In economic uncertainty, it’s natural for executives to explore where to reduce spending, trim the fat, so to speak, and cut enterprising investments as a matter of caution.
But this thinking is also counter-productive for all the reasons that make uncertainty so predictable. We can expect that every company is going to react this way in times of uncertainty.
In 2023, CIOs are guided to focus on enhancing workforce engagement, customer experience, and data and AI. These are identified as key areas where technology can drive business growth and increase customer satisfaction in the process.
Yet, it’s not uncommon for executives to cut costs in areas that actually improve customer experiences and also double-down on investments that can minimise them.
Where winning companies deviate from the norm is that they look for opportunities to attract and retain customers by making experience and service a signature competitive advantage. The key is to understand where investments can deliver returns, accelerated time to value, and success now.
The importance of customer experience as a competitive advantage
Customer service is overdue for its makeover, shifting its role in the organisation from a cost centre to a growth engine. More so, making service something the customers enjoy and appreciate, instead of dreading the engagement.
Think about it this way, if 94 per cent of your customers said that the service you provide directly influences future buying decisions, would you solely focus on the six per cent who are seemingly indifferent? What if nearly half said that they’d switch brands to get better service? Well, in the last year, 71 per cent said that they had done just that.
Research shows that almost nine-in-ten (88 per cent) of customers say that the experience your company provides is as important as your products and services. Best-in-class, personalised customer service is more important than ever — especially when it’s in someone’s home or business.
For those companies that invest in customer experiences and relationships, the economic upside is already there. According to Gallup research, fully engaged customers represent a 23 per cent premium in share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth over the average customer. By increasing customer engagement, Gallup also promotes increases in customer service metrics, including:
- 66 per cent higher sales growth,
- 10 per cent increase in net profit,
- 25 per cent increase in customer loyalty, and
- +20 percentile point increases in customer confidence.
There’s much to be done. Only 26 per cent of workers believe their organisation delivers on the promises they make to customers.
Field service is a sleeping giant waiting to deliver business value
When I say the words, “field service,” what comes to mind?
Working with service and sales leaders over the years, I can honestly say that it’s usually not “innovation” or “groundbreaking” or “growth driver.” Yet, field service is literally on the front line of the customer’s experience. And CX itself, is ranked by businesses around the world as the top priority emerging from 2020 disruption.
Field service represents the front line of live customer service, a true human touch point. It also represents a critical, and arguably underestimated or even undervalued, customer touch point that can increase customer satisfaction, drive sales, and lead the charge for overhauling customer service as a growth engine.
The time is now.
In its State of Service report, Salesforce research learned that case volumes for 54 per cent of service teams rose between 2021 and 2022.
In response, organisations strengthened mobile workforces by increasing budgets (62 per cent) and headcount (61 per cent). And, the field service management market is expected to grow to an estimated $8.06 billion by 2028 as companies work to meet increasing customer demand while managing costs.
As mobile representatives serving on a company’s front lines, field service teams have a unique opportunity to manage these expectations and grow customer relationships through interactions that drive repeat revenue.
Field service drives revenue and cost savings
If you think about luxury goods and retail, many employ a strategic service offering called “clienteling.” Clienteling is a personalised approach – cater to high value customers in stores. As its evolved, data, insights, mobile tech, AI help service professionals deliver real-time personalisation, promote satisfaction, and increase customer lifetime value (CLV).
In field service, mobile workers are gaining the ability to deliver clienteling-like experiences for every customer. By delivering enhanced customer experiences, field service can significantly contribute to growth.
New Salesforce research found that 86 per cent of decision makers at companies with field service teams believe these teams are critical to growing the business.
Fifty-two percent of high-performing field service workers say that their company’s management views customer service as a revenue generator. Specifically, 69 per cent of high-performing mobile workers say their organisation tracks revenue generated by customer service. And 82 per cent of strategic organisations depend on mobile workers to upsell products and services.
With product expertise and knowledge of customer purchases, service history, and usage data in hand, field service teams can tailor recommendations to every customers’ unique needs. As a result, those mobile workers who convert meaningful engagement into upselling or cross-selling opportunities realise an average success rate of 65 per cent.
Field service management, powered by AI and automation, enhance productivity and employee experiences
For 93 per cent of mobile workers, there is a direct link between employee experience and the customer experience. After all, mobile workers are brand ambassadors, and they are the face of your company.
Salesforce research found that 65 per cent of field service representatives feel the weight of customer expectations, more than any other type of service worker. As such, in addition to customer experience, employee experience is also key.
An overwhelming majority (94 per cent) of service professionals in high-performing organisations cite productivity as a major or moderate benefit of field service management. This should serve as an important consideration as executives look for ways to cut operational costs without compromising customer satisfaction.
To better support their field service teams, organisations are improving operational efficiency and customer satisfaction with field service management tools.
Of the 96 per cent of high-performing field service organisations that use field service management, 90 per cent report increased agility, 55 per cent report higher productivity, and 53 per cent report improved job satisfaction. More so, 98 per cent of mobile workers credit it with productivity benefits.
Automation and AI are also further unlocking efficiency and productivity opportunities. Research shows that 78 per cent of high-performing field service organisations use AI, and 83 per cent use workflow automation.
For example, with AI-powered tools, like thoughtfully designed chatbots, mobile workers can efficiently schedule appointments, get real-time updates, and quickly find answers to questions.
With conversational AI, service agents can transcribe conversations in real-time, gain insights, personalise engagement, save time, and the need for customers to repeat themselves.
Additionally, automation-enabled workflows simplify the ability for mobile workers to create new accounts, place equipment orders, schedule appointments, and automate time-consuming, mundane tasks out of their day-to-day routines.
Added up, agents get time back to be more creative, spend time engaging customers, and cultivate customer relationships. More so, AI reduces response times and accelerates first time fix rates, enabling mobile workers to serve more customers faster while boosting customer satisfaction.
Research makes a compelling case for businesses to invest in the areas that can drive business growth, improve employee experiences, and foster more loyal customers. As such, field service, and customer service, are no longer cost centres, but instead strategic areas for investment, to deliver a new kind of ROI for these times, return on innovation.