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Why customer service engineers benefit from the human touch

November 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I have had two conflicting conversations recently about the installation of new mobility technology in field service applications.  On the one hand a vendor of tracking solutions said the age of the difficult engineer refusing to accept this sort of ‘spy in the cab’ technology was over.  On the other a service manager said things may be better than they once were but management certainly does not have carte blanche when it comes to putting technology in the hands of engineers. 

Obviously these two people have differing perspectives and I am sure many readers will have had their own interesting experiences here when driving change.  It does seem to be one of the ironies of life that is the human’s ability to adapt to its environment that has made it one of the planet’s most successful species but we can all still get uppity when we are given a new tool at work. 

So one of the big challenges on any new mobility programme (by which I mean communicating with field engineers or their vehicles either directly or indirectly) is to get the engineers on board. Issuing orders or diktats isn’t effective – you might get it installed but you won’t get it working to the best of its capability.  “Engineers have that passive aggressive thing which means equipment has a strange habit of malfunctioning if they don’t like it,” said my friend.

So how do you get them to not only accept but also embrace this change? Appeal to their self interest was the conclusion of my straw poll.  Here are some favoured ways I’ve heard.

  1. Tell them it’s for their own safety particularly when working alone.  This won’t necessarily win their hearts but for their minds it is difficult to argue against
  2. Sell them the more interesting, personal benefits such as how much easier it will make their working day by reducing paperwork, better diagnostic tools, access to colleagues to discuss tricky problems.  Perhaps it might even give them access to the internet while they are travelling or an app which can tell them the location of the nearest donut shop
  3. Get them flashy kit they’ll like to show off to their mates down the pub – engineers are gadget lovers so appeal to that one-upmanship
  4. Bribe them – give them cash at the installation and a reward once it starts producing savings
  5. Appoint a peer group leader – someone who has the team’s respect, will champion the cause and lessen the them and us attitude 
  6. Run a competition for the best engineers and the winners get the new system – make it a badge of honour and having it aspirational
  7. Engage with them on the kit or system you are buying.  Let them test it and feel they have had a hand in the purchase and that it’s not foisted on them

In summary, although it may be hard to believe for some managers, engineers are only human and so may have a better nature to appeal to.   If you have ever done that successfully some other way please share it with others at the Service Management LinkedIn Group

This article first appeared on Service Management 365.

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To continue be a player in service you must continue to invest

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

A blog from an analyst at research group Gartner last week questioned whether the $75billion it reckoned had been invested in customer relationship management (CRM) systems in the last 10 years had been well spent.   The failure of that investment to perform was evidenced by an only small rise in the level of customer service over the same period.

My first thought was: ‘that’s rich coming from Gartner which pretty much makes its business out of hyping up software and suppliers to flog its reports until that opportunity is dead and buried or the next  bandwagon passes by’.    But, putting that prejudice to one side, I think there is a potentially dangerous sub-message in this hypothesis that needs correcting. 

Delivering good service demands that managers constantly push the almost Sisyphean rock up the steepening hill of customer experience and expectation.     A performance that stays, at best, constant will eventually and increasingly underwhelm customers.  Meanwhile, your competitors will be raising the bar of performance and your customer’s expectations with it – beyond the level at which you were performing. 

So what you did to achieve, say, 90% customer satisfaction in 2000 is not going to cut the mustard in 2010.   In fact you could now be performing at what you consider to be, say, 20% better but ‘only’ achieving 93% satisfaction.  But the truth is that is a great result that needs applauding not attacking a) because you are still in the game and b) you have out-performed customer expectations.

That $75bn of investment was made by organisations in order to carry on playing – and then to try and edge their noses in front.  That is not wasted cost, that is an investment required to be a player.  Yes, I am sure a lot of that money could have been spent more efficaciously but let’s kill the notion that investing to improve your service delivery is fruitless and wasted.  On the contrary it is paying dividends and vital.

Article first appeared on Service Management 365.