The Intersection of Technology and Customer Experience in the Field: Getting It Right

Claudine Bianchi, CMO, ClickSoftware
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Claudine Bianchi, CMO, ClickSoftware

Claudine Bianchi, CMO, ClickSoftware

The on-demand economy has irrevocably changed the meaning of customer service. With new disruptive companies like Uber, Amazon, Netflix setting new standards in service expectations, business models are shifting to meet these new standards. In other words, consumers have been conditioned to expect exceptional customer experience—every time—and it’s the difference between retaining a customer or losing them to the competition. And no industry is immune.

  â€‹Customer service and experience is now inextricably tied to the strategic objectives of every C-suite  

Field service is no exception. For enterprises delivering field service—from cable and construction to utilities and retail—customer satisfaction now outweighs all other success metrics. Consumers have the option to choose a competitor. For regulated industries, prices set by regulatory bodies—and therefore profitability—are increasingly tied into customer experience and feedback. The ability to deliver value through field service interactions has become a critical differentiator, and it should be on the mind of every Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The reality, however, is that customer experience is still often sub-par, even with so much technology available to facilitate every aspect. Field service professionals are quite literally on the front lines with the customers—often representing the only Human to Human (H2H) interaction between the business and end consumer. Why, then, are so many companies still leaning on outdated service strategies that inherently hurt their brand’s reputation? Missed delivery windows, unprepared technicians, and lack of communication are basic but recurring complaints.

There’s no excuse for anything less than a seamless, delightful customer experience through their entire engagement with a brand. The stakes are high for companies that don’t prioritize service—customer attrition, consumer complaints amplified over social media, and ultimately, a loss of trust. How can companies that have always done things the same way suddenly change and adapt to customers’ growing expectations? The answer can be found in a shift in mindset and the right type of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions—or, as it’s evolving, the right type of Customer Experience (CX) solutions.

Customer Service Becomes Customer Experience

Achieving success depends initially on an organization’s willingness to accept a shift in thinking from “customer service” to “customer experience.” At the center of improved customer experience is the basic task of getting to know the customer in order to identify their expectations. The CMO is armed with the skills best suited to lead these efforts. Marketing at its core is about understanding and planning for fickle consumer behavior in highly competitive markets. A role that has evolved past simply marketing, communications, and branding, the CMO has a holistic picture of the customer achieved by effectively interpreting and using data collected across departments. A Forrester report titled, The Evolved CMO 2016, finds that two-thirds of CMOs are now responsible for customer experience, including keeping consumers satisfied and connected with brands.

CMOs rely heavily on data to succeed in both marketing and customer experience— data that is collected using technology. Historically, marketers were worlds away from IT. Today a CMO without technology is like a fisherman without a rod. In fact, according to Gartner, the CMO will have a larger technology budget than the Chief Information Officer (CIO) in the future. Because the CIO manages and houses the data, the previously disparate roles of CMO and CIO are now forced to work together, breaking down walls within the enterprise through increased collaboration. The result is stronger management of the customer experience demonstrated by retaining existing customers and improved loyalty and satisfaction.

Customer Expectations Set by Mobility

While technology enables improved customer experience by way of data collection, it also arms field service professionals with tools needed to meet customer expectations on the job via a Field Service Management (FSM) solution. The proliferation of mobile provides endless benefits in FSM. Well-made apps work in any environment, whether offline or online. Most times, enterprise business apps are part of a scalable mobile workforce solution that can be configured with the mobile apps, providing workers with full access to information from back-office systems and data on-demand—creating a seamless process.

Many organizations allow employees to use their own devices, enhanced with the apps that enable them to view jobs, service histories and customer information; plus send messages, capture signatures, record asset details and parts usage, view manuals, collaborate with colleagues and much more. Over the next five years, more than 25 percent of consumers globally expect access to ‘direct and live communications’ with their service technician. If implemented, this benefit is not simply tangential; it is a large contributor to positive customer experience, meeting the demands standardized by the on-demand economy—and using a digital language understood by the next generation of consumers.

The New Service World Order

Technology is transforming customer experience. In fact, industry reports forecast that FSM is poised to grow from a $1.97 billion market last year to $5.11 billion by 2020. More companies are choosing to implement FSM solutions, one of the reasons we’re seeing this rapid growth rate. This growth is driven in part by the realization by companies across every industry that regardless of what they build or sell, they are all in the service business now.

Every single customer interaction is a means for disruption and a differentiator versus the competition. Customer service has shifted from an operational cost center to a brand-defining revenue driver as CMOs continue to assert the impact of customer experience on the bottom line. With chief marketers expected to outspend CIOs on technology in 2017 for the first time ever, it’s clear that more and more technology will be implemented to improve brand reputation and customer satisfaction. With all of the innovative ways to adapt from traditional, outdated service strategies to modern and customer-centric processes, there’s no excuse for anything less than an exceptional customer experience. Customer service and experience is now inextricably tied to the strategic objectives of every C-suite.