How to Empower Your Customers in the Field Service Industry
Your customers rely on you for lots of things — building new homes, inspecting gas lines, or even installing that new outlet behind their wall-mounted TV. Some industries need their customers to be dependent on them in order to prosper while others empower them to handle certain tasks on their own. Amazon went as far as building a store that allows customers to shop and check themselves out sans any employee interaction at all. While not every business needs to let the reigns go completely, there are many advantages to empowering your customers with the ability to self-serve, from content consumption like how-tos and tips & tricks to job-specific tasks like online billing and scheduling.
Many of your customers will still want the full course experience of your services, and that’s great! It shows that they truly appreciate the expert-level service you provide them time after time, from your accounting team to schedule. For others, the satisfaction and convenience of self-service will give them one more reason to stick with you for as long as they’re able.
Empowering Customers the Easy Way
To start, we should probably define what it means to empower your customers. When we think of the term ’empowerment’, we probably think of strength, resilience, or perseverance. Those are all aspects of empowerment but in the wrong context.
Customer empowerment means giving the customer better options to handle quality-of-life tasks without company interaction.
For example, you can empower your customers by allowing them to schedule their own service needs on your website. Since no one knows their schedule better than they do, it’s a huge win for convenience. Having this option allows your customers to choose the best time and place for a service or job to be completed. This is, of course, only one example of customer empowerment.
There’s something you should think about before working towards customer solutions; what will make your customer’s life easier?
Does it simply mean to give them more options for the sake of having options? “If it doesn’t bring you joy, throw it out.” Marie Kondo, famous for her Tidying Up With Marie Kondo series on Netflix, teaches us about the importance of selecting things with purpose and intent. This is especially important when providing customers with self-service options. Too few options and you’re behind competitors — too many options and may cause your site to become difficult to properly use. For field service businesses, the key takeaway is that sometimes less is more.
It’s the weekend before Christmas and one of your customers is getting an early start on cooking. In the kitchen, they’re running the stove, the oven, and one of those fancy new air fryers the in-laws mailed from out-of-state. Suddenly, the customer hears a ‘pop’ followed by complete darkness — they’ve tripped a breaker and aren’t sure what to do.
The savvy electrician business would’ve prepared them for this by creating some general knowledge videos or blog posts about common electrical issues and ways to remedy them. This could include guides on how to properly change and dispose of light bulbs, a blog post on using electric heaters in the winter, or how to navigate an electrical panel box.
This also helps your business — while we’d all love that service call due to the relatively easy fix, your customer would likely rather have the ability to fix it themselves to get back to cooking.
While photo and video resources are great, even a simple frequently asked questions section could help shed light on common issues that could be easily handled by the customer. This definitely empowers your customer, to be sure. But most importantly, it helps your company demonstrate the immense value you’ll provide to them, even when you’re not directly profiting from it.
Scheduling, Online Payments, and Billing History
This one is pretty simple — give your customers the ability to handle payments and scheduling at their leisure. This helps to free up your back office staff to help troubleshoot service calls or follow-up on sales leads while giving your customer the flexibility to choose their service date and make payments when it’s best for them. It may also be important for them to see past invoices for their own accounting purposes, so access to that information is extremely beneficial.
Additionally, having an autopay function can keep your receivables in the black while providing peace of mind to your customer.
The ability to check a job’s current status on the customer’s end is another huge win for empowerment. It eliminates the need for them to call in for a status update and potentially wait on hold for an answer. This is especially important if the customer won’t be on-site during the work or is awaiting parts fulfillment. Additionally, the increased productivity you’ll receive by not having to field those calls could be used to handle other pressing issues — or even better — land more new clients.
FieldDirect, part of the FieldConnect software suite, allows field service businesses to offer massive quality-of-life improvements directly to their customers with a powerful customer portal. Companies can offer fantastic features like online bill pay and job status tracking while freeing up back-office staff to handle other functions. By empowering your customers today, they’ll remain your customers tomorrow.