An equipment operator discovers a strange issue with his machine. He calls his local field technician because that technician has been helpful in the past. The field tech doesn’t answer because is busy on another job. Four hours later he calls back and spends an hour troubleshooting with the customer. They determine that the tech needs to drive out to have a look himself.
Does this workflow sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone.
It’s not uncommon for customers to directly call field technicians when they need help. There are many reasons for this behavior–they may not know who else to call, or perhaps they view a direct call to a tech as a fast track to getting their issue solved. On the other end of the line, technicians freely give out their direct phone numbers in an effort to build relationships and ensure high customer satisfaction. While the intentions are good, in practice this free-for-all support process results in longer response times for customers and massive inefficiencies for service organizations.
Though customers may believe they can get faster answers by going directly to a technician, the inverse is actually true, given the charter of the technician versus a dedicated customer support resource. Unlike a dedicated customer support person, a technician may be busy on another job. It may take several hours before he can call back. The technician may also not have expertise with the customer’s question, requiring escalation to a different or more senior technician. In either case, time is wasted, slowing time to resolution and bruising customer satisfaction.
What’s more, direct customer-to-technician calls incur real tangible costs to service organizations. For one, it’s unlikely that any tech-to-customer troubleshooting over the phone is billed. “Free support,” then, is lost revenue. In addition, field technicians are among the most scarce resources at a service organization. Any time spent answering simple questions, routing calls, or giving free support is taking time away from paying customers (diminishing their overall customer experience).
So if the customers-to-tech phone call is so detrimental, what’s the ideal workflow to balance efficiency and customer satisfaction? How about this…
A heavy equipment operator discovers a strange issue with his machine. He calls a central support number, which instantly routes him to a knowledgeable support agent. The agent gathers information about the problem, and works with dispatch to schedule a visit from the field tech. Thanks to the phone agent’s diligent pre-dispatch diagnosis, the field tech is armed with all the information they need to come prepared fix the problem the first time.
One might argue that forcing a customer to call an 800 number, navigate a phone tree, and talk to a randomly selected support agent is a subpar customer experience. And at first glance this may seem true. But given the choice between having an issue solved (1) quickly by a random person, or (2) slowly by your friend, most customers would agree that shorter downtime beats warm and fuzzy.
By eliminating ad-hoc support and implementing proper support channels, service organizations can provide higher customer satisfaction, reduce costs, and more efficiently use their most valuable resource – field technicians.