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Customer service standards are *not* slipping – it's just that they want more than you can deliver

Posted by Emily Mason on September 2, 2014

Field Service News recently published an article entitled “Are customer service standards in the UK slipping?”. Whilst the details of the particular research cited may be new, the thrust of the article is not. We have heard stories like this before, and all the time there is a ‘dissatisfaction gap’ they will continue to circulate. Likely meaning forever!

Several years ago, I was at a meeting of one of the service industries trade groups and there was a presentation about service standards. The presenter asked the audience whether their service standards had improved over the previous 12 months. Most people raised their hands to signal “yes” and further probing put the rate of improvement in the 3-5% range. A second, similar, question about improvement over the previous five years got even more hands up. However, the presenter proceeded to tell everyone not to congratulate themselves as, in reality, they were failing.

Failing to deliver what their customers wanted. Not because they were, necessarily, bad at their jobs. Or, that their mobile teams were not working hard and maybe genuinely getting better. But, because their customers’ expectations were rising faster than their ability to deliver, the research at that time suggesting an annual increase in expectations more like 10%. So yes, the service providers were getting better – but not quickly enough. The incremental changes they were making, although necessary, were never going to close the gap – the situation would just get worse and worse, until all customers left! Possibly a bit over-dramatic, but you get the idea.

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Completing the picture

Posted by Emily Mason on August 28, 2014

Here’s a word that can strike terror into the heart of any Service Manager – compliance.

It is one of those words that carries an emotional overload, mostly negative, and has become associated with oft-derided areas of policy such as Health and Safety. Members of staff are prone to react badly when you suggest that they are not “complying” – taking it as a personal criticism, and an insult to their intelligence/behaviour/performance (depending on the context).

Taking a step back and trying to be objective about “compliance” reveals a different story. It comes in many forms, from conforming to Health and Safety standards, through HR policies on timekeeping and administrative procedures, to completing a set of daily checks on company vehicles. But it’s not just about rules and regulations. It’s an essential part of working together in a harmonious way, and ensuring your workforce is functioning at it’s optimum, most productive level. And, who would not agree that keeping staff safe is an important and positive aspect of management responsibilities?

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Industry Studies Confirm Growing Importance of Customer Service and Field Service Management as Strategic Differentiators

Posted by Emily Mason on August 21, 2014

“Discount prices!” “New models!” “Free gift!”

It might have worked once upon a time, but in today’s world, temporary incentives aren’t enough to keep the customers coming and profits up.

Recent research by The Service Council, and publicised by ERP vendor SAP, indicates that - in a world where everything is becoming commoditised, where customer expectations are forever on the rise - there’s only one thing left to differentiate a company from it’s competitors; and that’s service.

Short term offers may well be tempting to a customer initially, but with little profit in it for the company, and nothing more for the customer post-sale, there’s very little value in it for either party.

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Your team is efficient, but is it effective?

Posted by Emily Mason on August 20, 2014

Let’s face it, it’s no good if your workers are completing a high number of jobs a day if they aren’t doing them well.

The Cognito iQ Radar Chart measures the effectiveness of a worker by the number of first time fixes achieved in the shift and the service level attainment. If desired, the worker’s net promoter score can also be factored in with the integration of a bespoke customer survey - all three combining to show to what degree the intended result has been achieved by each individual in the team.

Efficiency is a little harder to measure, unless that is, you’re comparing the work of your entire team. Three Key Performance Indicators make up the ‘Efficiency’ area of the Radar Chart - how long each task takes (task duration), travel time between jobs (travel duration) and the number of tasks completed per hour (Velocity).

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“Fifty cars …” changed my worldview

Posted by Emily Mason on August 12, 2014

Recently, I was browsing in the closing down sale of a shop that sold a varied mix of gifts, books, and cards and stumbled across “Fifty Cars That Changed The World”, as compiled by London’s Design Museum. It is obvious how cars have changed our lives, but I was intrigued to find out what ‘changing the world’ meant in this context and which cars would qualify. I guess my curiosity was, in part, to see if I had ever owned any of the exalted group!

I picked up a copy, and began to flick through the pages. Eventually, I was sufficiently embarrassed by the amount of time that I had been standing there to actually buy a copy and bring it home. It turns out that not all of them were successes, but each does represent a turning point in terms of technology, e.g. front wheel rather than rear wheel drive, style or popularity. Or, in some cases, disasters that changed the fortunes of companies, for example the Austin Allegro – called “the vital stumble” in the history of British Leyland.

One thing is clear. None of these cars appeared out of thin air. All built on, and adapted, what had gone before. And the same is true in all industries. Times change and products evolve. Companies adjust to new circumstances and move on, seeking growth and success with new ideas and better ways of working. Innovations enable organisations to outcompete and differentiate from others operating in the same market. Usually, the advantage is temporary and overtaken – necessitating new inventions and adaptations to stay in the race; 0ften inspired by customer needs and expectations as much as brilliant flashes of inspiration.

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