Here are a few ways to step up your customer service game, and meet the challenge of the Amazon effect

Today’s online retailers deliver consumers seamless and personalized buying experiences — field service providers should expect similar demands.

Modern American culture can be summed up in two words: instant gratification. In the consumer goods space, this mentality has been enabled and catered to by online retailers such as Amazon that offer everything from books and cameras to groceries and shoes — all through a simple Web interface. Order online and, like magic, it arrives at the door with other varied items that — in the past — were bought from numerous retailers or online outlets.

It’s only a matter of time — if we’re not already there — that companies working in field service will be held to the same standards. Whether its pest control, HVAC service and repair, or heavy-equipment maintenance — the days of “we’ll send someone between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.” are over. Consumers want it all, and they want it now.

Businesses that embrace this and implement mobile and location intelligence technologies aimed at expediting, improving, and personalizing the customer experience will better position themselves against the competition. Here are a few ways to step up your customer service game.

Intelligent Appointment Scheduling

Through integrated work order management, routing, and scheduling programs, service providers can present customers with optimized appointment times/windows that allow the customer to choose a time that works best for them. The great thing about this dynamic back office coordination is that it takes into account factors such as vehicle location, onboard tools, skill sets, routing, and schedules, and only presents appointment options that will be profitable. This model empowers the customer to choose an appointment that works best for them, and helps ensure that the right resources are deployed as efficiently as possible to protect the bottom line.

Call Ahead To Improve Customer Service, Reduce Costs

Better engagement with the customer leading up to the appointment can help ensure satisfaction and helps to eliminate unnecessary mileage and time. Take medical supply delivery as an example: Integrating automated systems that call customers a half hour before their estimated time of arrival based on real-time driver location and activity help significantly cut down on the amount of no-shows. This drives significant efficiencies: Customers don’t have to come to a store to pick it up; customers might be safer because they received the medical equipment they need, and the delivery company is able to cut back on return visits and related costs.

Coordinated Services For Optimal Customer Support

Technology currently deployed in large-scale operations such as disaster response will provide new levels of service to customers for more domestic needs. Today we can give access to a shared view of assets, equipment, and people among agencies and contractors to better coordinate disaster response, but that shared view can also provide the same benefit to a mechanical contractor. As an example, a major package-delivery company could give the contractor real-time visibility into the status of a part delivery to a customer’s house. If the contractor knows the package will arrive in a half hour, routes and schedules can be adjusted dynamically to ensure the closest and most capable employee responds immediately — providing excellent customer service and eliminating the hassle of the customer contacting the contractor, coordinating another visit, etc.

What The Future Holds: Predictive Service

Training and technology implemented in vehicles and heavy equipment may soon allow service providers to improve the consumer experience. Components from HVAC and electrical systems to home appliances will be outfitted with technology to transmit health and performance data back to a service provider. That service provider could then proactively schedule maintenance and service for those systems rather than waiting for a failure to be reported by the customer. Taking it a step further, these systems will self-diagnose the issue to ensure that the proper technician (right skill set/ know-how/tools) is dispatched. Increasingly, consumers and business users will be able to select their service levels and be able to personalize their service partners based on their need to be more proactive and avoid the downtime.

The possibilities are endless. From brick-and-mortar retail outlets looking to diversify and combat online vendors to service organizations looking to take their customer satisfaction to the next level, the tools aren’t that far off — in fact they’re here already.