Field Service MythBusters: Tackling the Industry’s Most Common Myths (Part 2)
This blog article by XOi Technologies originally appeared here.
When you’re in the field service industry, you’re absolutely smothered in piece after piece about the skilled trades gap. And everywhere you look there’s a scary new statistic about how the trades are doomed if we don’t do something about it. Ok…great. Point taken.
For years the trades have had a bad reputation — they’re only for folks who aren’t smart enough or rich enough to go to college, they trap you into a role with no opportunities for growth, it’s a monotonous and unappealing profession, and so on.
At XOi, we’ve heard them all. We continue to hear new variations of these false claims, which prompted us to start our field service mythbusters series. If you haven’t read part one of the series, check it out here.
We do a lot of research on this dang gap because, honestly, we’re sick of hearing and even preaching about the same thing ourselves. What we’ve learned is that much of what’s led to our country’s shortage in trades workers is largely based on falsehoods. We see busting these myths as a game plan to help contractors, distributors, and our society as a whole change their perspectives, begin to flip this trend on its head, and finally close what’s been for years now a growing gap.
In the latest installment of our field service mythbusters series, we’ll tackle three more of our industry’s most common myths.
Myth #4—Customers only buy on price when shopping for repairs, service, and maintenance
The first half of the statement, “Customers only by on price,” doesn’t meet the test of common experience. Customers often disregard price and buy on brand or service reputation. For example, Apple computer users gladly pay the extra so-called “Apple Tax” out of brand loyalty and for Apple’s elegant technology and support after the sale.
As for the second half of the statement, “when shopping for repairs, service, and maintenance,” it may be true, albeit to a very small degree. All things being equal, the customer may opt for the lowest cost when seeking fast and efficient equipment repairs. Customers consider price, of course, but they also factor in at least three more criteria:
- Quality of service. This is a self-evident requisite and the supreme tie-breaker, even when the price is a bit higher. It is a customer-centric mindset that has to be part of the company culture. Successful people in any profession understand quality service and how it lures and keeps customers. It’s like that fictional baseball field in Iowa: If you build it, they will come and they will stay.
- Each organization has its own resumé and timeline of experience. To the extent that the company’s history includes deep immersion in its industry and a reputation for consistent competent technical performance, that is where the customer will go, price notwithstanding.
- Field service companies are either reliable, or they are not. There is no middle ground. Customers want their service providers to keep promises. Break one promise, and the perception of unreliability quickly dilutes, erodes, and destroys hard-won trust.
So, factors beyond a low price point can put any business ahead of the curve and make price competition a lesser consideration. Those factors can be jump started by leveraging technology and empowering field technicians in ways that will overcome cost as a tie-breaker; to wit:
- When it comes to quality of service, technology is the great leveler of the playing field. The beauty of technology is that field techs can dial it up. They don’t have to worry about getting the technical details correct. It’s there, on the cloud at their fingertips and on their smartphones.
It becomes more about showing the customer and building trust. Does it make more sense to replace a part, or is it more cost effective to purchase a completely new unit?
Technology—photos, videos, and schematics–can answer those difficult questions quickly and build that trust.
- Technology also evens the playing field in experience. With smartphone apps, technicians have instant access to the knowledge and expertise of everyone in your workforce. This allows greener, less experienced techs to quickly level up their skillset, regardless of how long they’ve been in the field. Deploying that expertise to an app is smarter and far less costly than sending out another truck or expensive call-backs.
- Field service techs become pillars of success and reliabilitywhen you equip them with the tools to do their best. Those tools ensure clear communication of the time, place, and nature of the work, as well as the technical data, parts, and information the customer needs to expedite their decision making process.
So, overcoming Myth #4 relates directly to recruiting replacements for skilled trade professionals. It all boils down to the fact that, as Josh Zolin puts it in his book Blue is the New White: The Best Path to Success No One Told You About—Until Now, people who work in the trades are paid good money to do what they do. Skilled trades and field service companies charge premium prices for high-demand services. Consumers value quality, experience, and reliability over low price every time.
Put mobile technology in the service company, field technician, and customer mix, and you have an alchemy of trust where price becomes less important.
Digital Transformation Has Changed the Field Service Game
Our final two myths are about the field service industry’s attitudes towards modern technology. Do customers truly care about the technology you deploy in the field? And even if you give your technicians the devices and software they need to work smarter, how can you ensure they’ll actually use it?
The answer to the first question is, customers care about results and in today’s digital world, they know good technology when they see it. The answer to the second question involves wise change management and a recognition that today’s generation have already completely bought into technology. If you make it easy for them to use it, they will come along.
Myth #5—Customers don’t care about what technology their providers use
Yes, information-age consumers are a bit jaded – they care more about the ends than the means. However, if those ends are prompt and efficient service, they’ll like your technology. It’s not so much the specific app or device the technician brings to the worksite, it’s the perception that the technology is the silver frame around the golden result of service quality.
Customers no longer have confidence in the old stubby-pencil scribbled notes or faint chicken-scratch printing on their carbon copy receipt. Let’s get real, they didn’t have much faith in that chicken-scratch back when it was the only option available. But things have changed, and today’s customer expects the work estimate to match the charge. They are more comfortable with hand-held gadgets that speak to each other, and they lend the credibility of information technology to their decision to hand over that credit card and pay premium prices for your skilled trades business.
Today’s customer also wants the convenience of a record they can easily understand and review months later if another issue arises. They need that record to maintain their home and business. Good documentation is also the best defense against a tax audit when it comes to writing off repair expenses.
Are modern consumers unreasonable or spoiled? Perhaps a bit, but who can blame them? For example:
- We routinely expect Amazon to deliver what we ordered within a 2-day window and provide visual proof that our packages were delivered to our door. We can track each order while it’s in transit and have grown accustomed to receiving a quick email with a picture of our order on our doorstep. For this reason, it’s reasonable to expect efficient scheduling and a visual overview to accompany a HVAC job estimate.
- We can order a pizza and track it as it’s being baked and where it is on its route to our home. Isn’t it reasonable to expect to know what’s going on with a $1,200 chiller service call?
- We rely on Yelp to transparently show objective and honest reviews of companies. Consumers can get the same result for service companies online with a Better Business Bureau ranking. So, they rely on their smartphone browser for that same transparency.
No, today’s customers aren’t spoiled. They have arrived at a higher level of expectations brought on by the information age. Their everyday lives are filled with the knowledge that technology always in some way accompanies service.
The service representative who shows up with a laser measuring instrument that feeds data into an app on a tablet makes a better impression than the guy that asks you to hold the end of his grungy tape measure. When the HVAC tech says your unit is losing pressure, you’re more likely to be a believer if you can see the instrument that proves it.
In dealing with service companies, customers value face-to-face video communications and want eye contact. Even email is becoming passé. Real-time messaging meets expectations that the service is always open. Even in the unlikely event that you’re not monitoring the customer line, many consumers expect an immediate response – even if it’s from a chat bot.
In fact, even if the myth of customer technology apathy were true, the service provider unwilling to adapt to new technologies is swimming against the tide. Customers expect first-rate communications and transparency in the service’s inventory of best practices. Your challenge is to adopt technology that delivers the goods and impresses the customer with how well it blends with great service.
So, you need to get on board here. The train is ready to leave the station. You can carry on with apathy over technology, but you’ll also miss the boat and be unable to keep up. That will happen sooner rather than later when attrition takes hold and your most experienced people retire.
Three customers weigh in:
“It’s the way of the future. The future of service. That’s the way the entire world is headed, and this industry usually lags behind in that. This solution really provides a platform for what future service is going to look like and how it’s going to run. It’s the ultimate key to transparency for inside and outside of the organization.”
“We feel in order to stay ahead in this industry you must constantly be on the cutting edge of technology. Customers are used to being able to monitor their offices and homes in real- time, and we felt that implementing XOi would give our customers the ability to view their equipment from a completely different perspective.”
“Capturing photo and video content of the opportunities our technicians find in the field has become extremely valuable to our customers. It is becoming an expectation in our marketplace.”
Myth #6—Technicians won’t want to adapt to new technology
Contractors are sometimes hesitant to bring on new technology. They believe normal resistance to change will stall any benefits. You can’t, they claim, force a technician to use a newfangled app or service software platform. The technician will invariably revert to the aforementioned stubby-pencil method and do the job the same old way.
While that may be true for older generations of workers, here’s where attrition works in everyone’s favor. Those older resistant techs will at some point transition out of the workforce and eventually make way for technicians who want and have been accustomed to technology from the start. That wanting and acceptance, however, is in direct proportion to how the technology demonstrates it can make their lives easier.
The good news is that today’s techs are already using some form of technology regardless of what their business does. Everyone—yes, everyone—must have a smartphone out in the field. Leveraging technology as simple as that can make it even easier for technicians to adopt new technology easily and intuitively.
Again, intuitively is the key word here. What no one appreciates is being burdened with stacks of technology that only add to their work but provide no tangible value to the technician in return. Put an app like XOi into your techs’ repertoire and watch how your technicians leverage their smartphone expertise and perform better.
Technology is an enticement
Technology is a solid way to entice potential techs to your company. The newest generation of workers now expects technology in the workplace. Newer generations have grown up joined at the ear with an iPhone, and technology that doesn’t serve them and their customers are the artifacts of a bygone age.
Technology as a challenge to management of change
Introducing new technology to existing techs, particularly older technicians who’ve been doing their work a certain way for years can create conflict if the change is not well managed. But working with them to make sure they realize the benefit to their job performance and the WHY behind making the change will have long-lasting positive results for them personally, for the customer, and for the business overall.
The key to ensuring technology adoption and utilization is to plan ahead and prepare your techs properly. Check out our recent article here where we discuss the formula for successfully managing change in terms of implementing new software, driving adoption among your teams, and maximizing the return on your investment.
The next piece in the technology adoption puzzle is making sure you choose the right technology for your team’s needs. We have previously mentioned how a smartphone app like XOi can jumpstart your field service techs as instant experts, connect them to the central nervous system of the company’s experience, and make them instant experts. Properly communicating that the technology is there to make their lives easier rather than adding more to their plate will help ease the adoption process.
Again, the Proof Is in the Feedback
“XOi was one of the fastest technology implementations processes I have overseen in my career. It was so fast because the technicians really see the value in it. Residentially, it is essential to our customers now. Commercially, our techs could not go back to a world where they did not use XOi at every site.”
“It’s enhanced technician self-perception. Although techs initially felt a little sheepish about appearing on video, they learned very quickly that they provide a valuable service.”
“XOi is a fantastic product whose training elements and documentation give wisdom for younger techs. It helps build confidence, strengthen morale, and lessens frustration for green techs wanting to learn.”
Myths Busted – Changing the Mindsets of Younger Generations
New attitudes accompanied by the partnership of government, educators and business owners promise a brighter future in skilled trades. The above myths are just a few of the misconceptions that have tarnished newer generations’ views of working in the field service industry, widening the skilled trades gap. For this reason, we remain committed to working to educate and debunk the industry’s most common myths.
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