Motivating Your Field Agents For All-Round Customer Satisfaction
How can you motivate your mobile agents to become expert, all-round customer satisfaction agents and help customers during a crisis?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has been witnessing unprecedented events and scenarios: nationwide lockdowns, travel restrictions, and the establishment of new methods for living and working.
With millions of consumers confined to their homes and relying on stable and consistent appliance, gadget, service, and utilities performance, the role of customer-facing field operatives has assumed paramount importance. Many of these workers must now do their jobs in physical or social circumstances never encountered before -- while maintaining the conduct, demeanour, and level of service that demanding customers expect.
In light of this, how can you motivate your mobile agents to become expert, all-round customer satisfaction agents and help customers during a crisis?
That was the focus of a panel discussion which brought together field service leaders from major industries across Asia Pacific. Speakers included Jamie Morais, Head of After Sales Dealer Operations, APAC, Nissan, Carly Irving, GM of Customer Market & Operations, Energy Queensland, Bharati Amarnani, Director, Customer Support, Coda Payments, and Joachim Joerger, Director Service & Support APAC, Abbott Laboratories.
Let's walk through the main points raised in their conversation, which was moderated by: Sae Kwon, Vice President, Customer Experience, Cisco.
The Effect Of COVID-19 On Field Service Worker Motivation
For some, the switch to a complete reliance on digital platforms due to COVID-19 has necessitated a culture shift. But for organisations like Coda Payments whose customer service delivery has traditionally been through online channels such as messaging platforms and email, customer facing staff have had little readjustment to make.
Before the pandemic, the younger demographic making up the greater part of the Coda customer base communicated their own sense of enthusiasm and dynamism to customer support staff. Moreover, interaction and integration with the activities of other divisions in the company maintained a sense of involvement for the customer service reps.
Despite the lack of a formal response plan, when COVID-19 struck, customer support workers made a largely painless transition to working from home -- and their input guided the company in its deployment of support mechanisms for them, such as the provision of laptops, and setting up VPN services. As a result, customer support and the business as a whole grew, and the company’s Customer Satisfaction (CSat) ratings increased. And these successes are helping to shape the nature of operations, as Coda looks forward to a post-COVID future.
Developing Remote Support Strategies For Physical Repair
Having to realign their traditional face to face, on-site service delivery model for new realities, Abbott Laboratories technicians had to learn how to support their customers (many in medical research, and other essential health services) remotely.
To address uncertainty among field staff and provide guidelines for performing procedures, the company distributed video support packages, explaining best practices for using video links to deal with customers, and step by step instructions for communicating various repair scenarios to their clients.
A degree of change management was required, to get customer facing workers acclimatised to a new method of service delivery -- and this process had to be accelerated, so as to keep support services available during these critical times. With development a key factor in keeping workers motivated, Abbott instituted programmes aimed at transforming field staff into subject matter experts, allowing workers to take the lead in dealing with specific tasks or customers.
Moving forward, remote support delivery will remain central to their field service model, despite opportunities for on-site repair as lockdown restrictions ease in some areas.
Managing COVID-19 Risk When Site Visits Are Inevitable
In the fields of energy, communications, and utilities provision, some customer issues inevitably require site visits -- and with them the complications associated with COVID-19 social distancing requirements, and the observation of clinical health and safety protocols.
For the typically multi-person support teams of Energy Queensland, the company put a temporary halt to domestic service runs such as disconnection and reconnection, to allow management to take time to assess how best to proceed with managing site visits and preserving worker safety -- giving priority to emergency jobs over less critical or scheduled projects.
The company hired an enlarged fleet of vehicles, so that individual field workers could have their own cars or vans. Full outfits of protective personal equipment (PPE) were provided for field staff, and Energy Queensland issued media announcements informing customers of the physical precautions they should take (such as going outside their buildings if support staff were on site), to preserve safety. Technology solutions such as virtual reality headsets were also deployed to limit employee exposure, when available.
Adjusting High Volume Service Areas For Safe And Efficient Service Delivery
High volume service areas such as those in the automotive industry impose particular challenges under COVID-19 conditions. At Nissan, management developed and issued extensive guidelines detailing factors such as the number of service appointments in a day, how to keep customer lounges safely populated in line with social distancing, and protocols for deciding which service jobs to attend to immediately, and those for which customers are asked to come back later in the day or at some other time.
Perhaps surprisingly, these measures were in line with customer expectations for safeguarding health, and CSat ratings for the company’s service division have improved over the COVID-19 period. The company’s “Service on Wheels” scheme, where customer vehicles can be picked up or dropped off without any contact between customer and technician, has been especially popular.
For the technicians themselves, Nissan have been taking measures to guarantee that service staff at both the customer facing and back end of operations maintain proper hygiene and are fully provided with the necessary PPE. Ultimately of course, these precautions benefit both field workers and consumers.
As COVID-19 restrictions relax in some cases, service staff are being urged to remain sensitive to the fact that customers will tend to restrict their spending to essential service jobs such as the charging of flat batteries, rebalancing of tyres, etc.
Strategies For Motivating Your Front Line Service Staff
Customer support and field service personnel are now at the front line of any organisation’s interaction with consumers, so it’s essential to keep them engaged and motivated. Making them aware of how much they matter to the organisation at this time is a great first step.
With COVID-19 limiting opportunities for social contact and engagement with other departments, it’s important to provide alternative avenues (virtual meetings, etc.) to enable support staff to socialise and have fun. This said, it should also be recognised that some personality types thrive on remote and solitary work, so a range of approaches is necessary.
Direct and regular dialogue between managers and support workers instils a sense that the field agent matters in the eyes of their leaders, and provides a forum for airing issues and pain points, and the exchange of ideas and insights from the front lines.
Using communication channels to broadcast your worker’s successes (positive feedback from satisfied customers, etc.) promotes good feelings for the field worker, and encourages them to continue performing well.
It’s also important to remember that motivation is not exclusively a management process. While managers can put certain mechanisms in place, true motivation comes from within the workers themselves. So while leadership is important, workers must be empowered enough to become self-motivated.
With no immediate end to the crisis in sight, all of these efforts must be sustained, and sustainable.