“Who’s your guy?”
It’s a common question heard when some needs a repair, and it doesn’t matter what field service industry you’re in, that’s how your customers think of your field service reps. That familiarity is great! As long as their guy is still your employee. But what happens when Jimmy, or Larry, or Steve – whoever is their guy – retires?
It’s a question that keeps field service managers awake at night, because it’s more than just replacing the body. When a field service rep retires, all the tribal knowledge he’s gained over the course of 20 or 30 years or more goes with him. And so do the customers.
What Makes Larry Special?
Larry has had a lot of years to work with that dragon lady at the insurance company that’s your biggest client. He knows she wants to know every little detail about the service. She checks on him a hundred times during the service call. And Larry understands that when Dragon Lady checks on him, he can make a joke or pay her a compliment and it makes the visit go smoother.
The dragon lady is comfortable with their relationship. She still gives Larry a hard time, even after all these years because it’s what they do. She suspects Larry likes it, her attention keeps him on task, and he always gives her a rundown on what he’s doing and what he’s done. No one else is allowed to service her equipment because she trusts him.
What makes Larry special is he’s had years of diverse service situations to learn about his customers. It’s called soft customer service, and it’s the secret sauce for which there is no exact recipe. It’s hard to quantify knowledge like:
- Personal details about the customer: Their nickname, favorite sports team, preferred vacation spot, and even information about their family and pets. These are the kind of details that turn service calls into a friendly visit.
- Service requirements and expectations: Every customer is different. Some open the door and trust your service techs will do what they came to do. Others will hover and be fussy over dirty hands and shoes, and some will just want to hang out and talk about everything the whole time the tech is working. Even the layout of a business or home is important knowledge. Is the unit hard to get to? Does the wiring snake from the roof to the basement in an unexpected spot?
- Company requirements: Every company you service has different requirements for checking in, quoting a job, completing a job, and getting paid. Then there are supervisors within the company that your techs have to deal with who may have completely different requirements from those laid out by the company.
Holding on to the Customer
When Larry leaves, how do you reassure your customers they’ll have the same relationship with the new guy? It’s a difficult situation that service companies have struggled with for years, but there are a few things you can do to hold on to the dragon lady and dozens of other customers just like her:
- Training: In today’s world, much of what used to be an apprenticeship has been replaced online learning. But nothing replaces in-the-field or one-on-one learning. If you want the new guy to have the same relationship that Larry does with your customers, Larry needs to be involved in making that happen, even if he’s not available to guide an apprentice through the transition.
- Communication: Don’t keep retirements a secret. Nothing will spook a customer faster than a new person showing up with the news that Larry has retired and they’re the new guy. Be sure your customers understand that a retirement is approaching, and exactly how you plan to ensure the quality of their service will remain high.
- Document your knowledge: Capturing all the knowledge that techs like Larry have is a difficult task, but with the right tools you can ensure complete customer records that include the soft service details as well as all the tricks of the trade your seasoned techs have gathered over the years.