Nick Frank, Founder of Si2 partners outlines some fundamental steps that field service organisations can take to ensure their field service technicians hit the holy grail status of ‘trusted advisor’
In Field Service we have heard a lot about the undoubted benefits of developing the Trusted Advisor skill set, but very little on how leaders can achieve this goal. It is about time we looked at this journey from the perspective of the service technician, what kind of behaviours we expect of them and the support that they need.
In my experience, there are four key elements that enable a service professional to develop into a Trusted Advisor.
1. Fix yourself first!
The key to providing excellent customer care is to first know you! What you are good at, where you struggle and how you generally interact with others. Know this and you can start to develop some of the behaviours and capabilities needed to be a Trusted Advisor. Most important is to learn to be customer centred. In any interaction with your customers, a good rule of thumb is that the communication should be 2/3 the customer and 1/3 yourself. The customer must be allowed to explain their situation and expected outcomes.
The service provider should focus on questions that clarify the situation, take the actions required to address the concerns or issues, or explain the benefits of what has been done.
However, just being customer centred is not good enough. We have to know ourselves well enough to keep our emotions in check to stay assertive and solution focussed through the customer interaction.
2. Understand the business goals
The key reason for developing the Trusted Advisor skill set is to support our companies growth. This is not about being nice!! It’s about building a relationship where customers are open to a conversation on maximising value from their equipment. Tech companies such as Oracle have been starting to see this form of ‘Customer Success’ management as a key organisation capability, but it is equally important to equipment manufacturers.
To be able to deliver on this goal, service team members need to understand:
- How the business makes money and their contribution to that process.
- The expectations on them as a Trusted Advisor and where on the Support to Sales continuum we want them to be. This is key! One of the major reasons these initiatives can fail is that the service technician feels they have to sell, which can quickly destroy the ‘trust’ in the relationship. This is when communication and re-enforcement of the message is critical to success.
- The wider business offerings the company provides and the value they can bring to the customer
- In your industry, what does the customer really value and trust.
3. Fix the Customer
Only when you understand yourself and the customer, are you ready to act as a Trusted Advisor. There are some helpful guidelines that really can help technicians do an excellent job.
- Make sure there is a clear process and expectation for the customer interaction. For example I have heard many service managers use the mantra; ‘Fix yourself, Fix the customer, Fix the situation’
- Develop communication skills required to be successful such as ‘Active Listening’ to develop empathy with the customer, ‘Talk well’ to quickly identify the issue and ‘Develop Rapport’ to build the relationship.
- Make it easy to accesses information on the customer such as problem & upgrade history, BOM, visits and orders.
- Provide tools and training that helps technicians identify pain points and articulate the value of different options the customer might have.
- Provide a clear path to closing the sale that does not compromise the relationship. In most customer environments, trust is created because there is not a sales discussion but a benefits discussion. To close the sale, the Technician needs to have a very easy process that allows the customer to take the next steps without feeling they have been pressured. Generally this is either a lead generation process where inside sales will follow up and close the opportunity, or it might be the availability of a fast and easy order placement to satisfy the need for ‘low value’ orders.
4. Motivation – Practice makes Perfect
But how to ensure motivation? Some people are motivated by money and some are more motivated by solving the customer’s problems (generally technicians). There is no right or wrong answer, it all depends on your people and what makes them tick. Whatever direction you choose, you should make sure that the Trusted Advisor role is embedded in their job profile through balanced performance measures. Another important facet to motivation is to share best practices and experiences with colleagues.
Have senior technicians coach or mentor the more junior. Use direct customer feedback insights and processes to demonstrate that Trusted Advisor behaviour does make a real difference to customer’s satisfaction and loyalty.
Developing Trusted Advisor capability in your team is very much a management art. So gaining different perspectives from internal and external colleagues is extremely important as you raise self-awareness, discover the secrets of consultative selling, coaching and best practices.
If you would like more practical advice on how to get the most from your service operation, you can contact Nick Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org