Understanding and Satisfying Customers through Enterprise Mobility
We'd all like our customers to think highly of us. Have loyalty, say positive comments about our product or service and feel our company is different from the rest. Whether we're a contractor, a municipality or a utility and regardless of whether our customer has a choice about interacting with us, we would all like to be able to improve customer loyalty and have brand differentiation.
In simple terms, differentiated brands who gain customer loyalty are those companies who satisfy their customer - we do what is expected of us and we do what we promise. To be able to do this we are required to have an in-depth understanding of our customer.
When there is an incident born from an event, our customers' experience is primarily through our call centre and any media or other gossip they've been exposed to. Yet these are the exceptional circumstances. The day-to-day experiences which our customers have come from the levels of service we provide - the service from our operations and our planning teams.
Adjusting our focus towards the customer-facing area of our business is the first step in understanding our customer better
When I talk operations I refer to: (1) the technical resilience of our service - the robustness and durability of our assets, and (2) the organisational resilience of our company, contractors and suppliers - our response to failure, and how quickly we regain our service levels. When speaking of planning, it's about: (1) our effectiveness and efficiency within the planning process, and (2) meeting growth and future capacity.
Central to our customers' satisfaction is the feeling of getting value for money, and for the essential services, the question of affordability.
The effectiveness of our operations and planning will affect our customers' bill. Be they direct costs relating to our existing service, or development costs that result from extending our service - any inefficiencies are ultimately paid for by our customer. If they are not, our organisation is effectively either liquidated or amalgamated. By increasing both the actual value and perceived value in the eyes of our customer and key stakeholders, we can affect the conversations our customers, decision makers, and local media are having about us.
Based on the above statements, I suggest mobility within field service management will assist us all to better manage operations and planning - which will determine our companies actual, and perceived value, and allow for an environment in which our customer can be satisfied.
Although the fickle nature of customer satisfaction is outside of our control, being able to create the environment for satisfaction is within our grasp.
Mobility is a two way conversation
The first is the ability of corporate to engage with our teams in the field, to assist them with their work by providing guidance of what to say to customers, reminding them of standard operating procedures, highlighting regulatory compliance activities and identifying hazard mitigation for their occupational safety. Let's not forget we can also then remind them of that Friday night BBQ so they know in their heart that they are a part of one team.
The second is the collection of data from the field to assist with decision making. As we all know this will include billable hours and materials, status of work orders and timeliness of attendance and completion. What I also suggest, is that you ask field staff for assistance with customer experience, asset management, and infrastructure planning.
Being there already is everything and already being there is cost efficient
Asking our field staff for the data we require, while they are onsite will benefit both the company and the customer, by reducing the overall cost of the service that we are providing and getting direct feedback. And please, only ask for the data you'll analyse - the goal is efficiency gains for the entire company, including the operations team.
Better decisions are based on better data. The data collected through mobility will complement the other sources which planning will use. Combined with growth projections, focus groups on customer expectations, statistical service failure rates, and historical data - to name only a handful - the data can be compiled into spatial layers, to be analysed through a risk-weighted overlay, to determine a prioritised investment plan.
This is no small task. Significant investment in new data analysis technology may be required, as will the implementation and integration of the technology itself. This will include the requirement for altering processes and procedures, as well as ensuring people are hired and trained. In the author's experience, staged implementation has proven to be the most effective way of moving from a state of "as-is" to where you would like your company "to-be" through the integration of people, processes and technology.
The purpose is practical - to acquire a deeper understanding of customer behavior, enhance our ability to foresee major trends, and plan investment in a logical manner, based on relevant data.
Within your mobility strategies I suggest your customers' priorities be collected, analysed and results used to guide your team in the field with their operating procedures. They are then required to report on the results. We naturally do what we focus on, we focus on what we measure and reporting back measurements to the office will assist with this focus. This is the first phase of improving service - analysis, implementation and monitoring of operations with customer priorities.
The second phase is improving value through integrated planning. Integrating planning will reduce cost through the identification of single projects, which will satisfy multiple organisational issues and customer needs. This includes: the improvement of levels of service; reduction in OPEX spending through CAPEX solutions; enhancing customer experience; adapting to regulatory change; calculating demand forecasting; bolstering organisational resilience; meeting organisational specific objectives and, ultimately, predicting market factors and planning for macro-economic changes for the benefit of the organisation.
I suggest integrating planning through one team. They will conduct analysis of all the acquired data (and embedded knowledge) from across the business to improve operations and planning for growth. Their goal will be to design your customers' experience, through data acquisition & analysis, to create the environment for customer satisfaction. They will spend on data acquisition & analysis to save (even more) on infrastructure planning.