Measuring Your Way To Greater Service Delivery Performance

(Topline Results from SFGSMs 2014 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey – Part 2)

Based both on the current survey findings and SFGSM’s ongoing research, it is not surprising that the field services community recognizes it will need to increase its investments in new technologies and mobile tools in order to compete in an expanding global marketplace. In addition, it also recognizes that it will need to develop and/or improve the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), or metrics, it uses to measure the impact that these implementations, deployments and technology advances will actually have on the organization’s performance.

The top Strategic Actions currently being undertaken by Field Service Organizations (FSOs) are:

  • 52% Develop/Improve Metrics, or KPIs to measure FS Performance
  • 44% Invest in Mobile Tools to support Field Technicians
  • 34% Integrate New Technologies into existing FS Operations
  • 30% Provide additional Training to FS Technicians and Dispatchers
  • 29% Improve Planning & Forecasting with respect to Field Operations
  • 26% Automate existing Manual FS processes and activities
  • 25% Provide Enterprise-wide Access to important Field-collected data
  • 18% Increase Customer Involvement in Web-based Service Process
  • 15% Hire additional Field Service Technicians and/or Dispatchers
  • 14% Outsource some, or all, Field Service activities to partners or vendors

The ”new” global economy also demands that these investments be made in a certain balance that allows the newer technologies to support a “back to the basics” approach with respect to running a successful – and profitable – field services organization. In other words, services organizations need to embrace “new” technologies, but without forgetting that it is still “all about the customer.” Some of the basic strategic actions that between one-quarter and one-half of respondents also cite include training, planning and forecasting, service delivery automation and enterprise-wide access to important field-collected data.

Planned strategic actions over the next 12-month period reflect a more dynamic, rather than static, approach to the field service marketplace. For example, an additional 41% of respondents plan to develop and/or improve their use of field service KPIs, or metrics, in the next 12 months, and nearly as many plan to integrate new technologies (36%) and invest in the next generation of mobile tools (33%) to support their technicians in the field. Other key planned actions will be taken in areas relating to the automation of existing manual field service processes or activities (33%), improving planning and forecasting activities (32%), and providing additional training for field technicians and dispatchers (30%).

What these data primarily show is that the field service community recognizes the need to take specific strategic actions to enhance and improve existing service operations, and that these actions begin first and foremost with the need to develop and/or improve the use of service metrics and KPIs in measuring and monitoring their service delivery performance. In addition, it shows that FSOs also recognize the need to invest in the right technologies and mobile tools to empower their resources both in the field, and in the back office, to improve existing processes, meet the growing needs of customers, and make greater contributions to the bottom line.

The survey findings reveal that there are basically five service performance metrics, or KPIs, presently being used by a majority (i.e., 50% or more) of the FSOs that participated in the 2014 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey. They include:

  • 80% Customer Satisfaction (up from 70% in the 2011 Survey)
  • 72% Total Service Revenue (up from 66%)
  • 69% Total Service Cost (up from 51%)
  • 59% Field Technician Utilization (up slightly from 56%)
  • 52% Service Revenue, as a Percent of Total Revenue (not asked in 2011)

However, there are also an additional seven KPIs that are used by just under one-half of FSOs to help them measure their performance. These include:

  • 49% On-site Response Time (down from 51% in the 2011 Survey)
  • 48% Field Technician Productivity (down from 66%)
  • 47% First Time Fix Rate (down from 45%)
  • 46% Mean-Time-to-Repair (MTTR) (down from 49%)
  • 45% Percent of Total Revenue Under SLA/Contract (not asked in 2011)
  • 45% Service Level Agreement (SLA) Compliance (down from 48%)
  • 43% Service Parts Revenue, as a Percent of Total Service Revenue (not asked in 2011)

Thus, presented in this manner, it appears that the most commonly used service performance KPIs from two years back are even more commonly used by FSOs today.

Next up (in Part 3) will be a discussion of which Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), or metrics, FSOs are currently using to measure their service delivery performance.

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Driving the Field Service Management Market to Improved Service Delivery Performance

(Topline Results from SFGSM’s 2014 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey – Part 1)

Each year, Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM) conducts a series of Benchmark Surveys among its outreach community of more than 45,000 global services professionals. Total responses for the 2014 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey are 1,104, representing a microcosm of the global services community.

Overall, survey respondents identify the following as the top factors, or challenges, that are currently driving their ability to optimize field service performance:

  • 52% Customer demand for improved asset availability
  • 47% Need to improve workforce utilization and productivity
  • 43% Need to improve service process efficiencies

In order to effectively address these challenges – and strive to attain best practices – respondents then cite the following as the most needed strategic actions to be taken:

  • 52% Develop / improve metrics, or KPIs, used to measure field service performance
  • 44% Invest in mobile tools to provide field technicians with real-time access to required data and information in the field
  • 35% Integrate new technologies into existing field service operations (i.e., iPads, Tablets or other devices, etc.)

The survey results reveal that nearly two-thirds (66%) of respondent organizations currently operate service as an independent profit center (or as a pure, third-party service company), compared with only 31% that operate as cost centers. While there has not been a significant change in these percentages over the past two years or so, this two-thirds ratio validates the fact that profit centers now represent the dominant business model for the services community.

It is noted, however, that the percentage of organizations running service as an independent profit center varies – sometimes significantly – from one industry segment to another. For example, the medical/healthcare segment reflects only 57% running as profit centers, compared to 65% for the Computer/IT Services segment and 77% for industrial/manufacturing – a 20% spread.

US$1 billion-plus organizations come in at 74%, while SMBs (i.e., Small and Medium-sized Businesses) report only 55%. Not surprisingly, organizations reporting total annual services profits of greater than 30% come in at 76% – one of the highest levels among all of the segments covered in the survey. As such, they are not only operating service as a profit center – they’re actually making a significant profit by doing so!

More importantly, the respondent base clearly reflects the predominant mode of Field Service Management (FSM) solutions currently being deployed – that is, typically off-the-shelf, either with some customization (37%), or basically right out-of-the-box (4%), comprising 41% of the respondent base in total.

More than a third of respondents (35%) are either using home-grown, or internally-developed automated systems (23%), or custom solutions developed by a systems integrator (12%). However, the most perplexing statistic may be the fact that nearly one-in-five respondents (18%) are still running their field service organizations basically via a series of manual processes (and spreadsheets).

Despite the means by which field service operations are being managed today, one of the more compelling reasons for why so many organizations are looking for ways to improve or enhance their service delivery performance and, ultimately, their corresponding levels of customer satisfaction and service profitability, is the fact that less than half (43%) are currently attaining as high as a 90% customer satisfaction rating. While more than a quarter (28%) currently find themselves performing in the 70% to 89% satisfaction range (i.e., probably where your organization stands), the best practices organizations typically find themselves at the 95%-plus level – and this is, ultimately, where you want to be!

However, making the improvement from a level of 70% – 80% customer satisfaction to 90% or higher is not simply accomplished through the implementation of new field service software automation technologies; or the deployment of mobile tools, devices and solutions and simply waiting for customers to become more satisfied – there are many additional aspects of service performance that will still need to be improved and/or enhanced in order to have a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

The respondents to the survey have clearly identified the specific drivers that are pushing them to aspire to the attainment of higher levels of performance. For example, customer demand for quicker response time is cited by just over half of the respondent base (i.e., 52%) as the top driver their organization currently focuses on with respect to optimizing field service performance. The need to improve workforce utilization and productivity is next most highly cited by 47% of respondents.

It is noted, however, that these two market drivers have essentially “flip-flopped” over the past two years in terms of characterizing the most important market drivers currently impacting the market’s path toward service delivery optimization. As such, once again,   the top market driver is focused on satisfying the customer, rather than strictly on improving internal processes and/or productivity – a reflection back to the more historical perspective of the field service community.

However, there are several other key drivers that also impact between one-third and one-half of the market, including the need to improve workforce utilization and productivity (47%), the need to improve service process efficiencies (43%), customer demand for improved asset availability (35%), and an internal mandate to drive increased service revenues (33%).

As such, the common threads that tie all of these drivers together may be best categorized into three groupings essentially comprising:

  • Customer demand for quicker response and improved asset availability;
  • Field technician utilization, productivity and efficiency improvement; and
  • An internal mandate to drive service revenues – and profits.

The results of the survey reaffirm the relationships between and among these three groupings by linking internal process and productivity improvements directly to improved customer support, ultimately leading to reduced costs, increased revenues, more satisfied customers, and a healthier bottom line.

Another key influencing factor revealed through the analysis of the survey findings is that only two-thirds (67%) of the services organizations surveyed have experienced any improvement in year-to-year field technician productivity in the most recent period. In fact, one-in-12 have actually experienced declines in productivity over this 12-month period – some of which were up to 50%! These levels of year-to-year declines in performance are largely unacceptable in an environment where a majority of FSOs remain on a path toward improved service delivery performance.

We also believe that it is a mistake to dwell only on the “top” factors that are driving the market – and the organization. In fact, there are several other factors that respondents cite as just “bubbling under the surface” with respect to their potential impact on the overall well-being of the organization. These include:

  • 32% Competitive pressures / need for market differentiation
  • 18% Escalating field service operations costs
  • 15% Customer demand for more accurate service call scheduling
  •   6% Need to reduce dispatch-related errors
  •   5% Need to reduce / eliminate incidence of night / weekend work

Again, while not necessarily representing the top market drivers overall, these factors still resonate with many field services organizations in terms of their impact on the way day-to-day business will need to be transformed in order to meet customer – and market – expectations for meeting service performance and customer satisfaction expectations. Best practices field service organizations typically take all of these factors into consideration when evaluating their service performance and identifying more effective ways by which to satisfy their customers.

Next up (in Part 2) will be a discussion of what many of these FSOs are currently doing – and planning to do – with respect to addressing these key market drivers.

Evaluating Your Own Customer Service & Support Performance (Part 2 of 2)

The best driver of your own customer service and support performance will ultimately be the establishment – and use – of realistic self-guidelines that balance all key aspects of customer service and support. For this, we suggest the following:

Define in your own mind what means the most to your customers by fostering an interactive services partnership with them, based on “real” two-way communications;

  • Commit to making changes in the way you manage your customer relationships wherever you – and your customers – feel it to be necessary; and
  • Maintain your flexibility by recognizing that customer service and support performance management – and CRM – is an ongoing process.

Taking this all down one step further, we also suggest that you strive to incorporate each of the following into your customer service and support “way of life”:

  • Adapt, don’t adopt; make “best practices” work for you.
  • Acknowledge that customer service does not come from the top, but rather from all levels within the organization – and especially from the field.
  • Listen to your customers; “hear” what they have to say.
  • Listen to your managers and co-workers; work together as a team.
  • Partner with your customers; manage your customer relationships better.

Adapt, don’t adopt.

A best practice process may not always be adopted exactly the way it is done in another “best-in-class” organization; but it can generally be adapted to fit your organization’s needs and culture with some modifications, changes, or “tweaks”. At the end of the day, you will need to adapt a specific approach that fits your own – and your customers’ – particular needs.

Acknowledge that customer service does not come from the top.

Customer service management is important, but it does not necessarily come down from the top levels within the organization. Leadership by example – by employees like you – in managing customer relationships, resolving their problems, and converting satisfied customers into loyal ones are what makes for a successful customer service and support organization.

Listen to your customers.

You will never know what is important to your customers until they tell you – and no matter how smart you think you are, or how well you think you know them, they will continually surprise you with what they say. Learn to listen to them (i.e., LOTS), and learn to act as quickly as possible based on what they say.

Listen to your managers and co-workers.

Your managers and co-workers may also have a great deal of historical knowledge and experience on a day-to-day operations level with respect to the systems and equipment you support – as well as some of the customer themselves. Don’t underestimate the importance of this information and expertise – and don’t prevent yourself from gaining from this expertise. Make sure that your channels of communication with your managers and co-workers is as open as the ones you have with your customers.

Partner with your customers.

Finally, the more you partner with your customers, the more likely you will be to provide them with “over and above the call of duty” customer service and support. Also, the better you are able to communicate with them (and them with you), the more quickly you will be able to act in their (and the company’s) behalf.

Remember – these are only guidelines, designed for the masses. But, you are an individual; and every one of your customers is different – no matter how similar they may appear to be at any given moment in time. Establish your own set of measures and guidelines – and then, follow them! Remain flexible and open to change as you deal with your customers, and they will lead you down the proper path. You can bet on it!

Customer service is not a game, any more then the technical training you have received is a game. Both are serious matters, and both go hand-in-hand. We would strongly argue that you cannot be successful in your position without a fair mastery in both areas.

You have probably already received extensive training on how to fix various types of business systems and equipment. You probably also take remedial courses from time-to-time; and whenever a new product line or upgrade is introduced, you probably receive special training on how to service that equipment as well. Customer service is no different. There’s no question that you will need to take follow-up training courses in this area over time as well. That’s the nature of the business, and you’re directly involved in it – right at the front lines.

Whether you call it “customer service”, “technical support”, “field service”, “Customer Relationship Management”, “CRM”, or whatever – it just makes sense to treat your customers better! It’s basically a win-win situation for everybody involved. The “best practices” organizations have already learned this – and now, you have as well.

When you think of it, isn’t that what we’re all looking for – making our jobs a little easier on a day-to-day basis; earning the respect and trust of the people we support; improving the way we are able to conduct our own affairs at our respective jobs; and treating each other the way we want to be treated ourselves?

There is nothing difficult about customer relationship management. In fact, if you do it right, it can be argued that fixing the customer is really a lot easier than fixing the equipment.

Evaluating Your Own Customer Service & Support Performance (Part 1 of 2)

Evaluating your own customer service and support performance is a critical component of your job position. Your employer does it on a regular basis and, as such, it would make great sense for you to perform your own self-evaluation on a regular basis as well (i.e., probably before your employer does).

The key to achieving success in customer service is to distinguish yourself and your company – positively – against the competition by doing everything it takes to make your customers happy. But, in order to do so, you will first have to:

  • Totally embrace the CRM philosophy of managing your customer relationships better;
  • Accept the principle that “the customer is always right” – and learn to practice it every day in the “real world”;
  • Work toward gaining a more thorough understanding of your customers’ specific services needs, requirements, preferences, and expectations; and
  • Set your own goals, objectives, and targets for customer service improvement.

Once you have accomplished this, you will also need to master the ability to:

  • See things through your customers’ eyes (i.e., not just through your own, or your company’s);
  • Support them with dedication, compassion, competence, and professionalism; and
  • Work as hard as you can to get the job done, and provide your customers with a “total” solution.

The United States Government, Academy for Educational Development (AED) suggests that “customers are constantly internalizing their customer service experience. What this means is they are grading your customer service during each transaction, but you rarely know it”.

In a published report, the agency cites six basic needs that stand out in the minds of customers with respect to customer service and support. They are:

  1. Friendliness – the most basic need, directly associated with courtesy and politeness.
  2. Empathy – the need to know that their service provider understands and appreciates their wants, needs, and circumstances.
  3. Fairness – the need to feel that they have received sufficient attention, and reasonable answers.
  4. Control – the need to feel that their wants, input, and feedback have had some influence on the overall outcome.
  5. Alternatives – the flexibility to choose the service and support options that will best satisfy them.
  6. Information – the need for precise – and concise – information about products and services, provided in a pertinent and time-sensitive manner.

Therefore, the key questions you will need to ask yourself as part of any self-evaluation process are:

  • Do my customers believe I am friendly enough when I’m dealing with them? Am I accessible enough? Do I treat them with courtesy and politeness, or am I at times unapproachable or condescending? Do I come across as being too formal? Or not formal enough? Do I comport myself in a professional manner? Or do I show up at their site looking unprepared or unable to do the job?
  • Do my customers believe that I understand their day-to-day challenges, trials, and tribulations with respect to the use of their business imaging systems and equipment? Do they think I’m sincere? Do they think I care about their situation, or the fact that their system is down? Do I look like I have other things on my mind while I’m working to fix their problem? Or do I look like everything I’m doing is just for them?
  • Do my customers believe I am treating them fairly? Or do they think that I’m not treating them as well as some of my other, larger, or “more important” customers? Do they think I’m showing favoritism to others, but not to them? Do I make them feel uncomfortable, or less important than they really are?
  • Do I communicate well enough with my customers? Do I listen attentively to them? Do I “hear” and understand everything they say? Do I respond to their input and feedback quickly enough? Do I give them the sense that what they say is important? Or do they think I am just giving them “lip service”? At the end of the day, do they really believe they’ve had some say in the way things turn out?
  • Do I listen to what my customers tell me, and give them “real” choices based on the options I have at my disposal? Am I too rigid in my approach to providing them with practical, tactical business imaging service and support strategies? Do I need to be more flexible in dealing with their critical needs? Are my interactions with them too one-sided, or are we truly working as an interactive “partnership”?
  • Do I provide my customers with enough information? Or do I give them too much information? Is the information I give them really actionable, or is it just “nice-to-know” information with no specific purpose or use? Do I have enough information at my disposal to provide them with everything they need when they ask for it? If not, do I know where to get it?

Keep in mind, that merely evaluating yourself on the basis of individual “line item” attributes will not provide you with a realistic assessment. Every facet of your self-evaluation must be measured in terms of its overall contribution to your ability to establish and maintain an “interactive partnership” with them. However, the only way this will happen is if your customers truly believe that you have their best interests at heart, and with the various skills and abilities you have acquired over the years, you are capable of providing them with “real” solutions.

Some of the key benefits of attaining real “partnerships” with your customers may be best illustrated by the following examples:

  • Only after you have earned their complete trust and respect will your customers feel comfortable enough to be completely forthcoming with you; but until they do, you might find it difficult to get to the root cause of some of their more complicated customer service problems. Therefore, it is essential that you allow your customers to gain your trust as early as possible in your relationship with them.
  • Building strong, interactive relationships with your customers allows you to be “less than perfect” from time-to-time. Your customers realize that everyone makes mistakes at some point, and while they may never forget them, a strong customer relationship will allow them to forgive them that much sooner.
  • Customers are people, and people like to do business with other people – not necessarily with companies, organizations, or enterprises. Humanize your interaction with your customers; act as an ambassador of your company, but do it on a personalized basis.

The key questions to ask at this point are:

  • Have you gained the respect and trust you deserve from your customers? Or do you still have a way to go?
  • Have you been able to build strong enough, interactive relationships with your customers to allow for an occasional misstep from time-to-time? Or are you still “walking on eggshells” when you’re dealing with them?
  • Do you present a warm, caring, human presence to your customers? Or are you perceived as just another interchangeable service technician that simply arrives on-site from time-to-time to fix their equipment?

Whatever you do, you need to be honest and forthright with your customers – because, if you are not, they will know it in an instant! The minute your customers believe you are being less than honest with them, hiding something from them, or not telling them the whole story, you’ve lost them – period. If your customers do not believe you’re being honest with them, it almost doesn’t matter how well you are performing on any of these other self-evaluation points – you’re already “dead in the water”.

In summary, the three things that you will ultimately need to do to ensure that you have laid the proper foundation for a successful customer service and support “partnership” are:

  • Expand your idea of service – chances are your customers have a more broadly defined idea of what “total customer service and support” means than you do. Try to approach the way in which you support your customers using their definitions as much as you can. Don’t necessarily give away the shop – but, be prepared to address any gaps between what the customer wants, and what you are realistically able to provide them.
  • Know who your customers are – you can really only know who your customers are by knowing what they do, how they use the business imaging systems and equipment you support, what happens when their systems go down, and how important your contribution is to their overall ability to get their work done.
  • Develop customer-friendly service techniques and processes – make sure that the way in which you support your customers is highly accessible, logical, flexible, and understandable. This is the only way that your customers will truly believe that you are working in their behalf, and that you are all in it together.

The key self-evaluation questions to consider in these areas are:

  • Do I share similar definitions of “customer service and support” with my customers, or are we talking about two different things in some cases? How can I make sure that we are always on the same page?
  • Do I really know who my customers are? And more importantly, do they think I know? Is there a disconnect; and if so, how can I successfully bridge that gap?
  • And I truly accessible to my customers? Do they feel they can talk to me? Confide in me? If not, what can I do to convince them otherwise?

[Watch for Part 2 to provide additional guidelines for evaluating and improving your customer service and support performance.]

Are You Successfully Managing Your Customer Relationships?

Most service technicians have at least a fair understanding of who their customers are, and what kinds of relationships the business has with them. However, even the “good” technicians are often deficient in their full understanding of exactly how to manage those relationships. (Remember – these are the three key elements of CRM: customers, relationships, and management.)

In some cases, it may be that the technician has the basic understanding – but not the tools – to fully manage his or her customer relationships. In other cases, the technician may have neither the tools, nor the understanding, to make it work. Of course, the latter is the worse of the two scenarios, although in either case, it is abundantly clear that without proper management (i.e., M), there can be no “real” relationships (i.e., R) and, ultimately, there will be no customers (i.e., and C)! There is no question about it -–  services organizations cannot afford to let management be the weak link in their customer relationships – and neither can you.

Managing your customer relationships is comparable to managing any other aspect of your business – with the one main difference being that successful execution will be a critical component of your overall performance evaluation. If you do not manage your customer relationships effectively, you will still have your customers to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and you will definitely have relationships with them – although they may be bad ones, or ones that will ultimately make your own day-to-day job that much more difficult to handle. This is why every service technician out in the field needs to pay a considerable amount of attention to the management of their customers – to foster the most optimum relationships possible with them, thereby making everybody’s job that much easier.

We have seen many organizations implement a CRM software package from a major CRM vendor and think that they now have everything in place to effectively manage their customers. However, many of them have yet to see the desired return on their investment because the CRM solution will only work if it is integrated into all aspects of the business – particularly those areas that directly “touch” the customers, such as field service and technical support.

To improve your own chances for success, and to be able to manage your own customers better, you will first need to:

  • Start with a solid customer-focused CRM philosophy;
  • Translate this philosophy into reasonable and achievable goals and objectives for success;
  • Understand the processes and tools that you have available;
  • Become aware of the data and information resources available to you; and
  • Prepare yourself to utilize all of the resources that your company’s organization and infrastructure provides.

You will also need to be able to measure and monitor your performance over time to ensure that you are continually meeting your goals.

Let me explain further.

CRM Philosophy

The impact of technology, the “real-time” accessibility of data and information directly off of the Internet; and instant access to e-mails, texts, tweets and cell phone calls; has given all of us the tools we need to manage our customer relationships much more quickly and efficiently than ever before. But these tools will only work for us if we use them to a dedicated purpose – and use them effectively.

Ultimately, everything we do, we do for our customers. Given that we already have a good understanding of their specific services and needs requirements, we should just naturally attune ourselves to provide them with any of the information they need as quickly as we receive it ourselves. We already know what they want; now it is time to deliver it as quickly and completely as possible. They expect it from us, and they will settle for nothing less. We have the tools and empowerment to support them completely, and the philosophy of CRM demands that we do so.

Goals and Objectives

The next step is to translate your personal understanding of the CRM philosophy into specific goals and objectives for the way in which you would like to manage your customer relationships. At the individual level, you may wish to set your own CRM goals and objectives for key things such as:

  • Communicating with your customers better – and more frequently (i.e., utilizing the LOTS approach as much as possible);
  • Providing those customers who require more detailed information with the level of detail they require;
  • Following-up quicker, particularly for specific customers and/or problems that require immediate attention or quick resolution;
  • Taking better notes to ensure that you never walk into a customer site either unprepared, or uninformed;
  • Taking advantage of all of the internal company tools and resources available (i.e., company memoranda, e-mails, newsletters, customer/equipment databases, documentation, etc.);
  • Taking additional technical and/or customer service training courses to improve your existing skill sets; and
  • Taking whatever steps are necessary to improve your ability to get your job done, and manage your customer relationships better.

Processes and Tools

In most situations, your company will already have a defined set of business processes and tools readily available for your use. These may include anything from the more traditional resources (e.g., product documentation, hardware specs, repair guidelines, on-site policies and procedures, etc.), to the availability of more sophisticated real-time customer and installed equipment databases, Web-based technical support, and the like. Use these resources as a matter of course; they have been designed to help you, and they will – if you use them.

Data and Information

Information is the key to successful CRM, and is also crucial for the ultimate success of your own customer service performance. Just remember, the majority of the data and information your company makes available to you will essentially be “global” in nature, and may not be as customer-specific as you would probably like. This is why it is so important to collect your own customer data and information on a regular basis, to augment what you already receive from the company. Again, this does not have to be a formal database – just an aggregation of important notes, comments, and observations that will ultimately help you to understand your customers better, and improve your ability to provide them with the best technical support and customer service possible.

Organization and Infrastructure

Whether the company you work for is large or small, it is probably fairly well organized and comprised of a formal infrastructure designed to support you and your peers out in the field. Take advantage of this infrastructure by getting to know all of the resources that are available, how you may gain easy access to them, and how you may use them to support your customers. This may require attending internal company seminars or workshops, or simply asking questions of your supervisors or managers with respect to what resources they feel would be of value to you.

Also, make sure you’ve read all of the internal memoranda and e-mails you receive so you can be continually updated on any internal changes that may ultimately impact you and your customers. The more lead time you have with respect to any impending changes, the easier it will be to deal with them at the customer level.

Monitoring and Tracking

Last, but not least, the key to your own success in implementing your CRM philosophy will be your ability to monitor and track your own performance over time – you cannot manage it, if you don’t measure it! This is why it is so important to set specific goals and objectives in advance. For example, one goal might be to reduce the number of complaints your manager receives each month from customers regarding your on-site performance; or increase the number of monthly commendations you receive. Another goal might be to work toward responding to all customer inquiries within 24 hours rather than in two days or more. There are many other goals that you can set as well, based on your own personal experience in the field; but, whatever the goals, make sure that you can measure, monitor, and track them over time to see whether you are truly making any improvements.

All of the efforts you put into managing your customer relationships better will ultimately bear fruit if you are sincere – and serious – about succeeding. You will be amazed at how much valuable information you can obtain directly from the input and feedback you receive from your customers if you build the proper two-way communications channels between you and them.

CRM does not need to be a complex exercise. It is not “rocket science” – it is just managing the relationships you already have with your customers better. Sometimes you will need to go “outside the box” to find all of the tools and resources that will make it work, and you will almost always need some outside help to get started, or to take your understanding of CRM to the next level.

CRM is not just for the mild-mannered, nor is it strictly for the progressive over-achievers. It is for every employee that deals with customers – and within your own organization, this will probably apply to you most of all.