Service businesses across the globe are using innovative apps to completely rethink how they serve their customers. The number of applications that touch field service is increasing rapidly. If you work in field service, finding innovative ways to decrease travel costs, increase productivity, and improve your first-time-fix rate are probably among your top priorities.
When you look at the expenses commonly associated with dispatching field service representatives (FSRs) across town or across a continent, there are some common suspects. Airfare, car rentals, lodging, and meals add up quickly. Also, think about how much time and money is lost every time one of your new technicians has to phone one of your more experienced personnel to talk him or her through a repair. And a lackluster first-time-fix performance rate can hurt your company’s bottom line.
Many field service companies have relied on phone support for years. But trying to explain to someone how to install or fix a piece of equipment is challenging when the products or repairs are technical and complex.
“Ok, press the power button. Then look for the green wire.”
“I don’t see a green wire.”
“Keep looking. There should be a green wire over on the right.”
“I still don’t see a green one.”
The hard truth is that verbal communication alone has its limits.
Many companies instruct their field service representatives to take pictures and e-mail the images to other technicians to help them diagnose problems and make repairs. While this method allows technicians to get the job done, having to wait on a response can take too long.
But today, field service companies have access to a host of new technologies such as smartphones and tablets.
Here are the facts:
The information technology research firm Gartner reported that worldwide sales of tablets to end-users reached more than 195 million units in 2013, a 68 percent increase from 2012.
Moreover, a Cisco® Visual Networking Index report on global mobile data traffic found that in 2013 the number of mobile-connected tablets like the Apple iPad reached 92 million, and that “each tablet generated 2.6 times more traffic than the average smartphone.”
By the end of 2012, more than half of mobile phone users in six countries had made the switch to smartphones, including the United States, United Kingdom, South Korea, Norway, Sweden, and Australia, according to eMarketers.
And the use of the video features on smartphones and tablets continues to grow.
The sale of mobile devices with real-time video is booming. Android and iOS accounted for 95.7 percent of all smartphone shipments in Q4 2013.
More people are using video to communicate. The Pew Research Internet Project report on “Cell Phone Activities 2013” found that 21 percent of cell phone users polled used their cell phones for video calls or video chat.
Mobile video traffic is up. In 2013, Cisco Systems reported that global mobile video exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2012 and that 53 percent of mobile traffic was video traffic by the end of 2013.
By now you’re probably asking, “So, what can mobile video do for my service business?”
Today more than ever, customers aren’t shy about telling others when they experience poor service.
The truth is this: Customers want problems fixed fast. The first time. They don’t want to blow a second day because the technician didn’t bring the right part on the first service visit. Here are some statistics that prove that point:
89 percent of customers say they’ve stopped patronizing companies due to poor customer service. RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report
Only 33 percent of customers would recommend a company that provided a fast but ineffective response. Nielsen-McKinsey
86 percent of Americans would pay more for better customer service. Business Wire
37 percent – the eight-hour appointment window
16 percent – Missed appointments
5 percent – Unfriendly technicians
But, here’s the interesting part:
Twenty-one percent said technicians who were unfamiliar with the equipment or the job was a problem while another 21 percent said technicians failing to fix problems on the first visit was a pet peeve.
So, if you’ve been feeling a bit stressed lately, who could blame you?
And by the way, every extra truckroll can cost your business more than $1,000, so having a not-so-great first-time-fix rate is expensive.
To succeed in the field service industry today, it’s not enough to just show up to fix something. You’ve got to offer an amazing customer service experience. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ quote in Forbes says it all:
In the old world, you devoted 30 percent of your time to building a great service and 70 percent of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.
– Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon
Whether you sell medical devices, repair heating and air units or install and maintain equipment or heavy machinery, the message is the same. You’ve got to find a way to improve your rate of successful repairs. You’ve got to make your customers happy.
Field service representatives who provide fast, efficient, and superior service are the ones who make customers happy, and happy customers will tell others about their experience with your company. In fact, Craig Simon, President and CEO of FedEx Supply Chain says today’s field service technicians are becoming salesmen:
What’s more important than having an issue with a customer is how quickly your company can react to that and solve that problem? In fact, customer loyalty, in a lot of cases, can be increased by having a problem and resolving it effectively. It actually increases customer loyalty in some cases as opposed to a situation where they don’t have a problem at all – which is kind of bizarre. Having that personal relationship with that technician allows them to enhance that experience for the customer even more. – Craig Simon, CEO of FedEx Supply Chain for Field Service Blog
Many field service companies have understood this reality and invested in tools like smartphones and tablets to help their technicians and sales teams give customers faster service. From their iPads and Android tablets, technicians on a job site can order parts and research customer histories and equipment manuals. And when technicians have problems troubleshooting a piece of machinery, they can simply e-mail photos of the problem area to their more experienced colleagues to get technical assistance.
But while mobile devices are useful for field service, some companies are already moving on to the next big thing:
Remote mobile video support.
What is it? We'll explore that in the next post of the series.