Service stinks. It’s complex, it taxes your team, and it’s hard to do profitably. But every study out there indicates that homeowners are willing to pay for better service. So while service represents a significant challenge, it also represents a massive opportunity, there for the taking for those who crack the code.
However, balancing the demands of a successful projects-based business with the need to provide exceptional service after the sale is a juggling act. Accomplishing this feat in a profitable, sustainable manner without inducing burnout amongst your team is another thing altogether.
It’s a challenge I like to call the “service problem.” As the demand for 24/7 support in the connected home continues its rapid ascent, home technology professionals (HTPs) everywhere are recognizing it’s a challenge they need to face head-on. However, many initiatives aimed at solving the service problem stop short, focusing exclusively on how to alleviate the burden of service. As you set out to tackle this problem in your business, it’s vital to make sure that you are looking at the entire picture, including the most important component — the customer experience.
Reducing the Pain
When tackling the service problem, the temptation can be to look at it first and foremost from only one angle — reducing “operational pain.” This can take many forms but typically looks something like this:
- How do I shield more of my personal time and that of my team?
- How can I reduce my warranty support costs?
- How can I keep service demand from pulling much-needed resources away from current projects?
Accomplishing all of the above would be very easy to do if there was no need to worry about the client experience. However, the reality is that while driving such efficiencies is a vital part of any winning service strategy, doing so cannot come at the expense of your clients.
Don’t Maintain. Improve.
It can be really easy to fall into the trap of believing that a service initiative is successful so long as fires are quickly contained and clients are not calling yelling and screaming. But this is looking at service as an exercise in damage control, and the best companies in the world (think Amazon, Marriott, and Zappos) know that it’s not good enough.
Instead, the ultimate measure of success for any service initiative is whether or not it results in measurable improvements to the client experience. Today’s competitive environment along with the commodification of technology have combined to make service one of the most important ways to differentiate your business. In other words, a holistic solution will not stop at reducing the burden of service, but will also aim to enhance the client experience.
Providing a guaranteed way to access support after-hours, or even better 24/7, is a great place to start. But operationalizing the delivery of a differentiated service experience requires more than simply providing access to phone and email support. When evaluating your approach, consider the following concepts and ask yourself if your approach addresses them:
- A Culture of Service: How will you instill and maintain a culture which fosters emotionally-intelligent and friendly service, even in the most difficult and strenuous situations?
- Key-Person Dependency: Do you have key-person dependencies here or are you confident you can hire more people who thrive in the service environment?
- Service Technology: Are you leveraging the latest in service technology to efficiently deliver the most consistent, frictionless support experience possible?
- Priority Access: Does your solution provide a way for clients who place a premium on advanced support to jump the line? Or is it a one-size-fits-all policy where priority access is relegated to the client who screams the loudest?
- “Real” Monitoring: Proactive notifications about devices falling offline are no good if no one on the other end is taking action. Does your solution include standard operating procedures for filtering through the noise and taking action when it is warranted?
- Concierge-Level Services: Do you plan to offer white-glove services like ISP liaison or loaner equipment? What about expanding into services which include personal tech like cell phones and computers? When the future arrives and your clients seek out a Technology Manager, will you be in position?
Seeing the Entire Picture
Tackling the service problem head-on has never been more important in our industry. Technology alone no longer creates a great experience. Excellent support needs to fill in the gaps when technology fails, putting an enormous strain on today’s home technology professionals, but also representing the industry’s greatest opportunity. We’re in uncharted waters, but those who set their sights on improving operational efficiency and enhancing the client experience will likely thrive in this new world.
Joey Kolchinsky is CEO/Founder of OneVision Resources in Boston, Mass.