September 20, 2018

Field Service Customer Expectations are Changing – Can You Keep Up?

Written by
Kerry McCane

We live in the age of Amazon, where consumers demand more service options, faster service times, and more visibility into their goods and services. This affects all types of service businesses, whether it’s an HVAC technician making a house call or a delivery driver providing a next-day delivery to someone’s home.

According to Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report, 72 percent of respondents expect agents to already know who they are, what they’ve purchased, and have insight into their previous engagements. The challenges customers place on operations and service businesses will continue to grow (such as new shopping habits, required service levels, and delivery requests) and technology plays an important role in a company’s logistical success.

Elevated Expectations

The online shopping experience has completely transformed expectations for consumers and dramatically shifted buying behavior. Users weigh their options more often: two-thirds of consumers said the number of companies or brands they consider for purchase has increased significantly compared with 10 years ago. This shift puts increased pressure on logistics and service providers, as customers are willing to defect after just one unsatisfactory experience. The stakes have never been higher, so it’s key to examine just what customers look for in their service experience.

In order to keep costs low while meeting and exceeding the demands of your customers, you must integrate technology to manage crews, fleets, and overall business operations and ensure companies can save both time and money. Here are some features that are essential to keep up with changing consumer demands:

Route Optimization

The days of manually planning routes are a thing of the past. With the variety of options available to consumers these days, it’s imperative that route plans be efficient and flexible, accounting for last-minute changes while taking into account distance, vehicle availability, and more. With route planning technology, same-day delivery and dispatch changes can immediately be sent to drivers, allowing businesses to accommodate customer requests with ease and provide the visibility customers are looking for. The right software will live by the rules implemented by each business, providing specific time windows that deliver the visibility that customers expect.

Flexible API

With the vast variety of software available to business owners, it’s crucial that a business owner looks for solutions that integrate with one another. A routing software with a flexible API will streamline business operations and help provide a seamless experience without having to import or export routes. API integration with customer relationship management tools (CRMs) unlocks the power of real-time data, and can allow businesses to, for example, keep track of which customers were visited, when a driver checks into an appointment, and when a driver checks out.

GPS tracking

Show customers that their time is valuable by providing full visibility into delivery and arrival times. Vague arrival windows and late deliveries leave customers frustrated and feeling like their time has been wasted. Implementing GPS tracking allows businesses to provide customers with an accurate live ETA on their delivery or service, enabling them to address delays in planned schedules while notifying customers of any changes in real time.

GPS tracking is also a powerful tool for business owners, providing an extra layer of visibility into their workforce. GPS tracking can help showcase driver behaviors, alerting a fleet manager of unsafe behavior. This is not only critical in understanding driver behavior patterns and ensuring that drivers stay on route and on schedule, but it also shows drivers that their company is involved in the day-to-day processes and is using the data it receives to try and help make the workday better and safer for drivers.

Mobile Apps

A mobile solution that combines route planning and GPS tracking helps businesses stay connected to their workforce at all times. This added visibility provides a real-time look at driver progress, planned routes and current exact locations. Making changes to driver schedules can be done in real-time with the aid of a mobile app, as updates can be dispatched directly to the drivers’ phones, eliminating the need for distracting phone calls.

Arming field crews with mobile apps can also enable them to access customer information right on the spot, so they can prepare for appointments ahead of time and also see notes from previous visits that can aid in identifying cross sell and upsell opportunities.

In order to thrive in the online age, operations and service businesses need to reevaluate their business strategies, putting a renewed focus on satisfying their customers’ expectations. Simply put, what was considered satisfactory a decade ago is no longer enough. When equipped with the right tools businesses can conquer customers’ new demands while exceeding expectations.

Kerry McCane is Director of Field Service Product Management for WorkWave. Previously, she was CFO at Clockwork Home Services, LLC, a large, international franchiser of field service brands. Kerry spent eight years consulting for small businesses of all types, helping owners to improve business operations and profitability in preparation for sale. She has a BS in Electrical Engineering from Kansas State University and an MBA in Operations Management and Finance from the University of Missouri.