Some time ago I pondered the various phases of a support call and subsequently found myself on the other side of the fence, dealing with the resolution of the call in the field. It occurred to me that a similar procedure for dealing with the various stages of the call could be used. Here’s my take on it.
In order to deal with all my calls in a fairly uniform manner I have divided the phases of a customer visit into distinct tasks.
Obviously the first phase is getting the call notification. Whether this is by phone or by a logging system, this is when you find out what you will be dealing with today. The first thing to do is to take note of the details of the call and make sure that all the necessary details are there, that you are the right person to have the call, and that it was correctly passed to you.
Once you have understood the call, acknowledge it. This means that you should contact the person or people involved so that you can check that your understanding of the problem is correct. I have wasted a lot of time working on the assumption that the fault, as detailed in the call log, is correct and have started researching the problem, only to arrive at the customer to find that the person who entered the text missed the point completely. A few minutes talking to the customer can save a lot of time.
Advise the customer when you expect to be with them; make it clear that any ETA quoted is subject to unavoidable delays, such as traffic and, in one recent case, a herd of cows roaming loose in the road after they had kicked down a fence. Be a bit conservative in your predictions; it is better to arrive earlier because you were a bit pessimistic on your estimate of travel time rather than be late, having promised that you will be there “right away”!
4. The journey.
With road fuel at £1.10 per liter in the UK, it is a good thing to plan your route carefully to avoid passing over the same ground twice. I often leave the town center calls until later in the morning as it is a lot easier to get into town once the early rush dies down. As with any plan, the route should be entirely flexible. I’m surprised how often a call comes in when I am in the area of the call. Today I had to stop as a large articulated truck was reversing into a factory gateway. While I was waiting, a call came in for the company whose truck it was! In this case I broke all my rules and went straight in, missing out phases 2, 3, and 4!
The tone of the visit is set on arrival, so the way you appear at the customer’s premises is crucial. I’m not talking about wearing a good suit or having shiny shoes but introducing yourself, explaining why you are there, and checking that, among other things, you are in the right place and the call is booked on the right equipment. It has happened that I have been sent to a customer’s billing address, not the equipment site. I feel that my greeting can set the tone of the visit; if I can project a cheerful impression, it quite often rubs off on the customer.
6. The job itself.
Eventually you find yourself in front of the machine to be worked on. The first thing to do is assess the situation, confirm that the job is what you thought it was, and decide what needs to be done. Mentally prepare your action plan and tell the customer what it is. Do the job, then test the machine to make sure that the fix is a good one. I’ve seen it described this way: tell them what you are going to do, tell them what you are doing, then tell them what you have done.
7. Clearing up.
If you are anything like me, you have probably left a trail of jackets, glasses, screwdrivers, USB sticks, and important bits of paper all over your work territory. Getting into the habit of packing away carefully, putting your jacket back on, checking for car keys and glasses, and so on should be a part of the call process, not something that you do when you don’t forget. Wrap the call up with the customer, including, if necessary, obtaining a signature from them and giving any last bits of advice. Clear the call down on the system and leave.
For your next call, start again at the beginning and repeat either until there are no more jobs or until it gets dark and you have to go home. Handle all your calls to a set routine, and you will find that your day proceeds much more rationally with fewer things left to chance.