We’ve talked a lot about customer experience strategies and how to improve your existing offer. But more often than not, it’s not a lack of ideas that keeps field service companies from implementing new strategies. The question we hear most is “How do I know what my customers want?” and we always have the same answer: “All you have to do is listen.” To what? Well, to the Voice of the Customer (VoC). Steve Jobs, arguably one of the best at anticipating people’s needs and desires, was a big fan of this strategy:
“Get closer to your customers than ever. So close that you can tell them what they need before they realize it themselves.”
What is ‘The Voice of the Customer’?
Basically, the Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a process where businesses compile everything customers say about them, from reviews to social media mentions to suggestion forums. Then they take this information, compare it with what they’re currently offering and deduce the gap between expectations and actual experience.
So let’s get started!
Why should you listen for the Voice of the Customer?
The simple answer is that you can’t know what you need to improve if you don’t know what isn’t working. It’s not always obvious and, especially as a plumbing and heating or electrical company, it might not be what you think it is. Truth of the matter is that it’s never just about the work itself. Customers these days care about the experience rather than the end product or even the price.
Think about some of the negative reviews you’ve received. It’s ok, everyone gets them. That’s why we have a full article on how to respond to negative reviews. If you have good technicians (and we’re sure you do!), then you don’t have to worry about the job itself not getting done.
Negative reviews are often due to a company simply not meeting expectations regarding punctuality, staff behavior, style of communication, etc. People will be happy to pay more for a business that uses modern technology to help them book an appointment, inform them of their tech’s location, let them pay, and follow-up afterwards.
Voice of the Customer will tell you everything you need to know about this. Whether it’s your office staff lacking patience or understanding for the customer’s situation or techs stopping for donuts on their way, VoC will let you know. After all, if 9 out of 10 interactions are positive, customers will always remember that one instance where it didn’t rise up to their hopes.
The troubled airline refused to refund country singer Dave Caroll’s Taylor guitar after they were responsible for breaking it in transport, so Dave did what he did best and wrote a song about it. That song, aptly titled United Breaks Guitars, has more than 19 million views on YouTube. If only they had listened to Dave’s VoC before he took matters in his own hands and put his actual voice to good use.
Additionally, you can spot trends and get new ideas for how to improve your service, as well as make sure that you’re providing what the customer actually wants. Sometimes, it can even save you money. For example, many field service companies think customers shop around for big discounts but what they might want is just someone tidier.
2. Where should you listen for the voice of the customer?
The first step in your VoC strategy is to know where to listen so that you can avoid reactive actions. It’s easier to prevent a fire than to put it out. The first and foremost channel is also the most obvious one:
Field service companies, whether they’re plumbing and heating, electrical, HVAC, or fire & safety, need reviews in order to prove that they know what they’re doing. It’s the nature of providing services, especially such specialized ones. Most customers won’t be able to tell apart a high-quality job from a shoddy one until it’s too late and they’re having problems again. So they rely on others’ experience.
This is an invaluable source of feedback for you as well. Not to mention an opportunity to see what customers really want.
Your business profile should have a presence on all major social media channels. Yes, it’s a hassle, yet it’s well worth it in the end. Not only can you put out those fires we mentioned before they start by spotting when an angry customer is getting ready to slander you, but you can also follow the competition (from the shadows, of course). See what potential customers are complaining about then make sure you’re doing a better job.
A Net Promoter Score (NPS) for field service companies is an official score that measures the quality of your customer experience. The easiest way of measuring it is zoning in on a single question (NPS recommends ‘How likely are you to recommend this company to a friend?’) then offer a 1-10 scale as an answer, where 1 is very unlikely and 10 is very likely.
This will help you divide your customers into promoters (9-10), passives (7-8), detractors (0-6). Knowing what’s the likelihood of them recommending you will help you with the following channel:
Interviews & focus groups
The only difference between the two is that the first is an individual talk and the second brings together multiple customers. The advantage of the latter is that they can lead to more in-depth discussions where customers can feel more at ease talking about a common experience but at the same time you risk them influencing each other and losing objectivity.
Interviews, on the other hand, can be a bit more awkward in the beginning but you gain on being able to steer the discussion towards the questions that you want answered.
Services or product launches can offer a similar experience in a distilled manner. Rewarding your most loyal customers with a day out gives you the opportunity to study a few unique interactions as well as build long-lasting relationships. You can organize your own event where you can promote a new service, some interesting tools (this is a chance to partner up with some of the larger manufacturers!), or just your business.
G2 has a great list of expert tips (including one from Commusoft!) for every budget on how to approach a new product introduction.
On-site feedback form
Having a feedback form is not even a matter of option, it should be a default setting on any website. This is different from being present on review websites as it gives you control over the feedback. If it’s positive, you can always ask for permission to post it publicly. If it’s negative, you can always try to appease the customer behind the scenes. No need to air any dirty laundry.
It’s human nature to want to share your thoughts. So why not take advantage and listen to the (literal) voice your customers. It’s time consuming, no doubt about it. But know if you’re committed to learning more about your customer’s expectations. Then you’ll be able to get some of the most insightful answers.
Just calling a customer (or a manager if it’s commercial work!) after everything’s done to ask how things went and what could’ve been improved, guarantees that it’s a two way conversation. This way, you can ask them to go more in detail if you need them to. In our experience, many field service CEOs spend a lot of time on the phone with their customers to make sure that their methods are up-to-date.
3. How to get started with Voice of the Customer for your field service business
The first step in building a Voice of the Customer strategy is to have an after-sales care checklist:
Create an automated follow-up email to send when each work order is fulfilled.
Add a thumbs up/down to your follow-up email and an optional text box.
Save a record of every answer and go through them once a week.
Separate the positive from the negative and create two lists.
Once per quarter, select the methods we listed above that are most viable for your business and collect the insights.
Start taking your business to the next level!
One thing field service companies have been noticing lately is that the customer is more and more looking for a cohesive experience, not just when dealing with a single company, but with all.
What this means is that taking inspiration from people in the same industry as you isn’t enough anymore. People who spend time 1-Click Buying on Amazon and booking entire trips (flights, hotel, rental car) via Booking.com and Google Flights slowly start expecting the same process on any other service website.
Listening to the Voice of the Customer is what’s going to inform your next move and where to look for improvements. Oftentimes, field service managers think that by hiring betters technicians or offering more service they can attract more customers, but the fact of the matter is that a customer whose expectations aren’t met – even if they have nothing to do with the actual quality of your work – is going to leave some tepid feedback at best and, at worst, a rant about how “despite the work being great, the customer service wasn’t therefore 2 stars; wouldn’t recommend”. That is another case of customers using their voice.
The takeaway on listening to the Voice of the Customer
The truth of the matter is that it’s the experience of what they do which keeps their customer base strong. Whether you’re browsing, buying, selling, creating wish lists, and more besides, each journey is, to put it mildly, pretty great.
Every manager looking to listen for the voice of the customer is going to want to hear some good things. After all, it feels nice to be appreciated for your hard work. If you want to guarantee the feedback is positive, check our these 12 personalization tips that will make your customers’ experience remarkable.
I'm here to bring you next-level strategies to the field service industry. When I'm not working on the best tips to grow your business, I'm on the lookout for sci-fi novels and cookie recipes.