How To Create the Best Online Field Service User Experience
Let’s see… You’re the office manager, operations manager, or owner of a plumbing, electrical, HVAC, or fire and security company – and you’re looking to boost the field service user experience on your website and generate more work orders. Is this an accurate description of you right now?
Then you’re in luck! In this article, we’ll be highlighting the most common problems customers encounter when visiting your website or dealing with your office staff. This is the first step towards providing a premium field service user experience and getting ahead of your competition.
Customer Experience Touchpoint #1: Your website field service user experience
First impressions count, so let’s make sure your website gives customers confidence that you can get the job done right and create an excellent field service user experience.
Problem: Your business domain name doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Solution: It’s difficult to find a good, simple, powerful domain name for your business that isn’t already taken. But resorting to hard-to-spell, impossible-to-pronounce, or spammy-sounding URLs can keep customers from even clicking on your website – much less hiring your business.
Play with words.
Getting creative can help you develop a memorable domain name. Here are some tactics to try:
- Add a prefix or suffix to a common word. Clearly, you won’t be getting a prime domain with the words plumbing or HVAC unless you have big bucks to spend, so dress them up in a way that’s easy to say and spell. (Think of big brands like Shopify.)
- Combine two words. (Examples: NerdWallet.)
- Make up a word. Just make sure it’s easy to spell! (Like Wix, Instagram.)
If you really, really want to use your business name or a common word or phrase as your domain, you may need to move on to the next idea…
There are now hundreds of Top Level Domains, which is the part after the dot in a domain name. If .com is taken, take a look at unusual TLDs like .build, .repair, and .plumbing. Keep in mind that .info is perceived as spammy and using TLDs that don’t match your business (like buying a .org address when you’re not a non-profit) doesn’t inspire trust in your field service business.
Put it to the test.
Ask some friends, relatives, or customers to read your domain name and say it out loud, and another group to listen to your domain name and spell it. If customers tend to mangle your URL, that doesn’t make for good field service user experience so you won’t get many site visits. When a customer is searching for a plumbing, HVAC, electrical, or fire and security business, your domain name that pops up on Google is what they’ll see first. Developing a professional one will start off your field service user experience the right way.
Problem: Your website isn’t optimized for mobile.
Solution: These days customers expect to be able to research your business, subscribe to your emails, and schedule service right from their mobile devices. Here’s expert advice on making sure your site works well on mobile:
Test, test, test.
Gather a group of customers (you can always offer them an incentive but you’ll find that most people these days love to tel you their opinion anyway) and ask them to perform various tasks on your website using their mobile devices. Think of things like tapping links, filling out forms, using the drop-down menu, and using your chat or call widgets. Any problems? You know what to work on first for a better field service user experience.
Images that are too large, or the wrong type, or those with a lot of text are bad for the user experience. You can find many tutorials online that will help you select the best images for mobile; visit Google’s Developer site and search for ‘optimize images’ to see some good ones.
Delete the extras.
In an article on Search Engine Land on optimizing your site for Google’s mobile-first index, author Ryan Shelley recommends ditching pop-ups, Flash, and too many redirects. If you want a positive field service user experience, that’s an advice you should always keep in mind. Simple is often better.
Hire a designer.
The above tips are ones that you can do on your own with a little research. If your website problems are beyond your (or your staff’s) capabilities, hire a designer with experience in creating a mobile-optimized field service user experience for your customers. Yes, it costs money, but it’s worth it if it brings in more jobs. Not to mention keeping current customers from defecting to the competition. You’ve now got a pro domain name and are working towards a mobile-friendly website, but there’s one more area where your website can go very wrong.
Problem: Your website navigation is confusing.
Solution: The customer experience deteriorates when they have to click on 10 links to get basic information on your hours or contact information, or if they can’t find what they want at all because your menus or site structure is confusing. Here’s how to fix it:
Yes, that’s a big theme in this guide: Asking customers to give you feedback on what works for them and what doesn’t. That’s why so many businesses use customer surveys, and why you may want to as well. Ask customers to use both their computers and their mobiles to find information on your site. Things like your hours of operation or your blog. Then ask them for suggestions to improve the experience.
We all like to be creative. But when it comes to your website navigation, people expect to see it in certain places. According to a post on the Kissmetrics blog on website navigation best practices, that’s across the top or down the left side of the page. Website visitors also expect social media icons to be recognizable and easy to find. The perfect field service user experience will not overlook these details.
Keep it clear.
Be sure the items in your navigation menu make sense. Visitors should be able to tell what will happen when they click. When they see ‘Contact Us’ or ‘Get in touch’ in the navbar, they know they can click on it and get your email address, phone number, and so on. When they see ‘Send some love’ or ‘Say hello’, on the other hand… what is that?
Put key info front and center.
Make sure that the most useful information is very easy to find. For example, you might put your contact details, hours, and a link to your FAQ in your website’s footer, or add your phone number to the top of the page.
Ask for help.
Again, if getting your website’s navigation up to par is too much for you or your staff to DIY, hire a website designer who knows a good field service user experience from a bad one.
Customer Experience Touchpoint #2: The office staff
Your website did the job and the customer is now ready to ask a question or schedule a service call. Let’s blast through the obstacles that often pop up during this phase of the customer journey and start working on the perfect field service user experience for your customers:
Problem: There are too few contact options.
Solution: Back in the day (the days before the internet, that is), you’d have a phone number and that was it. Now, however, customers want options.
In an article on contact page best practices, Jennifer Bourn of Bourn Creative says, ‘I know it’s tempting to only offer visitors a contact form, but resist the urge. It’s unfriendly, cold and sterile, it’s unhelpful, and it is unprofessional. It makes it look like you don’t take your business seriously, it will make visitors question your trustworthiness, and it will hurt your credibility.’
That may sound pretty harsh, but it’s true. Even if you do have a contact form on your site, include your phone number and mailing address. You might even offer an SMS number and a chat widget. Be available to your customers in the way they want to reach you, and their happiness – and loyalty – will grow.
Problem: Customers get stuck in voicemail jail.
Solution: If customers have to listen to a long, outdated outgoing voicemail message and press lots of buttons just to leave a message, they’ll likely move on to a field service business that can help them faster. Follow this advice to keep your customers moving quickly towards their goal.
Keep it short.
Hubspot suggests keeping your outgoing voicemail message short and sweet, and using humor only if your target customers would appreciate it. It might not look like it, but even this is part of a great field service user experience.
Keep it simple.
You don’t have to answer every possible question in your outgoing message or voicemail tree. What are the most common (and pressing) questions people ask when they call? Answer only those and invite callers to leave a message if they have other questions. (Your hours and how long it takes you to respond to calls are two important pieces of info to share.)
Instead of ‘Press 1 to schedule service’, try ‘To schedule service, press 1’. That’s because by the time the caller realises that’s the option they want, they may have forgotten the extension.
Cut down the tree.
Make sure each branch of the voicemail tree has an end. If someone can’t pick up immediately, your customer should be able to leave a message. Sending them back to the beginning of the menu is not an option.
Make it easy to check.
Voicemail transcription services will let you, or your employees, read or listen to voicemails in email or SMS. So even if you’re on the go your customers won’t have to wait to hear back. Some services will even let you have voicemails sent to more than one email address or to a group email. For smaller field service businesses, hullomail offers free visual voicemail, and free visual voicemail is also an option for iPhone and Android users as part of the phones’ functionality.
Get with the times.
If your outgoing voicemail says, ‘We’re on holiday from 23 December to 31 December 2015’, callers will think your company is old fashioned. And not in a trendy way. Check your own message every so often to make sure it’s up to date.
Problem: It takes forever to get a call (or email) back.
Solution: Quick responses make a customer feel important, and also increase their confidence in your business’s capabilities. If your customer is calling for an emergency service, a quick response is even more crucial. If your office staff have trouble responding to calls in a timely manner, the problem can have its roots in many aspects of your business. Do a deep dive to figure out what’s causing the delay so you can fix it. Like this:
Know your FRT.
That’s your First Response Time. It’s an average of how long it takes to respond to phone calls (and emails). This number will give you a good idea of whether you’re on the right track or you need improvement. Additionally, it will tell you how aggressive your interventions need to be. Of course, the lower that number the better, but it also has to work with your business. If you’re an SME and returning calls quickly would cut into the amount of time you’re actually doing jobs, then you may need to be more lax than a larger business with a full office staff.
If your customers’ voicemails are languishing with no response, it could be because your business has no standards as to how quickly office staff should respond to calls and emails. “Unspoken standards” have no place in a business. Create a written policy that clearly states the acceptable time limits for responses.
Train your staff.
Your staff now know the standards, but do they have the training and tools to actually hit those FRT numbers? Slow response times might mean that your staff simply don’t know how to prioritise their daily tasks. Schedule training sessions to outline your customer service expectations and how employees can meet them.
Get tech for field service user experience.
In a SuperOffice article on reducing customer service response times, they suggest these tech tactics for shrinking your FRT:
- Use email autoresponders with information on your hours & links to FAQs. Add any other information that can help customers until your office staff have a chance to respond.
- Use templates and text shortcuts for the most frequently written responses. These will help your office staff respond because they don’t have to type the same responses over and over. (We like TextExpander, which lets you use custom abbreviations to instantly insert snippets of text.)
- Set up time-based email alerts. If one of your staff members can’t respond to a customer immediately for example, they can set up reminders. Thus, they don’t lose that email under a pile of other messages. SuperOffice and Boomerang for Gmail are examples of services that let you attach automated reminders to emails.
Inexpensive technology solutions like these will help your office staff lower their response times and increase customer happiness.
Problem: Your office staff don’t know who the customers are.
Solution: Not knowing who a customer is, why they’re calling, or their job history does not result in a positive customer experience.
‘Repeating information they provided via an IVR (interactive voice response), or failing to prepopulate the service software system with the customer record based upon the customer phone number, can cause friction and customer frustration,’ writes Ivan Moore of Jolt Consulting Group in an article for Field Technologies Online. Customers want to feel important, and part of that is recognizing them when they call as if they’re your favorite regulars at the local pub.
Luckily, there are tools that can help. Therefore, ask your field service management software provider if they have a feature that’ll pop up a window with all the relevant customer data whenever a customer calls. That way you can impress the heck out of them by saying, ‘Oh, hello, Mrs. James! Are you calling to schedule the annual service on your boiler?’ instead of ‘Wait, who are you again?’
Problem: Your office staff is disorganized.
Solution: If customer voicemails and emails frequently disappear, your office staff are buried under piles of paper, and everyone is running around in emergency mode, the chaos can cause important tasks—like, say, scheduling service appointments or returning calls—to fall through the cracks.
To bring order back to your business—and boost the customer experience—consider transitioning to a paperless office. Here’s how:
- Conduct a print audit to figure out where you’re using paper unnecessarily.
- Throw out any papers that aren’t helping your business or customers. That you don’t need to save to comply with regulations.
- Digitize what’s left. Scan paper documents you want to save. Then look into tech solutions that let you create, track, and manage information sans paper.
You don’t have to go 100% paperless to see the benefits. Yet, saving your office staff from digging out papers will let them spend their time helping customers. No more looking for lost documents.
You’ve smoothed out the first part of the customer journey and created a positive experience that your customers will remember (and share with others they know).
If you prefer to read offline or want to share this info with your staff, download our full guide, How to Create the Perfect Customer Experience – From First Call to Final Invoice (And Beyond), by clicking the banner below. You’ll get everything you read here, plus more solutions to any customer experience problems you can come up with!