The New Driver of Business Success
Senior managers from all types of businesses in all types of industries are discovering that one role takes the spotlight in deepening key relationships—the field service engineer. No one has more potential impact on the success of the company and its key customers than the FSE…no one. High-performing field service pros are where the action is, orchestrating a superb customer experience, proactively preventing problems before they occur, and leveraging relationships to rock out customers and lock out the competition.1
Research Validation: What Execs Say
Following are some executive comments taken from my research2 that reveal the power of the stellar field service professional.
One senior executive from a huge telecommunications company talked about it in terms of competitive advantage: “Our lifeblood depends on the capabilities of our top field service personnel to differentiate our company from others in the industry. They understand our customers’ issues and are creative in developing solutions to address them. They have become evangelists for our products and solutions and are often used in presales situations to demonstrate our capabilities.”
A global head of services for a manufacturing company put it this way: “Our field engineers make one million customer calls per year. When they build deep relationships, our customer loyalty soars. We must maximize this opportunity.”
Obviously, this is a topic of significance to business leaders and an evolution/revolution worth pursuing!
FLASH POINT: Unleash your service brilliance!
The Attributes of the Brilliant Field Service Professional
OK, so you’re convinced. But you’re probably wondering: What does a brilliant FSE look like?
Brilliant service professionals are, well, brilliant, and their glow lights the way to stellar performance.
Figure 1 illustrates the attributes of the Brilliant FSE. Let’s review this diagram from right to left, starting with the results: repeatable, sustainable performance.
Repeatable, Sustainable Performance
When FSEs rock, the outputs are repeatable, sustainable, value-adding performance. The impact is huge: Loyal customers get phenomenal value from their investment in your company and sing your praises far and wide. Your company achieves strong, profitable growth, in both products and services, and locks out the competition. And you, the brilliant service pro, get the rewards and recognition befitting your contribution and your status. Sounds like a classic win-win-win to me!
Top performers get brilliant results by behaving differently from average service providers. They must do many things well, but the very best service pros act in ways that quickly build and maintain integrity. They ooze credibility as they proactively build trust.
The service rock star is a big believer in using tools. He enthusiastically embraces any checklist of required actions, set of practices, or relevant case study that can help him retain quality while doing his job faster and easier.
Five competencies are integrated within the brilliant FSE:
#1 Value-creating mindset. The brilliant field services pro possesses a view of life based on creating value. He understands the big picture and collaborates with customers and colleagues to deliver business results and personal wins.
Here are what executives have said on this topic:
- “They build upon their credibility and relationship skills to find bigger customer needs and recommend appropriate solutions.”
- “They understand the big picture.”
- “Our top performers have a holistic viewpoint. They clearly see the importance and the fit of services and support as part of the overall solution when combined with hardware, software, and consumables. Our average performers fail to leverage the strength and diversity of our entire organisation.”
- “They have a program-level horizon instead of a project-level horizon.”
- “They look beyond their role with regard to ‘what would the CEO want to know?’”
#2 Customer acumen. The stellar FSEs knows a lot about his customers. He understands his customer’s industry, his customer’s markets, his company’s competitors, and his customer’s competitors. Furthermore, he is savvy about business in general.
Executive comments regarding customer acumen include:
- “They have knowledge of both the customer’s environment and our business. They take the trouble to understand more, and it pays off.”
- “They have a better grasp of overall business needs.”
- “They bring a rich portfolio of practical experiences and relationships with others, and they possess an understanding of business dynamics and market trends.”
#3 Relationship skills. The brilliant FSE knows that relationships are what matter in work and in all aspects of life. He is a master of the four core relationship skills of listening with intensity, probing with purpose, presenting powerfully, and acknowledging concerns.
Again, here are some direct quotes from my research participants that emphasise the criticality of these skills:
- “My top performers possess not just adequate or good communication skills, they have great communication skills.”
- “They communicate the invisible well.”
- “They display superior creativity in listening to customer issues and creating a solution strategy that clearly shows how it solves the problem quickly and thoroughly. The differentiator is their level of creativity, their understanding of issues, and the speed with which they react.”
- “They are superb communicators with clients, team members, and management within our company.”
- “They find a way to outline options and pros and cons to the customer in such a way that this becomes the customer’s direction.”
#4 Engagement management. The very best understand the steps to getting things done, how problems are solved, and how to best interact with the customer. Internally, he uses the knowledge management system, follows procedures, uses prescribed tools, and provides accurate updates on all work in a timely fashion.
#5 Technical proficiency. The brilliant services pro knows enough about his technology, products, and services to get things done. Interestingly, deep technical know-how is not vital in most situations.
Here are some comments from my research that demonstrate this point:
- “My star performers are all good technically, however, most are not technical experts–they know when to bring in technical gurus when needed.”
- “Interestingly, many of my people who customers see as trusted advisors are only technically adequate. They deliver their value through helping customers connect the dots–showing how the best use of our solutions can have a big impact on that customer’s issues.”
If You Want It, You Can Have It
So there it is: Five competencies that are enhanced by tools and mobilized by trust-building behaviors that will yield the results that customers crave and executives yearn for. Like anything of value, it will take some work, but the good news is that the attributes are known, the skills determined, and the steps to success defined. If you want it, you can have it.
- I talk in detail about the rising criticality of services within product companies and the opportunities and challenges it brings in my book Seriously Selling Services: How to Build a Profitable Services Business in Any Industry.
- Alexander, James A. 2007. “Transitioning Technical Experts into Trusted Advisors.” St. James City, FL: Alexander Consulting.
This article was adapted from The Brilliant Service Professional: Building Trust, Creating Value, Having Fun, by James “Alex” Alexander, and can be purchased on Amazon.com or the Alexander Consulting website.
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