April 2015 - The Service Council

Field Service Still Undervalued as a Discipline

By Sumair Dutta | News, Perspective | No Comments

Today we heard the news that ClickSoftware was being acquired and taken private by Francisco Partners. Personally, I have covered ClickSoftware and worked with their team over the course of the previous 10 years and wish them the best as they enter this new journey. ClickSoftware has been, and continues to be, a key player in the field service automation space, and I look forward to tracking their progress moving forward. Over the course of the previous 12 months, two major software providers focused on field service, in TOA Technologies (by Oracle) and ClickSoftware, have been acquired. Most of the field service providers that started off as scheduling optimizers have now been accounted for. There aren’t many independent enterprise-focused field service software companies left.

The path that Francisco Partners chooses to take to maximize their return on investment remains to be seen. Over the course of the previous three years, ClickSoftware has taken numerous steps to position itself for continued growth, primarily with a focus on the cloud, via a partnership with salesforce.com, and through an extension of its solution to SMB (small and medium sized business) and contractor workforces. Will these be the foundation of continued growth and who will lead that growth? These questions will be answered in the near future.

Whenever an acquisition like this takes place, one tends to believe that it was a good deal. The acquiring company sees untapped value in the company being acquired and this value will be gotten to via a continued focus on business growth, or a significant focus on efficiency and cost optimization. Stepping back from the ClickSoftware situation for a moment and looking at the broader field service market, I believe that the discipline of field service is vastly undervalued. This undervaluation is represented in the way organizations view and evaluate their field service workforces. It is also seen in the general in the value software and solutions companies place on the growth prospects of the field service discipline. Here’s why I hold this point-of-view.

Early Stages of Mobile Maturity. While 60-80% of enterprise class (Annual revenue of USD 1b+) organizations we poll provide their field agents with mobile devices, a much smaller proportion are actually leveraging mobile applications or tapping into the deeper functionality of these mobile applications. While there is greater maturity around automating calendars, schedules, and basic work, there is a big gap in the provision of greater information and intelligence to field workers via mobile apps. In SMBs, particularly smaller field organizations, the adoption of mobile applications is even lower.

Wrench Turners to Customer Ambassadors. There is a changing mindset around the role played by field service. Field agents are not only seen as transactional wrench turners, but are now viewed as service and customer ambassadors. Since these agents are quite often talking to and connecting with customers, there is a premium being placed on the relationship being established with customers. This relationship yields greater knowledge of customer needs and wants and offers the opportunity for improved customer management and increased revenue. For field agents to truly become ambassadors, two things need to happen:

  • Field agents need to be better equipped. This extends all the way to the hiring and training of field agents but also to the tools available to these agents when in front of their customers. We’re just beginning to see this type of information being extended to customer service agents in the contact center, but we haven’t seen it done in a consistent manner with field service agents.
  • The organization needs to be prepared to collaborate with field service and act on the information available from field teams. For instance, sales and account management should be tied at the hip with field service in order to get a better understanding of customer needs. Yet, most organizations have an adhoc relationship established between service and sales (16% indicate a well established and periodic system of collaboration between these groups).

Talent and the Infusion of Contractors. There continues to be a major shortage of field service workers, an issue that is likely to become worse before it gets better owing to a large retiring workforce and low entry and recruitment rates of young field service apprentices, engineers, and agents. Forty-six percent (46%) of organizations indicate that they closed 2014 with unfilled positions for front-line field service agents. In the short-term this has led to an increasing number of contractors being leveraged for field service work, in both B2B and B2C field service environments. The contract workforce continues to get larger, and most of it has yet to be mobilized.

IoT-enabled processes and self-service business models will have an impact on field service and lead to the elimination of some field-based roles. In instances where these roles have been eliminated, the workers have been reallocated to office-based tech support or training roles. In these positions, they continue to support customers as well as other field-based service agents. As a whole, IoT-enabled connectivity will provide another layer of information and intelligence for organizations to equip their field agents. With this intelligence, field agents will be tasked with solving customer problems, but will also be required to deliver and communicate value to the customers. In our opinion, IoT will create a new normal of service delivery and customer relationship management, raising the premium on face time enabled via field service visits.

2015 Smarter Services™ Symposium Recap: Observations by Andy Huber of Xerox Corporation

By Andy Huber | News, Perspective | No Comments

Intro: I have attended The Service Council Symposiums in the past as have several of my colleagues from Xerox and other companies.

What I Liked.

  • Rusty Walther took the prize from all the sessions I attended. His no-nonsense perspective and his memorable thought-provoking analogies hit it home for me. I personally encouraged him to finish his book. I will be one of the first to buy a copy. Although I did not attend Ron Kaufman’s session, my colleague told me his was terrific as well.
  • TSC Symposiums are an excellent venue for networking with service executives and managers. Most attendees are high level executives with significant experiences to share.
  • I liked the large font first names on the nametags! Since we generally only see one another once a year, it is helpful in remembering names of people you have met in the past. Add the last names next time, maybe in a smaller font.
  • The pre-conference survey and interests/expertise on the nametags was a nice idea to foster conversation-starters.
  • I liked the “forced” introductions to a random person that Ron Kaufmann did at the start. A few more of those would have been nice.
  • March in San Diego was a welcome respite from our long cold northeastern winter!
  • The limits imposed on vendor presentations are just about right: it is good to know what technologies are available but not good when conferences become overwhelmingly selling venues.
  • Many of the sessions are directly applicable to our industry. Examples include:
    • Customer mapping
    • Self-help
    • Omni-channel customer service
    • Predictive Analytics and Big Data from the Internet of Things
    • Inspiring presentations on customer service excellence by Erica Javellana of Zappos and Rick Mears of the San Francisco Giants.
    • Reining in cost of service
    • Working with IT
    • Resistance to Remote Monitoring
    • Service empowerment in stopping premature product launches
    • Third party and contingent labor

I Would Have Like to Have Seen

  • More of: Step by step approaches from practitioners who have implemented successful programs rather than broad overviews of capabilities provided.
  • Less of: Break out sessions with group exercises. These are great for personal development, but take away limited time for learning new approaches to service.

Key Takeaway: In customer service, relationships mean more than processes and policies. Build rewarding relationships with employees and with customers to drive loyalty.

 

Andy Huber is Manager of Systems Strategy for Xerox Corporation. In his role, Andy provides strategic direction for new systems and technology enablement for Xerox Technical Services.

2015 Smarter Services™ Symposium Recap: Observations (Part 2) by Cary Chapman, Advisory Board Member

By | News, Perspective | No Comments

Wrapping up my analysis of the 2015 symposium (Part 1: here), Day three began with a keynote delivered by Joe Brown, Senior Design Lead at Ideo. His topic was “Designing New Service Opportunities”. Joe introduced us to the seven rules of brainstorming. These certainly are helpful for creating some structure in the brainstorming process. There were a series of statements throughout his discussion that have merit. They are as follows: find the right problem to solve, test ideas in minutes not months, 70% of all change efforts fail, the biggest roadblocks to change are behavioral, don’t get ready- get started, when initiating change take baby steps and make the changes temporary until proven.

The last breakout I attended was titled “Anatomy Of The Perfect Service Visit” This was a panel discussion chaired by Joseph Lang, Senior V.P. of Comfort Systems, Steve Meyers, Director of Field Service Central, Vivint and myself, Cary Chapman, National Field Service Manager. We had a one hour session with the first half hour allowing the panel to discuss their background and what constitutes the perfect visit. The second half hour encouraged participation from the audience with questions as well as comments and their experiences. The discussion was very lively with everyone agreeing on several components as well as some great questions on how to gain and train for that perfect call. Also some discussion about how the perfect call constructed for each of our customers. I found the breakouts very enjoyable and was pleased with the wealth of knowledge demonstrated by the attendees.

Unfortunately I needed to leave at eleven, so I missed the last one and one-half hours of the symposium. My overall impression is that these symposiums have improved each year with John, Sumair and the team being very open to suggestions for change and willing to react. There is an absolute joy for me when attending these sessions being able to network and share with other service professionals. There is comfort when talking with a service professional in not having to explain the basics of service before a discussion can be finalized. We should all be sure to thank the Service Council team for their hard work in providing this venue for us to enjoy, grow, share and learn.

On a personal note it was great to meet Allison (John’s wife) who we have heard so much about but never met. The card that was attached to each of our registration packets was penned by Allison and she did a great job of capturing what we are all about. I look forward to seeing all of you again next year and having the privilege to share a few days together again.

In conclusion, I would offer these suggestions:

  1. Maybe have a few less breakouts so that we can run those one and one-half hours. It seems just as they were getting interesting we ran out of time.
  2. Possibly gear a few keynotes to small service business companies. I spoke with two different attendees who represented organizations smaller than ten technicians. I would expect they are focused on somewhat different subject matter equally critical to their day to day business.
  3. And lastly, our venue this year was incredible yet when we conduct these on either coast the travel becomes punitive to many. Perhaps we should consider staying in the Midwest near a hub airport in a late September to early October time frame. This might encourage and enable the vast majority to attend these wonderful events.

See you at next years event!

Cary

 

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.

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