I think we can all agree that times are changing faster than most of us can imagine. At FieldPulse, we think that the Coronavirus crisis is serious, but that slowly and eventually things will return to “somewhat normal”. However, as businesses face startling new challenges for the immediate future, we know that we must protect our loved ones, employees, and customers to the best of our abilities. One thing is clear: face to face interactions may be very different moving forward. How does a physical, in-person business weather the storm?
We’ve spoken with many business owners whose success has been based on providing incredible customer service and a fantastic customer experience. Continuing to provide an amazing customer experience in the age of Coronavirus now seems like a challenge for survival. Many customers will be hesitant to schedule service. Others will reach out with questions about how service can be safely provided as a contagion outbreak is occurring.
The guidance on personal interactions and “social distancing” is still being communicated to the public, but it is clear that a customer experience that doesn’t involve getting so close to others is a concern that will stick around for the foreseeable future.
So how does your service business survive when you can’t go near customers?
The answer almost certainly involves migrating as much of your customer experience to digital and virtual means as possible. This is particularly important in three key areas:
Discuss How the Safest Possible Appointment Can Happen
Many customers who reaching out for service for the next few weeks will certainly ask if and how a safe appointment is possible. During this conversation, it will be critical to tell the customer that their safety is your highest priority. You will need to explain the instructions that you’ve provided to your techs and field agents regarding safe distances, measures deployed to prevent the spread of disease, and the access that will be needed for your field service agents to complete their work. Reassure your customers that your employees will go out of their way to avoid close proximity to others and being in small spaces. Some may even ask if your crews will use masks and gloves as they work. Prepare yourself for the range of questions you’ll get and have clear, simple answers. Keep in mind that almost none of your customers will be virologists, so you may hear some crazy questions on the call. Now is not the time to discount or discredit medical theories. Your job is to assure customers that your team will take every possible precaution before, during, and after the job. You may even wish to have your team members self-test for fevers throughout the day to communicate to customers that no unhealthy agents will be permitted to be near employees or customers if symptoms present.
Adopt a Warm Greeting from a Distance
Suppose you book the job. A warm smile and a friendly handshake is often the first gesture in establishing trust and confidence in your service delivery. Yet when a highly contagious virus is on the loose, clearly handshakes and closeness are inadvisable. Develop a process whereby your dispatch, field teams, and customers can stay in touch with unified real-time communications. FieldPulse Engage is perfect for live, central communications no matter what device your team or customers use, and it’s basically a super convenient group text messaging service for field service businesses. When the tech arrives, a simple FieldPulse Engage message can say “Your tech has arrived and is out front. Look through the window and wave hi!” Perhaps you can let the tech know that the verbal greeting may have to happen while he or she is still sitting in the vehicle.
Whatever you decide, it is crucial to act consciously and intentional about the health risks that we all face and commit to keeping physical distance and the hygiene practices that keep customers healthy. Especially at-risk customers.
Plan the Appointment
Access to the work area or system that needs maintenance will be tricky. It is convenient if you’re in the HVAC business and the work can be done on an outside unit. But if you need to get indoors, that will be a challenge. You may wish to supply your techs with approved HEPA filtered masks. Certainly medical grade exam gloves may be expected as your tech touches things. Be sure and dispose of these gloves frequently and properly. Bring a healthy supply of bleach wipes for any surfaces and make sure to use them on common surfaces both before AND after your tech touches them. These measures come with no guarantees, but they are common sense measures to prevent the spread of infections.
Take the Long Way
Many field agents are used to cutting through the building’s interior to get to access a system or job area. But if there is a longer way around that exposes the customer to the agent less, then be sure to use the path that keeps your team member outside of the space more and keeps more distance from the occupants of the space.
Pad the Schedule
We are in a public health crisis. People are concerned. Keep in mind that you are mostly likely there because it is an absolute emergency for the customer. It must be visible and apparent that your business is mindful of your customers’ concerns and doing everything it can to help. Jobs will take longer and inconviences will present themselves often. Be sure and take the time you need to serve your customers effectively during this emergency.
FieldPulse is cautious about this crisis but confident that with smart approaches to how we are all working, this crisis can be overcome. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions about how your business can use digital tools to weather this storm.