January 2018 - The Service Council

5 Headwinds Every Field Service Leader Should Prepare for in 2018

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

Field service must step up its game in 2018. Over the last few years, it seems like we’ve been discussing the same topics and not quite finding a worthy set of solutions. Last year, the key challenges were heightened customer expectations and the turnover associated with retiring service workers. My colleague, Sumair Dutta, wrote a great piece last year laying the framework for how service leaders can prepare their businesses to bring in new blood and to meet heightened customer expectations (here and here). So, with those issues solved, I think the service leader needs to prepare for these headwinds which will be in front of them in 2018.

Headwind 1 – Competition for talent
When you think of competition, you wouldn’t be wrong to first think about the ability to sell more products or equipment than your peers. But in 2018, we need to expand the role competition plays in our sustainability and success, field service leaders must now compete over finding, hiring, and keeping the service worker. A workforce and talent shortage was listed by half of the field service leaders we sampled in early results (Participate and weigh in).

Solving this challenge shouldn’t solely come down to paying higher wages, as pay alone isn’t a long-term strategy. The key is truly investing in your team and their individual success. Providing paths for career growth, offering training and certifications on the latest procedures and tools, and staying in tune with the voice of the employee are all ways to show the current workforce and those evaluating you as a place of future employment you are a fit. A well-rounded strategy around workforce development and continuous learning will not only help hold on to current workers but it is also a key factor to attract the next wave of workers and the millennial technician. Service leaders need to prepare to not only hold on to their valued employees but also attract new ones.


Headwind 2 – Losing good and tenured employees with no or little notice
Do you know who your best performers are? Do you know which technicians plan to retire next year or the year after? Too often service leaders primarily use the wealth of data points at their fingertips to manage current resources or problems, but not to consider the future. Most of us fall prey to putting out the fire of the day, not long-range planning activities. But as the crunch for workers, and more importantly high performing workers, becomes more cutthroat, service leaders need to take a closer look at worker performance and what makes a good technician or engineer. Service leaders need to evaluate which technicians have strong relationships with customers, which engineers quickly adapt to changes in the work environment, and which ones welcome interactions with customers that go beyond just fixing things and moving on. With this level of intelligence, service leaders can target employees that have strong relationships and are planning to leave, and allow those that want to continue working be retained in other capacities (i.e., remote expert). As the cost of living and life expectancies rise, we shouldn’t miss an opportunity to extend a bit of flexibility to an aging workforce to keep them on for another year or two, thus lessening the blow of them leaving the field.

Headwind 3 – Patchwork IT strategy shows cracks
The top challenge facing half of the field service leaders (51%) who have participated in our 2018 trends research was the inability to integrate data from the field with enterprise solutions. These leaders also point to an insufficient IT infrastructure to support the needs of the service team resulting in cobbled together solutions that aren’t ready to support today’s digital reality. What is needed is a true digital strategy which can scale with a growing team, with the introduction of more complex equipment, or meet the needs of an expanding network. The likes of artificial intelligence and augmented reality cannot truly be enjoyed by field service without a cohesive digital strategy.

Piecing solutions together causes breakdowns in data flows as more people across the organization use and need data. Field service leaders need to work with leaders from other functions and the IT team to create a unified technology strategy which solves the problem of the day and scales with the company’s growth.

Headwind 4 – Resistance to innovation
“This is the way we’ve always done it”, needs to become an outdated mantra for field service organizations. As customer expectations for service evolves, the service organization will need to find new ways to deliver value. Just showing up on time is no longer good enough. Also, primarily having technicians who want to just fix things and not interact with the customer in a conversation is no longer acceptable. So, to navigate this changing environment, field service leaders and their teams need to embrace change and innovation. This doesn’t have to be scary, but it will take buy-in and education around why it is necessary to think and act differently both on the front line and in service leadership. Change is tough, but the alternative will be worse in 2018 as the stakes continue to rise.

Headwind 5 – Customers (still) want more for less
This isn’t a new challenge, but it’s becoming more of a critical concern. The change is customers have (more) options, something they haven’t always had. In many industries, technology has opened up markets and suppliers that previously were inaccessible. Also, the revenue opportunity in service has led to entrants into the market to capture their perceived fair share. With added competition, the customer can pick and choose who gets their business, putting downward pressure on price. Those who aren’t able to offer varying levels of value (at varying prices) are forced to offer the same premium service at a reduced price. This pressure on margins impacts leader’s ability to make investments and add resources, making it even more important that the right decisions are made. To navigate this difficult relationship, service leaders need to leverage the data and tools at their disposal to make smarter decisions and deliver a heightened experience that customers are willing to pay for. Differentiation through the field experience will be key in 2018, as customers may be more open to paying for relationships and resolution.

2018 has a lot in store for field service leaders. The successful leader will be the ones that can navigate or at least create a plan on how to deal with the headwinds that are on the horizon. Failure to tackle these approaching tests will be difficult to recover from. To learn how some of your peers, and field service Champions, are tackling these and other challenges, participate in our 2018 trends research (survey). Also, we are holding a webcast on Wednesday, January 31 where I will share some findings and moderate a panel of field service leaders. Register to learn, share, and challenge the trends facing the field service leader.

Customer-Centricity at the Heart of Digital Transformation Initiatives

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

It’s easy to toss around the term Digital Transformation nowadays. Everyone needs to have a perspective on it in order to sound forward thinking. It seems to me that very few people know what it means. More importantly, very few people seem to have a clear definition of what it means specifically for their organizations, their roles, and their overall futures.Or so I think.

In order to bring our community together on the topic of Digital Transformation, we recently launched a research project aimed at service business leaders and strategists. The purpose of the project was two-fold:

  1. Uncover the different definitions of the term.
  2. Assess where organizations were in their digital journeys.

As I write this, we’ve had 25 leaders of service businesses voice their opinion and we shall keep the project open (take survey) till we hear from 50 leaders. A quick word on the early results.

Defining Digital Transformation

By far the most entertaining definition we received goes to, “Going from Flintstones darkness to Jetson light. From no data to ‘some’ data.” Others (seen below) were much more descriptive and the comment about minimizing data administration and maximizing data analysis is a really succinct way of approaching digital transformation. We need to move from the data collector stage to one where data analysis and data-driven decision making is where our resources are targeted.
Digital Transformation Definition

Most leaders responding to our survey believed that being a digital business was vital to the success of their organization but only 50% indicated that their organizations had a clear and coherent digital strategy.
Digital Transformation Strategy

In executing on the strategy, 88% of leaders indicated that their organizations do not currently spend the appropriate amount time, energy, and resources on implementing digital business initiatives and that the coming years needed to see an increased level of investment and focus on the execution of an established digital business vision.

Digital Outcomes

The desired results from planned digital transformations leaned heavily towards improving customer outcomes tied to proactively support customer needs while being more agile in reaction and response.
Digital Transformation Outcomes

Organizations hope to achieve these outcomes with the aid of:
– Improved Technology Integration
– Better Management of Customer Touch points
– Increased Understanding of Customer Needs
– Customer-Focused New Product and Service Enablement
– Intelligent Service Worker Enablement

Before any of these activities and actions can occur, organizations need to ensure that they equip themselves with the appropriate digital leadership, digital talent, digital technology, and digital mindset. These are areas of assessment that our research project dives into.

I look forward to sharing more final results in the coming weeks. If you are a service business leader, I’d encourage you to spend some time with our research survey. As indicated, we are going to close it once we reach 50 total leaders.

If thirsty for some results and content on the topic, we’ve got you covered. Feel free to listen to our discussion on the topic during our recent webinar featuring leaders from KONE Americas and Merck Millipore. You can also sign up to listen to our findings call (Jan 23, 1pm Eastern) wherein we share the expanded results of our survey.

Keeping an Eye on These Field Service Trends for 2018

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

At CES in Las Vegas this week, we’re expecting to see a lot of new gadgets and new tools on display. It seems like this year the focus will be on the pending 5G rollout, Artificial Intelligence (voice recognition), Artificial Intelligence (autonomous vehicles), and wearable devices (glasses, fitness trackers). It’s always good to track what’s happening in the overall consumer electronics space, as its typically a pre-cursor for what’s likely to happen in the enterprise. Speaking of the enterprise, we’re currently running our 2018 trends surveys for leaders of various disciplines.

– For those leading overall service business strategy (Link)
– For those leading field service (Link)
– For those in customer service and support (Link)
– For those in service parts (Link)

A lot of our time is spent analyzing field service trends. For the most part, we expect organizations to continue on their paths towards becoming more intelligent with service performance data in order to:
– Improve the predictability of their businesses
– Enhance the efficiency of field service delivery
– Uncover revenue opportunities during customer contact

Here are three additional areas that I am keeping my eye on for 2018.

Trend 1. Mobile as a Data Point.

When we think of mobility, we always think of the information available on a device. But we don’t think of the data that can be captured at the point-of-service and how this data can be incredibly impactful in building a predictive service organization.

Trend 2. Video in Learning and Development.

Most organizations are looking to reduce the time it takes their new hires to be productive. Taking away some classroom based learning and putting that online is one step that a large number of companies are undertaking. The popularity of video as a learning medium (think DIY with YouTube) also offers a new channel for dispersing knowledge and information to field service technicians.

Trend 3. Layers of Dispatch Avoidance.

Organizations want to minimize the occurrence of avoidable dispatches. Improving first-time fix is one way to address this problem, but there are other opportunities for organizations to properly diagnose incoming service requests for appropriate dispatch-less service scenarios. These scenarios could involve self-service or assisted technical support.

I’ll spend some time on each of these trends in an upcoming webinar with our partner ServiceMax from GE Digital (Registration required). If you are seeing other trends, feel free to share on the webinar or on our 2018 field service trends survey.

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