Social blogger and management consultant Brian Vellmure, says that the one remaining competitive advantage is the customer experience “How Social Technologies Contribute to a Better Customer Experience“. And he’s right when he says that Customer Experience is the one thing that’s nearly impossible to duplicate. He cites statistics to back it up, including that 86% of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience and 89% began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience, and a survey of senior business leaders who overwhelmingly felt that Customer Experience is the next competitive battle ground. In these same surveys, 85% felt that trying to differentiate on the traditional Customer Experience dimensions is not sustainable to remain competitive.

We can all agree that if we provide a strong, engaged experience, our customers are likely to buy more. The question is whether Social and Collaborative technologies can help companies differentiate themselves. Many FSM organizations feel they are woefully inadequate in this area of social interaction. Should they?

An FSM organization doesn’t have to be on the bleeding edge of social technologies to engage and enhance their customer’s experience because they have the upper hand on social collaboration: their in-person field tech.

Should field service organizations look into internal collaboration tools that include social techniques to improve communication? Probably. Should they be monitoring Twitter to hear what their customers are saying about them, and have some sort of plan to address negative and positive comments? Sure. Does is make sense to have a truly integrated, multi-channel approach where you’re listening harder, cultivating communication, enhancing internal collaboration and delving into the analytics of these? Yes—in the long term.

While many analysts focus on the digital avenues, most consumers of service focus on the personal. How many times have you contacted a service organization regarding your office printer or your TV, simply praying that the person you talk to and the engineer they dispatch understands your problem, is knowledgeable about potential solutions, and in the end, can simply solve it? To go one step further, can they solve it quickly and easily, without having to go back for parts, without billing errors, and with the right contract information? It seems like all of the social avenues here fall flat. So many times there is a disconnect between the social avenues and the call center, dispatcher, and field engineer.

So let me provide you a quick scenario. You contact your vendor through their self-help portal to report a problem, and get an automated response that they’ll get back to you within four hours. By the time they call to arrange a visit, it’s seven hours later and the day’s almost over. You’ve already called them twice since your initial request, and decide to vent your frustration via Twitter: “If your policy says respond in 4 hrs. RESPOND!! #companyXsupport”

The next day when the engineer arrives on site, he discusses your issue with you in person. He details his labor, parts (which he has outside in his truck), and expenses via his fancy mobile device. He apologizes for the delay on the call center side, and notes that the company has taken over first response issues for a hurricane catastrophe as a goodwill gesture. He gets quick, electronic approval to provide his one hour of labor free of charge, and of course, he has your contract details on his mobile, and all parts are currently under warranty.

So, what is it that FSM organizations have that many companies don’t? The human touch…delivered to your door. Genuine understanding, knowledge of the problem, and willingness to help can make the difference between a venomous tweet that tarnishes your organization for months (or years) and a nice shout out, “Wow, eat my words. Jim #companyXsupport knows his stuff! Problem solved. #life is good.”

The customer is right in front of you. Solving their issue with a quick smile and nice word can make the biggest difference not only in repeat business, but the new business gained from the thousands of people who see their happy tweet.

Service delivery can definitely trump social collaboration—minus the digital.

For questions or additional information, contact me at