Want to Provide Better Service? Start with Sales and Project Processes
Giving service a prominent role in sales and project execution can set an integrator's service team up for ultimate success.
Many integrators see service in a silo. Even companies with stellar sales and project execution can fail to see how this key component of their business fits into the “bigger picture.” Instead, it is all too easy for them to think of it in isolation—something to be handled once the important work of closing the deal and finishing the project is complete.
This mentality sets service teams up for failure and creates rife conditions for a poor client experience. To create both a more efficient service process and a better client experience, you must instead understand the role that service should play in every phase of the client relationship, including most notably sales and project execution.
Leading Your Sales with Service
Too often, integrators avoid the topic of service during the sales phase for fear scaring a client away. During the sale, when they’re trying to gain their client’s trust, they worry that the idea of the technology that they’re selling might actually break isn’t the most reassuring thought to a client.
Unfortunately, by failing to set proper expectations, you allow your client to enter the service phase without a proper understanding that ongoing support and maintenance are facts of life in a smart home. This disconnect creates a breeding ground for unrealistic expectations and client frustration. In turn, these unrealistic expectations create excessive strain on your service team. When a frustrated client, who implicitly expected their expensive audio system to “just work” every single time, calls in fuming because their music won’t play during an important dinner party, who but your service team is left to pick the pieces?
Setting proper service expectations during the sales phase will provide clients a clear understanding that their system will require service and support. The best way to facilitate this conversation is to confidently present a well-defined service offering to your client, ideally consisting of multiple tiers which include premium support options (at OneVision, we refer to these as “memberships”).
Offering these memberships underscores the importance that ongoing service and support will play in their experience. When presented confidently, this conversation will not scare the client away. To the contrary, it will reassure them that you have a solid plan in place to ensure they have the best ownership experience possible. This simple step creates a more realistic set of expectations with your client, reducing unpleasant surprises (i.e. client frustration) and setting your service team up for success down the road.
Project-to-Service Transition: A Clean Handoff
Setting your service team up for success also requires that service factors heavily into your project’s install/commissioning phase. This starts with holding your project team to a high-level of execution during the installation. The devil is in the details here. Oversights during the installation such as failing to ensure proper ventilation for equipment can have long-lasting repercussions for the service team and your client. And cutting corners on seemingly small tasks like wire labelling and proper RSM configuration can also have a decidedly negative impact on both your service efficiency and your client’s ownership experience. You must ensure that you have a QA process in place for project closeout and that it is strictly enforced.
A successful project-to-service transition also requires that you have a clear and repeatable process for handing off responsibility for the project to your service team. You must make it clear to your client that the project stage of their installation is finite, and that service is its own distinct phase which is governed by the policies outlined in your terms-of-service. But without defining a clear finish line for the project stage, how will your client know when the time is right to begin engaging with your service team?
So when exactly should the service team take over? It’s one of the most important questions in the business and also one of the most misunderstood. I’ve seen companies try and tie this transition to various milestones including move-in date, final billing, substantial completion, and punchlist completion. Each of these milestones has flaws which limit their effectiveness as a “trigger” in your project-to-service transition process.
Instead, at OneVision we teach our partners to initiate the transition process a a time we call "Day 1." Day1 is defined as the first day that your client is expected to use the technology on their own. This is a clearly-defined moment in time that is easy to understand for your client. On this day, your client should be directed to contact your service number, rather than your project team, for all inquiries.
Day1 kicks off what we call a “transitional phase.” Clients will not always readily adapt to calling the service team instead of their project manager. During this transitional phase, you must continually reinforce the use of your dedicated service channels.
You may be asking yourself, what about the remaining punchlist work remaining to be done during the transitional phase? Having your service team involved to some degree in completing this work makes perfect sense as it allows them to get a clear picture for the project dynamics while your project team is still somewhat involved. In fact, we believe you should go so far as to consider having your service team take full ownership of the punchlist.
This is because service teams are geared much more appropriately for the quick “in-and-out” nature of punchlist work while project teams are geared to spend long chunks of time on a single project. Whether you decide to have your service team simply get involved in communications during the transition or take full ownership of the work remaining, the key is to get everyone on your team, as well as the client in sync about how the process works.
Service, Set Up for Success
If the above steps are done correctly, then the difficult job of service becomes appreciably easier. Your client has proper expectations and will be less frustrated when those inevitable system issues arise. This will result in less undue strain on your service team who will no longer be constantly on the defensive, dealing with clients whose expectations were mismanaged from the get go.
Putting a clear and repeatable process in place around the transition to service will also help set your service team up for success. With clearly-defined roles and responsibilities, projects will no longer slip into the messy gray area between “project” and “service” that plagues so many integrators. Clients will understand that they are expected to use the appropriate channels for service, freeing your project team from having to act as the first-point-of-contact indefinitely as so often happens.
If you want to make your service team successful and your clients happy, then you must think about how service fits into all phases of the client lifecycle.
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