Protect your brand by transforming field service

Oracle Australia

By Trevor Philpot, Transformational Sales Leader and Cloud Computing Professional
Thursday, 01 December, 2016

Protect your brand by transforming field service

As a business leader,  you are keenly aware of the importance and value of your brand and have a deep understanding of the challenges faced by businesses to maintain that value in a real-time connected world. While you know there are many pitfalls and have figured out what aspects are most controllable, there is one important area that continues to be overlooked by many — customer experience.

It’s okay to outsource — sometimes

For decades, leading business consultancies have convinced other companies to focus internal resources onto core business and to push non-core activities out to third parties. While this makes a great deal of sense in many cases, including manufacturing, supply chain, admin, IT and payroll, these are all examples that don’t touch your customer directly. Conversely, when you hand over a customer-facing service to a third party, you are in danger of outsourcing your brand.

The value of good customer experience

Customer experience (CX) relates to how your company handles the customer in transactional loops. This can range from something as simple as a web hit through to something more complex such as field service.

By nature, customer-facing field service is tough to get right because the variables involved make it difficult to manage. While using a third party with a clearly defined service level agreement (SLA) can be effective in managing some field work, such as asset management or meter reading, the same cannot be said for customer-facing tasks.

The simple reason is that CX done right requires intimacy. As soon as that first degree of separation between you and your customer appears, the intimacy degrades, potentially dragging down the quality of CX along with it. Add to this the fact that almost all of the resources performing field work for the third party are contractors, not employees, and yet another degree of separation is introduced. So even before the work has begun, your customer is two degrees separated from your business. Not a good start at all.

A cause of bad customer experience

We’ve all experienced waiting at home for the technician to arrive to install a phone line or internet, or something physical such as garage doors or air conditioning. And we’ve all been in the situation of phoning the company we purchased the product from and being told they would have to call back as they don’t know the location of the field resource or how much longer the delay will be. That’s an issue, not least because it’s the brand of the product company that’s been damaged, rather than that of the anonymous company that provided the field resource/service.

Shouldn’t there be systems in place to manage the whole process with third-party contractors? Yes, there are, but since nearly all field service management systems are designed to service a single business, companies often rely on systems and processes that date back to the beginning of the computing era to pass the information between each other. These systems do not have the flexibility, security or sophistication to cater for the needs of differing business models. Furthermore, from a pure field resource perspective, most of these systems utilise a mobility platform that is based on an app. This adds complexity and reduces agility, further reducing the ability of your business to respond to upstream changes in customer behaviour.

The results

The end result is that the service level consumers are expecting is at the mercy of rigid technology and fragile, disjointed processes exacerbated by two degrees of separation through outsourcing. And all of this exists in an era of rising customer expectations and increased competition that puts your brand under even more pressure. And just when it looked bad… it gets worse. Now the customers can rant in real time about how bad your service is to anyone on the internet.

So there you have it — the perils of brand outsourcing. The inevitable result of a combination of process not matching needs, technology limitations and lack of respect for the psychology of CX. The end game is reduced customer satisfaction, increased churn and, ultimately, lower revenues and profit margins.

Image credit: ©iStockphoto/Jos Carlos Pires Pereira

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