May 2014 - The Service Council

No Longer the Noisy Neighbor. What Non-Service Professionals Think About Service Transformation.

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

If you follow me on twitter, you should we well aware of my interest in soccer (To the purists, my apologies but I will use the term soccer). In the realm of soccer, and specifically in the Barclays Premier League, a new champion was crowned this past weekend. Manchester City beat out Liverpool by two points to wrestle the title back from Manchester United. City famously won the title two years ago after a long drought of not winning anything while Manchester United consistently won trophies across England and all of Europe. City received an influx of capital from new ownership in 2008 and began to challenge United’s dominance in Manchester which prompted then United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to label City as ‘noisy neighbors’. Well, City is now a dominant force in European soccer and outclassed United this past season (tough to say for a United fan).

Believe me, there is a transition to service in here somewhere. In the service ‘circle of trust’, we get caught up in pontificating about the importance of service and how service is the only way that organizations will be able to compete in the future. We’ve all tasted the Kool-Aid.  For the longest time, the rest of the organization did not share this interest in service. Service was perhaps viewed as a noisy or perhaps a necessary neighbor.

Well, it seems like samples of the Kool-Aid have made the rounds outside of the boundaries of the service organization.  Our recent research on service transformation highlights that the non-service professionals in our data set (n=25 representing sales, engineering, marketing, operations and more vs. 135 service professionals) agree with the increasing importance of service. It has taken them a while to hop on the bandwagon, but there is recognition of the increasing importance of service (See table below). For the service group, 90% believe that the importance of service has risen from 3 years ago, especially as these folks have been beating the drum for quite a while.

Table: Surging Service

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 3.05.28 PM

Source: TSC Data, 2014

Non-service professionals believe that the attention being placed on service is due to competitive factors, as they understand the increasing role that service plays in differentiation. In fact, 39% of these folks believe that service is the major driver of competitive differentiation for their organizations, the leading answer followed by R&D at 26%. And the reliance on service for competitive differentiation is only going to increase, as 60% believe that service will be the major driver of competitive advantage in three years.

Figure: Competing with Service


Source: TSC Data, 2014

Service professionals believe that the increasing attention on service is much more due to the pursuit of new revenue opportunities that are enabled directly or indirectly via service. Directly, there is the opportunity for new revenue directly tied to the service business via:

  • Not giving service away for free
  • The development of new services
  • New pricing models for service offerings
  • A sales and marketing focus on service
  • The introduction of performance-based contracts
  • New product purchase and consumption models

Indirectly, the impact of service is felt on:

  • Renewals and retention
  • Up-sell and Cross-sell
  • The introduction of new features or entire product lines

This in turn significantly impacts the revenue of the entire organization. Service and non-service professionals agree that the success of service transformation initiatives needs to be measured via the change in:

  • Customer loyalty and commitment metrics
  • Profitability of the entire organization

It is great to see that service is getting greater attention especially among non-service professionals. However, for most organizations to truly value the importance of service, it is necessary that all stakeholders realize the impact that service has on improving other business functions. The type of information collected at the point-of-service can significantly impact areas such as product design, engineering, sales, marketing and more. With the aid of service information, all other aspects of the organization can continue to support a differentiation strategy. This is an unappreciated advantage of a truly transformed service organization.

If interested in our service transformation research, please visit our research library. Our new research series on service revenue is in the survey stage, and one can participate here –

Hiring, Interviewing & Onboarding: The Search (Part 1 of 3) by Cary Chapman

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This opening topic seems so simple on the surface – we need a Field Service Technician. However, with what skill sets? Should their strength be mechanical, electrical, interpersonal, or a combination of several of these? Many times the trouble starts here as our business world is now so dynamic that if we aren’t proactively trying to understand our customer’s future needs we will completely miss the window of hiring the correct talent and inadvertently give an advantage to the competition. Breaking this down, of course, different industries demand different skill sets. Within your industry, the skill set need changes and suddenly the emphasis changes from electrical/mechanical to adding a key need of interpersonal due to a new market segment driven by the sales team. This change now determines the need for your onsite technician to communicate professionally at a higher level within your customer’s organization. Some of the questions we should be asking ourselves is how are we proactively seeking the detailed information to understand where our customers are in terms of requirements. What are we doing to take these changes into consideration in our hiring process, and are we hiring an employee for the future who will be comfortable enough with our process to be with us for the long haul.

Just a short personal commentary here as food for thought. We have, over the past six years as companies, tried to wring more productivity out of fewer people. We have hoped to achieve this through technology tools and more hours worked by fewer employees. Our front line people are worn out and the technology that has frequently improved the information gathering and data but has not made the technicians life any easier. As the economy has continued to improve and the job market has gotten stronger, I believe we are on the brink of seeing some significant turnover in our organizations where the needs of the technicians have not been met. This also plays into the above question of who do we hire to meet these future business needs? In my past background, we started out with a very relaxed need for fast response. The government passed a new law that impacted our business model and within a few months, we went from an acceptable response time of 3-10 days down to a requirement of 24 hours. Of course, the problems presented by this were challenging to say the least.

Next topic would be where you locate these potential employees once you have decided what the skill sets are that you require. There are many channels to consider, a few examples are: industry specific recruiters, your HR department, relationships with trade schools and or Junior colleges, newspaper/internet ads, referrals from inside your service technician ranks, and people exiting the military. This is a basic list and I’m sure there are many more to add to make this more comprehensive. I will again offer some thoughts here. If you choose to use the internet, you stand the risk of bogging yourself down with hundreds of resumes and almost an insurmountable task to screen them which takes a lot of time. I have found, for myself, finding a highly professional recruiter that works in my industry is extremely valuable. This person will do most of the screening and you will rarely ever waste your time with interviewing an unqualified person. One of the other upsides to sticking with a recruiter, and maybe one backup, is you gain a trust and a loyalty that produces win/win situations. Way back in my career we had a relationship with a Vo Tech school that through the years provided my company and I a steady stream of very talented students. Over the years we hired 48 technicians through this school who turned out to be some highly qualified techs and all exhibited good longevity. In my last assignment I focused on candidates coming out of the Navy Nuclear sub and surface program. I focused here because we needed people who were not only technically astute but understood the need to respond quickly without any drama. They were used to three to nine month deployments at sea with minimal contact with their families. Therefore our company requirement of Monday through Friday on the road and home on the weekends was not difficult at all. Additionally, these folks represented the top three percentile amongst Navy peers in their ability to learn, desire to study more, to absorb quickly with comprehension, and with the highest moral and ethical behavior demanded by their program. In this discussion, the key point becomes, know where you will find the people you need and from what source. Do not waste your time in less expensive avenues but rather focus on those things that provide you the best candidate the quickest way possible. Is it possible to find a solid candidate through Monster. com? Yes, of course it is, especially if you have the luxury of time and resources. Just go in eyes wide open to the downsides because you are hiring the individuals who will spend more time in front of your customers than anyone else in your organization.

Spend time with the screening process that you use to arrive at the candidates that you will interview face-to-face. I like to have a team that I use repetitively that follows the same set of steps and processes. Following this practice, drives consistency and allows the team to become comfortable with the process. It will also eliminate overlap in the questions; you are able to gather more data and allows the candidate an opportunity to talk with a larger cross section of your organization. With the legal implications of the hiring process these days, having a consistent approach also gives you a defendable consistent approach that is fair to all candidates. Every company will have different pieces of information that they require however, generally, there are three main items: the resume, a completely filled out job application and a personality profile or something that is similar. With these completed, your screening team should have what they need for the first round of screening. When you have gathered a representative number of applicants, I use an internal job description plus the documents you have gathered from the candidate. At this point, you are in search of the candidates that come closest to meeting the job description requirements. As a general rule I prefer having five valid candidates to look at, if at all possible. It would be an unusual circumstance that would have me agree to less than three. Whatever number of applicants you have carried forward, now schedule thirty minute interpersonal phone interviews where you create a criteria to look for with each candidate and score each criteria response so that you are able to choose a list of your top three to five systematically, again creating consistence and fairness. The person who conducts the interpersonal phone interview chooses who to move to the next level.

This screening process is very important or you create wasted time for multiple people. We talked earlier about some of the challenges of hiring for the future; one key challenge is that in the interview process, the company is being interviewed as well. So if you are well organized and structured and you are clearly following a process, a candidate will recognize this and should place you ahead of other companies they are talking with. Because I place high value on the interview process, I have received many positive comments about our interview and hiring process and how much applicants have appreciated it.

I welcome your thoughts on this blog or on innovative ways in which you and your organization are finding new talent and “the search”.

What are you Looking At? Some thoughts on Google Glass in Field Service

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Love it or hate it, Google Glass does get a conversation started. For those who are not aware of what Glass is or does, Google Glass is a wearable computer, which utilizes an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) to transfer live data in a hands-free format via voice commands. And while it isn’t the one topic or technology trend that keeps field service strategists up at night, its use holds promise in the field service environment.

While most organizations consider Glass to be a tool for the future, there are numerous organizations across retail, hospitality, travel, healthcare and financial services that are already using the technology to support their businesses (See article). Some of these use or test cases featuring organizations leveraging Glass in the field. Notably:

  1. Sullivan Solar Power – For Solar Panel Installation in the field (Link)
  2. National ConnectForce – For Data Capture by field claims adjusters (Link)
  3. Las Vegas HVAC – To Provide Customers with Complete Visibility into Work Done (Link)

These cases highlight some areas where Google Glass can be extremely useful for workers in the field:

  1. Recording information (pictures or video) for compliance, customer use, or training
  2. Viewing resolution steps and procedures in real-time
  3. Collaborating, in real-time, with others in the service organization to troubleshoot and resolve a situation
  4. Learning more about a customer site or facility with the aid of augmented reality applications.

Now, a lot of the capabilities presented above are available to field agents and organizations via tools and applications available on smartphones and other mobile devices. These capabilities aren’t new. However, when we chatted with a number of field service leaders about the applicability of Glass, most mentioned that they were drawn to the safety implications of a hands-free and voice-activated interface. This was especially true of those in utilities and alternative energy (solar and wind) where technicians are working at heights and environments where having both hands readily available is a must.

There are numerous challenges that come in the way of broader adoption in field service:

  1. Availability of work management apps on the Glass interface
  2. Safety – While hands free is a plus, Google Glass’s interface screen does lead to distractions and can pose a safety concern. (Note: the image below was taken last year at my first chance to try out Glass. I found myself intently focused on the screen, which didn’t aid my attempts at starting conversations. Also, the weird grin isn’t the most enticing at a networking event. I imagine this goes away with time and training)Glass
  3. Cost – The initial price for Glass for the Explorer group of testers and first users was set at $1500. Most analysts (Link) believe that this will come down when Glass hits public release. If the purchase of Glass and a companion device (smartphone, handheld or otherwise) is made instead of an investment in a fully ruggedized device, then cost might not be a significant deterrent.  However, it is likely that Glass will be treated as an add-on to complement the other devices available in the field, therefore presenting an incremental cost to the organization.
  4. Privacy – Recording of information on customer sites (both consumer homes or in enterprises) is an extremely touchy area and one where organizations will have to be extremely clear on what is recorded, where it is stored and who has access to those recordings.
  5. Functioning in Rugged Environments – The industries that see initial promise in Glass also have the toughest requirements when it comes to durability and the need to work offline. More so, there will be questions around Glass’s voice recognition capabilities in louder environments.

Not all of these challenges are unique to Google Glass but they are brought to the forefront when considering an investment in this technology to empower the field force.

 Are you looking to incorporate Glass into your field service environment? Let us know why or why not.

Innovate with the Customer, Not Just with the Customer in Mind. Closing Thoughts from Day 3 of our Smarter Services Symposium

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Over the course of the previous week, we’ve commented on Day 1 and Day 2 of our Smarter Services Symposium. The focus of the final day of the event was on ‘Innovation’ tied to process change, people, customer insight and technology. Quite often innovation gets lumped in with technology investments, and as we learned from our speakers from Continuum, Acer, Steris, Xerox, ATEK Access Technologies and more, innovation in the service organization is being seen outside the realm of technology investments. Here is a shortlist of takeaways from the day’s sessions:

  • Organizations must review the design of their service and customer management processes. These reviews should be done to trace the customer journey in order to identify customer effort.
  • A cross-functional design team that includes the front-lines as well as customer input is a worthwhile investment when considering:
    – New ways of delivering existing service
    – Innovative ways of delivering new service mediums or new services
  • Customer Effort Score, as used by organizations like Acer, is a powerful tool to measure the effectiveness of service delivery channels. Organizations need to focus on tracking effort across channels where customers are active and want to seek information.
  • Organizations like EMC have an extremely well defined process to vet and introduce net new service offerings.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) or remote monitoring shouldn’t only be seen as a means to reduce contact between servicing organization and customer. In fact, the data collected via remote monitoring should be used to empower all stakeholders in order to enrich the relationship.

If you were at the show, I would appreciate your takeaways from Day 3. Areas touched upon here such as:

  • New services development
  • Customer effort score
  • IoT and the Connected Service Organization
  • Innovation in Service

will be featured in our forthcoming research agenda spanning the rest of 2014. For additional information on the timing of our coverage, feel free to contact me at

If interested in participating in the 2015 Smarter Services Symposium, keep an eye on for an announcement in mid-May.

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