Supporting customers remotely is inevitable, frustration while doing so is not.
There is just something about getting behind the wheel and driving to see your customers. Whether it’s to help them with a monitor display or to help commission their new tractor, nothing quite beats being there in person. The drive, shooting the breeze, the resolution of the issue, and reaffirming the bond you have is one of the reasons it’s great to be in this line of work.
But that can’t always be the case.
As ag businesses grow, territories get larger, and customers have more demands, the ability to be physically present for customers becomes increasingly difficult. There simply aren’t enough hours in a day to provide the in-person support you would like. Plus, it’s not the most economical to solve every problem in person.
Time to provide remote support.
People typically pause when thinking about what remote support really is, but it’s simple: if you have ever answered a customer’s question over the phone, FaceTime/Skype, email, or text, you have provided remote support. Of course, there are various degrees of difficulty when providing remote support, but sometimes it’s not the issue itself that is the difficulty, it is simply the way the question is being asked.
Regardless of what question is asked or where the customer’s current proximity is to you, it’s important to know what level of support should be offered. Is it time to jump in the truck and drive two hours to the field or can this one be handled over the phone?
Three Elements of Providing Remote Support
Set the Rules
The best way to think about your remote support strategy is by not having to think much about it at all. It is hard to know what chaos each day will bring and the chaos only increases during peak seasons. Taking the time to define the rules that will send you to the field or keep you in the office before your customers’ questions come in, will help you make a more effective decision in the moment.
By setting the parameters at a time when neither you nor your customer are in a stressful situation, you can be more objective in your decision to stay or go. Your rules should take into consideration various factors such as the severity of the issue, the size or potential value of the customer, proximity to the customer, and the risks of going or staying.
Cost Considerations for Providing Remote Support
Both you and your customers run a business so considering costs—time or monetary—is always paramount. Taking a trip out to the farm, while effective, adds costs to you and your customer. Charging a customer for solving their issue over the phone is effective and can be a significant cost savings to both parties involved. Of course, charging customers for remote support shouldn’t be a surprise, which means you have to… (see below).
#ProTip – Be flexible. Rules are meant to be broken, right? While the purpose of setting rules is to be more objective, there are always good reasons and situations where it makes sense to break a rule (or two). For example, if you have a farmer who might be facing an issue that could be handled over the phone, but you have not seen that customer for a while, consider taking the time to head to the field. The extra time spent may come back to you in other ways.
Set Customer Expectations
This might be the most challenging part, but it might also be the most effective. Setting customer expectations can be daunting as it entails letting customers know what you won’t do when we are conditioned and much more comfortable telling the customers what we will do. This may include letting them know when you will and won’t make a field visit and what you will charge for both.
It’s all about the messaging.
To avoid the feeling that you are only telling your customers when you will not be providing in-person support, craft a message letting them know all the ways you will provide support. Remind them of the various ways they can connect with you and the variety of issues you can help them with. Assure them you are committed to solving their problem in the most time-efficient and effective manner. Of course, this may mean you need to add a few tools to your customer service toolbox, which leads us to… (see "Have the Right Tools" below)
#ProTip – Proactive communication is a great way to reach out to customers and provide them this information. (Learn how to start proactively communicating with customers).
Have the Right Tools
One of the biggest benefits of providing in-person field support is being able to see what the customer sees. Having the same visual as your customer eliminates the frustration of trying to understand the situation. This may require you to seek out new tools (like video support software) or better incorporate what you currently have available to you.
With most smart phones having video and picture capabilities, it is now easier than ever to see what your customer sees, but there are still a lot of hurdles to effectively do so. To reduce the hurdles, find a tool that works regardless of the smart phone brand/operating system. The more friction-less the tool(s) you use to bridge the distance gap, the higher the level of satisfaction your customers will receive.
The AgriSync software platform helps bridge the distance gap when providing remote support through a video stream. Regardless of the phone or its operating system, advisors can connect with their customers allowing them to see their customer and the current situation. Learn more…
#ProTip – Schedule pre-season training sessions to ensure that your team and your customers know how to use the tools properly. This increases their effectiveness and eliminates frustration when trying to support your customers remotely. Your main goal is troubleshooting their equipment, not troubleshooting the tool to do so.
Providing remote support to your customers is inevitable, but frustration with the process is not. By understanding the rules about when you should and should not provide in-person support, setting your customers’ expectations, and having the right tools in place, remote support will both supplement your customer’s experience and improve your level of service.