In this week's guest post Donald B. Stephens looks at how field service teams can use social media to better collaborate. Donald is a field service technician with 30 years of experience with the Xerox Corporation. He is also a freelance writer, blogger, novelist and humorist.
You can’t turn on the television these days without seeing at least one reference to hashtags. Advertisers, movie stars, rock stars, and comedians have all joined the #craze, which gives every attention-seeker an instantaneous popularity boost and the desire to grab even more adulation. So it’s no wonder that many businesses are looking to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat as a way to showcase their offerings. But is that really the best use for a type of media that gives instant feedback? I dare say that social media is not just about drawing attention to your business in order to find new revenue streams; it’s about taking your customer relations to the next level.
Social Media: The User Is in Control
Companies that look at social media purely as a cheap way to advertise should think again. As a self-published author, I can testify that it is very easy to collect a multitude of followers, but not so easy to keep them interested in your offerings. Once someone begins to realize that the only reason you wanted to ‘connect’ is so that you can bombard them with spam, they will quickly block your account. Part of what makes social media so attractive and successful is how easy it is to control who you listen to and who you filter out. The secret is giving your followers a reason to allow your posts to pass through their filters.
Field Service Has a Leg-up
Service organizations have an advantage because of the amount of important information that needs to be conveyed to the customer. If retrofits, upgrades, and warranty information are communicated through a social media portal first, the majority of customers will want to get onboard the program, instead of waiting weeks to get a promo card in the mail. But this is just one of many ways field service companies can take advantage of social media. And social media is not just about Twitter and Facebook, social channels like forums, chats, IM or online video are much more important to connect field service teams to the back office, IT and customers.
An Instantaneous Complaint Party-line
A new challenge for field service teams comes along with the positive effect of a customer who is able to connect with your company. In the Aberdeen article ‘Social Field Service: Collaboration on the Fly,’ Aly Pinder Jr. points out that “customers have more power than ever and have begun to use that power to demand improved service.” Word can get around in a matter of seconds that ‘Bob’ threw a fit before storming out of a customer’s site because someone turned on the power while he was servicing a dangerous machine. The challenge is to use social media to turn this into a positive event.
In the past, a customer would make a call to your customer relations department, who would in turn contact the worker’s manager. Eventually, the tech would be confronted with his bad behavior. Because Bob, Bob’s manager, and just about everyone in your company (possibly many of your other customers too) has had the evidence of the mistake scroll across their feeds in all caps, an immediate response will hopefully put out the fire. Bob can reply with an apology. Bob’s manager can apologize, but also give a gentle reminder that all power must remain turned off during maintenance to prevent injury. The rest of the service team will know to lock the breaker box when they service that account.
The Beauty of Collaboration in Field Service
For decades, techs have collaborated on fixes, shortcuts, and tips to enhance their skills and tackle tough problems. They typically compare notes at lunch, at meetings, or over the phone. When social channels are combined with mobile technology, the level of cooperation that is possible will take your service team to new heights. Instead of making a phone call to every member on the team to find someone who has seen that particular problem before, they can post the dilemma on a social site and everyone can weigh in at once. With a mobile device, techs can also share videos and send links to the person in need.
Avoid Unnecessary Service Calls
I’m horrible at performing fixes of the phone’ but some of my coworkers excel at having the customer try things to get a machine running. When technicians are socially connected to customers, ‘phone-fixes’ can become ‘social fixes’. There might even be some solutions that are shared between customers, avoiding unnecessary interruptions of your techs’ time.
About the author: Donald B. Stephens is a field service technician with 30 years of experience with the Xerox Corporation. He is also a freelance writer, blogger, novelist and humorist. You can contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org