There is always the argument about sales versus service, whether one is more important than the other. The simple fact is, that without selling there is nothing to fix. As a business owner, the main issue you need to work on is how you ensure you provide the best service to your customers, that it makes it significantly easier for your sales team to increase the amount of business each customer does with your company.

Your service team is critical to the longevity and size of your business. I have worked in organisations where service was seen as critical to its success, with the result being a bigger and more stable business. I have also worked in businesses (not for long) where the service team was seen as a necessary evil and these companies continually struggled.

Building a high quality service team takes hard work requiring you to work through the following areas;

  1. Understanding your customer’s needs, the more time you spend communicating with your customers, the greater the knowledge you will have on how to support them best.
  2. Recruiting good quality people, it is important to take the time and learn how to recruit top notch staff for your team. Not just technicians, but administrative and warehouse staff as well.
  3. Set Performance targets,
    1. Set standards of performance of your service department. i.e. Response times to customer calls, equipment uptime targets, how customer complaints will be handled and problem equipment escalation procedures.
    2. Technician performance targets, call completed per day, productivity targets, call back and incomplete percentage targets.
    3. Call centre staff targets, average response times, territory management targets.
  4. Training, you will get the best out of your team if you put your best into them. Companies have a habit of expecting their new team members to be able to service their equipment with minimal or no training. The best productivity comes from fully trained staff.
    1. Technical training – my target was always 20 days per year for my technicians.
    2. Customer service training – don’t just think they know how to deal with your customers the way you want them to.
    3. Sales training – your technicians are revenue generators, training them in selling techniques will increase your revenue.
  5. Service call management systems, in today’s age, manual paper based systems are costing you money. A robust and reliable service management program will put all of the information you need to run your field service operation at your fingertips. Over the years, I have worked with and implemented several service management software systems and found that there are a few key points you need to look for;
    1. What information can I get out of it from day one? A good quality system will have a whole list of reports already designed, ready for you to use immediately.
    2. Is the layout simple and easy to use, in a good system, one screen should have 90% of the information you require for the process you are performing. i.e. Logging a call, closing a call, setting up a service agreement etc.
    3. Is it easy to understand the workflow in the system.
    4. Complete inventory management system, including purchasing, payment of purchases, multi-warehouse, inventory kitting, obsolescence history etc.
    5. Service contract system, easy to use and maintain.
    6. Technician scheduling screen that looks like a normal calendar.
    7. If your business bills by meterage, it should have an automated meter reading and entering system. No manual processing.
    8. Customers should be able to log and review their service calls via an internet portal. They should also be able to order supplies and pay their invoices through this portal.
    9. Technician access, a quality service management system will have access for your technicians by computer or mobile device to update their service calls, access manuals, and technical bulletins and order spare parts. These portals need to actually work.
  6. Marketing, Your service needs to be marketed separate to the company’s products. A good marketing program will spell out the real differences between you and your competitors.
  7. Service Contract System, running a service business is expensive, with a lot of the costs upfront. A quality service department will offer service contracts that enable customers to pay in advance for their service and in return receive a higher level of guaranteed service. In return, your business has the funds upfront to cover the cost of providing this service.
  8. Presentation standard, it is important to set a standard level of presentation for your technical staff. Uniforms, cleanliness, attitude, mannerisms etc. give your customer a sense of receiving quality service.
  9. Motor Vehicles, should be sourced based on the most appropriate need for the business. There should be clearly prepared procedures on the presentation of the vehicles with inspections carried out regularly. Your service vehicles are generally the first impression for your business, you need to ensure the impression is a good one.
    If you provide your technicians with a car allowance, you are still able to require them to provide a vehicle suitable to the purpose you are paying for and for it to be maintained as per your business standard. I once had a technician who worked on large equipment buy a new Mini minor with his allowance. He was not too pleased when I withdrew the allowance until a more suitable vehicle was obtained.
  10. Your premises, needs good office, warehouse and workshop accommodation, ensuring there are safe workplace procedures prepared implemented and acted on.
  11. Spare Parts, is a key area in a service operation, take the time and be prepared to pay the right money for a top notch warehouse person. It will save you time, money and headaches in the end.

Being responsible for a service team that is known for its high level off quality service is a great feeling, but you will need to put the hard work in to achieve it.

Have a great week,
Peter Johnson