The One Question Every Field Service Technician Should Ask

What is a simple question that delivers exceptional service and generates profitable revenue? It’s the one question that every field service technician should ask.  So, why isn’t every field service technician asking it?

In our workshops, we discuss the value that field service professionals provide by bringing opportunities to our customers’ attention that can help them operate their facilities/processes more effectively.  One way to uncover these opportunities is to ask this question, “Is there anything else that I can help you with today?”

Strangely, only 10% to 20% are asking this question

When I ask how many in attendance ask that question, I am amazed that typically only 10% or 20% put up their hands.  And I am further amazed at how enthusiastic those who do ask the question are about the value that they are creating by asking it.  To drive the point home of how valuable this question is for the customer, I simply ask those who do use the question a few questions.  The discussion usually goes like this:

Jim: Tell me, when you ask the question, how does the customer respond?  Do they tell you that it is none of your business?

Tech: [Chuckle] Of course not.  Actually, they appreciate the question.  I often get one of three responses:

  1. Can’t think of anything.
  2. Thanks for reminding me.  We have been having …
  3. You guys don’t happen to do [some service need], do you?

Jim: Do you think your customers appreciate the fact that you ask that question?

Tech: Sure do. It reminds them of something that they intended to speak to me about.  Sometimes we get opportunities to provide services that they didn’t previously buy from us because they didn’t know we did it.  It also provides clues to potential underlying problems that we can help with.

Jim: Can you think of any reason why you should not ask the question?

Tech: No.  It’s a great question.  It’s good for the customer and it’s good for us.

Why don’t more service managers ensure their field service teams asks?

If this question is of such value and is appreciated by customers, why don’t more of us as service managers ensure that everyone on our field service team ask it?  One reason I suppose, is the one given to me by some of the attendees.  They tell me that they don’t ask the question because they will not have time to respond to the customer’s request if it does arise.  They have other customers to attend to and don’t have a lot of “spare time” to address additional issues.  Although I can see their point, does it have to be a reason not to ask?  And, if we don’t ask the question, who will the customer turn to to get any outstanding issues resolved?

Make asking the question a part of your service technician’s routine

My suggestion is to make the question part of the service discussion at the end (or the beginning) of each service call, and then teach the technicians how to address the three typical customer responses (see above).  We can clarify with our field teams what our expectations are for “having a quick look” and what they can say to delay any follow up without giving the impression of putting the customer off.  If time is really an issue, we can provide clear steps the field team can take to get another team member to deal with the issue.

This questions provides great customer service and may help your bottom line

By asking if there is anything else that we can do for the customer today, we provide an excellent service to the customer by reminding them of issues they wanted to talk to us about, uncovering larger issues that may be underlying the customer’s response and informing the customer of other things we do as a service organization.  No doubt we have some on our team that provide this level of service for our customers.  Why not all?

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can connect with me via telephone or email or leave a comment right here on the site. And as always, please feel free to leave a link back to your own blog if you have one via the commentluv feature here on the site. If you are reading this blog post via email, you will need to locate this post on my website by clicking here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find the comment section.

Jim Baston

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”

– Eugene Ionesco

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4 comments on “The One Question Every Field Service Technician Should Ask
  1. Scott says:

    Interesting article. I didn’t know that technicians asking “how can I help” helps people remember what they were having problems with. I can see why having someone ask you this rather than telling you what the problem is would be more productive and useful. I think that something that would help the technicians is to have the customer make a list of things they would like to discuss.

    • Jim says:

      Hi Scott, thanks for your comment to my article. In my experience, asking questions of this nature is valued by the customer and it is interesting where the discussions may go as a result. I like your idea of suggesting that the customer make a list. This could be arranged by email or telephone a day or two prior to the maintenance call. You might even provide some guidance by proposing headings to address such as: “Changes in the building/operation/process”, “Issues or concerns expressed by employees/customers/tenants/visitors”, etc. Thank you for sharing this!


  2. Brad says:

    Hi Jim and thanks for the article.

    I think the question “Is there anything else that I can help you with today?” is a great one and simple enough but I can imagine a few more reasons this question is not asked and also why it may not produce more than a “feel good” moment.
    Two internal objections which might stop the question:
    1. If I ask this question and the customer brings up a problem with some of our equipment or even my service, this could reflect badly on the company (or me).
    2. I will show my ignorance if I cannot provide a suitable response.
    These are entirely valid from a personal perspective but of course not from an organisational view. The first can be overcome by continual reinforcing that it problems are in fact improvement opportunities and ensuring no personal repercussions (as long as there is no negligent actions in play). The second is overcome by training of course, but no amount may be enough so it is also necessary to prepare for this through the relationship with the client and the message is “I can be the conduit to the company” and bring in the experts.

    My second point on this potentially being nothing more than a “feel good” moment, is often customers may not know they have a problem. I have seen cases where the customer contact has been on the plant for say 2-3 years, but the plant is 20 years old. The current personnel are not aware that that noise/vibration/high consumable use is a problem because it was like that when the joined the plant. This is a different set of questions which need to be asked. The task of the technician may be to be able to point too these issues and ask a number of relevant What and why type questions. And then hand over to other parts of the organisation.

    I am a firm believer the technicians are a most vital part of the customer relationship, and by taking those extra steps, the customer and we will benefit.

    • Jim says:

      Hi Brad,

      Thanks for your comment on my blog post. You bring up some very interesting points that add a further dimension to the discussion. As you state, both reasons for not asking the question are valid from a personal perspective but not from an organizational one. And, as you suggest, management can play a big role in helping the field professional overcome these types of concerns. I think that is important since asking this question opens up just one more opportunity to serve the customer. It’s a lost opportunity if all it does is create a temporary “feel good” moment.

      Your second point uncovers the true opportunity for service providers. I believe that one of the highest levels of service that we can provide a customer is when they are able to confidently claim that they are better off for having known us. This often begins when a technician takes a proactive role in using their skills and expertise, combined with their knowledge of the technology and the customer’s goals and objectives to recognize opportunities to help the customer and then proactively reaching out to speak to them. Although often confused with selling, these proactive efforts by technicians are a valuable part of the service that they provide. And, successfully implementing this strategy is not easy. In my book, Beyond GREAT SERVICE, The Technician’s Role in Proactive Business Growth, I try to tackle the challenges faced by technicians and their organizations to get this right.

      I could not agree more with you about your point that the technicians play a most vital part of the customer relationship and that the efforts to engage them more proactively will benefit the customer and ourselves. Thank you for reaching out.


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