Manufacturing

NPS and the Field Tech: The Turning of a Wrench to Cement a Bond

NPS and the Field Tech

Combatting a competitive market is no easy task. A growing concern of many manufacturers is the potential that they no longer have a tight bond with their customers which can withstand upstart competitors or third-party service providers who can eat away at profits. Recent IDC Manufacturing Insights data highlighted that the top business concern for service leaders was declining sales closely followed by a desire to expand into new markets. These two concerns combined demand that manufacturers innovate with new service products, differentiate through enhanced value, and wow current customers and prospects via value-add experiences.

Combatting a competitive market is no easy task. A growing concern of many manufacturers is the potential that they no longer have a tight bond with their customers which can withstand upstart competitors or third-party service providers who can eat away at profits. Recent IDC Manufacturing Insights data highlighted that the top business concern for service leaders was declining sales closely followed by a desire to expand into new markets. These two concerns combined demand that manufacturers innovate with new service products, differentiate through enhanced value, and wow current customers and prospects via value-add experiences.

So how should manufacturers tackle such a daunting set of challenges?

I think the answer is the field tech. The field service technician has a front row seat to customer interactions, as the technician is often the only representative from the manufacturer which actually ends up on a customer site. Other functions like marketing, sales, and even customer support interact with the customer on the phone, via email, or if in person it is to sell something. Technicians have the opportunity to build actual rapport with the end customer as they solve pressing issues and become the hero of the day. These technicians not only fix things and close out work orders, they frequently become trusted advisors and partners who the end customer or facility manager or equipment operator rely on to get their own jobs done. When these interactions go well, the technician can truly be a catalyst for satisfaction and ultimately be the reason for a referral of additional business. Unfortunately, many manufacturers struggle as they approach new initiatives to drive service revenues or as they try to transform the field service playbook to support this type of value-add customer relationship. I think manufacturers should consider the following activities if they are looking to grow their business and better connect their technicians to customer service excellence.

Consider new metrics to evaluate technician performance – We all understand the concept of ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’. This is very much the case regarding the field service team. Historically, manufacturers often focused on operational or internal metrics to judge the performance of the field team with KPI such as worker productivity, or SLA compliance, or wrench time. These metrics will have an impact on the customer down the road, but they aren’t the best measure of customer satisfaction or the customer experience. Manufacturers should incorporate metrics that have a direct impact on how the customer perceives service performance and the technician such as first-time fix rate, asset uptime, or even contract renewal rates. These metrics are more closely correlated to how satisfied a customer will be or is to the service they have received.

Incentivize the behaviors of the future – One of the top drivers for organization’s regarding their service lifecycle management efforts is to increase performance in key customer metrics like NPS. But as mentioned earlier, many manufacturers still measure their field teams on operational metrics and not those that directly measure the customer experience. But once the metrics of success get recalibrated to the customer, the field team needs to be incentivized around this new model. If technicians are still tracked and incented on closing as many work orders as possible in a given day, it is unlikely they will spend that extra 30 minutes with a customer to go above and beyond the problem at hand. Furthermore, if technicians are rewarded for customers who renew or buy additional services, then they might just go that extra mile for a customer to provide a ‘wow’ experience. This doesn’t mean you want a technician spending 5 hours for a 30-minute job for every customer. And this is why it is important to align the metrics of evaluation, strategically think about the behaviors to be incentivized, and the outcomes you want to have occur.

Highlight the team in public not just internal communications – Several manufacturers now recognize the field service team internally in newsletters and quarterly meetings for outstanding behavior. But how many promote their technicians and the quality service being delivered directly to the customers? I know of a few examples, but not many. To strengthen bonds with customers and ensure they are willing to refer you to their network, manufacturers must consider marketing beyond the physical product to include their exceptional service teams. These are often the heroes that show up to solve the customer’s toughest challenges, those that couldn’t be resolved with a phone call or a service patch remotely. So why not share these stories? One challenge is not having documentation of the good, quality work being done by the field team. Another challenge is not having a link between Marketing and the service team. Closing these two gaps and creating opportunities and materials to highlight the field service team is an action that shouldn’t be overlooked as manufacturers strive for increased sales and entrance into new markets.

Growing revenues and retaining customers is not an easy task. Much of the low-hanging fruit has already been plucked. Manufacturers would be wise to explore how they can continue to ensure the field team delivers value and first-class experiences so the customer relationship can continue to grow.

You can contact me directly for further discussion at apinder@idc.com. For access to additional research from the Manufacturing Insights team, please go to the following page https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=IDC_P31494.

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