Tips For Techs CED Magazine, October 2006
Article Date: 10-01-2006
Copyright (C) 2006 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Provide field service techs the skills and tools to deliver legendary service.
A survey released by Accenture, a global management consulting company, found nearly half of consumers switched at least one service provider in the past year due to poor service.
That’s a lot of people switching, and as a business owner or manager, you’re probably hoping none of your customers get disgruntled enough with your company that they decide to use your competition.
Who do your customers call when they have a problem? Who at your company spends time with your customers during critical situations?
The answer is probably: your field service technicians. The future relationship and satisfaction of this customer now lies in the hands of your field service tech. Are your field service techs prepared to work with your customers – especially the unhappy ones?
Perhaps you’ve heard field service techs respond like this to a customer who is having a difficulty:
“I have no idea why the manufacturer released equipment with so many obvious problems.”
“This problem has been around for years.”
“Call your sales rep to get warranty coverage for this.”
In these examples, the field service techs may not realize they’re doing more harm than good. They probably think they’re building relationships with the customers, when in reality, they’re making it difficult for customers to trust your company. The field service technicians are representing themselves — not your organization.
Don’t underestimate the role your field service technicians play within your operation. Because of their direct contact with customers, they can have a major impact on customer satisfaction, retention, referrals, and repeat business.
So have you prepared your technicians to work with your customers?
To answer this, review the training you’ve provided. It’s typical in the construction equipment distribution industry to focus training efforts in technical areas —servicing equipment — and NOT in customer service. That’s understandable: The products you represent are complex, and your customers demand your technicians be able to service the equipment quickly, professionally and competently. But it’s just as important that field service technicians know how to fix the dealership’s relationship with the customer.
Following are eight effective customer service techniques that will help build and strengthen customer relationships.
Apologize. Problems occur, parts are back-ordered, things don’t always work as planned – this is reality. When it happens, your field service tech needs to deliver a sincere apology – even when he or she didn’t cause the problem.
Some people have trouble apologizing for something they didn’t do. That doesn’t matter to the customer. The customer is inconvenienced and deserves a sincere apology (when appropriate). Your techs need to remember they’re representing your company. They’re apologizing for the company.
The apology can be as simple as, “I’m sorry, but that part is on back-order. We can get it to you tomorrow,” or “I apologize;, I have to return to the shop and get the correct part – I’ll be back as quickly as possible.”
Empathize. When your customer’s equipment is down, he or she is inconvenienced and upset. The customer may have an important job that’s not getting done and/or people sitting around waiting for equipment to be repaired.
Empathy is the ability to recognize the inconvenience. Examples of empathy statements are: “I know not having this equipment operational is a problem for you; we’re committed to getting it repaired as quickly as possible.” or “I know it’s frustrating having the part on back order. We are trying to get it here as quickly as possible. We appreciate your patience.”
An effective empathy statement will go a long way toward repairing a customer relationship.
Be on time. If a field service technician tells a customer they’ll be there at 9 a.m., they need to be there before 9 a.m. Your customers are expecting and counting on them.
Of course, sometimes the technician will be late. When that happens, the customer needs to be contacted. Then keep the customer posted. This is a simple courtesy that helps repair and build a relationship.
Professionalism. This covers a lot of territory. It refers to the field service technician’s appearance, language, mannerisms – even the condition of the truck. When they’re at the customer’s location, they’re representing your company.
From the customer’s perception, he or she has paid a lot of money for the equipment and they’re paying a lot for the service. The customer wants the equipment serviced by a professional who is representing a top-notch organization.
Keep the customer updated. Customers get very frustrated when they’re not kept current on the status of a repair. The field service technician should let them know when they arrive, when they leave, and how the service is progressing. These are simple courtesies your customers will appreciate.
Incorporating them as standard practice will eliminate customer feedback such as, “I had no idea the technician even left,” or “I was not made aware of the extent of the problem.”
Thank the customer. Your field service technician can be your most effective ambassador. Make certain they show your customer how much your company appreciates them with a sincere thank you.
Get feedback from your customers on the service they receive. This process sends a very important message to your field service technicians, as well as to your customers. If your technicians know they’ll be held accountable for the customer service they provide, they’ll be more careful of the customer relationship.
Obtaining feedback from the customer also shows your customer his or her satisfaction is very important to your company.
There are many ways to get customer feedback. Comment cards can be effective, but the return rate is often low and not representative of all customers. Having service managers contact customers directly can be effective, but most service managers don’t have time for that additional task.
Another alternative is using a third party survey customers using five or six simple questions to determine the customer’s level of satisfaction with the service they received.
Training. Provide your field service technicians with a formal training program on customer service.
An employee who has mastered both the technical and customer service skills and uses them in customer interactions is a more valued employee. They’re able to build stronger relationships resulting in additional referrals and equipment purchases. Stronger customer relationships result in fewer customer complaints freeing management’s time to focus on other important issues.
Customer service training helps establish standards and reminds techs how critical these people skills are to the success of the company.
Using these eight customer service tips will help build and/or repair customer relationships. It can also help you retain good field service techs by giving them the tools and skills they need to be successful and to feel confident in their jobs.
Your customers want and deserve the best possible service. Making sure your employees are providing legendary customer service should be a part of your company’s culture and of your commitment to your customers.
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