In Forrester’s annual vision report, “Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service”, Kate Leggett identified a growing movement to give consumers more control when customer service extends to the field – including interactions such as deliveries, repairs or installations.
Not valuing customer time has been a top ranking customer service irritant in numerous consumer research studies – with being put on hold a top culprit. More than 49 percent of customers said it was their top complaint in a survey completed by Wakefield Research. No one likes to wait. For me personally, waiting for a service or delivery person to arrive within a set window of time, far outstrips the annoyance I feel listening to hold music. The Forrester report forecasts this year companies will explore ways to offer self-service scheduling and better inform and prepare their employees to provide effective field service. These advances will definitely improve the experience, as will proactive communication which empowers customers to better manage their time.
At Nuance, we work with leaders in industries whose customer service extends to the field – delivery of furniture and electronics, the arrival of prescriptions needing special handling, installation of cable services or even utility companies reading meters or trimming trees. These companies are committed to providing an excellent experience when the customer journey extends to the home or neighborhood. They proactively inform or remind customers about upcoming activities, provide an easy means of rescheduling appointments, and actively seek feedback on the service experience. By leveraging automated outreach over voice, text, and email channels, they are able to cost-effectively engage with customers and provide them with information they need to better manage their time. The added benefit of this outreach? Fewer missed appointments and a lower volume of calls to the contact center.
Providing speed and ease in field customer service
Let me share what one national retailer, who regularly makes large-scale deliveries, does to give their customers more control in the process and make the field service experience as fast and easy as possible. Three days prior and again the day before the delivery, customers receive automated voice messages reminding them of their appointment and providing the opportunity to reschedule if necessary. On the day of the delivery, they receive a final call informing them when they’re next in line for delivery and specifying whether that will be within 30, 45 or 60 minutes. Finally, in the minutes following the delivery, the customer is offered an opportunity to voice any concerns or issues they had with the experience. This is done through an automated call and a short customer satisfaction survey that captures spoken responses. Survey scores below a set threshold are automatically escalated. In one month alone over 100,000 surveys were completed.
So what can you do? Here are three steps to improve your customers’ field service experiences.
- Successfully engage your customers before arriving. A good field experience begins days before, when expectations and logistics are quickly and easily confirmed. Employing multiple channels of communication will raise your engagement rates. Consider confirming an appointment via an email or voice message three days before and follow up with a text message in the hours leading up to the visit. Better still, orchestrate your channels – automatically sending a text message when the system recognizes a busy signal – to ensure you successfully reach and engage your customers.
- Identify issues early. If a customer needs to reschedule or communicate with you, ensure it’s a fast and easy task that can be accomplished from every message they receive, on every channel, with a simple click, tap or spoken request. After a field visit, follow up while the experience is top of mind with an easy automated voice survey. Sub-par results can be immediately routed to a service representative for a rapid response.
- Leverage field data to predict needs. Tapping into the knowledge that you’ve made a recent delivery or installation can help you streamline the customer experience in the following few months. Recognizing the propensity for customers calling within 90 days of a delivery to have questions about a warranty, retailers can dynamically customize the IVR experience by moving that prompt to the top of the menu or proactively asking if that’s the reason for the call. This delivers a faster, easier and more personal experience, while also reducing misroutes and lowering average handle times.
The fundamentals of good customer communications – be proactive, provide actionable messages via multiple channels, invite feedback, leverage data to connect conversations – vastly improves the delivery/installation experience for consumers. When deployed in tandem with advances in mobile device functionality and other field management capabilities – it’s conceivable we’ll see leading companies differentiating themselves on this aspect of customer service in the near future.
Watch for the second installment of this three-part post, when we’ll examine another of Kate Leggett’s trend forecasts for 2016.