Understanding and helping to appropriately set customer expectations can be very challenging for the field service industry in particular. Consumers often expect immediate response and high quality work for a price that is below the cheapest competitor.
While not every customer will be reasonable, there are ways for field service businesses to properly establish customer expectations so that all parties can be pleased with the results.
The following are five tips to help in managing customer expectations:
Clearly define your service – in your marketing and advertising include information about your service capabilities such as “most service visits occur the same day” or “we take the time to make sure the job is done right the first time.” Also communicate your service levels to all of your employees including service techs, dispatchers, and customer service representatives (CSRs). Everyone should have a clear understand of “your” business service expectations and how they meet or exceed the customer’s needs.
Plan for objections – everyday circumstances could impact your ability to meet certain customer expectations. For example, an exceptionally stormy day could cause traffic problems and delay a response, or a particular part may be on backorder and the repair will be delayed. Consider all of the various scenarios that could impact customer expectations and have a predetermined response. Your response might be to offer a discount on the next service call, free service, or simply a clarification that an expectation could not be easily met.
Communicate – your customer service representatives should be well versed in all of your company policies and any limitations on the level of service that you are able to provide. Each call should prompt the CSR to properly set the customer expectations. While a customer may believe that their situation should be the top priority, the CSR may need to explain that the service tech is currently working on another emergency and can be there at a specific time. Clearly note all charges in writing or electronically and also have the CSR and service tech communicate the charges verbally.
Tune in – monitor trends in customer service levels for your particular industry and outside of your industry. Expectations could be changing rapidly or very slowly, but you should stay aware of any changes and consider if your business should adapt to any new expectations. Also review customer comments and complaints that come in via social media or directly to your business. Each could indicate a more serious problem of meeting customer expectations.
Speed and price – making your operations as efficient as possible with the lowest possible overhead will help you to compete with any other players in your industry. Utilize automation as much as possible, and install systems that can measure and monitor activities so that you can find ways to improve on a proactive basis. By working to improve your operational speed and your price to your customers, you can address the majority of customer satisfaction issues. Keep in mind that your quality levels should never suffer at the expense of speed or price.
There will always be challenges with customers who have unrealistic expectations. Thankfully most customer expectations are reasonable when they are properly informed before and during the service call.