steakhouse, one of the best steak restaurants in the world, found on their Twitter feed that one of their customers – a popular blogger, Peter Shankman had mentioned them in his tweet, suggesting they deliver a steak to him when he landed at the airport.
And believe it or not, waiting for him at the airport was a Morton’s employee, with his steak!
That’s the kind of service that delights customers.
This is how you can possibly address positive comments or just wiggle your way into delighting your customers through random comments as well.
As for negative comments or complaints, you could respond by apologising first and then go on to explaining how or what you can do to fix the issue.
Ask for feedback and make sure everything is ok
Feedback is by far one of the most effective and simple ways to get to know your customers better and to understand exactly what they want. It is only when you know what they want, that you can serve them better. And checking in every once in a while can not only ensure that things are alright but also allow you to identify the areas where you need to work on and take steps to correct them before your customers start feeling dissatisfied.
For this purpose, here are some things you could do:
- Have an easy-to-fill feedback form on your website
- Send across simple surveys to your customers. You can easily create surveys, manage them as well as get useful insights from the responses using simple survey tools or applications.
- Go through and analyze your customer service tickets to address some of the most common questions or needs
- You can even ask your customers personally, or interview your customers about what they think of your services and how you could further help them
Admit Mistakes as Early as Possible
The age old saying “Honesty is the best policy” holds good in business too. If you’ve made a mistake or if there is an issue that could cause an inconvenience to your customers, it is always better to let them know of it, well beforehand.
It is not a good idea to have them find it out when they were probably relying on your good service at that point in time.
For example, if you’ve shipped a product or placed an order for a service, a day later than promised, you need to let them know through an email or a phone call, rather than keep them waiting in ignorance.
If you have a software upgrade scheduled, you need to inform your customers about the upgrade well beforehand, so that they can be prepared and don’t end up being unable to access the information they need, when they need it.
Reward your Customers as a ‘Thank-You’ for their Support
Rewarding is one of the most effective ways to build customer loyalty, above customer satisfaction. In fact, rewards and offers are the second and third best ways to increase customer loyalty, the first being excellent service of course.
Proactive rewards like discounts in between purchases or special offers to fix issues that the customers probably didn’t even know they had are good examples.
You could also offer discounts or refunds in cases where customers are not happy when you’ve made a mistake and have acknowledged it too.
Sending your long-term customers some discounts, a little ahead of their subscription renewal, in the form of a reminder is also a good way to thank your customers and make sure they stay.
These are some of the ways in which you could get started on shifting to your proactive service strategy. Once you get started, you could probably find more ways and turn it into more of a habit. That way, you not only dodge the chances of any risk but also build your customer base and goodwill. In no time, you will be able to stay ahead in the competition and be a leader in the field service industry.
It has been proven, way back in 2011, that in field service, almost 89% of your customers are most likely to stop buying from you and go after one of your competitors, if you don’t take service to your customers seriously enough!
That’s right! The risk is pretty high! But not if you know what to do about it.
Now, you might be thinking, “Of course we take service seriously, that’s our business!”, and yes, you might be providing effective services to your customers when they need them. But do you care about your customers enough to help PREVENT their possible issues?
Watch the barriers to growth and adoption of virtual customers.
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Do you take your customer service seriously enough to be proactive?
The answer to that question, should ideally be yes, and you should be at least half way there in the next few years, considering what customers expect from their service providers these days. It is when you are doubtful about it, that you run the risk that I mentioned before.
This problem arises more, usually when companies wait until something happens with a customer’s asset to provide a service fix. This kind of reactive customer support is more of the norm for a lot of companies in field service. This is probably because of a number of reasons like a lack of knowledge, lack of resources etc.
However, as we had discussed earlier on one of our previous blogs, customers these days expect field service companies to be on top of the latest technologies and deliver more than what they actually demand. Read more about it: Changing Customer Perceptions: How To Take Advantage
Whatever caters to their convenience better, is what they are going to use.
Hence, if a field service company is able to anticipate possible problems with their assets well in advance, and provide service without having them request for it, then a customer is not going to look further than that. And that is why proactive customer service is your best friend.
According to a report by Enkata, taking an initiative in your customer service or support could increase your customer retention rates by about 3 to 5%.
Why should you go for proactive customer service?
Apart from the fact that it increases customer retention rates, it also helps to reduce the number of calls or enquiries you get from your customers, as you can take care of their issues before they even arise.
Besides that, you get a chance to create a positive impact in the minds of the customers, before their problem arises. This puts you in a good picture, when they talk about you to others.
In case you are wondering what kind of an image your customers would have of you, if you acted proactively, here are some interesting findings:
- According to InContact, about 87% of the adults surveyed were happy to be contacted by their service providers proactively, regarding their issues.
- 75% of the respondents of the survey, said that they experienced a positive change in the perception of a company that called them proactively and gave them a pleasant surprise or a positive call experience, out of which 62% have taken action as a result.
- About 65% of respondents said they were open to being contacted about fraudulent activity on one of their accounts
- A major share (53%) was open to setting reminders and appointments and another 51% of them were open to being contacted for questions regarding an order placed by them
Benefits of “proactiveness” to your business
Here’s an interesting fact.
Anglian Water, a leading supplier of water and water recycling services, sends more than 200,000 emails and messages to their customers every year, as notifications about outages or other problems in their particular areas. This practice helps them reduce customer calls by a large margin and they have reported to be saving somewhere between £100,000 and £200,000 worth of call center costs every year!
This is a clear example of how effective it can be for your business, to be proactive. As I mentioned before it actually gives you a chance to create a good impression in the minds of customers by meeting and even exceeding their expectations before they actually demand it. It helps to nurture and strengthen customer relationships, by which you can improve your business through better services as well as better advocacy or sheer “word of mouth”.
They say, ‘a satisfied customer tells 3 friends, and an angry customer tells 3000.’ If you start being proactive, address the issues of even your unhappy customers and turn them around to being your brand advocates instead, imagine how contagious it can get!
Protect yourself from escalation
Apart from creating new brand advocates and improving the value of your business, being proactive can also help you protect yourself against escalation. It is always better to identify any kind of negativity surrounding your business, and warn your customers beforehand, so as to avoid a social crisis. According to a research by Altimeter, poor experiences was the major cause of customer complaints online.
To sum it all up, being proactive should be the way forward for you as the competition in the industry is getting tighter and customer expectations are not getting any smaller! It is going to be a matter of survival for you in no time.
Take the necessary steps right away and make the shift from reactive customer service to proactive customer service.
To learn a few basic steps and possible ways for you to begin with, stay tuned for our next blog.