How cloud-based field service increases customer satisfaction

Profile picture for user AthaniKrishnaprasad By Athani Krishnaprasad August 23, 2016
Summary:
Exploring the impact of field service on a company's customer satisfaction, Athani Krishna, CSO of ServiceMax, showcases its customer MilliporeSigma’s progress and bottom-line results

Hand drawing customer satisfaction concept © Melpomene - Fotolia.com
No matter your company’s industry or size, odds are that customers are high on your list of priorities in 2016 — and every year before. You’re not alone: the 2016 Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey found that after growth (54%), CEOs’ second-in-line business priority was their customers (31%). The everyday interactions and impressions your customers have with your brand have the ability to enhance their everyday lives and your bottom line. But a negative experience? That’s potentially lethal for their loyalty, your reputation, and ultimately the future of your company.

Your service teams especially have the power to impact customer satisfaction on an almost minute-by-minute basis, with technicians in the field acting as the face of your company. But traditionally, the average service interaction has always gone something like this:

  1. A dispatcher receives a call from a likely frustrated customer, complaining of an outage on their dialysis machine, wind turbine, or HVAC unit.
  2. The dispatcher puts out a call for an available technician, who drives to the location as soon as they’re available.
  3. The technician analyzes the outage and is often confronted with a problem that requires warranty information, inventory supplies, or technical expertise, and thus has to come back another day ready to hopefully make a repair.

Sometimes it takes a few more visits, more wrong parts, or a wrong diagnosis before eventually the issue is resolved.

After all this, you can imagine that a customer’s impression of your company has likely gone down —  potentially a lot. But what if this experience was almost the exact opposite? Instead of high downtimes, frustrated phone calls, and Google searches for better options, customers could actually feel satisfied by interactions with your field service professionals. According to Forrester’s CustomerExperience Index, improving the customer experience by just 1% could result in an additional $15 million to $175 million in annual revenue — demonstrating just how much quality service is worth.

Cloud-based field service

An antidote for this ‘old school’ method of field service lies in the cloud. As cloud-based field service gains popularity, more companies are recognizing the potential of using technology and data to solve service problems — and ultimately increase customer satisfaction as a result.

Cloud-based field service makes the above scenario look significantly different. Now, service companies have the ability to link machines with the Internet of Things, helping them keep tabs on a device’s overall health, outage information, and service requirements — all in real time (or, increasingly, ahead of time).

When an outage does eventually occur, service companies will be immediately alerted — or will have already noticed an outage approaching — and can proactively send a local tech straight to the scene.

But these techs won’t be faced with the discomfort of walking into a job with no information ahead of time. Because data and product information is stored in the cloud, techs can access any part warranties, outage histories, customer billing information, and more via their mobile devices. They can even order equipment replacements and check inventory stock, allowing them to conduct almost all business on-site and instantaneously. Talk about satisfying a customer.

MilliporeSigma's story

Biotechnology and pharmaceutical research company MilliporeSigma learned this lesson full well, when they adopted cloud-based field service to replace their traditional Lotus Notes and Salesforce management systems. According to Stephen McPhee, head of service at MilliporeSigma, the change from their former system to cloud enablement has directly impacted their ability to better satisfy customers:

The way our program worked before was that every legal entity in the company had its own database to manage the service model, and things were too divergent. The tool was difficult for our IT team to support, and we couldn’t see the history of our customer interactions. It was also tough to see workloads in different territories, and we had to hire more logistics people to just assist the engineers with managing workloads.

However, after implementing on cloud-based field service, things changed drastically for the company, McPhee notes:

Now, we can offer the full customer experience. We’re able to see where any of our inventory is at any given time, dispatch that to service providers, see when systems were installed and whether they’re on contract. Everything is in real time.

If a call comes in from a customer in the Boston area — a tough area to service because of congestion and traffic, McPhee explains — MilliporeSigma can directly dispatch it out to a technician. Before, the technician would get home at the end of a long day, and realize he had to return to the same area as yesterday. But this way, he’s is reachable on his iPad and can see a work order right away.  If he requires parts, he can order directly from the iPad, and be prepared for either same day or the following day. No more feeling chained to a desk.

Best of all for MilliporeSigma, though, is the direct, bottom-line impact cloud-based service has had on the company’s customer satisfaction metrics. McPhee explains:

We are able to measure 36 different KPIs in real time and this has moved us from being reactive to proactive. Notably, we believe our Net Promoter Score has increased as a result of this knowledge. Within the service organization, there are thousands of things that can go right or wrong on a daily basis — so we’re always working to perfect the customer experience and make improvements. Our NPS has almost doubled from where we were before, and I believe this is a result of all the different areas of concern that we’ve heard from customers and the actions we’ve taken to improve performance.

MilliporeSigma’s progress is an excellent example of the potential that cloud-based service holds for service companies to impact the bottom-line of their customer satisfaction. After all, without satisfied customers, companies can’t function — so almost nothing should be higher priority. As technology continues to empower service technicians and their companies to be more efficient and effective, the field service industry is bound to see an entirely new era of customer satisfaction unfold, one that helps forge a connection between customers and companies that’s nearly unbreakable.