“Hi, I’m here to get your air conditioning system back online,” says Larry, the field service technician.
The receptionist glares at the service tech. “Where’s Bob?” the receptionist asks.
“Um, Bob is on another service call right now,” Larry says. “I was available, so we thought it best to get your system up as quickly as possible. Would it be alright if I started cooling things off in here?”
The receptionist sits up straight and crosses his arms. “The last time anyone besides Bob tried to fix our system, they messed it up so bad it took a week to straighten out. We’ll sweat it out until Bob can come. Thank you, but you can leave now,” says the receptionist.
The scenario is fictitious, but any field service tech who has gone from territory-driven call-taking to the dynamic scheduling used in field service software can relate to the skepticism our fictitious tech experienced when walking into an account for the first time. A bad experience, which likely wasn’t even the fault of the unlucky tech who happened to walk into a disaster while ‘Bob’ was away, can stick in a customer’s mind for decades. There isn’t much that can be done to take away the painful memories, but there are ways that service reps can be better prepared to deal with customers who have overzealous loyalty to their primary technician. There are also ways that field service software can help.
Prepare and Don’t Assume
The most naïve thing a manager can do is assume their techs will say the right thing. Going from a territory-driven service call structure to digital workforce management is a big change for seasoned reps. They might be just as uncomfortable with the new process as some of your customers. If an unhappy, ill-prepared tech walks into the above scenario, he or she might be tempted to reply, “Fine! Bob will be here some time later this week. I have other work to do.” But if you warn your techs that some customers might balk at the new process, and to engage a manager if they run into problems, then you will be able to step in and help cool down tempers as well as the air-conditioning.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
The one disadvantage of field service software is that sometimes it works too well. How is that a problem? Well, before computers came along to distribute the workload evenly across your team, your techs had to talk to each other daily about the calls they couldn’t get to. When Bob couldn’t get to his overly loyal customer, he called Larry for help. He then warned Larry that he was walking into an over-heated situation, in every sense of the word. Or perhaps Bob called the customer to reassure them that Larry was a very talented tech; one they could trust to do a good job. Weekly meetings can help recover the communication that is lost when techs stopped calling each other for help.
Encourage Detailed Logs
This is where field service software comes to the rescue. Connected technicians that take full advantage of the electronic log feature included in most solutions will be able to prevent many problems. Larry can read Bob’s note about the week-long issue and how wary it made the customer, before he walks onto the site. However, managers should monitor such logs to ensure there is enough detail included and that there are no derogatory comments made about the customer, especially after making the switch from a hard copy to an electronic format. Much groveling will be required if a tech leaves his or her phone on a table and the customer reads: “They have an obsession with Bob – steer clear of this one if you can!”
There will always be favoritism between customers and service technicians. We all have people we would rather see walk through the door. But sometimes a negative experience can create a situation that needs special attention. Do your best to prepare your service force for overzealous technician loyalty – it will give everyone involved a better field service experience.
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