A conversation with a Field Services Veteran
We’ve all heard the stats. The workforce is shrinking while customer expectations are rising. We talk to Field service contractors every day who are facing the same challenges.
Few have navigated growth under these circumstances like Greg Crumpton. Greg is VP of Critical Facilities & Technology for Service Logic, with more than 36 years experience as a mechanical contractor. As one of the largest privately held HVAC/Mechanical Services companies in the U.S., Service Logic employs 1,200 technicians who service 100 million square feet of commercial, industrial and institutional real estate.
As part of our Field Talk series, Greg and I recently sat down to talk about the ways in which today’s commercial customers are changing and what the field service industry needs to do to meet their evolving expectations.
Question 1: The expectations of customers are changing. From your experience, how should field service companies adjust?
Tip 1: Teach soft skills so young technicians communicate well with customers.
[Greg Crumpton] “My dad got me into this industry in 1982. He worked for a great mechanical contractor in Atlanta and he also taught in the Local Union 72 apprenticeship program where I was trained. Back then, he was one of the few instructors emphasizing soft skills to help technicians communicate better with customers. He taught me that you can know how to turn a 12-point socket really well, but to build rapport, you must be able explain why and how you’re doing what you’re doing to the customer. That continues to serve me well.”
Question 2: How can today’s field service contractors quickly set themselves apart?
Tip 2: Embrace digital technology to improve the customer experience.
[Greg Crumpton] “When I started out, communication with customers was mostly verbal with handwritten work orders where techs recorded what they did on the job.
By 2004, I was running my own company and bought the first laptop for one of our technicians to put mobile computing in the truck. Our little company set the tone for a higher level of customer communication within our geographic area. I’ve always embraced technology and that quickly taught me that our customers wanted more of it. Today, customers have digitized their businesses and they expect our industry to keep up.
I’ve been studying the average age of our techs to see where we are in the silver tsunami. What’s intriguing is that our customers are outpacing us. As our customers age out, the 30-45-year-old crowd backfills those positions. And they are really digitized. They want current, relevant information right now. Whether it be through IoT sensor technology in buildings or video and still shots. We need to transmit information that helps them make a best-in-quality decision.”
Question 3: Off-site management has become more common in the commercial space. How does that change how customers do research and make buying decisions?
Tip 3: Educate off-site property managers by delivering interactive proposals that inform.
[Greg Crumpton] “In order for companies to compete they had to go to some kind of geographic model where people have more responsibility. One client used to have a property manager in Atlanta and one in Charlotte and another in Tampa. Today, there is a single southeast regional manager. When this guy needs pricing, he’s got to solicit proposals via RFP. That’s often a race to the bottom on pricing because you haven’t built rapport with the client.
Field service companies need to provide detailed proposals that are purpose built for each customer. If you deliver an interactive, digital proposal and embed video and real data in it to help your customer make a better decision, they will judge your contribution as more valuable than a company that sends a boilerplate text document.”
Question 4: In field service, there can be inherent distrust. How do your techs establish trust?
Tip 4: Show customers ‘proof’ of problems and solutions.
[Greg Crumpton] “Real human to human interaction comes down to good communication that builds a relationship and trust.
When we did our pilot program with XOi Vision™, we had four technicians with glasses and five more using it via smart phones. One tech had a commercial client with an off-site regional property manager in another state. Our tech took an image and recorded a short video of a problem with the glasses. The client replied saying ‘I value this video so much because not only do I believe you, but I can see what you are seeing. I can’t get to all of my facilities physically and this gives me trust.’
I’m a huge advocate of validating the conditions and the disposition of the trouble calls to support that trust. We help the customer to see what we found, what we did, and how we left it.”