CRM Field Services: Four Essential Best Practices
When it comes to field services CRM, as we have noted elsewhere, the overall idea is to allow field service personnel on a call remote access to all the information you have about that client in your manufacturing CRM system in real time.
Done well, it can help improve upsell and cross sell opportunities on site, ensure that you don’t miss service agreement renewals and guard against damaging your customer satisfaction.
We have identified four commonly-held best practices to help in that regard.
- Emphasize Productivity at Client Site. Forrester’s William Band, a widely-respected CRM analyst, wrote in field service CRM white paper that correctly-done integration of field service with your value chain “can drive the conversion of field service operations from cost center to proﬁt center.” Band then goes on to analyze how to “make field service operations a tool for customer retention” in addition to other functions. Some of the advantages of using CRM software with field services lie in leveraging mobile technologies to help your people be more productive when at a client site, Band says, “by giving them up-to-date customer information and enabling them to complete more tasks, such as invoicing, while on client premises.”Spare parts management is another area where Band sees the possibility of great improvement, observing that the lack of satisfactory spare parts management practices means “wasted trips to client sites if the right part is not at hand to complete a repair.”
- Focus on the 360 Customer View. ServiceMax sells a product called Orange for SMBs who realize it’s important to tie their field service performance to overall customer satisfaction and loyalty. To that end, their product is based on another recognized best practice for field services CRM, recognizing upsell and cross-sell opportunities as well as renewing service contracts on time, “preventing service and parts giveaways, and proactively monitoring soon-to-be expired warranty and contracts.” Orange’s workflow parameters are designed to access “a complete 360° view of the customer, including the customer’s issue, escalation and resolution history” and help dispatchers more efficiently assign resources, to make the job easier (i.e. more productive) for the technicians. If you’re interested in getting the most out of your field services CRM you need to be getting this functionality, whether your software does it for you or not.
- Recognize That Scheduling and Dispatch Are Key. In a recent paper the ever-readable Paul Greenberg contrasted field services today with the Maytag repairman of ‘70s TV commercial fame, who sat around doing nothing -- much to the customer’s benefit. Today field services are (or should be) much more than overhead, a company wants technicians out in the field to upsell and present other opportunities for deepening the customer relationship, cementing customer loyalty and generating additional revenues as opportunities arise on site.Greenberg, principal of The 56 Group -- no confirmation that it’s named after Jim Bouton, who wore #56 for Greenberg’s beloved Yankees -- breaks down the scheduling and dispatch best practices as key to achieving these goals. “Optimizing field service calls is one of the most complex and difficult undertakings,” he said, as it includes the call center rep looking up your customer record, warranties and SLAs, finding the appropriate field service technician while factoring in such considerations as geographical proximity, the tech’s specific skills, the technician’s schedule and what parts are needed.“Optimized and automated dispatching and scheduling with route planning,” Greenberg says, with automated prioritization attached to contractual agreements, “can be a significant time and cost savings.” The best practice here, Greenberg says, is optimized scheduling -- the customer rep who receives the call should be able to access all other customer information, including that in existing customer records entered into a centralized system, allowing the job to be booked and assigned to the best possible technician for the visit.
- Remember Mobile Usability. Mobile apps for field services seems an almost redundant concept. Tom Bullotta, managing director for Acumen Solutions, recommends focusing on usability and the user experience when buying tools for field service employees. Pay particular attention to proper interface design and the information architecture, he says, because what you want is an app that not only is intuitive, but uses “multitouch gestures for touch-enabled devices,” and is “optimized for the device form factor.”In other words, the easier it is to use the more effectively it will be used.