Turning Technical Experts into Trusted Advisors

by NIck Frank on February 13, 2011

Much has been written about the ability of technical experts within complex product  service environments, making the difference to customer loyalty or winning new deals. These are the people in our teams who have gone beyond being a technical expert. They have developed their relationship skills to act as informal consultants to their customers becoming what some people term as a trusted advisor.

So why do many industrial organizations shy away from encouraging their service people to create value in this way. It seems crazy not fully utilise the potential of the people who touch their customers most frequently and are probably more trusted by their customers.

Frequently it is the result of a product/manufacturing centric culture that regards technical field service as a cost centre whose purpose is to fix problems quickly and effectively. While this is true in some part, it is a vey simplistic way to look at the relationship between technician and customer. At the end of the day,  many customer issues are fixed by the relationship of the service technician with their customer.  These are the professionals that seem to able to smooth difficult technical problems that could lead to severe customer dissatisfaction by the way they handle their customers.

Another fear is that by being seen to be too close to sales, the field service team is seen to loose their independence in the eyes of their customer. However many organizations have overcome this issue through clearly understanding this balance, and positioning their sales & service organizations appropriately.

In practice we have found  many of these concerns can be overcome through training, coaching and patience. In a recent consultative selling program we ran for Service Managers for a capital equipment manufacturer, we were surprised at how many managers were able to adjust their style  to add more value to their customers. Even those managers that seemed least suitable to the new approach, over time were able to adapt some the ideas and improve their customer intimacy.

And a spin off is that once service people recognize they are not  ‘hard’ selling, but working as a consultative advisor, their motivation and commitment increase significantly. Indeed once they shift their job paradigm, most find it difficult to going back to the traditional ‘narrow’ view of service management.

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