In today’s age of customer-focused businesses, creating a positive customer experience is a key challenge for small-business field-service managers.

According to a recent study, 97 percent of field service businesses view customer service as a key enabler for building brand loyalty. The same study also indicates a high attrition rate of 64 percent among customers because of poor customer service.

To create a more positive customer experience, field service businesses must start by building a system for capturing the right type of customer feedback through the best channels. Customer feedback helps field service managers understand customer sentiment and identify areas for improvement in the customer experience.

To help field service businesses manage their customer feedback processes more efficiently, I’ve identified three steps that a field-service business manager should use to design and manage the customer feedback capture process.

Small field service businesses must carefully choose the most optimal method for capturing customer feedback at each touch point along the customer journey, or else, they are destined to face a customer attrition rate of up to 64 percent.

Overview of customer feedback strategy

Overview of customer service best practices

Map out a feedback strategy for the entire customer journey

From a customer perspective, there are three stages in a field service job: before the job starts, during the job, and after the job is finished.

The demands and expectations of a customer vary across each of these stages.

For example, before a visit, a customer may expect you to communicate the time of the visit well in advance and provide timely updates if there are any changes to the technician’s schedule. During the visit, a customer will expect the technician to be prepared with the necessary equipment to fix the problem in the first visit.

Because of these differences in customer expectations, field service businesses must employ different approaches for managing customer feedback across each stage. There are three approaches to managing customer feedback:

  • Direct feedback, where customers submit feedback through forums, complaints, or surveys.
  • Indirect feedback, where customers provide feedback on channels that are not directly owned by businesses, such as review websites and social media.
  • Inferred feedback, which can be found by analyzing the transactional data, such as time-to-arrival, the percentage of on-time trips, and route selected. Transactional data provides an instant and accurate snapshot of customer experience.

To understand customer sentiment across each stage, field service businesses should create a feedback map, which maps each customer stage and technician work-order cycle to the optimal feedback approach.

A feedback map will help to ensure you collect feedback across all points in the customer journey. This not only provides a general understanding of the “voice of the customer,” it also helps you identify areas for improvement across each stage in the customer journey.

A sample feedback map based on the stages in a customer journey

Stage in the customer journey Feedback area Customer expectations Feedback approach
Before the job Appointment booking Accurate estimates of arrival time, cost, and duration of the visit. Direct, Indirect, and Inferred
On-time technician arrival On-time arrival of technician. Timely communication of changes in arrival time. Direct, Indirect, and Inferred
At the job site First-time fix rate The technician should come equipped with proper tools to complete the job on the first visit. Direct, Indirect, and Inferred
After the job Review job performance A phone or electronic survey after a job is complete without overloading the customer with questions or feedback requests. Direct and Indirect
Review job invoice Accurate invoices that include equipment warranty and insurances. Direct, Indirect, and Inferred

Recommended actions

  • Identify customer and technician expectations across the stages of your work-order management process.
  • Use these expectations to create feedback maps using the sample table provided above.
  • Select the direct, indirect, or inferred feedback approach (or a combination of these) for each stage in the feedback map by evaluating your business needs.
  • Use inferred feedback wherever possible. Transactional data provides you with instant feedback without involving the customers directly.

Deploy your customer feedback process strategically

As a field service business owner or manager, you may be using different feedback approaches (direct, indirect, inferred, or a combination of these) in your work order management process.

If not planned strategically, this approach may prove counterproductive, and you’ll end up wasting time and resources on non-performing feedback methods that don’t allow you to fully understand customer sentiments.

Moreover, using multiple approaches for the same stage can irk customers and they may feel resistant to respond to a survey more than once. For example, customers who have already completed the online survey after a technician completes a job may be asked the same questions over a phone survey as well.

To achieve the goal of strategic deployment, here are the steps you should take:

  • Minimize customer involvement, but not at the cost of quality of responses. To create a positive customer experience, make sure customers don’t find the feedback process pushy. This may make you think of using only indirect feedback methods wherever possible. However, to get the best quality responses and action items, you may need to run more direct surveys. For example, the quality and depth of responses for post-job performance review obtained via direct feedback is definitely better than that obtained using indirect feedback.
  • Don’t repeat the same questions. To ensure that your questions are to the point and not asked repeatedly, review your surveys carefully and make sure that the timing for the question is optimal. For example, it makes more sense to capture the feedback on the booking experience immediately after the appointment is booked; those questions should be avoided in the post-job performance survey.
  • Use one tool per stage in the customer journey: To efficiently capture the voice-of-customer, it is essential that you use only one tool for each stage in the customer journey. If your business is currently using more than one tool to collect feedback such as a phone survey and an SMS survey at the same stage in the customer’s journey, select only the tool that performs better.

Recommended actions

  • Restrict the use of feedback tools to one per stage.
  • Opt for direct feedback in the areas where you need in-depth and subjective customer feedback responses.
  • Review the past instances of failure in the feedback process and use them to build a case for acquiring new feedback tools.

Select the right set of tools for collecting customer feedback

After you have worked out your customer feedback approach, the next step is to select the right set of tools and solutions to execute the approach. You need to understand the feedback requirements specific to your business and map the solutions for feedback collection and analysis solutions accordingly.

Use this tool map approach to choose feedback tools based on your objectives

Feedback approach Feedback objectives Tools for gathering
Direct Surveys, interviews, case studies Online survey, SMS survey, telephonic survey
Indirect Social media analytics, customer sentiment analysis Social media management software, text analytics software
Inferred Operational data logging, trends analysis, SLA tracking Reporting feature in field service management solution, data analytics software, GPS tracking solution to track driver routes, predictive analytics software

I’ve also elaborated on the different feedback approaches and corresponding tools below:

Direct feedback

Surveys are the best method for capturing this type of feedback. Direct feedback is usually executed via multichannel survey solutions, such as SMS, email, and online surveys.

Indirect feedback

This type of feedback include users reviews, customer complaints, and comments received on social media platforms and online forums. Field service businesses looking to capture this type of feedback should look for social media analytics and text analytics solutions that can help users track comments on all the social media channels and perform text analytics to understand customer sentiments.

Inferred feedback

To capture indirect feedback, you need a field service management solution that records operational data such as arrival time, route, and travel costs. You may also need a data analytics solution that can provide reports on operational data, such as on-time arrival percentage, service level agreement (SLA) achievement rate, and first-time fix rate.

Recommended actions

  • Once you have created a feedback map and finalized a feedback approach for each of the stages in the work order management process, use the tool map to find the right set of tools for each stage in a customer’s journey.
  • Before purchasing a new tool for implementing a feedback approach, evaluate the software already in use in other departments, such as sales and marketing, that can be used to conduct customer surveys and analyze survey responses.
  • If you are currently looking to purchase a new field service management solution, evaluate the products that include features for collecting and analyzing direct and inferred feedback.

Next steps and additional resources

If implemented properly, your field service business will benefit immensely from the feedback map and tool map approaches. We recommend that you roll out these changes in phases, without heavily disrupting the existing feedback management processes.

This can be done by starting with small pilot projects, and scaling them as you see improvements in the overall customer experience. Start building on your existing feedback methods and using them to capture feedback across the different stages. For example, if you are currently using an SMS survey solution for post-visit satisfaction surveys, you can also pilot using it to capture feedback on the appointment booking process.

The immediate steps that can help you kick-start the process of revamping the customer feedback process

Next steps for customer feedback strategy

  • Plot a feedback map for different stages of the customer journey and frame a customer feedback management strategy accordingly.
  • Explore the opportunities for capturing inferred feedback using the available reports in your current field service management solution.
  • Create a road map for revamping the existing customer feedback process by starting phases of pilot project based on feedback map approach.