Friday Service Recap: Venmo Support Team, Bottle Water, Loyalty, and more Customer Service Stories for the Week

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

Every week, Sumair and I will post our most interesting service-minded stories for the week as part of a Friday recap. We’ll comment on one story each and then add 3 others for your review.

For the second iteration, and week 7 of 2017:

Sumair’s pick
Topic: Bottled Water and Customer Loyalty
Source: MIT Sloan Management Review, January 17, 2017 (Link)

Commentary: The author of this article spent a significant amount of time investigating the impact of offered features on new customer acquisition and customer retention in a hotel setting. In comparing the impact of free wireless internet vs. bottled water vs. the availability of a fitness center, the author found that the availability of free water had the greatest impact on retention numbers and future visits. From an ROI perspective, the delivery of free water was also the cheapest investment of the three options.

In general, the author highlights:
a- The features that attract new customers aren’t the same as the ones that retain customers
b- Offering more features can often be counter-productive when it comes to customer satisfaction and retention
c- Customers might not always know what it is that they value in terms of retention.

As companies place emphasis on long-term relationships with customers, they must understand what attracts customers to a set of products and services while also acknowledging the features that drive satisfaction and retention. The bundling of new features and services isn’t always a winning strategy.

Aly’s pick:
Topic: Rapid Customer Growth Leads to the Need for more Service Capabilities
Source: Forbes.com, February 14, 2017 (Link)

Commentary: It’s the age-old question: the chicken or the egg, what came first? Today, organizations are beginning to grapple with a modification of this riddle – the issue of customer growth outpacing the ability to deliver a customer experience worth staying. What should come first new customers or a customer service organization that can support these customers?

Organizations are often mature at marketing and selling to a prospect base which will come in the front door. The problem is, these same firms are finding it tough to hold on to these customers as their expectations outpace the service capabilities available. This article highlights how even the smartest executives of our generation (NOTE: Elon Musk) have been extremely innovative with products first, but need to also invest in the customer experience in order to make those innovations worth it for a changing customer base. Ease of use, service on the customer’s terms, and having an 800-number (SEE: article) are now minimal level requirements that customers demand. Service organizations can no longer think about their business from an operational perspective solely (i.e., how can we lower our costs, or be more efficient to get more jobs done in a day), they need to keep up with the tools and support capabilities which make customers want to renew, buy more, and tell others. I think the customer support team and strategy should come first, and let the customers follow!

Our Three Other Articles
1- The Most Desirable Employee Benefits (Harvard Business Review, Feb 15, 2017)
2- M&S’s Nathan Ansell on proving the value of customer experience (Marketing Week, Feb 10, 2017)
3- Hold the phone! Crap customer service cost telcos 2.9 BEEEELLION in 2016 (The Register, Feb 15, 2017)

If interested in viewing our latest data and insight, please visit: http://info.servicecouncil.com/recent-content-and-events
We would love to have you become part of our research panel. If you would like to, please visit http://info.servicecouncil.com/tsc-join-a-research-group and select the area(s) of alignment.

Till next week.

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

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com or @suma1r

Friday Service Recap: Data & Hans Rosling, The NFL’s Customer Service Story, and More

By Aly Pinder | News, Perspective | No Comments

Every week, Sumair and I will post our most interesting service-minded stories for the week as part of a Friday recap. We’ll comment on one story each and then add 3 others for your review.

For the first iteration, and week 6 of 2017:

Aly’s pick:
Topic: The NFL, Customer Service, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Source: http://www.buccaneers.com/news

Commentary: As we put a bow on another NFL season with the exhilarating or demoralizing (depending on your perspective) Super Bowl earlier this week, it is interesting that the NFL and one team in particular understands the value of great customer service. Four out of the last five years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have finished #1 amongst NFL teams in customer service. A cynic may say, sure they need to win in CSat because they haven’t been to a Super Bowl since 2003. But I would actually argue that the Bucs in particular and the NFL as a whole understand that they have to win first with a heightened in-person customer experience. The alternative is fans staying home on their couches sitting in front of their own 4K TV and keeping their dollars in their pockets. The Bucs have turned high levels of customer satisfaction year over year into increased attendance. Share of wallet is a concern, even for the #1 sport in the US and the customer experience is how they intend to win. Competition even impacts the NFL.

In 2017, I expect to see more activity around the customer experience and organizations in seemingly non-customer focused industries emphasize CSat and service innovation. Not only are dollars at stake, but also the desire to build life-long relationships with customers. If you think you are not in a customer-focused business, you might just be proven wrong this year.

Sumair’s pick:
Topic: The passing of Hans Rosling
Source: Multiple

Commentary: This isn’t a service story per se. It’s a data story and one that will touch most in analytical professions. It was sad to hear about the passing of Professor Hans Rosling this week. If you haven’t heard of Professor Rosling, it’s worth spending some time on his extremely popular TED Talks. I’ve included one of my favorites below:

Professor Rosling spent a lot of time arguing the importance of data and insight to combat ignorance and bias. While he applied this to socio-economic situations, his wisdom is applicable to most situations. In service businesses globally, there is an attempt to become more predictive. In that, organizations must rely on data and information to overcome biases about customer needs, desires, and expectations. As Professor Rosling states, “The first thing to do when seeking the future, is to know the present.” In a previous talk, he also cautioned against the use of general averages to drive business actions. The action aimed at 20% of a customer base might be very different when compared to that of another 20%. Yet, data is the necessary recipe for strategy.

Our Three Other Articles:

1- Chipotle to tie employees’ pay to customer service in comeback move (HR Dive, 2/9/17)
2- Dish Network’s new ad campaign wants to hear customers’ comments, complaints (The Denver Post, 2/6/17)
3- The Impending Crisis of the Internet of Things (Pacific Standard, 2/3/17)

If interested in viewing our latest data and insight, please visit: http://info.servicecouncil.com/recent-content-and-events. We would love to have you become part of our research panel. If you would like to, please visit http://info.servicecouncil.com/tsc-join-a-research-group and select the area(s) of alignment.

Till next week.

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

Sumair Dutta
Chief Customer Officer
sd@servicecouncil.com or @suma1r

Drones, the Super Bowl, and Service by Machines

By Aly Pinder | News, Perspective | No Comments

The American tradition of watching the Super Bowl is even more spectacular when the game is good (sorry Falcons fans and the throngs of fans that dislike the Patriots). This is one of the last bastions of shared experiences we have in pop culture – where DVRs, cord cutting, and a general cynicism that leads “spoiler alerts” in every Twitter feed!

But this past Sunday night, most of us (based on Nielsen rating of 48.8 or 48.8% of US households watched) got to share in the fun and / or agony of defeat, together. But beyond the spectacle of the game and the comeback, we also got to share in a variety of other pop culture traditions (i.e., commercials, Half-time show). And again, as I’ve said before my posts try to avoid social commentary but instead look at the customer service and service impacts of the things around me.

The halftime show this year was very much so a meeting of technology and entertainment. If like me, you had to do a double-take when you saw the sky behind Lady Gaga light up with the American flag thinking “wow that’s cool CGI”. But I later Googled to find out those were drones!

Drones and the IoT Go Beyond the Cool

The evolution of drones (definition – any unmanned aircraft or ship that is guided remotely) in the commercial and enterprise worlds are beginning to take shape. No longer are these just cool mini-flying helicopters, they now provide the light of a fireworks shows used for entertainment, video surveillance tools for inspections and security, and a new logistics delivery channel for the supply chain. The latter two areas, I think, provide the future promise for the value of the drone – a service being delivered by a machine as opposed to a human.

The Amazon drones dropping off my 2-day shipment at my condo in Boston may not have become reality just yet, but machines are delivering a high quality of security surveillance services now. Connected machines which can capture data and can be operated remotely is nothing new but the applicability in business is becoming far-reaching. Drones are just one in a line of use cases. We’re still in early days for drones being used in everyday service delivery, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon – there are still organizations which are in the process of making the leap from paper-based processes to mobile tools which enable knowledge capture, data sharing, and resource tracking. The future promise of drones might be immense, but there is a lot of work to do to get it past the spectacular and cool to attain the business value some organizations are targeting.

Another connected technology and movement that is very relevant right now is the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is changing the way we think about the world around us and the role that machines should play in service. Connected machines and products have changed the amount and type of data we can gather in real-time. But what is really important for business, is not the amount of data we are able to gather but the fact that we can have data access in real-time and can make decisions based on the now and not on a report cultivated three weeks ago. And this access to data also enables service leaders to proactively stage resources in advance of failures or contact customers to engage in a different type of conversation – one that occurs before there is a break or equipment failure. Without the connection between customer or operational value being created, the IoT like drones would just be a cool thing and not a valuable technology advancement. We have a current project available for your participation in regard to the IoT journey of service organizations. You can participate in a short survey here and share how your organization is ensuring that IoT isn’t just a cool technology but part of the infrastructure which is driving service in 2017.

Other Predictions for 2017 (this year will be more than just Drones)

I expect that there will be tangible service advancements this year, well beyond those seen by drones and maybe even more than the IoT. A few of my predictions are below.

– Technicians will be asked to deliver more than resolution, and will become partners with customers.
– The walls between sales, marketing, and service will begin to fade away to allow for customized service offerings and better communication of value.
– Engaged service workers will provide heightened a service experience for the end customer.

These are just a few of my predictions for the coming year. To hear more of my predictions and better still the initiatives from two service leaders from HPE and Sterilmed, please listen to our recent 2017 Preview Webcast.

The Super Bowl highlighted the future of technology which will have an impact on service as well as entertainment. But I believe the future isn’t too far off for more tangible service advancements, many of which will be aided by technology.

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

Service Sales & Marketing: Tell the Service Story

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

Does sales love or hate service? Does marketing care about either?

These may sound like questions to get clicks. But, I honestly think about such things as I evaluate the future of service in 2017.

Service has always relied on other business functions [to do work or get work done], but the inverse hasn’t always been true. The service team needs inventory, operations, the customer support team, sales, IT, engineering and even marketing to efficiently solve customer problems. But this one-sided relationship leads to some missed opportunities; like the creation of products that are difficult to service, sales folk who don’t sell the value of service, or technology investments which don’t take into account the user. As these missed opportunities turn into lost dollars, the importance of re-thinking the relationship between service and other functions is bound to change – specifically, the partnership between service, sales, and marketing.

Marketing Communicates the Service Story to Customers

In current research TSC is working on, organizations see the need to focus on consistently connecting and sharing the value delivered with customers while making it easier for customers to find the information they need. Having a dedicated service marketing team ensures understanding of service but also the importance of communicating the value service can provide. As more organizations see the value and importance of the customer experience and the impact service has on that experience, I expect there to be more of a dedicated effort by marketing to tell the service story of value. Telling the story is one step. But I also believe that there needs to be a service marketing business unit / team in order to achieve the strategic goals of –

– Communicating value to customers
– Making customer aware of the entire service(s) portfolio
– Helping close the divide from service provider to solution partner
– Educating various stakeholders within the customer of importance of action / investment

Invest in a Service Sales and Service Marketing Team

As seen in TSC research, the propensity to invest in resources which tie the sales and marketing functions to service are a priority for many manufacturers and service organizations. TSC data from 2016: 5 Major Transformations Impacting Service Businesses found that service sales and marketing headcount was the second most desired roles to be added to organizations in 2015, only trailing field service. This investment in cross-collaborative resources highlights the strategic vision of a service organization that runs more like product businesses of old and not just a support function – i.e., let’s innovate service offerings, communicate value to customers, and proactively sell the right solutions to the right customers to build loyalty and customers for life. But as these investments in new resources are made, organizations must be mindful to ensure the customer and their experience remains at the forefront of decisions and initiatives. The service team’s first job is to ensure customer issues get resolved, and a service sales or marketing team must always keep that as a priority.

All for One, One for All

The technician can often be viewed by the end customer as a trusted advisor or partner. Where doors are shut or phone calls not returned by sales folks, the technician or service team member has direct access. This accessibility should not be abused. Technicians, as noted in TSC’s Field Service 2016: The Technician’s Perspective, enjoy solving customer problems and the interaction afforded by their jobs. This rapport should be leveraged by sales and marketing to connect the customer to the right products and services for the future. Insights gleaned from service interactions should not be viewed as erroneous technician chatter, but as nuggets of insight from the customer’s mouth. The sales and marketing teams need to work with the front-line service team to gather better insights into customer needs and future opportunities. Techs shouldn’t necessarily be sales reps, but instead an extension of the sales and marketing team to ensure not only resolution of the issue at hand but also a partner is built for life.

Help Us Remove the Divide Between Service, Sales, and Marketing

In a couple of months, we will launch our first benchmark dedicated to sales & marketing and its impact on service (agenda below). If you have a sales or marketing title, we want to get you involved. If you have a major focus on working with service leadership to identify new service products, we want to get you involved. If you take the lead on getting products to market, we want to hear from you. If you instead would like to refer the right person, please also send us a note. The collaboration between sales, marketing, and service will be interesting to follow in 2017, I hope you will join the conversation. Don’t miss out.
TSCResearchMethod-2017-S&MAgenda

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

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: rm@servicecouncil.com).

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:

Otis1

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…

Otis2

    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.

Otis3

    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).

Contact:
John Carroll
CEO & Founder
Email: jtc@servicecouncil.com
Phone: +1.617.717.8300

Service Strategy Forecast for 2017

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

Annual predictions and forecasts are an interesting activity/discipline. I like to think of them as annual affirmations as strategic investments don’t necessarily change year-over-year. In some instances, organizations are looking to expand on what they’ve been doing.

Therefore, in an attempt to guide service leaders who look to us for insight and information on the overall service community, here is a list of focus areas for 2017. You can hear (on-demand link) some of these on a recent discussion that we at TSC were fortunate to have with Rusty Walther, Senior Vice President at HPE, and Tom Schlick, Vice President of Marketing and Engineering Development, at SterilMed. In addition, several of Aly Pinder’s observations are also available here.

In 2017, we envision that service business leaders will look to focus the pillars (see below) of their strategy around 4 major areas.

The Four Areas of Focus:

  1. Increasing Predictability
  2. Enhancing Efficiency
  3. Identifying New Opportunities
  4. Empowering Customers with Access and Information
The Strategy Pillars and Objectives

The Service Council: Service Strategy Pillars and Objectives

These aren’t ground breaking predictions, but let me elaborate on a topic of interest and focus in each.

Increasing Predictability

Focus: Executing on Predictive Models. In our research, we’ve found that most organizations have used investments in IoT or analytics to increase their efficiency. They are finally turning an eye to the predictive power of this information and in building delivery models to support predictive service. Effective delivery models (over-the-air, self-service, remote assistance, partner-based support, field support) of predictive support can be built on the existing reactive infrastructure, but do require an investment in training, communication, and change management. To that end, the service organization needs the support of other business groups, mainly R&D, IT, and Sales and Marketing.
An Emerging Area: Leveraging customer feedback data to predict retention or attrition events.

Enhancing Efficiency

Focus: Better Use of Better Information. Over the past five years, service organizations have made significant investments in mobility to empower the field service staff and in unified desktops to empower contact center staff. In these investments, organizations have focused on making sure that all information necessary was available at the front-lines. The problem was that the information wasn’t available in context, making it difficult for front-line staff to use this information. In that, we do see organizations re-evaluate technology investments to ensure that the right information is prioritized for front-line staff. The figure below showcases the type of information that field service engineers in Europe would like to see.
Slide16

Outside of technology, we actually see a great deal of investment into the structure and design of training programs and content to ensure that front-line agents are able to act on information that is made available to them.
An Emerging Area: Augmented or merged reality holds great promise in field service as it enhances the reach of a centralized expert model in terms of resources and customers that can be supported.

Identifying New Opportunities

Focus: Installed Base Management. While organizations are always on the lookout for new customers and new services to sell to those customers, there is an increasing recognition of the need to accomplish more with the existing installed base. In this, organizations are focusing their analytical minds on the portfolio of existing customers and the products and services that might be needed to increase customer value.
An Emerging Area: The development of customer care (customer success) teams that enable a consistent communication with customers to uncover pain points, challenges, and opportunities.

Empowering Customers with Information and Access

Focus: Ease and Effort. Ritz Carlton believes that a differentiated experience comes from the ability to surprise and delight customers. In equipment-centric service the word surprise isn’t looked at as a positive. Yet, there is a greater push from equipment manufacturers (and other organizations) to improve the experience that’s delivered to customers. Some of this can be attributed to consumerized experiences delivered by the likes of Uber and Amazon. Organizations we work with are looking to make it easier for customers to do business with them and this correlates with reducing customer angst and effort in seeking and acting on information. We’re just conducting some research on the topic and early (65 organizations) results point to this overall trend.
An Emerging Area: Messaging as a communication channel in on overall interaction portfolio.

The Service Council Research: Customer Experience Focus Areas for B2B Service Organizations (Preliminary Results)

Customer Experience Focus Areas for B2B Service Organizations (Preliminary Results)

Do these align with your objectives for the year? Let us know. As noted earlier, you can access our conversation with HPE and SterilMed here. If you are a service leader and would like to get involved in The Service Council’s research and 2017 benchmarks, please feel free to contact Aly Pinder or myself.

Where is the Chief Service Officer?

By Sumair Dutta | Perspective | No Comments

At the always excellent Aftermarket Europe conference late last year, conference moderator Coen Jeukens from Bosch opened the event with an incredible question/challenge. He asked:

“Where is the Chief Service Officer? If service truly is a priority, then where is the Chief Service Officer?”

I have to admit, I didn’t and still don’t have a response. When I started as a service analyst at the Aberdeen Group several years ago, I was fortunate enough to work with Mark Vigoroso (now at NCR) on a report highlighting the “Emergence of the Chief Service Officer”. In this report we argued that organizations that were serious about differentiating via service needed a C-level leader to drive the necessary transformations in the business. These transformations include:

  • Going from a product-centric business to a service or customer-focused business
  • Treating service as a profit center

A major reason why transformations fall short is the lack of internal commitment across the organization. For service to be a differentiator, it needs to be injected into the culture of the overall organization, not just in the service organization. This is why, we argued, that a service leader was necessary. By the way, the fact that service accounts for 30-40% of revenue for many businesses was another reason.

At that early stage, very few organizations had an official CSO role. Yet, we continued to push for that title in our research and work. Aly Pinder, my research partner at The Service Council, was also a key supporter of the CSO movement.

Service transformations are still occurring. In some instances we use the term servitization. And the role of the service leader is extremely important in driving transformation. In fact, in The Service Council’s 2015 work on service transformation, executive leadership and support was cited as the most important pre-requisite for a successful transformation. So, where is the Chief Service Officer?

There are several possibilities as to why the official title has not appeared.

  1. Organizations aren’t really that serious about service and all that we see and hear is me-too marketing. This is the scariest option.
  2. The C-level title for service has been taken on by the Chief Customer Officer. I believe that this is true for organizations in certain industries such as high-tech manufacturing or software. The fear with this option is that sales and marketing get a lion’s share of the focus as they have more of an immediate ROI (when measured by sales dollars). It takes someone who is well versed in service to truly understand the dollar impact of:
    a. Customer loyalty
    b. Service revenue (if you sell service contracts, warranties, parts etc.)
  3. There is someone fulfilling that role but they don’t have a C-level title. I suspect that this is the most likely scenario. I’ve heard good arguments from organizations that they believe that creating an office of the Chief Service Officer or the Chief Customer Officer can be counter-productive as it compartmentalizes the responsibility for service wherein it should be organization-wide. This seems like a cultural issue to me, one that needs the hand of a service leader to consistently communicate and reinforce how every single person working in an organization impacts the end customer.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know why we don’t see the CSO title. I’d like to find out why.

I’m going to ask the question to several service leaders on a short webcast tomorrow (Thursday Jan 12, 2017). The focus of the webcast is to capture some service predictions for 2017, but this seems to be an appropriate tie in. Plus Tom and Rusty should have great responses. Please feel free to register and listen in.

If you have an opinion on this, please do submit a comment here and/or feel free to participate in this very short survey on the topic. It would be great to see where the results fall.

The Convergence of the Consumer and the Service Worker

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

As we make our way through the first month of the new year, the excitement around the future is palpable. Now, this may be because I am reading a lot of headlines from CES in my Twitter & Facebook feeds. But I would like to think it is because the convergence of technology and ‘real life’ is within reach for many of us. Whether it be the emergence of the Comcast voice remote control entering our homes, the ubiquity of wearable devices on wrists of people of all ages, or the wave of ads from the likes of Samsung and Sony touting VR; the consumer sphere has really embraced technology.

But was does this all mean for service, especially field service in a B2B environment?

Three service areas, in particular, will continue to see the impact of technology and this convergence between the consumer and enterprise worlds in 2017.

The Field
As seen in TSC’s Field Service 2016: The Technician’s Perspective report, the next wave of technicians assume they will be able to use similar tools as in their daily lives. This report found that nearly three quarters of service workers with less than ten years of experience preferred a smart phone as their primary device (as compared to only half of those with twenty years of experience). For organizations with a younger workforce, the expectation of easy to use work applications and devices which mirror consumer experiences will continue to shape the technology investments for the field team in 2017. Furthermore, technicians in this study expressed interest in technologies like the Internet of Things, collaborative video capabilities (i.e., training, live), and also had some positive feelings toward augmented reality. This isn’t to say that paper will go completely away or that some organizations won’t still use enterprise-grade form factors like ruggedized laptops or handhelds, but 2017 will continue to see the emergence of more consumer grade technologies to support a changing workforce which is younger and more tech-savvy. As the workforce continues to evolve (i.e., get younger, Millennial service team), service organizations need to re-evaluate the devices and the technology provided to the field. Technology investments should consider the users and adoption propensity and not solely what is approved by our friends in IT.

The Customer

This may seem like a constant hum in your ears, but customer expectations for improved service continue to rise and evolve. Even though it feels like this has been a threat for years now, the voice of the customer cannot be ignored. As consumer experiences with organizations like Uber, Amazon, and Domino’s Pizza change the way we all view on-demand service, visibility, and omni-channel interactions. All service organizations must take heed.

We have some early data from a current project in regard to Customer Experience, and nearly seven out of ten service organizations see the opportunity for the customer experience to be a key differentiator for their business. These organizations also plan to find new ways to communicate with customers while making it easier for those customers to engage. 2017 will continue to blur the lines between consumer experiences and our enterprise service interactions. Needless to say, the customer is always right! Service organizations should look to emulate best practices from unlike industries in order to evolve with your customers. Stay true to yourself, but understand customer expectations evolve faster than we would sometimes like.

Service Leadership

The technology impact on service leaders should be a no brainer. Isn’t every leader attached to their smart phones for emails or looking at a dashboard on their tablet or laptop to see data in real-time. But 2017 may also see the evolution of this insight as data volumes become somewhat untenable. Time is of the essence, not only because of respective salaries of management but because decisions which deliver results must now happen in real-time. As noted earlier, customers don’t want to wait for service and technicians expect the same speed of information as they receive at home. So, service leaders must continue to leverage technology to get the right data, to make the right decisions, to empower their teams and solve the problems of their customers in real or near-real time.

If you are interested in weighing in on how, as a service leader, you plan to leverage technology in 2017 please reach out to the TSC team. We will be exploring some of the key initiatives for service leadership in 2017 in a benchmark survey later this month. We would love to get your input and learn from your experiences.

Will My Crystal Ball Be Right Come December 31, 2017?

I am excited to see how technology will continue to evolve in 2017. I assume some predictions will be wrong but I have hope that at least in the three areas above technology will help service deliver more to improve the customer experience, help the field deliver service more efficiently, and aid leadership in its decisions in 2017. Coming up Jan 12th, the TSC team will forecast some additional trends we expect to see in 2017. Please join live or listen on demand. Also, in Q1, we will be launching our first wave of benchmark surveys tackling Leadership & Strategy, Field Service, Workforce & Talent, Parts, and Customer Experience. If you manage or have interest in any of these service topics, please send us a note and we’ll get you involved.

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

Will 2017 Finally Be the Year of the Customer?

By Aly Pinder | Perspective | No Comments

Customer service should not be a reaction to a bad review or negative tweet or something for just one department of your organization. Service excellence demands that we live and breathe a culture of ‘customer first’ every day.

As we close out 2016 and look forward to a new year, this is a time to reflect, recharge, and prepare for 2017. Across our research, this year the customer and their expectations have become the #1 driver for service organizations. And I don’t see this changing in the new year.

There are trends converging which lead to my confidence. Even in our B2B worlds, we are all consumers who have interactions in our daily lives which we take to the office. The experiences we have with Uber and Amazon are now expectations we can’t forget when we look at our SLAs on the maintenance contract or our warranty on that $1M piece of equipment.

This importance of service, and more so quality service, has become a differentiator for businesses. Whether reading about a UK department store or listening to a hotel chain at this year’s Smarter Services Symposium, the customer comes first. And those companies that have considered this to be a tagline or empty motto, are going to be in for a difficult year ahead.

But how can we turn this idea of “customer first” into action? This isn’t a simple task as it demands building a culture which is led by management, employees, processes, and technology. But that UK department store shared three easy tips which I think we should all embrace.

Go the extra mile.

We all hope nothing ever goes wrong. That a piece of equipment we bought never fails. Or that we will never be stuck on the side of the road needing that tow truck. But things happen. In customer service, it is less about the failure and more about the response. Customers don’t expect 100% uptime, but they depend on the service organization minimizing downtime when there is a failure. And organizations that excel at customer service will not only resolve the issue at hand, they will go above and beyond to ensure the customer has a good experience. Bringing a hotel patron a soda or umbrella while they wait for a cab, offering a client a meeting time on your holiday, or a grocery store which co-locates other services you can have a one-stop shopping experience all deliver above and beyond the stated services in a contract.

Show your customers you care.

The competition for service dollars has become quite intense. Manufacturers, third party service providers, contractors, and customers themselves all vie for favor and the job. So no longer is meeting the stated expectation of a service contract good enough for most of the customers out there. With options comes an opportunity, both for the service organization and the competition. It is up to the service provider to demonstrate this relationship is truly a partnership of shared goals and expectations and not just another service contract with SLAs. A cable company that welcomes it’s technicians to spend extra time while on site to help a customer find a lost stuffed animal not just fix the issue on the work order, a support agent who helps a customer prepare for a job interview, or a service organization which lives its social responsibility message – these are all opportunities to show your customers you care. Caring may seem like added operational cost, but in 2017 showing your customers you care may be the difference in a renewal or having to find new buyers.

Your employees are your most important customer.

Your customers buy things from you. But your employees are often the reason your customers buy again or renew a contract. So, a focus on your team IS a focus on your end customers. Engaged, incentivized, and happy employees are often more likely to go the extra mile for customers. Employees are your brand and often your product. Service, unlike products, can avoid commoditization because of employees – each different, with different skills. Tapping into the unique value of your employees to support your customers is a way to stay ahead of the competition. You are the only one with your team, make sure they know they are key to the success of the business.

Service isn’t easy, but we must strive to excel. In 2017, we will have a dedicated research group tied to customer experience and the initiatives that executives look to implement to wow their customers. If you would like to join this research group and share or would like to refer a colleague, please send me a note. I hope 2017 is a year we will all remember for the great customer experience stories we have had and have delivered.

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

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
CEO
The Service Council
jtc@servicecouncil.com or +1.617.717.8300

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