As service leaders face an increasingly uncertain economic climate, the term “agility” has become a popular buzzword. Businesses around the globe have faced an unprecedented number of hurdles in recent years: the pandemic, supply chain shortages, customer demands, the threat of a looming recession… the list goes on. To navigate the next disruption, service organizations are realizing they must create a more agile business. But what does agility look like? And how do organizations deliver it across the entire enterprise?
Recently, the Service CouncilTM hosted a webinar with 360 Apartment Renovations and Salesforce, entitled, “3 Ways to Build an Agile Field Service Organization.” During the webinar, Service Council CEO John Carroll was joined by Julio Hartstein, co-owner of 360 Apartment Renovations, an apartment property renovation company that operates in the B2B sector to serve the needs of property management companies. Leigh-Anne Nugent, Product Management Director, Outbound Success for Salesforce, also brought her insight to the panel to discuss key areas organizations can focus on to weave agility throughout their service business.
The Great Talent Shortage
The availability of talent continues to be a concern among executives. According to the 2022 Service Leader’s Agenda survey, executives list the talent shortage as the top external challenge they are currently facing in their business. Unfortunately, the talent crisis does not appear to be easing anytime soon. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there are 10 million job openings in the U.S. and only around 6 million unemployed workers.
Additionally, worker engagement continues to be a challenge. In the 2022 Voice of the Field Service Engineer survey, 56% of respondents said field service may or may not be their long-term career, with 26% saying they do not anticipate being a field service engineer for their entire career, and 30% saying they are not sure. While retirement certainly plays a role in the employee exodus, employee engagement and satisfaction are also factors. Of those that said they are considering leaving field service, only 37% gave “retiring” as the reason.
According to Julio, this has been the number one challenge for 360 Apartment Renovations, particularly in terms of hiring and training new talent. He realized that, to achieve sustaining growth and adapt quickly to demands, they would need to invest in technology that would allow them to automate as many processes as possible.
Refining Your Tech Strategy
Of course, refining your tech strategy comes with its own set of challenges. Processes and technology continue to cause executives’ concern. During the webinar, John brought up the fact that 41% of service leaders cite the integration of technology into process workflows as the top inhibitor of enterprise value from technology investments.
As John explained, “Digital transformation was happening at a rapid, and at times reactive, pace as companies rose to meet demands during the pandemic. Now we’re seeing a more strategic approach to mapping out that digital transformation as companies attempt to fill in the technology gaps and information silos from previous modernization efforts.”
According to Leigh-Anne, bringing processes and technology together has been a rising focus among Salesforce customers. She also stressed that organizational alignment is extremely important for success. “Make sure that your investments are in line with your company’s vision and values. There is nothing worse than building a process that ultimately falls short of what you’re trying to achieve.”
For Julio, the alignment of process and technology roadmaps was extremely important. “The first step for us was to develop a clear understanding of what your pain points are, and what it is you’re trying to solve. This includes making sure all of the different stakeholders – from those in the field to those in the back office – are involved.”
Decide What Agility Looks Like for You
As organizations turn their attention towards a more strategic approach to digital transformation, a key for executives wishing to weave agility into their tech stack will be to focus on a technician agnostic approach. With capacity continuing to be a challenge, a single pane of glass solution that empowers technicians of all levels to deliver a consistent, high-quality customer experience will be crucial.
Certainly, this was the case for 360 Apartment Renovations. As Julio explained, “Our industry is ripe for disruption. Many competitors are still working on pen and paper, so there is a lot of opportunity for automation. We wanted to set our business apart and create an agile, scalable operation that could deliver high value customer service.”
Once 360 Apartment Renovations had evaluated their pain points, they decided the first area to turn their attention to was scheduling. At the time, the scheduling and operations department was seeing hundreds of work orders coming in every day. Many of the work orders had dependencies between them as well, adding additional complexity to the situation.
After evaluating solutions on the market, they concluded that Salesforce Field Service was the only one that would allow them to automate the scheduling process while also offering scalability and value across the organization. It also offered unmatched capabilities in terms of its partner solution ecosystem and codeless configuration.
As Julio explained, “A key component of agility for us was being able to react quickly to demand. This meant allowing our scheduling and operations teams to efficiently schedule the people and resources needed to service our customers’ needs. We are a very customer-oriented business, and it was crucial for us to have the right technology in place to enable us to meet that challenge.”
Agility at the Employee Level
One of the most critical components of service agility is a sustainable workforce. As mentioned above, service organizations are in the midst of a talent shortage. How can executives better engage, lessen burnout, and retain the talent of their field service engineers? A recuring theme throughout the 2022 Voice of the Field Service Engineer survey was employee effort. When asked what the least favorite part of their day was, technicians cited “paperwork and administrative tasks.” Interestingly, for the first time “time spent looking for information,” surpassed “pressure to work faster” for the number two spot.
As service leaders turn their attention towards increasing employee satisfaction, they are realizing that effort – the ease with which technicians can perform their jobs and deliver value to the customer – plays a vital role. To lessen employee effort, organizations must empower their technicians with visibility to information.
Says Julio, “Visibility is so important to our field techs. They need to know what equipment and parts they need to have in their van when they arrive onsite. We were able to deliver this to them with our Salesforce implementation. The mobile app has also been key. It’s allowed us to remove all the clutter and leave only the most important functionality for the field service technician. Adding more complexity for the sake of complexity is not something that is conducive to an efficient process. What our field techs care about is minimizing their windshield time and reducing administrative tasks.”
Another area of concern that the Voice of the Field Service Engineer survey highlighted was field service technicians not feeling heard. Only 55% of employees felt that their company was interested in collecting their feedback. Even less (41%) felt that their company leveraged their feedback to make improvements. During the webinar, Leigh-Anne stressed the importance of organizations listening to frontline workers, something 360 Apartment Renovations did throughout their journey.
Said Leigh-Anne, “Be obsessed with increasing stakeholder satisfaction. When it comes to people, process and technology, people are always first. Processes and technology are there to support them. Stay connected to stakeholders and solicit feedback through every process and from every automation.”
Agility at the Customer Level
Customer demands are evolving. Much like employees, a customer’s satisfaction depends largely on the effort (or lack thereof) required in their post-sale experience. They want a seamless journey from start to finish, with more agility in their channel preferences. In response to this, field service organizations are starting to move towards a more sophisticated approach to how they deliver customer value. While organizations will never be able to fully move away from reactive methodologies, being able to supplement the reactive part of their field service approach with advanced capabilities such as preventative maintenance and self-service will be critical to any organization that wants to remain agile in the modern field service ecosystem.
John addressed this during the webinar, saying, “When it comes to achieving a proactive service model, in order to move up the maturity ladder, it takes a lot of faith in, and commitment to, the service part of your business. It also requires a lot of organizational structure, not only in leadership and culture, but process innovation and integration across the enterprise.”
To this point, Service Council research has shown that organizations that have an executive overseeing customer support are achieving a 16.5% greater net promoter score than those without. Additionally, those that also have processes in place to measure customer success and satisfaction (CSAT) are 2.3 times more likely to see an increase in customer value.
For Julio, the capabilities that Salesforce offered 360 Apartment Renovations has helped tremendously in terms of the value they deliver to customers, because they’ve been able to connect silos and build a platform for efficient processes across the entire value chain. This includes departments outside of field service, such as sales and marketing, customer onboarding, quality and customer service, and billing & invoicing. The result is a more seamless customer journey from beginning to end. This, in turn, drives customer retention.
Disruptions, whether on an organizational or global level, will never cease. By creating a more agile enterprise from the top down, service organizations will be able to pivot to meet these challenges and come out on top. To do this, they must look at all personas of the business – executive, frontline worker and customer. Investment in technology that will empower each of these personas is essential.
For 360 Apartment Renovations, the capabilities that Salesforce has delivered allows them to deliver an effortless journey across the value chain. Julio sums it up as such, “Thanks to Salesforce, I feel like we have automation down to a science. Where we were once crawling, we’re now running.” Additionally, it frees them up to look ahead. “We’re always looking for ways to improve and do better. What capabilities can we add to create more value for our customers? One area that we’re currently looking at integrating with Amazon Alexa, so that we can offer an additional channel to our customers.” It’s innovative ideas like this, which bring a consumer experience into the business world, that continue to set 360 Apartment Renovations apart from competitors.
Leigh-Anne summarized by saying, “What I’m seeing in our customers isn’t necessarily about technology. What’s really impressing me is how they are showing up as leaders. I’m starting to see more innovative organizations like Julio’s that are embracing this new mindset. It seems like pride of solution ownership is diminishing and companies are realizing that there is a huge opportunity right now to revisit their process and explore if there is a better way of doing things.”
Added Julio, “Being agile is a continuous journey. Just when you think you’ve achieved it, along comes another suggestion from the field or a customer on how you can improve. You must be committed to continuously work on it.”