November 2014 - The Service Council

Improving a Day in the Life of a Field Service Agent: 2 Perspectives

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

We hear it more and more. Field service empowerment is about improving a day in the life of the field service agent. Granted, we hear this more from field service leadership than from field service agents, but I imagine that field service agents would like their lives to be easier.

So what does it mean? Interestingly, we asked both groups interested in improving field service agents’ lives: field service leadership and field service agents themselves.

The leadership perspective looks like this. These are initial results from our recent field service empowerment survey where we asked leaders what they would like to do to improve a day in the life of their field service agents in the near-term. (Note: These are preliminary results from 90 respondents. Also: Offering them more money wasn’t an option).

Figure: The Improvement Plan

Source: The Service Council, 2014

A lot of it ties in with our mobile maturity framework around empowering technicians with devices (level 1 – reduce paperwork) to empowering them with information (level 3 – aid in resolution and revenue). We also see an increased focus on knowledge management and training, areas where organizations in field service are looking to develop strategic plans.

Surprisingly, the leaders aren’t too far off from what their front-line agents want. We were recently engaged in a short interview with front-line agents from two of our community members, BioTek and Vivint. You can access a recording of that conversation here (registration required). On the question of improving a day in the life, the central area of agreement was around the provision of more time to get things done. This tied back primarily to the reduction of paperwork and elimination of administrative tasks. Interestingly, our panel of agents also wanted greater opportunities to interact with their peers from a social and collaborative perspective. While this isn’t captured in the chart above, there is an emphasis from service organizations to offer greater opportunities for collaboration between field groups. The one caution is that this collaboration shouldn’t be limited to the medium of mobile devices, but should be enabled via in-person meetings and workshops.

The one area where there continues to be misalignment between leadership and front-line views is in the complexity of automation provided to field service agents. While the front-line agents generally viewed automation as a good thing, they were weary of being given too many applications to work with. Essentially, they didn’t want to spend most of the day having to navigate through various applications (replacing paperwork with device work), and wanted to spend more time doing actual work. This was asked to the leadership group in our survey, and only 11% pointed out that reducing the number of applications, or consolidating applications, was a strategy being prioritized to make lives easier.

If you are in either one of the groups, let us know how you can improve a day in the life of a field service agent. There is time to participate in our field service survey here.

The Service Leader’s Checklist When Leading a Business Transformation

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Businesses are transforming the way they support their customers and while this is often labeled as a service transformation or a customer-centric transformation, the reality is that it really is an enterprise-wide transformation. Approximately 5-6 years ago, the term service transformation referred to converting the service business function into a profit center. Now that mission has been upgraded to one where service serves as a vital cog in an organization’s customer engagement strategy. Not only does service need to be profitable, but the success of service governs the profitability of the rest of the organization. As such, everyone needs to be aligned with the service-centric mission of the organization.

These transformations don’t occur overnight and aren’t always successful. The Service Council’s research highlights that nearly 51% of organizations have undertaken a transformation and these organizations report higher revenue growth rates across the business versus those who have yet to undertake such a transformation. For these organizations, the factors that supported and continue to support a successful transformation are listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Must Haves for Transformation Success

Checklist1

Source: The Path to Service Transformation
The Service Council Data 2014

Executive ownership and support is a must and more than 45% of organizations report that a C-level officer was the driving force behind their service transformation. Without this level of focus and support, the success of an organization transformation is put in doubt.

With the aid of executive support, the task of executing a service-oriented business transformation falls on the shoulders of the head of service or customer management. For this individual, the following checklist can be a valuable resource to support a successful transformation.

1 – Learn What your Customers Expect from the Organization

The focus of transformation is to attain customer-centricity, which results in improved profitability. It’s not the other way around. The best way to become more customer-centric is to learn what customers expect when they interact with your organization. This requires a Voice of the Customer campaign that evaluates customer insights around specific transactions as well as those tied to a business relationship. As it is with VoC programs now, it also requires an understanding of customer perceptions are delivered via both structured and unstructured channels. The core goal of this exercise is to evaluate what customers expect when they transact with your business, how those expectations were set, how those expectations have changed, and what is the performance of the servicing organization in delivering as per those expectations.

2 – Are Your Employees Motivated to Deliver as Per These Expectations?

With an understanding of what customers need, it is then essential to gauge the capacity of your organization to deliver and exceed expectations. This doesn’t necessarily require a huge shopping list of resource investments but does require a full analysis of the talent available within the service organization and the ability or desire of existing talent to deliver in areas where the organization can differentiate.

3- Build Bridges with Other Business Functions

Customer experiences are dictated by factors that aren’t always controlled by the service organization. You can have a great service process or experience but all of that might not matter if the sales experience is terrible or the product doesn’t match up to the competition. As a result, service leaders need to align with counterparts in sales, marketing, product development, IT and HR (to start) to develop and design the desired service experience. Customer feedback around experience gaps and shortfalls offers a powerful base on which to establish collaborative discussions.

4 – Deliver a Service Business Plan

Executive support for a service transformation is a good thing and ongoing support is often tied to momentum around business profitability. A service transformation is a long-term change and might not deliver expected short-term changes to profitability that are desired by executives and stakeholders. Therefore, it is essential that service leaders build a business plan that can serve as a framework around:

  • Expected resource requirements
  • Forecasted business results
  • Expected change in customer-focused metrics

Consistent updates as per established expectations can provide executives the necessary visibility into the status of the ongoing transformation.

5 – Consistently Provide Performance Updates

It is also essential to consistently communicate progress against established transformation goals to employees and other stakeholders. Employee desire, commitment, loyalty, and engagement, are significantly driven by constant reinforcement of the business strategy and the progress towards established business goals in support of the strategy.

All – Focus on Building a Service-Centric Culture

Cultural challenges present the biggest hurdle to the success of service- and customer-centric transformations. Our research (Figure 1) shows this. All of the preceding items on the checklist will support the development and encouragement of a service-centric culture. Culture and strategy need to go hand-in-hand in order to form the base for a successful service transformation.

Service serves as a major strategic differentiator in the age of globalization and commoditization. A differentiated service experience can go a long way in improving customer commitment and loyalty and future customer business. That said, a transformation limited to the service business will not yield the same results as a service-centric transformation that encompasses the entire enterprise.

Figure 1: In the Way of Successful Transformation

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Source: The Path to Service Transformation
The Service Council Data 2014

Note: The post also appears on ServiceMax’s official blog.

 

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