High Priority!

How to Make Your Customers Want to Schedule Service Appointments

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  July 02, 2012

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

If you’ve followed my column in CIS over the past few years, you know I’ve often criticized businesses for mishandling customers and underestimating the importance of quality customer care. It seems obvious yet, globally two out of every three people have ended relationships with a brand due to poor service costing billions of dollars to the most prominent service industries, including all forms of communications providers (nearly all of them took their hard-earned dollars to a competitive brand).

One of the common complaints is always the four-hour window given for service and delivery calls. Why four hours, especially early in the day? And why can’t they confirm a more exact time later in the day, considering techs and delivery drivers all check in after each appointment.

The last time I was told I would get a call 30 minutes in advance, I was surprised to hear the tech call my cell phone to tell me he would be there in five minutes. Add that to the existing frustration from having to call the tech in the first place.

I was at The Cable Show in Boston a few weeks ago and, while most of my conversations focused on the next generation of video services and customized EPGs, I was intrigued by a colorful, simple, yet seemingly very useful piece of software at the TOA Technologies (News - Alert) booth.

As it turned out, TOA has developed a mobile workforce management software that it says, among other things, allows businesses to reduce the service call window to one hour with 96 percent accuracy. Problem solved.

Perhaps, but what TOA is really about, according to Susan McLaughlin, vice president of strategic sales in North America, is making the customer the focal point of the service appointment event. What does that mean? (Watch my conversation with Susan)

For starters, end customers have the ability to go onto providers’ websites to see their scheduled service time within that one-hour window, including the latest updates, so they know exactly where they fall in the queue, thanks to self-learning software that accurately estimates the time for each task. They can also request a 30-minute heads up call (which, Sue tells me, will actually come half an hour before the tech arrives and can be made via the customer’s preferred communications medium). As if that’s not already a huge improvement to what we’re used to, end customers are able to confirm, cancel, or reschedule appointments via the Web interface. 

But even with the advanced software, unexpected delays arise and come appointments may take longer than expected. That’s where Susan say TOA’s advanced routing engine kicks into high gear, determining the most effective way to reassign delayed appointments – or, if the delay is deemed to be only minimal, notifying the customer of the situation.

For techs, an HTML5 application allows access to the latest schedules, notes, hardware inventory, and other job-related documentation – all from any Web-enabled device. The data used to create an efficient service call process is collected from any other customer care, CRM, ticketing, or billing systems, easily accomplished via open APIs.

It all seems very easy – and convenient for the customer. But that’s exactly what it was designed for – to simplify the process. Customers are provided an added layer of comfort and control, and techs are provided the resources to complete their jobs efficiently. In addition, because techs arrive on time for their appointments, they are not put in situations where the customer engagement begins with the customer already unhappy, increasing the likelihood of positive resolution, increase customer satisfaction, and a heightened sense of brand loyalty.

I’m not at all surprised this software exists. But, I’m shocked that it’s not being used by every business that has mobile field workers.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi