I was visiting a client down in Florida two weeks ago, enjoying the warmth and humidity as much as I was enjoying the amazing cost saving story I was hearing. The story is fairly simple: in the Cable industry, upwards of 20% of all service appointments are cancelled or not completed as planned. If you have hundreds, or thousands, of field technicians, and several million customers, and tens of thousands of monthly service calls for installation and repair, that 20% rate of failure (let’s call it failure, though no one likes that word) represents potentially millions of dollars. It doesn’t take a genius in math to understand this. But it took some real thinking about how to cut this 20% failure rate in half.
Why are there so many problems with field service visits? Well, I just ordered a visit by my furniture company to repair a stuck drawer. After three phone calls we caught each other (waste of time, but they don’t have email or chat). The sales agent spoke to the service department who talked to a dispatcher who called me (three times). And then the dispatcher said, “We’ve got someone available on December 23rd. We’ll call you the day before to set a three hour appointment window.” Think of the million things that can go wrong.
But what if you gave me a web portal where I could see a calendar with available times for addressing my particular problem type? Or to fix a time to talk? And what if we could set a two hour time window over the web, and I’d receive an SMS and/or email or phone reminder? Basically: keep me informed and manage my expectations. Now I am empowered and knowledgable.
And guess what? Over time, the system we put this in learns patterns of customer behavior, technician behavior, equipment behavior, and traffic flows. This iterative, heuristic process drops costs, improves customer satisfaction, and makes the field technician a happier technician. And wow, that 20% failure rate is now down to 10%.
I’ll be writing about this as a case study in April 2009. But in the meantime, companies such as TOA Technologies have already recognized that engaging customers, allowing them to take part in setting up service, and maintaining contact are all powerful ways in which businesses are driving higher customer satisfaction while dramatically lowering operational costs.
Got any good stories of your own?
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