Like many other market segments, the connected home is becoming increasingly full of self-service options.
From purchasing smart home devices on Amazon, to hiring local contractors on sites like Angie’s List, to researching technology problems and solutions on YouTube, the prevalence of such services has conditioned most consumers to expect instant gratification by removing much of the natural friction associated with human interaction (think fighting traffic, waiting for return emails, or sitting on hold on the phone).
CE Pro editor Julie Jacobson recently explored the challenges that this new expectation will have on those of us in the business of selling and managing home technology. But the challenges don’t stop with sales. Consumers’ collective desire for virtually frictionless interaction will have a profound impact on every aspect of business in this industry, including how we provide service.
The Self-Service Paradox
The growing ubiquity of self-service options and its impact on service providers was highlighted in a recent article by the Harvard Business Review (HBR). The article points out that as consumers handle more and more of their daily interactions themselves, the end result is that frontline service providers are increasingly faced with only those issues that consumers have been unable to resolve on their own (i.e. the most difficult ones).
This fact, combined with the average consumer’s expectation for quick and simple resolution, has brought the demand for skilled frontline service employees in our industry to new heights.
Compounding the issue, however, is the fact that, in spite of their best intentions, many home technology companies have struggled to keep up with their clients’ increasing demand for faster response times and quicker resolution to their service needs.
The Best Personality for Service
Meeting the unique challenges of providing great service in our increasingly demanding market starts with getting the right people in the right positions within our service team. But what sort of personality traits should we look for in a Technology Specialist?
Our experience at OneVision aligns with HBR’s conclusions that an individual who can exhibit empathy and take control of a situation makes for an excellent service provider.
In an effort to identify the personality traits that make for the best service employee, HBR conducted a cross-industry survey of 1,440 service employees (what they call “reps”).
Through this survey, they identified seven distinct rep profiles, but only two stood out as top performing — and one more than the other. Can you guess which?
- The Empathizer: “Enjoys solving others’ problems. Seeks to understand behaviors and motives. Listens sympathetically.”
- The Controller: “Outspoken and opinionated. Likes demonstrating expertise and directing the customer interaction.”
Empathizers made up the largest portion of the surveyed reps at 32 percent. Empathizers were also identified as the most desirable profile when a pool of service managers were asked to pick from all seven options.
However, while Controllers made up only 15 percent of the surveyed reps, they outperform all other profiles on a number of key performance metrics.
In spite of this performance advantage, only two percent of service managers surveyed identified Controllers as the most desirable profile when presented with the seven options.
In other words, most service managers aren’t paying attention to the right attributes when hiring service-focused employees.
Take 'Control' of Your Service
What can we as technology managers take away from HBR’s finding? It turns out, in a world full of excessive options and choice, consumers grappling with a service issue prefer a straightforward, prescriptive approach.
While empathy and understanding are certainly important, especially given the high-touch personal nature of our work, reducing the amount of effort required of our clients to get to resolution trumps everything else. (This is one of the key value propositions of OneVision's 24/7 Instant Triage offering and is a key driver to the success of Controllers in providing great service.)
As an industry, we should take steps to encourage the Controller mindset within our organizations. Understanding the Controller profile and hiring candidates who fit within the framework is an ideal place to start.
However, given the widespread talent shortage cited in CE Pro’s recent State of the Industry Report, this may not be an option for many of us.
Teaching and encouraging the Controller mindset to existing employees may be a more practical approach given the limited hiring pool in our industry. It’s key to understand that Controllers do not thrive on rigid service processes and checklists. Instead, they require the freedom to navigate the conversation freely by actively listening, demonstrating their understanding of the problem, and providing a personalized solution.
This is a lesson we learned early at OneVision and one that any service team can benefit from: restricting your team with too many rules and prescripts is not conducive to providing an excellent service experience.
Instead, you’re better off providing tools and methods with an expectation for a certain outcome and letting your service specialists decide how best to guide the situation to that end.
In a world where self-service and instant gratification have become the orders of the day, embracing this Controller mindset in our service approach has become more important than ever.
HBR sums up this fact perfectly, saying, “After toiling away online trying to self-serve, customers don’t want an apology—they want a solution.”
By establishing the Controller mindset in our companies, we can effectively meet this new market reality.
For more information about service and using it to create RMR, visit www.onevisionresources.com/blog.
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