November 2016 - The Service Council

Being Thankful – What is the Value of Having the Right Answer to Solve a Service Problem?

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

It’s that time of year again in the US. That time where we gather with our loved ones and share a feast, watch football and parades, and reflect on what we are thankful for.

I know it may seem a bit cliché to turn everything back to business, but when was the last time you thought about what your team or customers will be thankful for this year? I know many of you conduct customer satisfaction surveys or poll your field workforce annually regarding “How are we doing?”. But are we really listening?

Thank You for Having the Right Answer

At my first Smarter Services Symposium this past September, I was overwhelmed by a session we held where actual field technicians and service workers spoke candidly (on camera) about their jobs and the value they bring. But, they also voiced the challenges which made their job difficult. One comment stands out to me. A service engineer looked into the camera and said she was most fearful of getting in front of a customer and not having the right answer. All she wanted out of her day was to always have the right answer to solve a customer’s issue. She was thankful for being able to be a problem solver for customers in times of need.

Let’s Make our Teams More than Heroes

Now, this goal may not be what keeps you up at night or the thing you strive to enable within your workforce. But I think it is something we should consider as we evaluate service in this time of reflection. Many of us are thankful for our jobs and livelihoods. But we also desire to be thankful for having the tools to do our jobs well. Will your service team be grateful that they have the tools and insights to solve problems (and be heroes for the customer)? Will your customers be thankful that their partners always have the right answer?

I am thankful for hearing that story from that technician, because it made me re-evaluate everything we research, write about, and explore. Our goal as leaders should be to ensure our teams always have the right answers and through these answers we can make our customers and employees proud to be a part of our team.

Hear More Stories of Empowerment and Thankfulness

If you could not attend this year’s Symposium and hear those stories from the field, don’t fret. Because of such great response to that project based on US technicians (learn more in the report, webcast, or summary data), we have conducted a similar effort for European technicians and service workers and we will present those findings during a webcast on Nov 30th at 9am eastern. Please join this webcast to learn from the front line and see what drives them. Have a great holiday break and spend a few moments to reflect on what you are thankful for.

Aly Pinder Jr
Director of Member Research & Communities
The Service Council or @pinderjr

ClickSoftware Seeks a Course to Software Magic: A ClickConnect 2016 Review

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

One of my favorite presentations at ClickSoftware’s recent ClickConnect conference was from J. Randall Hunt at Amazon Web Services. While he spoke about Amazon’s cloud infrastructure and how it is empowering organizations such as NASA and SpaceX, he also spoke about innovation for the enterprise. In his presentation, he also introduced two extremely pertinent and powerful quotes, both of which are worthy of their status as inspirational posters/memes etc.

The first comes from British science fiction writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke who once wrote:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

This is the most popular of Clarke’s three laws. There are many interpretations of this law. Mine follows the path that software or technology is at its best when it makes life easier. As in, the operation of technology in the background yields magical results without me having to prompt the technology to produce desired results.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in enterprise software. Out-of-the-box very seldom adheres to companies’ needs and it then becomes an exercise of configuration and customization to make software do what is desired. All of this works till the next update.

The Promise of the Cloud

ClickSoftware has always been known to be a powerful field service tool, especially on the back of its scheduling engine and mobile capabilities. This isn’t just personal opinion, its information shared from ClickSoftware users in The Service Council’s community. Yet, power has been equated with complexity, making the deployment of ClickSoftware a significant investment in change. Some of this investment has been tied to software and coding, but most of the change has been related to business process and employee acceptance. Once the change has been executed, results have been powerful, yet the change has often been the hardest part of the ClickSoftware implementation.

The organization has made a significant push to simplifying its product with the most recent announcement of Field Service Edge. With Field Service Edge, ClickSoftware has completed its embrace of the cloud and hopes that its current customers will make the leap with it. Upon early investigation, several field service customers are looking to move from their on-premise deployments to cloud options. Yet, given a strong utilities customer base, the migration has been slow. However, the Cloud seems to be model of preference, with the majority of recent customers and prospects interested in a cloud-based solution.

At ClickConnect 2016, the company was able to showcase some of the enhanced capabilities of its Field Service Edge solution and often touted the ease with which software could be set up and updated. Recent updates to Field Service Edge (June 2016) allowed for improved usability, real-time updates, and even further enhanced scheduling accuracy based on Google’s predictive engine. The future roadmap checked all the boxes in terms of areas of improvement and investment in field service:

  • Advanced reporting and improved dashboards
  • Driver behavior and safety analysis (in collaboration with GreenRoad or Fleetmatics)
  • Augmented reality in the field (in partnership with FieldBit)
  • Contractor management
  • Crew management and planning

Customers Looking to Blend Efficiency with Engagement

In addition to these areas, there were two areas that piqued customer interest.

  1. Capacity Planning.While not the topic that gets the most clicks, capacity and territory planning is a major challenge for field service companies. Organizations are always looking to build optimal territories to meet response and SLA requirements. Optimized scheduling can only go so far and needs to be augmented with optimized planning. In this area, ClickSoftware has a unique opportunity to differentiate, especially in bringing planning and scheduling together. In its future product roadmap, ClickSoftware is reinvesting in planning as a field service functionality in incorporating a more dynamic and predictive territory allocation model.
  2. Customer Engagement.Customer engagement, as a module, was introduced at ClickConnect 2015 and it would have been great to see live examples of organizations using these tools. The idea behind customer engagement in a field service setting is that the customer gets introduced into the field service delivery equation. Therefore, the customer has control over appointment setting and management and can engage with the field service organization via messaging or text to review, update, or reschedule established service work. All of this can be done with or without the installation of a dedicated app. Customers can create appointments in Facebook or via their messaging application of choice and can receive necessary updates in preferred avenues.

    Customer engagement is an interesting play for ClickSoftware. It is true that the experience delivered to customers in field service is becoming more and more of a differentiator. Customers, enterprise or consumer, want field service to be effective and want to be able to afford field service. Outside of that, the field service experience is becoming a differentiator. Of pure play field service providers, ClickSoftware is making the most significant push into customer engagement. Salesforce and Microsoft are making the push as well, albeit from the comprehensive view of the customer perspective as afforded by their CRM solutions. We believe that customer engagement will be a game changer, especially given the way that younger customers and consumers are demanding service. The question remains as to which partners service organizations will look to work with in their pursuit of customer engagement tools. Are they more likely to build it themselves, or work with CRM partners, or look to their field service providers? The answer to this question will determine the success of ClickSoftware’s push into customer engagement.

Also on display at ClickConnect were customer-led sessions from SGS, Trane, Diebold, Lowes, and Suramerica. Most of these organizations spoke of their investments in and challenges with change management. In some of these cases, the change management was tied to the deployment of ClickSoftware, while at others it was around changed processes as impacted by ClickSoftware. For instance, Trane presented on its transformation from a technician-driven, self-dispatching model to one managed by local coordinators. To allow for regional relationship development, the company decided that a completely centralized model wasn’t the way to go. However, introducing a local coordinator eliminated decision-making complexity at the technician-level (who should I visit first?) while empowering the team to cover a larger set of customers.

In looking to the future, the likes of Diebold, Trane, and SGS were most interested in increasing the predictability of their service businesses while managing the changing expectations of their service customers. These organizations also highlighted the increasing importance of employee engagement especially as workforces become more and more distributed. Improving employee engagement isn’t just seen as a means to reduce turnover, but is also seen as a path to improved and increased innovation.

Which leads me to my second quote from Hunt’s presentation. This comes from Joi Ito, Director of MIT’s Media Lab.

“Want to increase innovation? Lower the cost of failure.”

On the topic of customer engagement, The Service Council is about to launch its survey focused on the Next Frontiers of Customer Experience with a section tied to field service-oriented customer experiences. The idea for this survey was developed from consumerization-oriented takeaways from our 2016 Smarter Services Symposium. The survey will be live shortly. If interested in participating in the survey to talk about changing the experience of connecting and communicating with customers, do feel free to reach out to me. I can be found at

My First Sales & Marketing Conference: No Fluff, Focus on Results

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

Last week was an interesting one and I think we all deserved this past weekend. In the mayhem of the week, I was able to attend Hubspot’s Inbound Conference in Boston November 8 – 11. The weeklong sales & marketing event was headlined by an impressive group of people, spanning the gamut from one of the greatest tennis players of all-time to an Oscar-nominated actress to the directors of “Making a Murderer”.

For me, the impact of Inbound went beyond the main stage headliners and the true value was found in the breakout sessions, hallway discussions, a vibrant social stream, and networking coffee breaks which highlighted the transformation of business from a solo endeavor of heroes to one where teams win. Of all the content and discussions, three major themes jumped out at me, and I believe that these themes will challenge all of us as we look to the future.

Sales, Marketing, and Service: The Three Musketeers in 2017

Sales, marketing, and service teams should establish combined goals and work together to solve them. Many of us continue to complain about working within siloed organizations and the challenge of getting other teams to understand what we do and why collaboration is integral to the success of our organization. One of the main reasons why collaboration suffers is that we don’t have the same information or knowledge. Therefore, we are focused on improving our own part of the business with little visibility into the impact of the improvement on the whole experience delivered to the customer.

Several sessions highlighted how barriers get broken through combined knowledge and understanding. So, step one in breaking silos between sales & marketing, and even service, is to have shared knowledge to drive at shared goals. For example, organizations should consider creating a similar curriculum of best practices or workshops for all customer-facing teams. Organizations should also create training tools (i.e., videos) which are made available to these different functions to help facilitate this level of continuous learning and shared knowledge.

Push The Chips All In

Technology depends on being “all in”. Too often we as business leaders expect that our front lines will just adopt whatever technology we give them. This could not be further from the reality on the ground. The success of a technology deployment depends on gaining buy-in from the users of that technology. This holds true for the deployment of a CRM tool, a field service management solution, or any other enterprise technology. At Inbound, the connection between understanding the promise of what technology can bring and how to achieve it depended on having a team committed to its success at all levels. Multiple speakers discussed how organizations they worked with often invested in technology tools, but the employees would find workarounds to use their own tools of choice. This lesson goes beyond sales & marketing technology to encompass any deployment of technology or new process.

Marketing & Sales Gold is Found in the Field

Customer service is becoming marketing and sales gold. This is something those of us in customer service and other support functions already knew. But throughout last week’s Inbound event, various executives highlighted the importance of delivering on a promise of quality to the customer. But more importantly, they [sales & marketing executives] are beginning to promote the value being delivered in the field and via the customer support team. As a service nerd [expert], I was happy to see leaders from other functions understand that their success depended on the service team delivering as products no longer drive as much of the business as in prior eras or generations.

Take the Enthusiasm from the Stage to the Streets

While service’s value to sales & marketing continues to increase, we are also seeing an increasing sales and marketing focus being applied to traditional service disciplines and products. Service can only operate on an island for so long and if the service delivered is truly a differentiator, then it behooves organizations to make customers and prospects aware of their service excellence. To be the cornerstone of organizations, driving revenues, profitability, and customer satisfaction, service must be supported by the sales and marketing team. I think the beginning of this realization was highlighted at Inbound.

The convergence of these teams is a transformation I will be researching in earnest in 2017. If you oversee sales or marketing for your organization and work with service, I would like to get you involved in our research in this area. If you are the right person, or would like to refer me to the responsible person within your organization, please send me a note. Sales, marketing, and service collaboration is integral to the future of your business next year, let’s learn from each other.

Aly Pinder Jr
Director of Member Research & Communities
The Service Council or @pinderjr

The Killer App for IoT is Service: GE Digital Acquires ServiceMax

By Sumair Dutta | News | No Comments

As GE prepares for its Mind and Machines Internet of Things (IoT) conference, it added an interesting item to the agenda with the purchase of field service powerhouse ServiceMax for $915m (Press Release). ServiceMax has previously had a footprint in several GE businesses (since Sept 2010) and now GE expects to connect and extend its Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) vision and Predix platform into the field.

It’s long been rumored that ServiceMax would eventually be bought. Initial signals pointed to Salesforce, the platform on which ServiceMax was built. As Salesforce began the pursuit of its own field service journey, most eyes turned to PTC. Yet, $900m or so seems like an asking price that PTC was unlikely to swallow given its wave of IoT and service investments.

Our First Take (of Many)

First and foremost, this is a big field service play. Recent acquisitions of enterprise field service software providers have been in the $400-$500m range and this is quite an investment by GE Digital. GE’s transformation from industrial giant to digital partner has been well documented and the company most recently purchased Meridium and its Asset Performance Management capabilities. Where Meridium excels in enhancing maintenance processes within the four walls of a manufacturing facility, ServiceMax offers a similar value proposition for assets in the field. The same type of machine performance data and intelligence can be used to:

  1. Improve reactive service and maintenance opportunities
  2. Develop predictive support models
  3. Develop new products and services (driven by service information)
  4. Develop new relationship models (output-based, consumption-based)

ServiceMax’s enterprise customers and prospects will greatly benefit from the added investment, especially in the areas of connected field service and analytics. A number of these enterprise organizations are looking for assistance in the development and execution of their IoT roadmap and strategy, and the GE Digital-ServiceMax combination will likely offer the key components in a productized form. (Note: ServiceMax and PTC currently offer a connected service product for which the organizations have recently signed early customers)

For GE Digital, the purchase opens up IoT-ready verticals in medical devices, building services, and Industrial Manufacturing. While many within these industries already have pockets of an IoT strategy (primarily for reactive service or predictive maintenance), these organizations are making build vs. buy decisions on their future IoT roadmaps and are looking for partners to help them get started.

From a broader IoT perspective, GE’s investment points to the fact that improved service and maintenance processes still offer the clearest form of ROI when it comes to IoT investments. While IoT and IIoT holds a lot of promise, very few organizations have really been able to scale into servitized business and operating models. This takes time. For a number of organizations, servitized models only work with products that were designed and manufactured with connectivity in mind. But in a world where customers continue to hang on to legacy equipment, there is work to be done. (See challenges below)
IoT Challenges
Yet, organizations understand the language of efficiency. Field service is still bogged down by manual processes and even though mobile devices are common in the hands of field service teams, most organizations have only leveraged mobile capabilities to replace paper-based forms. A greater use of mobility promises further efficiency gains and this continues to be the major selling point of mobile applications even though the revenue and customer experience ramifications are significant. Most organizations want to get some quick wins from a cost-saving and efficiency point-of-view before they have the bandwidth to invest in other capabilities.

It is the same with IoT. Organizations want to use enhanced intelligence to reduce unnecessary field service visits. In the case where field service is necessary, service organizations want to make sure that first-time fix rates are high. Moving the needle on a first-time fix from low 70s to the high 70s or mid 80s can have significant cost ramifications (as seen from our data below). These are easier, more measurable wins that can be pointed to as organizations collect more and more data to enable more predictive service algorithms. It also offers a greater deal of time for service organizations to implement a digital-first strategy, one where products are designed, manufactured, and sold with connectivity in place.
Cost of Field Service
The vision of IoT is easy to understand. Converting that vision into action has been difficult for a number of organizations for many reasons (unclear and overlapping IoT landscape, poor transformation roadmaps, a lack of connected solutions). Connected service or connected manufacturing products offer organizations a way to reap the early benefits of IoT while focusing in on a long-term digital strategy. We anticipate that GE Digital’s purchase of ServiceMax will offer service and manufacturing organizations the opportunity to scale with focused IoT-enabled products while planning out an overall digital strategy.

We will have additional comments regarding this over the coming weeks. We’re currently in the throes of an IoT-related research project where service organizations are telling us about their strategies to address key IoT-related challenges. If interested in participating, do reach out to me.

Update 1: Had the chance to speak with ServiceMax co-founder Athani Krishnaprasad. I’ve known Athani for a long time and it was great to hear the excitement about the future of ServiceMax, as part of the GE brotherhood. He did confirm that the worlds of field service and asset management (ServiceMax and Meridium) are converging and that GE’s vision is to bring together the manufacturers and consumers of industrial machines with the aid of data. In a connected world, output and performance are responsibilities of both parties and it won’t just be the manufacturer’s field service engineer who has access to service information. The customer (plant manager, facility manager) will also play an increasingly informed role in service decision-making.

Update 2: We’ve spoken to several ServiceMax and ThingWorx customers for their comments on the acquisition. Most welcomed the investment in field service and in ServiceMax’s capabilities but believe that it’s too early to tell. Others were unclear on how the GE Digital-PTC-ServiceMax trifecta will work moving forward. We anticipate that there might be more on the horizon at Minds and Machines.

Recap Friday: Workforce Empowerment

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Aly Pinder and I are starting a new series of blogs where we look to recap some of the key service stories of the week. It’ll be like a curated list of service stories for the week. On some occasions we might focus on just one story, presentation, or TED Talk.

This week, we’re presenting a TEDx Talk that we greatly enjoyed. It comes from Scott Geller who is an Alumni distinguished professor at Virginia Tech and the director of the Center of Applied Behavior Systems at the Department of Psychology. A lot of Professor Geller’s work is actually tied to safety, a topic near and dear to us, but here he focuses on the area of workforce empowerment and engagement. Take a few minutes to listen in:

Our Take Away on Empowerment

Workforce empowerment is a major area of focus for service organizations and service business leaders. Yet, empowerment at the organization level is too often focused on ‘getting it done’. True empowerment at the employee level occurs when there is a level of self-motivation to do a certain thing or set of things without worrying about who is watching. In driving self-motivation, Professor Geller’s 4 Cs are a good framework:

  1. The perception of Competence
  2. The understanding of Consequence
  3. The existence of Choice
  4. The sense of Community

Other empowerment guidelines often focus on the first three, but Professor Geller makes a good case for the value of community in driving empowerment. “We need a sense of community and have got to move from independence to inter-dependence.”

We hope you enjoyed this installment of our weekly recaps. If interested in some of our recent work around workforce safety, please feel free to listen in on a recent webcast we hosted around safety culture, featuring TSC members Ledcor and Trane. Till next week.

Owning the Service Experience While Outsourcing Some of the Work

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

“Memorable customer service comes from emotionally engaged employees”. This a quote from one of our keynote speakers at this year’s Smarter Services Symposium. But what happens when those employees are not your own W-2 workers? What if you are partnering with a third party and outsourcing field work?

The Future of Service Excellence Might Look a Bit Different

This is a question that is becoming more of a challenge for service leaders in 2016 and into 2017. These executives see a looming shortage of workers due to an aging and retiring demographic impacting their ability to continue to deliver high levels of service and support to customers who desire more value in their care. Service leaders look to balance the desire to establish and leverage a dynamic workforce which can meet fluctuations in service needs while also ensuring they provide the level of quality of service their customers demand. This balance must be struck because your customers want the job done right, but the experience of who is delivering that service is also becoming more important.

To achieve this balancing act, a quarter of companies are reviewing their outsourcing strategies to:

– Establish metrics to measure performance,
– Align goals with potential partners,
– Better understand third party capabilities and reach,
– Confirm skillsets and certifications.

This openness to outsourcing some service jobs to third parties is a trend we have been tracking for a while now, seemingly putting an end to the skepticism associated with whether outsourced service teams can deliver at the same levels as internal W2 employees. But there is still a long way to go, and I am intrigued to see how each stakeholder within this equation (i.e., service organization, third parties, the end customer) adapts to this evolving service paradigm.

What’s Your Take?

We are currently wrapping up a project to identify some of the best practices and challenges faced by service teams regarding outsourcing field work. If this is a topic that challenges you or one in which you have an opinion, please participate by taking a few minutes to fill out our latest survey on the topic.

Learn from Your Peers

We will be publishing the results to this project later this month. But as a sneak peek, we will share some of the findings in advance in the coming week. So please join the conversation as this is a topic which will continue to impact service and your end customers.

Aly Pinder Jr
Director of Member Research & Communities
The Service Council or @pinderjr

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