I was asked recently if my thinking has evolved since writing Beyond GREAT SERVICE, The Technician’s Role in Proactive Business Growth. The book is based on the premise that field service professionals add tremendous value when they use their experience and expertise to make recommendations that will help their customers to be better off.
As I reflect on the book, that view has not changed. In fact, it has been reinforced as I have worked with more and more companies across North America and in Europe and with their local offices around the world. I have seen how field professionals react favourably to this description of their role and how managers see the value of this approach. It squares the circle between service and sales.
Although there is nothing specific that I would change about the strategy described in the book, there are two things that I would add. Firstly, I would spend more time and provide more guidance on strategies to implement a “Beyond GREAT SERVICE” approach. Secondly, I would focus more attention on the service nature of the field service team’s proactive efforts.
I have seen managers struggle to provide the ongoing focus necessary to achieve the type of cultural change needed to ensure that business development by field service professionals becomes an integral part of service delivery.
The reason that some managers struggle with the implementation of business promotion as a service is due to the very nature of the service business itself. The day-to-day immediacy of service pulls management away from the thoughtful, important but not urgent work that is needed to successfully engage technicians in proactive business development. Much of service is, by its very nature, reactive and that means much time is spent responding rather than initiating.
Although this is changing somewhat, there will always be a significant element of responding to unplanned emergencies that demand immediate attention and draws managers from the task of implementing a “Beyond GREAT SERVICE” approach. The irony in this is that, as progress is made toward implementing the “Beyond GREAT SERVICE” approach, the increasingly proactive efforts of the field team will reduce the number of, and resources required for, unplanned emergencies as many issues will be addressed before they become a problem. That means that the more progress managers make in implementing this approach, the more time they will have to support it – almost the opposite of what is needed.
It is also important that the Beyond GREAT SERVICE approach be viewed as an integral component of the service provided – as much a part of the service as troubleshooting, repairing and maintaining. Sure, you could argue that they are “selling” when they make a recommendation to the customer, but semantics aside, when the field team makes recommendations for the purpose of helping the customer achieve their goals they are really serving in its truest sense.
Most service companies fail to achieve the results they desire when they engage their field service team in business development
If the field service professional’s efforts are part of the service, it is easier to get the field service team to buy-in. They can see a direct connection between what they are doing in promoting their services and the impact on the customer’s business. Customers see value in this too. When explained to them that the field service team is being asked to use their expertise to proactively identify steps that can help the customer achieve their business goals (as opposed to looking to increase revenues), they can see the benefit for their business.
So, to address these two issues, I would add this challenge for the reader of my book:
Assume for a moment that you will be adding a new service offering to your service portfolio. The new offering has the following characteristics:
- It is an add-on to existing services (does not replace)
- It’s a new concept – the customer needs to be educated on the value
- New knowledge and skills are required to implement effectively
- No new tools or test equipment needed
- It has the potential to be highly profitable – efficiency in delivery critical
- The service relies on another division to deliver a part of the service
- There is a 1 to 2 year head start over the competition
When implementing a service of this nature, what steps will you take to ensure that you successfully and profitably introduce this service?
As managers ponder this challenge, they will come up with a list of things to be done such as: (Note: This list is far from complete)
- Define the service so it can be understood internally and externally
- Identify the processes needed to support the initiative
- Take steps to get buy-in from supporting divisions and a seamless coordination between groups
- Provide training and coaching to achieve the behaviour change needed
- Create the messaging and strategy to promote to our customers etc.
The point of this challenge is that the service described in the challenge is the service of promoting services to help the customer to be better off and this contributes to management’s efforts in two ways.
Firstly, it gives them a better perspective of all of the moving parts of a successful strategy in a meaningful way that is familiar to them (they have implemented new services before). Secondly, when the initiative is recognized as a service, management will see that its implementation is not a “part-time job” that is pursued if there is time but rather an important service initiative that requires continuous focus to ensure its successful implementation.
By devoting more space in the book to helping management implement the strategy as a service, I think that Beyond GREAT SERVICE would become an even more valuable resource for those organizations that want to truly help their customers achieve their business goals. I have a feeling that a second edition is in the works.
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