As retailers expand services to support a variety of products, they must find ways to build relationships through computers and mobile devices, as well as turn negative events (e.g., product failures) into opportunities. As demands grow, retailers look to field techs, often the only touchpoint post-sale, to improve customer satisfaction and build brand loyalty.
The top reasons for customer complaints range from techs not resolving the issue, waiting too long for service to be scheduled and techs not arriving on time. To ensure excellent customer service, field service officers (FSOs) must be driven by technology and data. Technology is essential to meet customer commitments, keep customers informed and getting the job done the first time. Without technology, achieving customer satisfaction throughout the product ownership lifecycle is unlikely.
Our lives revolve around instant gratification, with real-time access to news, shopping and social media. We expect the same of companies with whom we transact business. When a product breaks or needs to be installed, consumers don't expect to wait. Scheduling and mobile technologies ensure that real-time appointments can be set, ensuring customers aren't left waiting for a call back or stuck at home all day. Real-time scheduling software can use soft or hard constraints to produce the best possible schedule, and continually reoptimize it such that the final schedule includes as many jobs as possible, while also reducing drive time and overtime to increase the overall productivity and utilization of field resources. It can also be used to manage demand fluctuation by facilitating the utilization of both employees and third-party contractors, so customers aren't left waiting for weeks for a tech to show up.
In a B-to-B environment in which contractual service-level agreements (SLAs) must be adhered to, scheduling software becomes even more important to meet and measure SLA compliance.
Keep Them Informed
Integrated mobile technologies can automatically notify the customer via phone, text or email when the tech is en route. Native GPS data from handheld devices can be used to depict exactly where a tech is in the day's schedule on a map embedded in the retailer's website, encouraging product browsing while monitoring the tech's progression.
The same mobile technologies can be used to ensure that field management understand where in the schedule techs are, and take actions, automatically or manually, in exceptional cases where the appointment commitment is in jeopardy. Embedded in the software is predictive routing to likewise optimize drive times.
One and Done
One of the leading causes of dissatisfaction with field-based services is the inability of the tech to complete what needs to be done in one visit. Full mobilization enables the FSO to ensure that all functions required during a job can be transacted in the field.
On-site triage and expert consultation are possible now with enhanced video capabilities that are native to most handheld devices. Parts and accessories can be quoted, ordered and sold in the field. Jobs can be rescheduled to meet additional part delivery dates. Real-time surveys ensure complete satisfaction of the customer. Full mobilization also facilitates the collection and use of "big data" by the FSO, as techs access integrated data such as parts and pricing and push data back into the organization for real-time data-based forecasting and planning.
Key Performance Indicators
Scheduling and mobile technologies not only help retail organizations improve customer satisfaction, but also improve the overall performance of the organization to meet corporate key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs typical FSOs focus on include the following:
- increasing utilization — i.e., the amount of work performed per tech — to drive profitability;
- improving productivity through more completed jobs per day, per tech (six jobs to 10 jobs is the goal);
- increasing schedule adherence to ensure commitments are kept — variation indicates opportunity for improvement.
- monitoring mileage cost and fuel utilization to decrease overall cost; and
- improving SLA adherence to ensure contractual commitments are made — missed SLAs contribute to poor customer satisfaction.
Joe Wang is the COO, Americas of ServicePower Inc., a provider of field service scheduling software.