Field Service Software UX: The Key to Customer Retention
- Why user experience matters so much, particularly in the field services software space
- What having a superior user experience could mean for these software founders
While all professional software applications exist to support business operations in one way or another, field service management (FSM) applications differ from others in one critical respect: the majority of users won’t be using it in a traditional office environment.
They may be working outdoors, underground, in extreme weather conditions, or in areas where a cellular connection isn’t available. If they run into problems with the software, it’s likely that they won’t have the option of asking a co-worker for help. On top of that, most of the people using FSM software don’t have a background in tech and are likely to be older and more resistant to technology* than average.
This makes it essential for FSM SaaS companies to create a streamlined, intuitive experience for users. The products that best meet users where they are tend to be the stickiest, underscoring the importance of putting the user’s needs first. While legacy software solutions have long enjoyed a first-mover advantage in FSM, newer, vertically-focused FSM software companies are growing their market share with a focus on better customer experience.
Why Customer Retention is Important
Customer retention in FSM software tends to be high—if the software is fully adopted. Unfortunately, there is often a steep drop-off in usage shortly after it’s purchased if the functionality is too sophisticated or requires significant training. Not only does this mean more work for the SaaS company to replace those customers, it also sets off warning bells for buyers and investors.
High customer retention rates indicate good product/market fit, streamlined functionality, and excellent customer service. High churn rates, on the other hand, suggests issues with customer satisfaction and lead to higher marketing costs as the company is pressed to find new customers. Because poor retention rates can impact business valuation, it’s not enough to acquire new customers. FSM SaaS companies also need to take steps to retain them, offering a seamless onboarding experience, an intuitive user experience, and, when appropriate, customization.
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Ensuring that your customer’s employees are able to easily integrate your software into their daily workflows is one of the most vital steps in long-term adoption, and a superior onboarding process plays an outsized role in improving user engagement.
It’s important to provide appropriate training for users based on a deep understanding of their needs and pain points. Webinars, short videos, FAQs, a self-guided set-up at registration and other scalable resources can significantly improve onramp. Whatever tools you use, the onboarding process should anticipate questions and not overwhelm users with more information than they need at any given time. Above all, it should convey the software’s value. The sooner users can see how much it improves their working conditions, the more likely they are to continue using it.
Be sure to follow up to ensure that customers are getting the most out of the software. You can do this by eliciting feedback through questions and surveys and talking directly to customers, tracking user behaviors to see how the software is being used, and communicating about new features, updates, and interface changes.
Onboarding is a crucial first step, but it is imperative to ensure that the software is actually being used in the field. Otherwise, there is a high likelihood the customer will churn as soon as their contract allows. And the key to consistent use is user experience.
This starts with research on exactly what your users want and need. A deep understanding of user behavior, goals, and the conditions under which the software will be used is critical. Equally critical is a clear, structured workflow and a clean, intuitive interface that accounts for unusual work situations—are users likely to be using your software in cramped conditions or with gloved hands, for example? Information and functions should be easy to find and navigate, with nothing extraneous that can distract users from the task at hand.
The easier and more intuitive it is for users to successfully operate your software, the better the chances of them adopting it for the long term.
Generally speaking, every FSM software needs the following set of functionalities:
- Accounting & Invoicing
- Scheduling & Job Management
- Email Marketing
Beyond the basics, functionalities that can be easily turned on or off depending on a business’s specific needs can go a long way toward helping you differentiate your product and reach new customers. FSM customization for sub-verticals is a critical aspect of success for companies in this market.
"Customization" sometimes gets a bad rap in the software industry for being time-consuming to produce and difficult to scale. And when the term is used to refer to custom coding for individual clients, that’s usually the case. Features that can be easily switched on or off, however, create broader markets by making the software more useful to more businesses. The key is simplicity. Too many bells and whistles can be more confusing than helpful and will actually reduce the likelihood of your software being used.
Some examples of vertical-specific functionalities we’ve seen in the companies we’ve worked with include software for:
- Roofing companies that allows niche financing origination integrations given the higher price point for a consumer service
- Moving companies with a tariff configuration that allows detailed pricing permutation sheets to automate quotes involving distance, length, and complexity
- Construction companies with geofencing capabilities that allow customers to create virtual boundaries around job sites
- Landscaping companies that allows chemical tracking to ensure compliance with state regulations, automatically calculating the quantities to apply at each property and creating a chemical usage report
Driving Valuation through Customer Loyalty
A focus on getting customers successfully launched onto your platform is crucial. Despite the challenges of relatively small AVCs and resistance to technology by operators, FSM SaaS companies in tightly focused verticals are often well positioned, with enormous potential for growth and successful exits. Whether you’re ready to take that step now or down the road, you should be focused on improving your key metrics that influence SaaS valuation now.
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