March 2015 - The Service Council

2015 Smarter Services™ Symposium Recap: Observations (Part 1) by Cary Chapman, Advisory Board Member

By | News, Perspective | One Comment

The fourth of four symposiums I have attended was kicked off by John Carroll at noon on Tuesday, March 10th. No complaint on the weather or the venue in San Diego they were both beautiful. Ron Kaufman was introduced as the MC for the three days. Ron performed an admirable job of learning the background of each of the speakers he introduced which enabled the attendees to better know each presenter. Our first keynote, Erica Javellana of Zappos!, discussed the creative beginnings of Zappos! by their founder Tony Hsieh. Tony was looking for a certain type of shoe to purchase and when he couldn’t find them, decided to start a company and make them. Erica went on to discuss the ten core values that the employees created which shaped their culture and a set of values that they could then use to hire and fire. The processes, values and culture that Zappos! has put in place give us a solid look at what we will be experiencing with upcoming generations entering the workforce. Following Erica’s talk there were several captivating panel discussions to choose from and enjoy. Karl Hohmann of ServicePower and I chaired a breakout session discussing Hybrid Workforce Strategies to accommodate Third Parties and Contingent Labor. We enjoyed interacting with twenty attendees, 10 having had previous experience with third parties. The discussion was lively and could have gone much longer with good discussion on the pluses and minuses of these topics.

Day two began with a “wow” moment titled “Seek First To Understand-Then Blow It Up” delivered by, Rusty Walther, VP of Global Escalation Management at Hewlett-Packard. We heard from Rusty at last year’s conference. His talks are highly entertaining and loaded with sage advice. This year’s talk was directed not at the top executives but rather those just getting started. Rusty provided us his list of ten rules to live by as a manager. His first rule is “you have to shoot the raccoon” this referenced a story as to why there is a burning need to remove those people who drag the organization down. For the full list, enjoy reading it on The Service Council web site (Link). His final thought was “Not everyone who dumps on you is your enemy and not everyone who helps you is a friend”, which was delivered with humor and a considerable amount of knowledge and insight.

Our next keynote was Victoria Halsey who delivered a solid discussion on hiring and retaining top talent and what those challenges are. I have been a fan of the Blanchard Company for many years and have attended many of their multi-day training sessions. Victoria discussed in detail the concept of hiring people who THRIVE and then went on to explain the acronym and its meaning. T=Title H=Heart R=Results I=Important skills V=Values E=Excellence. She then discussed the four steps to hiring “A” players. This topic, hiring high-talent “A” players, is, I believe, the most critical task we undertake as managers and it deserves our full attention.

The next keynote was delivered by Roger Rinker, the VP of Talent Management for Comfort Systems USA. Roger provided some key insights on when it’s time to change some things that have historically worked but aren’t working so well anymore. He also provided some insight on the value of listening to our frontline team members who frequently understand the situation better than those removed from the day-to-day. He shared with the audience that after talking with many of their frontline techs they walked away with the belief that the two areas of focus for Comfort Systems is work/life balance and training. Roger commented concerning training “If you’re not a leader in your industry then you are a follower as there is no middle ground”. Roger also commented that a “Comfort Zone” is a beautiful place where nothing ever grows and followed by saying the field will figure out how to look like they are adapting but in reality they aren’t. A dear friend of mine, Stan Bigelow, who has spent an entire career training technicians on interpersonal skills to better equip them to interface with their customers, presented the thought process back in the late eighties the concept of the upside down pyramid. This model basically drives the point that instead of an entire organization built to support the CEO it is built to support the frontline people because they are the ones interfacing daily with the customer. It was interesting to hear Roger discussing this very important concept.

We then broke for the next set of three breakouts; I attended one titled “Service and Customer Engagement: Effort, Effectiveness, and Experience Across All Points of Interaction.” David Hicks CEO of Mulberry Consulting and Vicky Stennes a Senior Consultant of Mulberry conducted a riveting discussion on Net Promoter Score. I have listened to many throw the NPS acronym around and thought I understood it. In this session I discovered how little I knew concerning the topic. We discussed the pros and cons of how easy it is to skew the score by how you ask the questions. There was a wonderful discussion on mapping the customer experience and then taking small pieces of that data to test rather than huge chunks. We also discussed how to identify the moments of truth and pain points for our customers. One of the final comments was “customer experience is the most critical differentiator”. It is always fulfilling for me to be around people who truly understand their subject and are astute in discussing it in depth. David and Vicky certainly pulled this off with a high level of professionalism.

Next began a series of three keynotes beginning with On Amir from the University of California San Diego who discussed behavioral economics and what it teaches us about customer decision making. This subject was very profound and certainly had a scientific bent that made it difficult to absorb in a short period of time. Some real world examples were provided that gave us a glimpse of the concept and how it might apply to real world problems. I just felt the topic was valid but required more than a 45 minute discussion to adopt it into our daily business life.

Next we heard from Steve Miggo, SVP of Operations from Safelite. Steve spent time talking about the traits and personalities they look for during their hiring process. One of their keys was to find employees who had excellent listening skills coupled with the ability to see themselves as their customer views them. All of their frontline folks participate in the “Five T’s”: Time, Touch, Technical, Talk and Thanks. Steve also shared that 75% of their business is conducted in the field rather than in a storefront operation. He also mentioned that they have been using NPS for the past nine years. At a Service Council symposium in the past, I had the opportunity to hear another Safelite executive (fellow Advisory Board Member, Renee Cacchillo) talk about a technician they highlighted in the Northeast and his “above and beyond” approach. Later that year my car and my wife’s car required three crack repairs due to rock chips. I specifically requested Safelite and received the same fabulous service they had talked about earlier in the year.

The final talk for Wednesday was delivered by Rick Mears, VP Guest Services San Francisco Giants. Rick is the only Vice President- Guest Services in the professional baseball realm. Rick walked us through an abbreviated sample of the 40 hour training program that all new employees participate in. Several statements made in the training class are as follows: focus your mental positive state because you are on stage, look through the guest’s eyes and dream, a dream is a wish your heart makes, respect and appreciate everyone, there is no higher religion than human service to work for the common good, you have accepted a job that pays you to be kind to people. Rick also discussed the five most important phrases or words: 1. I’m proud of you. 2. What’s your opinion? 3. I was wrong. 4. Thank you. 5. Please. The last thing he shared with us was his description of excellence: ordinary people doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way. This approach to the customer experience has allowed the Giants organization to be chosen over consecutive years as the best customer experience in baseball.

The event was ripe with content as you can see. As a result, my observations will be broken into 2 parts. Later this week, Part 2 will wrap up my observations of Day 3, key takeaways and considerations going forward.


Cary Chapman, former National Service Manager of Mettler-Toledo, Safeline, is a customer service professional with forty-one years of service and sales background. With Cary’s years of experience, he was hired by Safeline to stabilize a multi-year turnover issue. In this role, Cary was instrumental in completely eliminating service employee turnover while assisting in achieving fifteen percent annual growth over a three year period. Cary is a founding Advisory Board Member of The Service Council.

March Madness at The Service Council

By Sumair Dutta | News, Perspective | No Comments

Yes, it’s March, and that usually means lower productivity and a heightened sense of chest thumping tied to respective college basketball teams, atleast in North America. (I am very guilty of this given that my alma mater is a No.1 seed). While pockets of fans are tuning in across the rest of the world as well, these fans are probably much more interested in the madness of the Cricket World Cup taking place in Australia and New Zealand.

Given the time of the year, it was only appropriate for The Service Council to jump in and join the fun. While we didn’t host a single elimination tournament of our member organizations, we did host the 4th edition of our Smarter Services Symposium in San Diego between Mar 10-12, featuring presentations led by organizations such as Zappos, HP, Safelite Autoglass, KONE Elevator, Ingersoll-Rand, Xerox, Vivint, and more. We were also fortunate to welcome senior executives from the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres to share their perspectives on the importance of service as it ties to the overall fan experience in a hospitality and sporting environment.

We’ve created a library of resources tied to the event and will continue to add discussions and presentations over the coming weeks.

There was so much important information shared over the three days. Here is my attempt to summarize the top 5 takeaways and focus areas.

A Talent Challenge Awaits

We’ve documented the mounting challenge when it comes to a retiring service workforce. 70% of organizations are expecting an exodus of workers due to retirement in the next 10 years. While increasing efficiency and investment in automation may eliminate some service-related vacancies on the front-lines, there will still be a major shortage felt in supporting service demand. In addition, organizations are also changing the hiring and training protocols of their front-line service agents to focus on broader customer management. We also hear a lot from organizations around the redistribution of skilled workers to higher-level support functions to assist front-line agents and customers in times of service recovery.

A Crisis of Information

Organizations spent a lot of time over the last 3-5 years building listening platforms. These could be in the form of VoC initiatives, social media investments, or even in the mode of remote monitoring investments. While organizations have become very good at gathering information, very few have been able to consistently drive insight from the collected information. The areas of analytics and business intelligence will continue to see a surge in investment, both as it relates to technology solutions as well as the search for talent.

Customer Value Communication is a Major Struggle

The Internet of Things (IoT) and remote monitoring was a consistent theme of discussion across the event. Organizations that have invested in IoT have seen tremendous returns in terms of service business results. Yet, these haven’t necessarily translated into better customer results and increased customer loyalty scores. The issue is that while IoT enables predictive service and or more effective reactive service, it reduces the visibility of the service organization in the eyes of the customer. It presents a communication challenge to servicing organizations to continue to make customers aware of the value presented in a service relationship. Does this value take the form of loss aversion, higher service performance, or customized offerings? That’s yet to be determined as different customers align with different messages.

Collaboration: A Long Way to Go

There still exists a basic lack of process in linking service with other business groups. While there is some maturity in linking service and sales to promote revenue opportunities, there is a big gap in connecting service with IT, product design, engineering, and marketing. The first step to enhancing collaboration is in building a process that links various groups. The next step is to build alignment tied to the customers’ needs. The third step is to use data as the grounds of collaboration.

Service and Customer Experience Design is an Underappreciated Discipline

Organizations have gone back to the drawing board to build new services for customer value and revenue generation. Yet, very few organizations actually take a further step back and re-evaluate the design of their service offerings, and more importantly the design of the experience that their customers go through when seeking service or information. Design is an underappreciated discipline, one that can really help organizations maximize effectiveness.

We’re at an interesting juncture in the transformation of service organizations. Leaders are looking to find the appropriate mix between automation with human interaction, self-service with assisted service, customer satisfaction with profitability. These are all themes that we will look to dive into over the coming year of research and collaboration. Its appropriate to end with this quote shared at the event:

“Our field agents had never heard the passenger safety belt alarm go off. It was totally new. They had seldom seen one of their managers, much less had one of them ride along with them to learn about a day in their lives on the front-lines.”

Getting to Customer Value with The Internet of Things

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | One Comment

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a major topic of discussion. Analysts, technology companies, governments, and more are voicing their opinions on the upcoming IoT revolution. The folks whose opinion is most pertinent, the organizations deploying Internet connected products and services, and their customers, are actually evaluating if IoT truly holds the promise that we all think it does.

We recently hosted a discussion (Access on-demand, registration required) with a panel of leaders in service and IT tied to IoT and its impact on service value, enterprise value, and customer value. Service value refers to the operational and financial advantages delivered to the service organization while supporting a product or set of products. This extends to more effective reactive service, more intelligent predictive service, and the activation of self-service opportunities. As a result, organizations see lower service costs and can be more efficient in allocating service resources.

Enterprise value comes from the use of remotely captured product performance or usage data by non-service business functions. Product design and engineering are usually the functions that leverage this information the most as they look to modify or improve their products to deliver a higher level of quality and reliability. Sales and marketing can also view this data to see what features are most used by customers. This assists with improved relationship management with existing customers and enhanced awareness opportunities towards features or capabilities that customers value most.

IoT also delivers enterprise value by unearthing new revenue opportunities. With knowledge of customer usage patterns and preferences, organizations can deliver:

  • New revenue-generating services
  • Provide variable performance-tracking contracts
  • Transform their existing interaction models and move toward renewable consumption-based models.

So what’s in it for the customer? This is a very interesting question that really needs to be addressed when considering an IoT strategy. Does the customer care about the service and enterprise value delivered for the additional effort expended. Effort can come in the form of retooling of equipment or in headaches around data access and security. Quite often customer value gets ignored in the entire discussion.

In fact, one of the IoT panelists highlighted the focus on customer value to be a best practice when considering IoT investments. Service and enterprise value are then delivered as a consequence of that focus on customer value. Therefore, it’s important to know what customers truly value. Do they want higher reliability or do they want more flexible usage models? In our research around IoT in manufacturing and industrial organizations, respondents have told us that the following areas resonate most when their customers are approached about a remote monitoring service:

  • Increased uptime of asset – 49%
  • Increased quality/reliability – 17%
  • Faster resolution due to self-service – 14%

With this is mind, it becomes much easier to structure products and services wrapped around the technology of IoT to deliver value to the customer. For instance, it enables more performance-oriented service contracts that take customer needs and preferences into account. It can also shape the information provided back to the customer regarding the best use of their purchased investment. In fact, 61% of organizations we poll indicate that they provide their customers with access to product or equipment performance data via reporting or customer portals. Quite often, this data is sold as a service.

With the appropriate value delivery channel in place, it becomes easier to work with customers to expend effort around IoT. Most of this effort will come in working with their IT teams to ensure security, privacy, and IP protection. It also enables the creation of a revenue model that pays for the investment in IoT.

Want more on IoT? You’re in luck.

1 – The webcast/discussion mentioned above is available on-demand. The participants on our webcast will be present in person at the TSC Smarter Services Symposium next week (see bullet 2)

2 – We will be running an IoT-focused workshop at our upcoming Smarter Services Symposium taking place next week in San Diego. Contact me ( if interested in joining.

Activate Your Service Connect™ Membership Learn More