The Two Elements of Integrity
During conversations with CEOs and Service Managers at field services companies, I always try to ask this question:
What makes your business special and why do people choose to work with you over your competitors?
The answer is always a variation on two themes: “We practice character and integrity in our business, and we have the best techs.”
Along with these claims, I also hear all the horror stories about what bad service looks like. It’s clear to me that good service companies are struggling to differentiate themselves from bad service companies, and I think technology can help those good companies to continue to rely on the ideas of great techs, and service integrity that have been the foundation for growing.
In this post, we’ll talk about how technology can help you maintain the character and integrity of your business, and in a future post, we’ll discuss how technology can help your technicians remain the best in the field.
The Two Elements of Integrity
The way I see it, there are two places that truly differentiate the customer experience: the verification of the work and the justification of the estimate. These are the two elements of integrity that you cannot afford to lose.
Verification is the first step in building integrity; showing customers the work that needs to be done, and the work that’s been done. It’s also a way for your company to prove your value to your customers.
I recently had a conversation with a Denver based company that was looking at field service solutions. They challenged the notion of needing to verify the work they do. Their response was:
“Joe [their customer] trusts me. We’ve known each other a long time, and if I tell him something needs to be fixed, he trusts that I’m telling the truth.”
That’s probably true for a lot of field service companies. You have customers who have been customers for a long time. They know you. They know that your techs complete repairs right, and they know that your guys are reliable. But let me ask you a question.
What happens when Joe retires?
Your Customers are Aging Out
It’s not just field service techs that are aging out. Your customers are too. Those same customers that you’ve built 20- and 30-year relationships with are going to retire and they’re going to be replaced. This replacement is likely some young guy, in his late-20s, that has a corporate mandate to reduce costs and is financially rewarded for keeping costs as low as possible. Or maybe this new kid just has a buddy that happens to do what you do. What’s your relationship with that customer? I have heard the story play out again and again within our customer base.
Relationships do matter, but they can also hurt you if you don’t have proof of the relationship to fall back on. To maintain a relationship with your customer even after Joe retires, create a record of the services you’ve provided to Joe, complete with pictures, videos, and service notes to help the new guy understand the integrity of the service you’ve provided for years—to help him understand what Joe learned through years of doing business with your company. Then, when Joe retires, you can wish him “Happy Retirement,” and help ease his replacement into a trusting relationship with your field service technicians..
Building Integrity Means Educating Customers
If verification is the first part of integrity, then justification is the second. And I’m not just talking about proving that you need to do an extra repair. Sometimes that’s the case, and if you can document it and it provide visual intelligence that shows the customer the repair needs to be completed, that’s a valuable tool. But how do you justify the trust that customers place in you?
I was talking to a friend recently that was telling me about his favorite car mechanic. This mechanic is the only person that works on my friend’s cars, and he does all the repair. He’s also the only mechanic my friend recommends to anyone. Why?
Because one time my friend had a major issue with his car. And he expected to have to spend a lot of money to get it fixed. So, he took it to this mechanic. The guy looked at it, and said, “Man, a wire broke loose. That was it.” The mechanic put the wire back in place and the repair cost almost nothing.
He was ready to pay this guy whatever he asked. Needless to say, the first mechanic has my friend as a customer for life.
Why? Because he didn’t look for some reason to charge my friend more than he needed to. Instead, he took the time to find the problem and fix it. In the process, he also recommended work that needed to be done in the future—issues that weren’t yet problems—and educated my friend about what to expect.
That’s the most important element of justification: educating your customers about the job you do. Maybe while doing a routine service on a unit one of your techs recognizes that a heat exchanger is starting to show pinhole signs of rust. Using XOi Vision™ your technician can grab videos or pictures of the aging and then point out to the customer that while it’s not a problem right now, it could indicate that within a couple of years that heat exchanger is going to need to be replaced. The technician can begin a conversation that includes possible solutions or options to increase the life of the unit now. And he can continue that conversation over time so there’s no surprise when it’s time to replace the unit.
That’s how you justify your customers’ trust in your technicians by educating them about the service, repair, and replace cycle so they’ll know what to expect and won’t be surprised when a major repair or replacement needs to happen.
So, if integrity is one of the big differentiators for your business, ask yourself, what can you do to ensure your integrity remains intact in this evolving environment where 30-year relationships are fading into the mist with every passing year? I think technology is one of the answers, and if used correctly, will allow you to evolve your service offering alongside a rapidly changing marketplace. Having the right tools and capabilities can help you guarantee that your integrity is documented and your service is always justified.
This is part 1 in a 2 part series on differentiation, click here for part 2.