Leaders in many industries have been talking about digital disruption – the impact of growing digital technology on businesses – for a while now. The idea is that technologies like the Internet, social media, and smartphones are changing the way businesses operate.
That’s certainly true in the case of field service businesses, or at least it should be. Don’t get us wrong, the world of field service still primarily deals with people directly, and there is a lot to be said for in-person marketing and customer service.
But digital disruption is shifting the way customers connect with your business. A phone call or a thank-you card just isn’t enough for good customer service anymore. Customers want access to your business whenever it’s the most convenient for them, and technology makes that possible.
But how much digital access should you give customers to your business? You certainly don’t have the manpower to handle phone calls and emails 24-7, especially if you’re a small, family-owned company.
So how can you make sure customers can reach you when they need to?
Does 24-7 Access Help or Hurt Customer Service?
Believe it or not, the biggest hindrance to 24-7 customer service isn’t technology itself. Services like Zendesk or HappyFox provide full-support customer services, like ticketing support or live chat, which gives small businesses the ability to connect with customers in a variety of ways.
So the real question isn’t, “Can we offer 24-7 customer service” but rather, “Should we?”
While technology can help manage customer interactions, there is still the matter of relationship: A third-party call center can’t bond with your customers the way you can.
Your employees know about the business better than anyone, and they should be the ones fielding calls.
Many small businesses are hesitant to offer 24-7 access because they’re afraid of employee burnout. They know that if customers have the ability to contact them anytime, they will, and they don’t want to spend large chunks of their workday fielding customer calls.
While being completely available to answer questions at all hours of the day may not be feasible for your small business, there are ways you can stay connected to customers even when your doors are closed.
How to Improve Customer Service 24-7
The key to giving 24-7 customer service without actually being available 24-7 is to leverage the technology you have to help your team fight burnout, and to empower customers to find their own solutions after hours.
Switch From Paper to Digital
Most field service businesses require a decent amount of paperwork for every customer. There are intake forms, reports, invoices, and more.
Having paper forms means more time spent by your employees handling that paperwork, which means less time for customer interaction.
By switching many of those paper processes to digital – using electronic invoicing or email auto-responders, for instance – you can save time and energy from the daily to-do and put more focus on connecting with customers.
Improve Your Online Presence
Another way to save time and improve customer service is to optimize your website to answer as many questions as possible, so you don’t have to field so many calls later on.
Having a good FAQs page or other educational information available online means customers can search for answers without having to call or email you at all.
If they can find what they’re looking for online from the comfort of their own home, you’ve actively engaged them without spending any time or effort on your end. It makes you look good and it helps them out, too.
Offer Self-Service Options
Along those same lines, creating other forms of self-service options for customers can help them find what they need with less interaction from your employees.
Online scheduling allows customers to setup or change appointments during off hours. Having an online customer portal gives customers access to important information on the go – they can review and pay invoices online and manage their own account details.
The more options for digital interaction you can give customers, the easier it will be for them to connect with your business throughout the day.
Of course, 24-7 doesn’t just include the off hours. On-the-go connection for your field service and staff members is also an important component to customer service.
If your field techs have the ability to access customer information while in the field, they can provide better customer service while you’re open for business.
Mobile apps allow you to work offline, get digital signatures, contact customers during delays, and access important information that can help your team connect to customers during face-to-face interactions.
Finally, you can significantly improve customer service by being proactive and addressing customer concerns before they even think of it.
This means anticipating problems before they happen, like warning them of potential delays or scheduling conflicts, letting them know about any rules or regulation changes, or informing them of updates to their invoice before they even receive it.
Utilizing email and your online presence to communicate with customers proactively will help build a foundation of trust and keep customers from calling unnecessarily.
Keep in mind that 24-7 customer service doesn’t mean you have to be available 24-7, it just means you have to give customers a sense of trust throughout the day.
During off-hours, this means giving them the ability to access your website, pay invoices, schedule and change appointments, or access their billing history whenever they need. Having an updated website with digitally interactive elements (like a customer portal) will help.
You can also improve customer service throughout the workday by using mobile apps to stay connected in the field and proactively answering questions so that customers know what to expect.
Remember that you can use third-party customer service software to offer things like live chat or ticketing support when your staff isn’t around to help. By taking advantage of every piece of technology available to your team, you can offer customers the support they need, whenever they need it.
And your team can take a break when they need it, too.