5 steps to shift from reactive to proactive field service

  • Tom DeVroy
  • Solutions
  • 2022
  • Customer Experience
April 28, 2022

Field service: Man in hard hat looking at solar panels and a tablet

Proactive field service is about being one step ahead of your customers. It requires systems that meet customer needs while minimizing their efforts.

When thinking about moving from a reactive field service model to a proactive one, most people jump to the Internet of Things (IoT), servitization, and outcome-based services. But it’s important to first create an operationally efficient foundation that benefits both customers and employees. These five steps can help.

1. Listen to your customers

Think outward first when moving to more proactive service. Start by asking for customer feedback.

  • What do customers need?

  • What information do customers want, and how is it best delivered to them?

  • When do they prefer to troubleshoot on their own, and when do they prefer to speak with a technical support engineer?

Identifying these answers can position you to provide the most value to your customers. Surveys are a good place to begin. A survey can ask for desired information and communication methods. It can also address general customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score inquiries.

2. Build a strategy for quick wins

Once you understand your customer needs, at both a macro and micro level, you can build out your strategy to address where you want to go and the steps to get there. You don’t have to do it all at once. Take small steps, get quick wins, and learn from the process.

A solid strategy should take into account what’s in your control and what you can influence. Consider all the human elements and technological and change management implications. Create feedback loops from customers and employees to continue to iterate on the journey.

Although a primary goal is to stay one step ahead of your customers’ needs, things will break. Consider how you can help prevent that and how you can minimize the inconvenience when things do break.

Moving from reactive to proactive service can improve the customer experience, reduce resolution time, drive operational excellence, reduce the cost of service delivery, and help pave the way for new service offerings.

3. Automate and optimize processes

Most organizations still rely on manual methods to some degree for their field service operations. Various parts of the organization often operate in silos. Smart, integrated, digital investments help organizations:

  • Improve service quality and response times 

  • Provide real-time visibility into customer and equipment statuses

  • Reduce time spent on administrative tasks

  • Reach across multiple systems and present the data necessary to the user to perform their assigned tasks

Digitizing manual processes that hinder efficiency can help proactively deliver progress updates. Digital workflows enable you to answer queries or deflect incidents earlier in the customer journey. They can also free field service professionals to ensure their customers feel valued and supported.

4. Make maintenance work for your customers

Maintenance contracts that help detect and address issues before equipment fails can minimize customer disruptions. The types of contracts you offer may be an evolution as you progress on your journey toward proactive service.

Service companies start contractual services with warranty extensions and time and materials coverage. The next phase is offering preventive maintenance contracts that provide service on set schedules (i.e., quarterly, semi-annually, etc.). While visits are within the window, timing between visits may vary.

Cycle-based preventive maintenance controls the interval of time between visits to keep it consistent. This is the most effective for equipment uptime but can result in performing unnecessary maintenance. Usage-based preventive maintenance is the most proactive, attending to maintenance based on how much equipment has been used.

5. Empower customers with self-service

Being able to access and request information through customer portals, email, chat, and telephone empowers customers with self-service capabilities. An omni-channel solution helps meet customers where they are on the channel of their choice, with a human touch if needed.

Customer portals can do much more than customer-initiated product information inquiries. These portals can be enabled to offer pertinent knowledge base articles and more, such as:

  • Interactive chat inquiry and response using natural language

  • Service request initiation and status updates

  • Appointment booking

Moving from reactive to proactive service can improve the customer experience, reduce resolution time, drive operational excellence, reduce the cost of service delivery, and help pave the way for new service offerings.

Find out more about delivering proactive field service in our on-demand webinar.

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