Defining End to End field service: Part One – Taking the request for a service call

Jan 12 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 4267 Views • No Comments on Defining End to End field service: Part One – Taking the request for a service call

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End to end field service was one of the biggest buzz phrases heard across the past year. At trade shows, in the industry press and not least from a considerable number of field service technology providers themselves we kept hearing that ‘end-to-end’ was a core consideration that field service organisations should be factoring on when exploring how they can modernise their current service management systems.

However, there was and still remains a number of inconsistencies around exactly what is end-to-end field service management. Is it a case of having all existing systems under one platform? Or perhaps just the need to have each of our various components within the field service chain talking to each other? Is it a software or hardware solution – or is it both?

As with any emerging concept it will take time to substantiate into clearly defined parameters (if ever). However, one thing is certain, taking in a comprehensive overview of each step in the lifecycle of a service call within your organisation is certainly an advisable route to take before even contemplating moving to a next generation solution be it hardware, software or both.

Whilst the service journey may differ from organisation to organisation, as in reality, no two companies are identical, yet there are key points within the service cycle that will likely exist within most organisations.

In this new series we will look across some of these points and explore some of the technology solutions that could help both you and your company in achieving higher first time fix rates and better field service productivity.

There is also an accompanying white paper to this series which is available to download here

Incoming – taking the service request

Of course in most instances the first part of the service call lifecycle starts with the initial call for a service request itself. However, in today’s age of apps and internet is that first communication necessarily over the telephone? Well according to research undertaken by Field Service News earlier this year the telephone certainly remains the dominant means of communication between service companies and their clients with over 80% of companies operating a call centre.

If your call centre performs under par for any given reason it can reflect incredibly poorly on your brand as a whole.

Whilst having a dedicated phone line for service calls is a tried and trusted method of allowing a service call and it certainly has it’s place within field service organisations (particularly if staffed by knowledgeable agents with a clear understanding of both your products and systems as well as a great customer centric nature) if your call centre performs under par for any given reason it can reflect incredibly poorly on your brand as a whole.

Be honest… how many times have you been sat at the end of the phone listening to muzak and being told your call is important for the umpteenth time and you’ve thought less than positive thoughts about the provider your trying to reach.

And if your trying to reach someone, just so you can the product you paid good money for back up and running as it is impacting on your ability to do business… well you can crank that frustration all the way up to 11.

Of course, in many cases especially in a business to business environment, Service Level Agreement’s can include quicker call response times etc, but the fact remains that phoning a call centre can potentially be both time consuming and frustrating. In today’s technologically rich environment a call centre should be one option you offer your customers not the only option.

So how else could we accept and log a service call?

Well a case could be made for email. Indeed the same research as above identified email as the second most common means of service companies accepting service request with 63% of companies also offering an email option. On the plus side, like the phone it is something that we all know and are familiar with. However, there are also a number of potential pitfalls that could cause problems with email.

With email communication it can be hard to get a clear grasp of the exact issue your customer is facing – they may not know the correct terminology for example

Firstly it isn’t necessarily a system that conveys urgency particularly well. Unless you have someone who is monitoring an email account as their sole focus response times could vary from minutes to days.

Not particularly helpful if you want to offer consistency in your response times, yet ensuring a service request email account is monitored could be both complex to manage and poor use of available resources. Also with email communication it can be hard to get a clear grasp of the exact issue your customer is facing – they may not know the correct terminology for example.

Going through a series of preliminary questions during a phone conversation may take just a few minutes and can greatly help in identifying the issue, resulting in better diagnosis and higher likelihood of a first time fix.

Over email this could easily become a laborious, long winded process over a number of emails that could span days rather than minutes. Again not good if your product is business critical to your customer.

Why hasn’t web taken firmer foothold?

Given the potential limitations of both phone and email it is surprising that so few companies have explored alternatives such as self-help portals, web-chat and mobile apps, yet only 29% of companies had the functionality of booking appointments online, and only 5% had this functionality via an app.

One obvious issue around giving your customers the power to schedule appointments is of course once again the lack of opportunity to understand the issue which would likely result in a higher proportion of service visits being ‘diagnosis’ rather than fix. One solution around this is to build in some form of diagnosis ahead of the form submission.

This could take a number of formats. One that telecoms provider Sky use well for example is to guide the customer through a series of questions that either lead to the customer achieving a fix themselves or a diagnosis of the problem that is a lot more fine tuned. The process for example could be as follows. Your customer logs in to request call.

The web portal asks the customer a series of questions the answers to each prompt a suggested fix, if this is unsuccessful further questions, further refining the diagnosis and so on. Of course you don’t want the process to be too drawn out but the customer could quite easily try two or three common fixes before being granted access to a service request form. The information gleaned from the form could then be easily included within the pre-dispatch data.

We found that web chat is considered to be an equivalent and often superior method of working compared to calls…. our research identifies a double bonus: both advisors and customers like using it and it leads to cost savings for contact centre operators – Nicola Millard

For example we know the problem is not A, B or C so it is likely D or E.

Therefore your dispatch knows to send an engineer who is capable of dealing with and has the right tools to fix D or E. Another means of getting this insight is web-chat systems.

Web chat basically combines the benefits of phone in that it is possible to question the customer in real time to improve the diagnosis, yet is cheaper to operate and can offer a more convenient means of contact for the customer.

UK Blue Chip British Telecoms are one company that have heavily explored the potential of web-chat portals. Nicola Millard, Customer Experience Futurologist at BT Global Services commented:

“We found that web chat is considered to be an equivalent and often superior method of working compared to calls…. our research identifies a double bonus: both advisors and customers like using it and it leads to cost savings for contact centre operators. For these reasons, we expect web chat to continue to grow as a channel.”

With smart phones now pretty much ubiquitous across most developed nations it is also worth considering your customers journey in reaching you also.

Studies have indicated that 50% of smart phone users prefer to use apps for contact than phone and many of the web tools mentioned (plus the option to move to a phone call if desired) can all be integrated into an app seamlessly.

 Studies have indicated that 50% of smart phone users prefer to use apps for contact than phone and many of the web tools mentioned (plus the option to move to a phone call if desired) can all be integrated into an app seamlessly.

Whilst each of the above may have their plusses and minuses what is important is to remember that logging a service request is the first step in an incredibly important process in terms of how your customers perceive your levels of service. Get it right and you can likely expect this customer to remain loyal, get it wrong and it is your competition that will benefit.

Therefore it is important to ensure you are providing your customer with the options that he prefers (some may prefer the phone, others online for example) but that also allows you to collect the right information to ensure you can correctly diagnose as many issues as possible to feed into the service request which will ultimately help keep your field service engineers productivity at a maximum.    

There is also an accompanying white paper to this series which is available to download here

 

This series is sponsored by:

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