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Are Your Regional On-site Services  Damaging Your Reputation and Margin?

John McVicker

Whilst everyone agrees that in this day and age, metro and regional Australia customers should enjoy an equally high standard of field services, the fact is that for many mid-level businesses, a two-tier service system is very much alive and kicking. What's more, it's a divide that's costing these enterprises dearly in money and reputation. The solution? Field service providers who offer their own fully integrated solution.

Why is there a service divide?

Platforms that bring together all the business functions – such as call centres, for example – can successfully triage, book and track service and maintenance calls in a transparent end-to-end process. At least, that's the case for metro customers. They directly benefit from the business providing field technicians employed by IT enterprise services companies with real-time information, ensuring higher response and service levels.

However, setting the scene in regional areas and an effective platform is only part of the equation. For field service to be truly effective outside of metro areas, there's more that you should be expecting from your field service provider, including:

  • A directly employed workforce. One of the main contributing factors to poor site experience for regional area customers is that fieldwork is often subcontracted. And in many instances, subcontracted again. That's another layer of margin that's vanishing right there. In the subcontracting format, service levels can be sporadic at best, and it can often be challenging even to be sure when – or even if – a job has been done. By contrast, using a service partner whose field agents are their direct employees provides straight-line accountability and gives you true predictability of customer service outcome.
  • Next day service, fixed the first time. Your regional customers deserve a next day service. Does your current field services provider offer a guarantee that they can get an engineer to your regional customer tomorrow? When your field services partner can guarantee someone will be onsite the next business day, it saves your service desk a great deal of time working it out. It also avoids your customer becoming unnecessarily hot under the collar when service delays negatively impact their ability to function as they usually would.

To ensure regional area customers are inconvenienced for as short a time as possible, your field service agreement should also encompass a first visit resolution guarantee that effectively underwrites that the job will be completed when the technician gets to the site. What's more, it should guarantee that the technician will stay until the job is done and your customer confirms that all is in order. Such a guarantee creates exceptional customer experiences and means you don't need to spend money sending the engineer back again, further cutting into your margin.

  • Crystal clear visibility. A field service provider whose entire workforce is on the same platform and who offers their partners full visibility of all service calls through either an API or a portal is truly worth their weight in gold. Being able to see at a glance when an engineer has accepted a job when they're onsite, what the solution is and when the problem is fixed gives you a level of confidence in servicing your metro and regional customers that isn't possible under the subcontracting model.
  • Fixed price per service call. Forward-thinking businesses should consider a field service partner who adds real value by offering a fixed price for call outs. That way, there is no uncertainty about costs associated with the time a job may take. Once again, a strong predictability factor enhances the customer service experience, too.

What can a business do?

There's no doubt that securing reliable field services delivery in regional Australia is a consistent thorn in the side of many businesses. When field services are inconsistent in quality and efficiency, the toll on a business's reputation can be considerable. And although those same businesses may know that their current field service set-up is often unreliable in speed, efficiency, and reporting, they can be reluctant to seek a better solution. It's rather like changing your bank. You may dislike their service and believe their charges are excessive. Still, unless they make you angry, you're unwilling to go through the painful and time-consuming exercise of moving from one lending institution to another.

But it doesn't have to be that way. What's needed is for businesses to raise their expectations and realise they can do better for their customers and erase the service divide between metro and regional service. The good news is that switched on field service providers who offer all the benefits discussed above are out there. You need to go and look for them. And something else to consider? They're already helping your competitors to offer a vastly improved after-sales experience.

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