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How to Meet Customer Expectations in the Field. All the Time, Every Time.

How to Meet Customer Expectations in the Field. All the Time, Every Time.

Time is one of the most important drivers of value within a service business. Customers not only take note of service completion time, but they also know that the amount they have to pay will be in direct proportion to how long they have to wait. The challenge is that not every customer demands the same requirements for service delivery. Some operate in mission critical environments and need a two- or four-hour response time, while others can wait until the next day.

There is also a direct correlation between service completion time and customer satisfaction. Having too much service can be just as negative as too little. Think about what it is like when you go into a restaurant and the wait staff constantly hovers over you, eager to take your order and clear your table. That’s too much service. You’ll likely be just as dissatisfied with this scenario as you would if the wait staff was nowhere to be found.

Customers’ Perceived Value of Time

This principle also exists for services like onsite maintenance, depot repair, and service parts logistics. If your service level agreements (SLA) specify a four-hour response time and your field service engineer arrives in four hours and 30 minutes, you’ll have an unhappy customer on your hands. However, if the engineer arrives in two hours, your customer’s satisfaction level may be no higher than if the engineer arrived in the four-hour timeframe guaranteed by your SLA. In fact, they might even be unsatisfied if the field service engineer arrived sooner rather than later, especially if no one was available at that time to speak to the field service engineer because they implemented a work around, and the engineer had to come back another time.

When marketing services, it’s important to pay close attention to the customers’ perceived value of time versus the actual time it takes to deliver service to them. You also must make sure that you’ve not only defined your service level appropriately, but possess the capability to deliver it. In other words, make good on your promise. The truth is that once you understand the value of time, you can weave this into your value proposition and pricing strategy. By doing market research, you will be able to determine if there is a segment of your target market that is willing to pay a premium for faster service.

However, in order to deliver faster service you must have the technology, processes, and people in place to ensure faster delivery. For example, a dynamic scheduling system can ensure that you send the right technician with the right skills to the customer, at the right time. This will facilitate your company’s ability to achieve high SLA compliance and first-time fix rates. These metrics demonstrate that you’ve made good on your promise.   

Set Up Your Tactical and Strategic Framework

As service executives, we have to continually ensure that our service delivery infrastructure is aligned with the needs of the market and vice versa. This must be done at both a tactical and strategic level. Tactical efforts involve activities like transactional-based customer satisfaction tracking studies and daily monitoring of KPIs. Comparison of these metrics help you anticipate and resolve issues before they get out of hand.

By contrast, strategic initiatives have a longer time horizon, usually involve a capital investment, and will typically lead to a step-by-step improvement in financial performance, service quality, and customer loyalty. To achieve this outcome, a service executive will want to get a clear picture of customer requirements by commissioning a “market wants and needs” study. The executive will probably look toward carrying out a benchmark evaluation of internal operations to ensure that the service delivery infrastructure is capable of meeting these needs.

These types of analysis will also pinpoint where service executives should invest the most to achieve gains. Service executives who miss the opportunity to align internal capabilities with the needs of the market, both tactically and strategically, are likely to find they are losing customers because of long wait times or questionable service quality. Don’t make the same mistake. Make sure you’ve got a tactical and strategic framework in place to ensure that your field service is just right.   

This guest blog post was written by Michael R. Blumberg, CMC and President of Blumberg Advisory Group, Inc. Michael is an independent consultant with over twenty years of experience in the Field Service Industry. He is an author and frequent speaker at industry events on issues ranging from sales and marketing to technology to strategy & leadership to operational excellence.


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