Make Customer Service Work for You
Originally published: 04.01.10 by Jim Baston
Field service technicians are one of the greatest business-development resources at any commercial service company. Some firms have trained their technicians on selling, but most service managers I know agree that techs could do more to boost their business-development efforts. Almost every service company has one or more technicians who seem naturally gifted to “sell.” They make recommendations to customers and promote new services — and their customers love them. These techs don’t see their recommendations as selling, but as an enhancement of their services. They understand the customer’s processes, are aware of their customer’s goals, and know how their company’s products and services can be applied to help their customers improve operations. Most importantly, they recognize that anything that they can do to help their customers improve the operations of facilities or processes; eliminate unnecessary costs; increase energy efficiency; and contribute to overall profitably, is a tremendous service for their customer. The real challenge for managers is to convince the rest of the service team that they should be acting like those gifted techs. This takes more than a training program on how to
1. Focus on the service and not the sale.
At every opportunity, repeat the mantra to your technicians that when they use their expertise to make recommendations to help the customer operate more effectively, they are providing a valued service. By focusing on how to better serve, the sales will come.
2. Encourage your techs to get to know the customer’s business and personal goals.
For service technicians to truly determine if a given product or service will help the customer, they will need to understand what the personal and business goals of the customer are. These goals will help the technician determine whether a particular product or service would be beneficial to the customer, regardless of the generic benefits. And, by showing the customer how the recommendation will help them achieve their goals, the tech will help to motivate the customer to take action.
3. Regularly update technicians on your products and services.
Technicians who are unfamiliar with products or services will be reluctant to get into a conversation with the customer about them. Many of the technicians we meet complain that they do not know everything that their own company does. This is particularly true in large companies, but we have seen it in smaller ones as well. You can help your technicians maintain focus on your complete range of products and services by including a “product/service highlight of the month” at each service meeting. Identify a particular product or service, describe its features, benefits, and value to the customer and, most importantly, discuss which customers would most likely benefit. Include a discussion on what to look for to identify customers in need. Wrap up by asking your technicians to identify and speak to customers who might benefit.
4. Develop a clear opportunityresponse process with feedback to the technician.
A technician who makes a recommendation that requires follow-up by others (such as sales person or a manager) and which is not followed up is unlikely to continue the practice. To avoid this, implement a clear process for identifying and following up on recommendations from the field. For example, is there a clear expectation of how you expect your technicians to raise the opportunity internally? What sort of follow-up communication is to take place? Is someone responsible to review each work order to ensure no opportunities fall through the cracks? The follow-up process should be clear, concise, and consistent.
5. Develop a follow-up process for quoted work.
Most technicians will tell you that they have several outstanding quotes and recommendations to customers for which they have not heard back on what the customer would like to do. When pressed as to why they think that the customer has not gone forward, most would list “they forgot” as one of their top five reasons. Your customers are busy people, and the importance of the recommendation is often lost in the urgent day-to-day activities. Encourage your technicians to followup on quoted work. If your technician is in doubt of whether the customer would appreciate a follow-up, suggest that they simply ask the customer: “Would you have any objection if we sat down once a quarter over a cup of coffee and go through all of the proposals we have made to you during that time? That way you do not lose sight of important recommendations and you can tell me how you would like to proceed.” This does not replace the role of the salesperson to follow up quickly on recommendations as part of their responsibility, and it presumes that there is regular communication on large opportunities between sales and the service tech. The tech follow-up goes beyond what the salesperson does and provides a value-added service for the customer. It’s also a great way to gain a better understanding of the customer’s goals and challenges so that the tech is in an even better position to help them overcome those challenges.
6. Provide communication skills training.
Service is largely a knowledge business, and the true value the technician provides cannot be seen. The value they offer is in their heads. Since customers are unable to see the real value that is provided, they look for clues to that value from what they can see. They look at how the technician communicates with them. They look at how the technician is dressed and groomed, how the technician leaves the work area, the condition of the technician’s vehicle, and other tangibles. It is important that your technicians be aware of the impact that they have on others and how that affects the value perceived in their work. Train your techs to show value in every interaction.
7. Provide ongoing coaching and support.
Coaching and supporting new behaviors play a critical role in new-skills adoption. For some, taking a more proactive approach to discussing opportunities that will help the customer run their facilities more effectively is a challenging task. Without coaching and reinforcement, those technicians will revert back to their old ways. Think of coaching as a form of maintenance. You would never expect a piece of equipment to run very long or very well without maintenance, so why would you expect your service team to perform well and consistently at a new skill without coaching? The competitive playing field is changing. This new environment requires a higher level of service than ever before, and a key component of this enhanced service is taking a more proactive role in helping customers run their facilities and processes more effectively. Forward-looking service firms must instill a businessdevelopment culture among their service technicians. This may not be an easy process, but the results can be worth the effort – increased revenues and profitability, higher customer satisfaction rates and retention, and a more exciting place for your employees to work.
Jim Baston is president of BBA Consulting Group Inc., a management consulting and training firm dedicated to helping technical service firms leverage the untapped potential in their business-development efforts. Contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bbaconsulting.ca