John Carroll - The Service Council

Welcome to the Advisory Board: Conrad Smits – Head of Global Services & Solutions Delivery, Executive Vice President Philips

By John Carroll | News | No Comments

conrad and logoThe Service Council™ is pleased to announce the appointment of Conrad Smits to its Advisory Board. Conrad replaces his colleague JT Smith who served in the same capacity for nearly 6 years making significant contributions in this capacity to The Service Council™ community and research.

Conrad is globally responsible for the development and delivery of the services portfolio of Philips. I had the chance to meet with Conrad over the last month(s) leading up to his acceptance of the position including a recent impassioned discussion on the topic of Service over a coffee in Boston. I am excited for the community to witness his contributions in his board capacity. He is thought-provoking, a real innovator and his ideas are grounded and steeped in experience having successfully led many businesses within Philips.

As a Board Member, Conrad will service in two supporting capacities:

– In support of Service Council™ Leadership in fulfilling its mission to provide an information and community platform to the Service & Customer Support community.
– In support of the broader Service Council™ community in documenting the successes of Philips Service strategy and assisting in Peer:Peer interactions.

We look forward to many contributions from Conrad moving forward. A sincere welcome!

John Carroll is CEO of The Service Council. John is a frequent author and speaker on the topic of service management and is well-known for his passion for a Smarter Services™ culture. To reach him directly, please feel free to email John at or contact him directly at +1-617-717-8300.

Not my problem: Talk to my 3rd Party Partner

By John Carroll | Perspective | One Comment

The Service Council recently concluded a research effort on Field Service Outsourcing and 3rd Party Networks. The effort was initiated with a survey and benchmark analysis was presented during a recent IdeaShare event (Members Only) which featured speakers from Walgreens, MasTec and Whirlpool Corporation. Over the coming weeks, a summary analysis report will be published. (If this is an important topic which you would like to learn more about, please contact Ray Morley at Email:

Greater than 75% of responding organizations reported using 3rd Party Networks for field service support. Maybe the title of this blog caught your attention given you’ve experienced this in your personal life or because of the prevalence of 3rd Party Partners? It certainly applies to a situation I recently encountered. An elevator in my building was taken “out of service” for a period greater than 2 weeks. And while taking the stairs is a logical and healthy alternative (New Year’s Resolution to get fit and healthy slowly fading in my rearview mirror), the preference would be to have an operating elevator.

The interaction began via Twitter, where I voiced my opinion on Otis Elevator’s resolution of the issue (ending my tweet with #FAIL). Kudos to Otis for its social monitoring and the immediacy of its response. Within 15 minutes I received a tweet back and message. And so it goes:


Disclaimer: My message wasn’t a “Do you know who I am”. I was genuinely impressed (silver lining) with how quickly Otis supported my comment on Twitter, a tweet which had negative undertones.

There are a couple of issues apparent in this initial response, including:

    1. The notion that they don’t know who was responsible for our account (Local Partner vs. Otis).
    2. The notion that these organizations were not integrated.
    3. Otis’ lack of capability in providing an accurate status update.

Takeaway: Regardless of Local Partner vs. Manufacturer, it shouldn’t matter. The Customer doesn’t necessarily care about this. That is more of an administrative and logistical issue on Otis the Provider’s end rather than on my end. All I care about is not fulfilling my New Year’s Resolution and hopping in an elevator.

The interaction and the issues continued…


    1. Eureka! Our account is in fact managed by Otis.
    2. An update would be provided “soon”.

Takeaway: Quick access to Customer records to determine who is responsible for managing an account should be enabled across the entire enterprise regardless of who is communicating with the Customer. Otis’ phrasing of this to the Customer should be slightly adjusted (whether we are managed by Otis or Local Partner, we are an Otis Customer). It would have been very nice had Otis provided an estimated resolution timeframe (i.e. Predictive Service).

And the final reply, left me feeling incomplete.


    1. The part is on backorder with no estimation of locating the part through alternative means (I appreciate the attempt to locate through alternative channels).
    2. There seems to be a consistent “blame game” thread here. First it was the Local Partner. Now it’s the Supply Chain Partner.
    3. Still no estimated time to final resolution.

Key takeaway: Otis needs to adjust its messaging to the Customer. At the end of the day, the product which is failing has their brand on it. If they are to entrust 3rd parties to support the care of these products, then they should realize that the efficacy of these networks directly impacts their Customer’s brand perception. From my perspective, to not be able to estimate final resolution time is the largest issue here. I’m still left not knowing when I can get back to not fulfilling my New Year’s Resolution 😉

The topic of 3rd Party Labor Networks and Outsourcing was one of the hottest topics at the 2016 Smarter Services Executive Symposium and we expect it to be a very big part of the Service Executives agenda in 2017 and beyond. If this is a topic of interest for you and your organization, we would welcome the opportunity to speak with you (Contact).

John Carroll
CEO & Founder
Phone: +1.617.717.8300

What’s New in 2017? Ritz Carlton Culture Workshop & More

By John Carroll | News, Perspective | No Comments

As we put a close on 2016, we felt it was necessary to briefly, yet appropriately, thank The Service Council community (you) while calling attention to major milestones reached this year and those to come in 2017. In 2016, we’ve achieve so much with your support, including:

  • Research Panel grew to 33,000 global customer support executives.
  • Solution Partners grew to 20 of the leading technology innovators across their respective domains.
  • Advisory Board grew with the additions of newcomers Mike Romeo (VP of Field Operations at Xerox Technical Services), Danilo Elez (SVP of Service, Americas at KONE Corporation) among others.
  • The Service Council Team grew with the addition of Aly Pinder announced as Director of Member Research & Communities.

To our Advisory Board, Solution Partners, Contributing Partners and to the broader Research Panel Community, it is with a tremendous amount of gratitude that we thank you for supporting The Service Council in helping to foster the community and information platform we aim to create to the global services, customer support and customer experience community. With your support we are filling this promise.
As we wrap 2016 and usher our way into 2017, The Service Council team is anxious to hit the ground running with several new initiatives we feel will continue to broaden our value to the community, including:

  • Research Groups organized around 9 categories (Leadership & Strategy, Field Service, Parts, Data, Customer Experience, Sales & Marketing, Workforce & Talent, Safety and Technology). We feel this will assist in building sub-communities with specialized interest around certain functional and strategic parts of the customer support organization.
  • Subject Matter Experts organized by Research Group and recognized for expertise/experience in a certain area of the service and customer support business but also for their willingness to support their peers through facilitated dialogue supported by The Service Council.
  • 2017 Smarter Services Symposium announced to be held September 13-15th in Chicago (Swissotel).

We are very pleased to announce that the Ritz Carlton Leadership Center will return to the 2017 Symposium. At last year’s Symposium, we welcomed Joseph Quitoni, Corporate Director of Culture Transformation at Ritz-Carlton, who delivered an impassioned speech on Memorable Customer Experience. This coming year, Ritz-Carlton will both address the main conference delivering a keynote presentation while also hosting a Culture workshop which attendees can partake in. We encourage you to RSVP early as this workshop is sure to be in high demand. To reserve a seat, please follow this link and Ray Morley, Director of Member Success will assist in confirming.

Thank you once again for an outstanding year and wishing you a happy holiday!

John Carroll
The Service Council or +1.617.717.8300

2016 Smarter Services Symposium Observations: Service is Humanity

By John Carroll | News, Perspective | No Comments

I love to gather my thoughts following our annual Smarter Services Symposium and reflect on the excitement which I believe resonates beyond the event to the broader service and customer support market. My colleagues will cover the strategic and tactical observations stemming from the event in a series of blogs which will be published in the next week+ leading up to next week’s Smarter Services Symposium Recap Webcast (Please Join Us September 27th @ 11am Eastern: Complimentary Registration). To kick this off, Sumair Dutta authored an initial summary blog (Three Days of Service Learning: Three Initial Takeaways). Our blogs and coverage of the event will aim to help you assimilate the ideas, methods and strategies we uncovered at the event which we believe to be groundbreaking.

My observations form the event are more at the Macro-level. In general, Service, Customer Support, Customer Experience is good for Humanity. In fact, it is Humanity. This is something that has been building with me for some time. I wrote a blog about an experience my daughter had at the Dentist claiming this same position (Is Customer Success Good for Humanity?). The answer is unequivocally YES!

At the 2015 Symposium, Erica Javellana, Speaker of the House of Zappos! delivered a keynote presentation (Download WOW! With Service). She talked about many things which have enabled Zappos! to stake its claim as a worldwide leader in customer success. The one story which hit home for me was the night before Christmas and how everyone within the company stops their daily job (executive management included) and answers inbound phone calls from customers attempting to squeeze in last minute shopping. During one of the most glorious, love-filled, however, stressful holiday seasons of the year (December), their entire team does one thing: Serve Its Customers!

At the 2014 Symposium, we welcomed Wayne Peacock, EVP of Member Experience at USAA, who discussed USAA’s support of its Customers (those who serve our Country in Uniform and their families). He discussed a story of a retired military veteran who was suffering from PTSD and how USAA aided in him finding a path back to happiness following his return to civilian life. Our Veterans deserve this support and much more for their sacrifices.

At this year’s Symposium, there were 3 stories told by Keynote & Guest Panelists which continued to raise the importance of Service as a function of Humanity.

Disney: “Snow White & The Lost Princess” (Credit: Doug Lipp, Disney University)
The story goes that a family brought their daughter to a Princess Lunch at a Disneyland Resort. The daughter, dressed in a new Snow White gown, was of course very excited. As the Princesses entered the Lunch, the daughter, overwhelmed with the stimulation from the noise and activity given she was autistic, ran from the Lunch. This was a normal reaction when she was thrust into situations with too much excitement which she responded to in her usual manner: by launching into a catatonic state only to become more agitated when anyone tried to help her (this period usually lasting 60-90 minutes, or about the length of the Princess Lunch). Witnessing this, Snow White walked out to the family saying, “I understand we have a lost princess.” After adopting the little girl’s body language, not pressing the little girl to correct her behavior, within a few minutes the little girl recovered, and she and Snow White enjoyed an energetic dance on the patio.
Takeaway: How do you and your team connect with Customers during those trying moments?

Panel: “Employee Safety”
We were pleased to host a Panel session on Day 1 tied to the topic of Employee Safety featuring executives from KONE (Elevators), Ledcor (Construction) and RK Mechanical (HVAC). We all appreciate that workplace incidents can have a dramatic impact on Organizations and Customers, but this can also lead to incidents beyond the workplace. Chris Westlake of RK Mechanical shared a story of a gentleman on his service technician staff in a previous role who committed suicide under his management, the result of which was devastating to the family. The Service Council conducted a research effort earlier this year surveying Field Technicians (we will launch a similar survey geared towards the European market in Q4). One of the top 3 answers choices to the question “What is the worst part of the job?” was, “Feeling Isolated”. I was pleased that “Safety” was announced as one of the first of our mini-councils which we will be covering with greater consistency moving forward, building off our H1 2016 research efforts which included an Employee Safety Survey, IdeaShare and Webcast.
Takeaway: We always ask the question “Do you know your Customers?”. I challenge you similarly, “Do you know your Employees?”.

Ritz Carlton: “Joshie the Giraffe”
joshie-the-giraffeThe story goes that a little boy mistakenly left his stuffed giraffe “Joshie” at the Ritz-Carlton he was vacationing at with his family. The heartbroken boy (and Parents), called the resort after returning home. Eventually, the staff found Joshie in the laundry room and his safe return to the boy began. In advance of this, Ritz Carlton took the time to stage Joshie in relaxing and fun moments, enjoying an extended vacation which eased the boy’s mind. Bravo! Ritz Carlton…you not only saved the little boy, but you also saved the parents from sleepless nights, which as a parent of 4, I can assure you was appreciated.
Takeaway: Are you emphasizing creativity as a means to measure the performance of your staff? Qualitative metrics, while often times difficult to measure and subjective, should be equivalently weighted to traditional quantitative metrics (First Call/Visit Fix Rates, Customer Retention, CSat, etc.).

I ask you this: Is your company’s mission statement tactically focused on the problems your products/ services address? Or does it talk about making the World (Employees & Customers) better? And while a mission statement is something to preach, are you practicing it? If not, as Leaders of the Service & Customer Support Business, I urge you to. A culture of Service begins with the example which you set.

The Service Council announced the dates and location of its 2017 Smarter Services Executive Symposium. Please join us September 13-15th in Chicago, IL USA at the Swissotel (Save Your Seat). To inquire, please reach Ray Morley, Director of Member Success (E: or M: 603-289-6492).

What Drives Service-centric Behavior?

By John Carroll | Perspective | No Comments

Meet Joe. Joe is one of the most attentive and focused service technicians I have encountered in my life. What’s cool about Joe? He isn’t motivated by compensation. His focus is just a part of his DNA. Would compensation make him more motivated to be customer-centric? More on this in a few moments.Service Technician

This brings up a really interesting question:
• Are we compensating our Service Agents to drive good behavior?
• Are we emphasizing a rigorous hiring process which weeds out candidates who will exhibit bad behavior?
• Are we doing both?

I suspect many organizations are looking at both of these strategies in growing their Services teams but are failing at both (often). I would argue missing the mark in your hiring process and choosing the wrong candidate is far more likely to occur with a greater degree of frequency. So shouldn’t Services organizations be emphasizing a culture of motivation through compensation? One could argue that a safety net to missing the mark in your hiring process, would be to establish a culture of motivating through incentives.

freiThe Service Council previously welcomed Harvard Business School professor Frances X. Frei as a keynote speaker at its Smarter Services Executive Symposium. During her speech, Frances discussed the topic of “Uncommon Service” (Buy Her Book: “Uncommon Service”) and touched upon the challenge of hiring Stars vs. motivating Stars to drive good behavior. The challenge of hiring Stars is that these individuals command a larger investment, of course.

Earlier in my career, a mentor of mine drove home the point “Compensation ($$) drives behavior”. This was very early in my career when I was a sales manager so certainly this mantra made a lot of sense (motivating sales professionals). I believe this same mantra should be more heavily embraced in the Services sector. Allow me to make my point…

Back to Joe.
Joe works for TriWire, a third-party contractor/agent for Comcast (they serve in this same capacity for Charter, Cablevision, Cox and Time Warner Cable, as well). Joe visited my home to set up our new Comcast cable service (yes I know I should find an alternative given how difficult they are to work with, but until this alternative comes to fruition, I remain an unwilling participant and am a victim of the Monopoly they hold on the cable services industry).

This story isn’t about how Joe smiled and shook my hand and was very friendly (which he did). Joe was all about business. He focused on meeting the expectations that were set with me as a Customer, which is often times an overlooked function of a successful service appointment. Allow me to present another personal experience where expectations were missed one after another.

Meeting Expectations? Over this winter, I damaged my windshield (New England isn’t too kind to vehicles’ windhshields). A local window repair shop scheduled my service visit only to show up with the wrong windshield (Expectation Missed). This happened 3 times (Expectation Missed x 3). On the 4th attempt, they got the right part, however, upon driving to my house, requested I drive 10 miles down the road to a mutual location given the roads were a bit slippery (Expectation Missed). Understandable, but I’m increasingly becoming annoyed. As I drive to said location and park my vehicle and walk over to the service van to alert the technician I had arrived, the Technician roles down his window 4 inches, exhales a large puff of smoke nearly in my face and requests I drive my car next to his (Expectation Missed). At which point, I said “You see my car over there with the space open right next to it? That’s where my car will be for the next hour. Let me know when the window replacement has been completed.”

Back to Joe: He arrived at 9am; smack dab in the middle of my 8am-10am window. His first question, “Hello Mr. Carroll, it’s 9am. Is this still a good time for you?”, affirming that my expectation of arrival time was met. He then proceeded to complete the installation and setup with no wrinkles in his plan. Of course, as I always do, I probed on how his Service business worked. TriWire monitors Joe’s daily behavior around several key performance metrics including first call resolution, work orders per day, truck stock inventory and more. Joe is passionate about his customer satisfaction measurements. In his words, “I’m tops in New England and haven’t received a score below 5 (the top score) in greater than 2 years”.

And what’s behind Door #2 for Joe for his honorable Service? A $.07 raise for meeting a combination of metrics at the end of each month. Assuming his hourly rate of $20+or-/hour, if he were to hit 100% of his metrics for 12 consecutive months, this would equate to an $.84 raise or a 3% raise annually which is nearly equivalent to current Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) indexes. Isn’t COLA simply for employees who are tenured, not your best and brightest Stars? One could assume if they are tenured then they should be achieving at the minimum moderate success, but are they necessarily your top 1% performers?

In Summary. “People” will lead corporate agendas for Services Leadership in 2016. And while Service Organizations should certainly look at DNA and profiling certain types of individuals who align with whatever customer service standards your company has set, a greater emphasis should be placed on incentivizing/rewarding Service Agents to motivate good behavior.

I’m curious to hear how you are incentivizing/rewarding your Service and Customer Support Teams. I welcome your comments below.

“People”-oriented Research.
Given the importance of “People” to Service Success in 2016, TSC will be covering “People” related topics extensively in its 2016 research coverage, including:
• Field Technician Feedback Survey
o Part 1: The Field Service Profession (Survey Link)
o Part 2: Changes in Field Service (i.e. Technology, etc.) (Survey Link)
• Growing/Building a Service Business (Q2)
• Employee Engagement (Q3)
• Contingent/Outsourced Labor (Q3)

To participate in and/or support these research efforts please feel free to contact Sumair Dutta, Chief Customer Officer (Email Sumair) of The Service Council who leads our research coverage.

“People” topics will also be well represented at our 2016 Smarter Services Executive Symposium as the theme for Day 1 will be “Service Workers of Tomorrow”. Day 1 will feature presentations and workshops on the following topics:
• A Profile of the Next Service Worker
• Making Service a Viable Profession
• Finding and Developing Success Agents
• And more…

To join us at the Symposium, please Register now for our Early Bird rate ($775 vs. $1,295).

Please Welcome the Newest Addition to The Service Council Advisory Board: Chris Westlake

By John Carroll | News | No Comments

TSC is pleased to announce the newest addition to its Advisory Board: Chris Westlake – Vice President, Service of RK Mechanical, Inc.

Chris is a longtime colleague and friend of The Service Council’s having contributed in his previous services leadership roles with Gerber Scientific and Hach Company (Danaher). Chris delivered a presentation at the 2015 Smarter Services Executive Symposium (Don’t forget to register for the 2016 Symposium here: September 12-14th, Chicago) on the topic, “A Partnership To Improve Quality”. During which, Chris discussed the partnership fostered between Service, R&D and Operations, tackling topics such as Design for Serviceability, New Product Development and Quality Feedback Loops.

The addition of Chris and RK Mechanical to its community and Advisory Board is a conscious effort by The Service Council to create a more diversified Advisory Board and community, welcoming small and medium sized businesses. Often, we have received requests from the community to apply our findings from our research coverage within a small and mid-sized business (SMB) environment. Chris and RK represent an organization who has embraced big business best practices in a SMB environment. We will be covering this very topic in a forthcoming research effort (May) on “Building & Growing a Service Business” (to participate in this research effort, please contact Sumair Dutta here).

We look forward to Chris’ contributions to the community!

About RK Mechanical, Inc. (

RK is the Rocky Mountain Region’s top supplier of mechanical and industrial solutions for construction and commercial applications. RK operates six business units: Mechanical, Service, Steel, Energy, Water and Electrical.

With over 1,200 total employees, our six units often partner on projects, and our combined skill set makes us Colorado’s largest single source for mechanical contracting, manufacturing, steel fabrication, prefabricated construction, facilities maintenance services, electrical expertise as well as water treatment products and solutions. With two locations in Denver and Henderson, Colorado that span 24 acres, we offer more than 185,000 square feet of leading-edge fabrication and project planning facilities.

The Technology-Driven Service Business

By John Carroll | Perspective | One Comment

In this blog, I explore the prevalance of Technology in Service and Customer Support businesses.

A Familiar Customer Story

Dick embarks on a journey to buy a new car. He starts his journey via the web, first looking at consumer ratings (J.D. Power) based on what he needs for his growing family (and while he is resistant to the dreaded Minivan that a lot of middle aged Americans and young families have been driven to, the gravity pull of the Minivan is too powerful and he succumbs to the force given he has 3 children).

He ends up deciding, based on his family needs and the ratings report on the Minivan class, to go with the Toyota Sienna. He begins his purchase by visiting the Toyota website where he and his wife, Jane custom design their own car using 3D/4D technology. Upon deciding on the specifications, he locates the nearest dealership where he can go in to discuss details and to purchase the car. He walks into a party-like environment, where the local Toyota dealership rolls out the red carpet. The purchase goes as smoothly as it can go and Dick and Jane are as happy as can be with their overall customer experience.

3 months later, Dick and Jane receive a phone call from the Toyota dealership, requesting to schedule an unexpected service visit. The OnStar in their Sienna had tracked the car’s performance and had identified an issue with the brakes system. Toyota issued a manufacturer recall as a result of an issue with the brakes system which resulted in several motor vehicle accidents and injuries. The dealership stresses the urgency of the service visit and the requirement to bring the vehicle in within 24 hours. Dick and Jane can’t support this given their busy lives so the Toyota dealer indicates that a service technician will come to their home, bring an identical demo car to be used while their car is taken in for service complimentary, and bring their car in for them. While on-site at their house, the technician uses his iPad to check in the vehicle by scanning the VIN and pulling up the customer record from their customer database. He then notices that the issue is related to the brakes and would require an immediate cautionary replacement of the front brake drum and brake pad. He looks up his truck stock inventory on his iPhone and confirms he has the service parts located in his truck stock inventory. He performs the cautionary repair on-site before heading back to the dealership for the full service. Prior to, he requests a signature authorization from Dick & Jane to exchange the vehicles on his iPad device. He also offers to move their child seats to the demo car on their behalf. Dick and Jane’s life goes on without inconvenience. A day later their car is returned to them 100% back to normal. The customer is approached via email and telephone follow-up to provide feedback by completing a brief customer survey, which Toyota receives glowing results from. Dick and Jane go on to become repeat customers upgrading every 5 years to the latest Toyota Minivan.

This is a fairly universal example of a customer story. Regardless of what industry your company is in, customers will follow a similar journey as Dick and Jane (Discovery > Purchase > Service & Support > Extend/Up-sell/Cross-sell). There is a pre- and post-sale customer phase where issues arise or opportunities to convert the customer are presented (every touchpoint presenting an opportunity to convert). Some of you reading this might be employed by a company whose customer support instances might be related to a manufactured asset (Automotive, Medical, etc.) while some customer support instances might be related to a service (Finance, Insurance, Hospitality, etc.).

The Presence/Impact of Technology

Lets take a quick look and capture the presence/impact of technology in this customer story:

       CRM: related to customer history records and vehicle identification which the technician had access to in real-time and in a mobile environment.

       Inventory & Service Parts Management: related to managing the allocation of service parts to truck inventory to perform the cautionary repair on-site.

       Mobile Hardware: related to the use of iPads and IPhones in the field for access to customer records, signature capture, etc.

       Field Service Scheduling & Routing: related to the scheduling and routing of the service event.

       GPS: related to the navigation by the driver to the customer location.

       Internet of Things (IoT): related to tracking the vehicle’s performance.

       Voice of the Customer: related to the post-event feedback request via customer satisfaction surveys.

       Multi-Channel: related to managing and tracking a consistent experience across different channels (web, in-person, etc.).

       ERP: which was utilized for any financial transaction between parts vendor and Toyota.

       Logistics: which is inherent in inventory management given these parts came from somewhere.

       Repair Depot: which the dealership served as during the repair process.

       Contract & Warranty Management: which some of the manufactured brake components likely were covered under.

       Big Data & Knowledge Management: which was likely used to display issue resolution steps to the technician on his mobile device.

In this fairly standard example of a customer support instance, we captured over a dozen technologies required to automate the customer support process; a pretty complex IT infrastructure. Clearly, the importance of technology in automating the service and customer support business is important. However, now take into consideration that some larger multi-national organizations support autonomy based on region vs. a standard IT platform, which compounds the amount of technology and systems which might be deployed. This inflating technology infrastructure causes several issues including a decrease in employee performance and morale (says Service Engineer/Technician: “Oh look another new technology to test and learn”), loss of data given the amount of disparate systems/databases and an increase in IT related costs impacting overall profitability.

The question becomes, how do you unravel the existing technology infrastructure to determine what is needed or redundant? Are investments in new technology necessary given the existing, often times unused, technology? Will new supplemental or replacement technology be used or valued? Are we failing to recognize that process should be prioritized over technology? (this is for another blog)

Still, organizations will continue to seek to invest in new technology platforms to automate. Seventy-six (76%) of respondents to a recent survey conducted by The Service Council indicated Enabling Technologies and Innovation was an area they were seeking to acquire information about. We reviewed Technology, Hiring and other Service-related trends during a recent Smarter Services Webcast on “Mid-Year Service Business Trends”, featuring Advisory Board member Sean Jordan of BioTek Instruments (the webcast recording can be downloaded here). Top technology investment trends, included:

Tech Investment Trends

So where do technology purchases normally begin? Traditional venues such as Tradeshows and Events have been a good way to engage with the leading players. Research Analyst firms like Gartner (Magic Quadrants) and Forrester (Waves) produce technology landscape analyses which help technology-seeking organizations with a glimpse of the key players and their ability to support and the robustness of their technology. Case studies and webcasts featuring customer stories of technology users are also plentiful. But what is lacking in these available resources is three-fold:

  1. Alignment of Situation: the ability to correlate the technology transformation story to your particular situation based on where you are at from a maturity perspective.
  2. Understanding of Impact of Technology: the ability to know, beyond feature and functionality, what percentage of customers of the major technology providers in a certain category of technology achieve best in class performance.
  3. How to Avoid Failure: we often read case studies, in fact many technology providers have sections of their website geared towards success stories. What about the failure stories which might help organizations avoid some of the pitfalls and landmines other organizations have encountered?

I welcome your comments to share where your technology investments will be prioritized, how you will choose your partner and how you’ll prepare your organization to transform. I also welcome you to engage with our research team led by Sumair Dutta (email: to share not only the “Dos” but also the “Don’ts” of technology transformation.

P.S. Just to clarify, while I have three children (a fourth on the way in December), the customer story is not about my life. I will NEVER buy a Minivan.

Is Customer Success Good for Humanity?

By John Carroll | Perspective | No Comments

Many years back, I remember the first time I took my now 6 year old daughter to the dentist (I was grateful that my wife handled these appointments before this time, so this was my first experience with her). For a 4 year old, the dentist typically isn’t the most exciting appointment. It can be frightening that a person with a mask is sticking something in your mouth with a bright light shining in your eyes. God forbid you get a cavity at a young age as this only compounds the fear of going to see the dentist as a result of that drill sound inside your mouth.

During our car ride over, I thought my role was going to be “coach”. I assumed that Maggie (my 4 year old at the time) would need her big (I stand 5’10” tall…I’m big to her), brave Daddy to talk her through the dreaded visit. Boy was I mistaken.

It started off as a quiet ride until I hesitantly asked her the question, “Maggie are you ready to visit with the Dentist today?” Her response lasted the rest of the car ride to the Dentist with increasing pace in terms of her excitement. She told me how wonderful it was to say hello to the nice receptionist who looks like her Nana. She talked about the fun rainbow colored room where she could read books and play with fun toys. She talked about how cool she felt to wear sunglasses while they cleaned her teeth. She talked about being able to sit in the Dentist’s chair, as her Dentist always allowed her to, to pretend she was the dentist to her doll she always brought with her. She talked about how nice it was to be able to pick out a toy at the end of the visit and how the Dentist always allowed her to get an additional toy for her sister (her brother wasn’t born yet). And lastly, she talked about how happy it made her to give the Dentist a high five when she left the office for doing a good job getting the sugar bugs off her teeth and not getting any cavities.

I asked her Dentist as we were leaving, what makes him care so much? His response: “I have a deep PASSION for making the world a better place”. His answer shocked me. It wasn’t the standard dentist answer: “…a deep passion for clean and healthy teeth”. He wanted to make the world a better place. And by making the Dentist office experience from start to finish (both the journey to the office, the visit and leaving the office) an enjoyable one, he felt he was accomplishing his goal.

While many of The Service Council™ community represents companies who manufacture and service a certain product (65%) which serves a certain purpose, whether it be medical equipment, industrial machinery, HVAC and building automation, etc., it is encouraging that we continue to welcome more non-asset centric and hospitality driven industries. I ask those who are manufacturers: does your organization strive to make the world a better place? Or does it strive only to have the product you manufacture serve its functional purpose?

At our annual Smarter Services™ Symposium last March in San Diego, I was grateful to have my wife join me and to have her pen a statement which we included in our program guides to communicate our passion for Service. I didn’t change or edit a single letter of what she wrote (below) as it so accurately and eloquently hit the nail on the head:


The Service Council™ delivers numerical guidance and hosts an enthusiastic community. In hopes of an easier life, an easier pace, while dealing with the daily struggles the “outside of work” world presents. The broader mission of the Service Council™ is to make things “Better for Everyone”. More precisely, The Service Council™ hosts a community and strategies to make companies flow. To make the outreach more personable, not only the customer, but for you! The kind of interaction which leaves you saying, “Wow, I just did a great job!” The “I want to do that again”, mentality. The analytic data we provide come from a person who is knee deep in his line of work. Sumair Dutta exposes the secrets, which when applied, make businesses tremendously successful. It wasn’t necessarily “what these companies were doing”, but instead, “what kind of people were working for them”. Hard workers. People who find value in making life “easier for everyone”. These companies “listened” to the customers, but first listened to themselves. This derives from making our work environment more conducive to what we need to be successful. Walk toward your customers. We sometimes walk away because we have another deadline, we are dealing with a staffing issue, we have a pressing client who just won’t quit. We walk away because we are tired, we are overworked dealing with the side of the business, which isn’t fulfilling. Every job has a “sweet spot”. This is the time of the day where we really thrive and LOVE our work. It’s what keeps us coming to work every day. The part of the job we LOVE. Imagine if “sweet spot” time, could be most of the time? The data The Service Council™ provides is geared to do just that: put YOU and YOUR LIFE in the “sweet spot” of your career. That’s why we are here: YOU. The constant in this group: We all strive to be better, do better and recognize opportunity for improvement. It doesn’t start with data. It starts with us. Motivators: Money, a Coffee, a Picture on your desk you daughter/son drew, a comfortable desk chair, a new suit, the vacation you are taking next week with your family. Take your personal motivators and make someone’s day. Hearing, “You just made my day” is the best feeling. “You just made my day”. Because we all have real lives, we know how much that means. Making someone’s day is: Better than the new chair, the money, the coffee. Those are all short term satisfiers. Feeling great about giving another person a “great day” lasts, sometimes, forever. People, at the end of their career, reminisce about stories where they made things wonderful for someone, and it’s never themselves or their family. It’s often a nameless, sometimes faceless customer of whom they did something great for. This event is your chance to shake a hand, to put down our task list, close our laptops, look people in the eye and ask questions. This time can be used to share your experiences to the enhancement of the greater community. Without all of these components, and your active contribution, we’re just another event. And, that’s not us.

In Q3, The Service Council™ will conduct a research effort on the topic “Improving Customer Satisfaction & Success” which will explore how organizations have improved customer-oriented metrics and whether or not customer success is an area of investment. I believe Customer Success starts with a passion. Are you giving your Customers the gift of passion as the Dentist did for my daughter? It will be a good thing for humanity.

I welcome you to share your stories where in your everyday life you witnessed this type of passion. If you would like to participate in our upcoming “Improving Customer Satisfaction & Customer Success” research initiative, please feel free to contact me directly via email at or via telephone at 617-717-8300.

Riding the Field Service Wave: Thoughts from ClickSoftware’s Annual Customer Conference

By John Carroll | News, Perspective | No Comments

Last week I ventured out to San Diego where The Service Council will be hosting the 2015 Smarter Services Executive Symposium (March 10-12 – Rancho Bernardo Inn). The trip was timed well as I had the opportunity to attend ClickSoftware’s annual customer conference, ClickConnect (#ClickConnect). Over 300 guests (a record for ClickConnect) came together and were treated to case studies from industry practitioners such as National Grid, KinCare, SaskTel and Ledcor. Guests were also able to hear the latest innovations from ClickSoftware and its expanding partner ecosystem which includes Fleetmatics, Accenture, and more.

Color (391 of 875)

San Diego Note: While I didn’t literally “ride the wave” at ClickConnect, some did at the Wave House on Mission Beach. Kudos to ClickSoftware for putting on a very fun event on Tuesday night. A snapshot of some of the brave souls who did.

As is customary, the event opened with a keynote presentation delivered by Founder & CEO, Dr. Moshe BenBassat who remarked on several key milestones achieved over the previous year, including:

  • Crossing the 600,000 Barrier Field Resource mark (note: in Sumair Dutta’s 2013 ClickConnect Analysis, highlights from Moshe’s opening keynote included crossing the 500,000 Field Resource mark which indicates continued positive growth for ClickSoftware)
  • 55 New Enterprises added to the ClickSoftware Customer Community (an impressive tally for the 12 month period)
  • 700 Million Consumers served enabled by ClickSoftware technology (equating to 10% of the world population)

Moshe, known for coining the phrase “Service Chain Optimization”, introduced guests to the ServiceEnvelope™; an index which looks at the “maximum attainable output for a given level of resource input”. He strongly urged guests to “Master Your Moment” and to identify and push their ServiceEnvelope™. This was an interesting philosophy presented, which aligns to our definition of Smarter Services™. I suspect this is something that could resonate at both the management, as well as, at the operations level (with the appropriate incentives to drive this behavior).

On Wednesday, a keynote presentation was delivered by friend of The Service Council (she keynoted last year’s Smarter Services Symposium) Frances X. Frei, UPS Foundation Professor of Service Management at Harvard University and co-author of the book Uncommon Service.

Prevailing theme. Optimize. This year’s event theme was “Connect & Optimize”. Equating Maslow’s Hierarchy to the world of service, the pyramid featured 5 levels, which included (stacked in order from bottom to the top of the pyramid):

  • Connectivity (Field Resources & Customers)
  • Visibility (Into Field & Basic Reporting)
  • Reporting & Analytics
  • Decision Support
  • Intelligent Optimization

Maslow’s Hierarchy applied to the world of service has close ties to a concept, the Mobile Maturity Model, we reviewed during a webcast we held in collaboration with ClickSoftware in early 2014 featuring ClickSoftware’s customer Severn Trent on the topic The Mobile Workforce Management Revolution (to request a copy of this webcast, click here).

Best practices of note. There were several key takeaways or best practices of note to take from the event, including:

  • Demand more from & Invest in your Field Engineers. Jimmy Byrd, President, Technical Services at Ledcor (another friend of The Service Council who previously spoke at our event) encouraged guests to take care of their current field engineers but to demand more, providing an overview of an initiative where Ledcor aims to double the output from their existing field engineer group while also making them the highest paid in the industry. Opportunities for improvement (cost reduction) was boiled down to:
    • Turnover ($25,000/tech x 100 techs = $2,500,000)
    • Re-work (500,000 dispatches/year x $75/dispatch = $375,000)
    • Productivity (10% improvement = 50 fewer technicians x $75,000 salary = $3,500,000)
    • Utilization (Supervisors in load 40% of time = $500,000)
  • Every moment of time is a moment of potential optimization. Karl Weber, Vice President of Sales at Fleetmatics led attendees through a discussion, which talked about the use of GPS Telematics in optimizing field resources. Comcast, a customer of Fleetmatics, projects to save $15 million as a result of saving 5 minutes per technician, per day. Guests were encouraged to think about what 5 minutes meant to their business.
  • Empower your customers through confidence in your organization and 3rd party network. Lorraine Sikorski, Director of Customer Service Operations at SaskTel discussed the connection with 3rd party service providers (Ledcor, noted above, is a major service delivery partner for SaskTel) enabled by ClickSoftware. Lorraine shared SaskTel’s belief in customer empowerment and left guests with the following quote: “We’re letting the customer tell us when to be there instead of us telling them when we’ll be there.”

Technology to Watch. ClickSoftware announced the latest release of its ServiceOptimization suite, which includes Predictive Travel, which leverages time of day data and its impact on traffic patterns to deliver dynamic schedules, which avoid high traffic areas during peak travel times. But the biggest technology trend (or one could argue fad) discussed was that of Wearable devices (Google Glass, etc.). Accenture led a discussion on the latest mobility trends and Forrester featured an analyst presentation on the susceptibility of the field service market to Wearables. While The Service Council believes that Wearable devices can be valuable to support field service delivery, the cost-benefit case still doesn’t make sense for most field service organizations. We envision that field service firms will lag in their adoption of Wearable devices given the current economic model (we recently authored a blog on Google Glass in Field Service). As it happens, The Service Council is currently conducting market research on the Connected Service Ecosystem, which explores this very topic. We invite you take the survey here.

Cautionary Thoughts. Technology utilization. Maximizing the impact of new technology is a major challenge for service organizations. In a recent survey conducted by The Service Council on the topic of Field Service Process Review (Q1, 2014), 29% percent of respondents cited “solution adoption by the field workforce” as the most significant challenge when considering an investment in technology to improve field service operations. Making a major investment in technology doesn’t guarantee improvement. A full transformation requires a review of people, process, data and many other facets of service delivery and requires the entire service organization to embrace the technology.

I was able to have a conversation with Ankur Mathur, Partner, Accenture Mobility (Accenture was the Platinum Sponsor of this year’s ClickConnect). Ankur shared with me the work Accenture is doing with ClickSoftware with respect to managing service transformations and a belief he has which advocates the involvement of field technicians in the transformation. While some organizations would argue that you don’t want to overburden your field technicians in a service transformation, others might argue that you run the risk of “flavor of the month” given the assortment of technology changes they’ve witnessed over the last decade. Ankur believes when possible, field technicians can be an important component of your team, which could have a decided impact on the success of a field service transformation.

Quote of the event. “I want our field technicians to be the highest paid in the industry. While I want to double their output as part of our cost containment strategy, I’d also like to double their salary”. Jimmy Byrd, President, Technical Services at Ledcor

I welcome your thoughts on some of the trends we observed at the event.


Smarter Services Symposium Day 2 Wrap-up: Do you know what defines Customer Success from the Customer's POV?

By John Carroll | Perspective | No Comments

Last week, Sumair Dutta commented with his perspective on Day 1 of the Smarter Services Executive Symposium. Day 2 of the Symposium was even more jam-packed with content, as it was the one full day worth of activities given the event’s structure (½ Day – Full Day – ½ Day). I’ll focus on the high-level takeaways, as well as, briefly talk about a very sentimental and special guest speaker presentation delivered over the course of dinner as we closed the day.

The theme of Day 2 was “Customer Strategy” (Day 1 Analysis: “People”, Day 3 Analysis: “Innovation” forthcoming), referring to the manner in which organizations are designing the overall customer support strategy resulting in delivering customer success. Book-ending the day as our beginning and end of day keynote presenters, were best-selling authors Ron Kaufman, Chairman and Founder of UP! Your Service, the “Official Culture Development Partner” of The Service Council (“Uplifting Service”) and Frances X. Frei, Harvard Business School (“Uncommon Service”). Both delivered entertaining presentations with a consistent message; those that embed service and customer support within the fabric of their organization’s culture will win. Ron challenged guests to think about service in a broader fashion; that every human interaction we have is an opportunity to “serve” someone and how winning organizations are creating a culture of service (service your customers, your colleagues, employees, partners, etc.). If you think about that for a second, wouldn’t the world be a happier place if we subscribed to this notion? Frances challenged guests to think about the fact that organizations who win by competing on service, are successful because they accept imperfection (i.e. pick what you can do well and recognize the things you can’t do well). She gave many examples of organizations who have embraced this model of imperfection including:

  • Commerce Bank (most important = convenience & customer interactions vs. least important = price & product range)
  • Southwest Airlines (most important = low prices & friendly service vs. least important = extensive network & on-board amenities)
  • Wal-Mart (most important = low prices & selection vs. least important = sales help & ambiance).

Following Ron’s morning keynote presentation was Rusty Walther, Vice President, Global Escalations Management & Customer Experience at Hewlett-Packard, whose comical (Rusty, you missed your calling), yet practical discussion on “Case Studies In Failure: The Cost Of Recovery” touched upon the importance and significance of customer failure (which Rusty reminded us is often times much greater than the initial sale). Rusty had a tough act to follow (Ron Kaufman never disappoints), however, left us with many key takeaways from his decades of experience managing service and customer support, including 5 top ways to lose a customer, which included:

  1. Bad breath is better than no breath.
  2. Arrive at the party with an ugly date.
  3. Take a ride on the kill and ignore loop.
  4. Get lost in your tech support hierarchy.
  5. Embrace de-centralized control.

Rusty closed his discussion in style with a David Letterman-esque “Top 10 things you don’t want to hear when calling HP Tech Support” with #1 being “Please hold while I transfer you to Mrs. Whitman’s (Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard’s) Attorney…” Rusty also reminded us of the very simple notion that Customers want you to win or else they wouldn’t have bought from you in the first place. Over the course of lunch, we broke away from main stage presenters and engaged in case study driven workshops to create an experiential learning environment. The Service Council extends its gratitude to our Sponsor+ Partners who supported each of their respective breakouts, including:

  • Customer Experience Management, brought to you by Lionbridge
  • Field Service, brought to you by ClickSoftware
  • Service Globalization, brought to you by Genpact
  • Service Ready Workforce, brought to you by FieldSolutions
  • Service Revenue, brought to you by ServiceMax
  • Service Transformation, brought to you by Etherios

Each of the sessions held moderated discussions aided by “what if” scenarios and case studies. During one of the workshops, “Service Revenue Growth: Building a Relationship between Service and Sales”, guests were given a mock scenario of a company in distress (i.e. commoditization was impacting pricing of both products/services, sales didn’t want to sell service and was giving it away for free, culturally speaking service did not want to sell service, etc.) and being given the task of growing service revenues by 20%. It was an interesting discussion, which talked about many debatable (e.g. should service sell) and non-debatable topics (e.g. the importance of information & data accessibility, field technician enablement/empowerment, establishing a 360° view of the customer, etc.) with each of 4 tables within the session establishing their own suggested path to achieving management’s objective of growing revenues by 20%. During our Smarter Services Executive Symposium Recap Webcast being held on April 30th @ 11:00Am EST (registration), we plan to review each of the breakouts and resulting takeaways in greater detail.

The afternoon brought a panel session back in the main room on a topic which The Service Council has witnessed an increase in importance and prioritization by service and customer experience executives, “Personalizing Customer Experiences via Segmentation and Other Strategies”. The panel featured executives from Fidelity Investments, Samsung and WMS Gaming, a Scientific Games Company and the discussion centered on understanding customer preferences and behavior (“Customer Journey Mapping” is something all organizations should better understand and on Day 3, we welcomed Mark Groveunder, Vice President, Customer Service at Acer who discussed “Customer Effort” which will be included in our Day 3 wrap-up, which was also part of the panel discussion). The second panel session was a debate, which featured two organizations taking opposing views on whether or not they supported service selling. While one debater supported service selling, the debate voyaged to an area of even territory as both debaters supported a culture of collaboration between service and sales, with service being an enabler and often times the whistle blower to alert sales of the opportunity (again the issue of real time visibility of data/information was brought up as a key point whereby one of the debaters argued in a model where service is compensated for lead identification, a strategy where leads are purged rather than communicated real time often results in a lower conversion).

Following Frances entertaining end of day keynote, guests joined us for dinner where we had the great pleasure of welcoming Richard “Dic” Donohue, the Boston MBTA police officer injured in the manhunt following the Boston Marathon tragedy last April. The Service Council honored Dic as the recipient of the 2014 “Smarter Services” Award for his courage. Dic told his story of how he developed a life-long relationship with a smaller hospital in the Boston area, Mount Auburn Hospital, who was instrumental in saving his life (and his continuous rehabilitation) when he was given a 2% chance to live. It was emotional, inspirational and quite relevant given the focus of the event (Defining & Delivering Customer Success).

These were just some of the key takeaways from Day 2 of the event. Stay tuned for Day 3 Analysis in the coming days.

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