October 2016 - The Service Council

Machines in Service Series Part I: The IoT Won’t Do Everything

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

“…the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” – Franklin D Roosevelt (1933 Inaugural Speech)

Great quote. Timely, as we wrap another US presidential election cycle. However, this post is NOT about politics.

It is about machines, and the almost constant fear of machines both in pop culture and in business. Will machines take your job (i.e., ATM, live bank teller) or take over in general?

The hype around the Internet of Things automating our work and home lives has recently given way to the fear of our machines, baby monitors, thermostats, and smart home cameras attacking or at least being hacked for some yet undetermined nefarious reasons. This fear clearly is not unwarranted as seen by the headlines last week, but I do think we need to take a step back and understand the role and the value machines can and will play in our lives in the 21st century. The security risks associated with machines and the IoT are real, but the fear of them taking over all aspects of life might be a bit overblown.

In a recent Ted Talk on machines, Anthony Goldbloom – Machine Learning expert, laid out what machines can and cannot do and the value they can provide. According to Goldbloom, machines will not take over the world but will be most effective at completing frequent, high volume tasks. But machines will not be able to tackle novel situations or events they have not seen before. This is where people come into play. We, as humans, have an ability to adapt to individual situations and interact accordingly. Therefore, I believe machines won’t take over all the work in customer service, especially those tasks that require face to face interactions or demand non-repetitive critical thinking. Automation has enabled improved efficiency on repetitive tasks such as scheduling jobs or ensuring failure codes are quickly identified, but the true test of delivering service interactions of value to customers every day must continue to be done by people.

At our recent Smarter Services Symposium, one of my favorite sessions was one in which we asked actual front line technicians what they liked or disliked the most about their daily work. Overwhelmingly, the technicians we interviewed enjoyed delivering resolution, quality service, and value for the customers they see every day. They understand that only they can deliver a smile to a customer through compassion, empathy, and ultimately a human connection. This is service, and something machines are not likely to deliver in the near future.

Machines, as viewed through the lens of movies, tv shows, and the headlines, may be scary, but I for one think that we should not fear a machine takeover of service interactions with customers on a day to day basis. That is something for human technicians, engineers, and service personnel. The rise of the machines will be delayed for a bit longer. And please look forward to a deeper dive into the topics of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the IoT as we explore the challenges, benefits, and what is possible. So, if these topics keep you up at night or just make you want to learn more, please join our community as we all learn together and try to keep the machines from taking over.

Aly Pinder Jr
Director of Member Research & Communities
The Service Council
ap@servicecouncil.com or @pinderjr

Metrics in Field Service: A Moving Target

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | 3 Comments

If you ask a field service business leader to list the most important metrics for his/her business, the list would include the likes of:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Service margins – business profitability
  • Response time or mean time to repair
  • First-time fix

Depending on who you ask, the order of the metrics tends to change. That said, for the most part, these metrics are consistently near the top of the field service leaders watch-list. In covering the field service world over the previous 12 years, we’ve made some observations in measurement areas that are becoming more and more relevant. We’ve highlighted a few below:

Success at the Customer Level

First came the operational metrics such as time to response and first-time fix. Then came the business success metrics such as revenue and margins. We finally see a greater emphasis from field service organizations on measuring success at the customer level. This doesn’t just mean the measurement of customer satisfaction, but also a more rigorous analysis of metrics such as Net Promoter Score (transactional), Retention, Customer Effort Score, and Ease of Doing Business. Leading organizations are beginning to evaluate what a customer sees as a successful field service visit and are then measuring their success on the ability to deliver that to the customer on a consistent basis.

Focus on the Employee

There’s still work to be done here, but the value of the field service employee has skyrocketed. This isn’t solely tied to the shortage of quality field service engineers, but also to the increased realization of the impact of a field service visit. A good field service visit not only leads to a happy customer but also opens up revenue opportunities for the organization. A good field service visit typically requires an engaged field service employee who not only cares about the work that’s being done, but is also aligned with the brand promise of the organization that he/she supports.

The Complete Service Delivery Team

TSC’s latest research on outsourcing reveals that partners currently do a third of field service work. These partners are dealers, distributors, independent service organizations, and contractors. Yet, only 60% of organizations have defined metrics in place to track the performance of their partners. This is changing, as more organizations are beginning to apply the rigor of operational, financial, and customer-facing metrics to the work that is completed by partners on their behalf.

Conflict Metrics

The service organization has a direct impact on service performance. In that, the service organization can identify areas of improvement and can make necessary adjustments. Yet, other areas of the organization also impact service performance. For instance, promises made by the sales team impact service expectations and performance. The design of a serviceable product can impact service performance. This is why leading service leaders are beginning to present standard service metrics as conflict metrics, i.e. they are meant to drive action in other parts of the business. For instance, time to repair can be greatly impacted by the serviceability of a product. If the most replaced parts are embedded deepest into the product then there might be an opportunity to reconsider the design of the product to make it more serviceable without compromising functionality. Or a decision might need to be made to leverage a more expensive component so that it doesn’t need to be replaced as often. These metrics are most effective when they consider the pain points of all business groups as well as the pain points of the final customer.

We’re going to be talking all things metrics on an upcoming webcast on October 18. The webcast will feature our research and analysis on:

  1. The Key Metrics in Field Service
  2. Steps to Improve Key Field Service Metrics
  3. Other Areas of Measurement to Consider

We look forward to having you join us.

Fresh Eyes and a New Challenge: My First Smarter Services Symposium

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

“Change or Perish!”

These words of wisdom from Doup Lipp, former head of Training for The Walt Disney Company, at last month’s Smarter Services Symposium seemed directed at me. After spending 7+ years with one organization, I am entering a new challenge and welcome change as I join the Service Council as the new Director of Member Research & Communities.

Change can be scary, but it has sparked a renewed passion in me. Over the two plus days of last month’s Symposium, I had the pleasure (and the excitement) of jumping into the deep end of the pool even before I officially joined the team. After the fog of newness cleared, I was able to settle in and do what I truly enjoy – listen to experts in service, learn a few new ideas, network with business leaders, and be challenged to continuously improve and evolve. There were many takeaways, but here are a couple of areas I found integral to a changing mindset for service and the future of excellence:

Have a vision for the strategic, but embrace the tactical. Headlines drive buzz and are often delivered with bluster. But I was quite intrigued at the event to hear many of the service leaders discuss the importance of small victories and making changes that can positively impact the service experience today, not some far off future in 2025. Too often we get excited about the transformative, big idea and forget that battles are won in the trenches every day with the customer. One bad service interaction or incomplete work order can lead to sustained failure. Working on the little things may not seem flashy, but they can help deliver value to customers now. Strategic planning for the future of the business is clearly necessary, however the success of service depends on the continuous improvement of individual processes and interactions on the ground, which happen every day.

Engagement in the field is no longer a dirty word. When thinking of a field service technician or engineer, most of us would envision a picture of a person with a hardhat, rugged device in hand (I know, tablets and smartphones are becoming the norm), driving a utility van or truck. These rugged men and women carrying rugged-ish devices to complete dirty jobs seem to reside in a world that doesn’t care about (their) feelings or levels of engagement. Engagement is something for office workers and HR teams to think about. But from the opening keynote on Day 1 to the closing session, the value of engaged service workers was touted as not only the right thing to do but also the path to sustained profitability. This shouldn’t come as a shock; the front line service worker is often the face of the organization to the customer. And therefore, shouldn’t that face be engaged, happy, and motivated to go above and beyond the work order? Engaged employees are more likely to deliver exceptional experiences to customers who in turn just might decide to renew a contract with you as opposed to finding your competitor. The alternative to engaged service employees is something to avoid.

Service should be a race to the top for the customer and not the bottom line. Over the years, I have spoken with many service organizations that have invested in technology to transform a process to primarily reap efficiency gains or cut a few costs from the business. This short term gain could not have been farther from the lessons shared by the service leaders on stage throughout the event. Time and again, the discussion on the stage, in the halls, and over cocktails revolved around prioritizing the delivery of value to the customer first while also ensuring the service team is given the tools to excel. The short-term gain of cost containment can lead to a long-lasting loss of value creation for the customer. In 2016, customers have options and a strong voice, and this is one reason service organizations must increase the value being delivered and not cut down on what provides differentiation.

Those are just a few of my thoughts. I look forward to continuing the conversation over the next many days and months, and hopefully I will see you at next year’s event to be held once again in Chicago on September 13-15, 2017. As a sneak peek into next year’s Symposium, over the next eleven months we will be exploring some interesting topics such as technician empowerment, customer partnerships, and IoT preparation. These topics, plus many more, surely will end up on the stage in Chicago. So mark your calendars and let me know if there are other topics that you feel need to be discussed. And finally, if like me it is time for you to make a change, instead of perishing, join our community today to learn from your peers and share the knowledge.

Aly Pinder Jr
Director of Member Research & Communities
ap@servicecouncil.com or @pinderjr

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