Service Journey Day Recap: Controlling the Controllables hosted by Coca-Cola at North America HQ (Atlanta, GA)

Service Journey Day Coca-Cola

As the challenges within field service (asset complexity, talent shortages, customer expectations) grow more complex, so does the service network involved. Many organizations (including a majority of product-centric Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) such as medical, healthcare, industrial manufacturing, building automation, high tech and more) that rely on distributed networks to meet SLAs are struggling with doing so in a way that doesn’t impact their customers’ satisfaction or their brand.

At the end of June, over 40 service executives from The Home Depot, Baxter Healthcare, Mercedes-Benz High Power Charging, NCR Atleos, Becton Dickinson, DISH Network, Agilent Technologies, Eppendorf and more gathered at Coca-Cola Headquarters in Atlanta to discuss this very problem. While Coca-Cola is arguably the most recognized brand in the world (ahem, some might even argue they invented the iconic, red-suited Santa Claus that we know and love today), even they were not immune to these challenges.

As Michael Galon, Coca-Cola’s Director of Service Operations for North America, so aptly put it, “If you don’t have the product that’s wanted, equipment that works, and service that enables the operational uptime and efficiency, then you won’t succeed.”

The half-day workshop examined how Coca-Cola has risen to this challenge and successfully built an extended network to service the beverage dispensing units used in restaurants and quick service locations, without sacrificing quality or reputation. Quality and consistency of service across this distributed network is what allows Coca-Cola to maintain the brand reputation it has built in its markets as far and away the market leader in the beverage industry.

Not surprisingly, Coca-Cola’s service operations in North America covers an immense footprint.   Their contact center fields 1.2 million calls regarding their beverage dispensers alone, while their 6,000+ service technicians see 850,000 service activities annually.

The workshop also brought to light 3 critical takeaways as attendees discussed the challenges, successes and learning moments in managing their own distributed network.

Establish Shared Objectives and Expectations Before Deploying Governance

Before service leaders attempt to deploy and manage any type of change within an organization, they must make sure that all stakeholders are on the same page. This is especially critical for extended networks, who are oftentimes overlooked when it comes to communicating changes effectively.

Service leaders should ensure that the objectives, goals and reason behind the change is effectively communicated AND that buy-in has been achieved. Otherwise, that organization will see inconsistency when it comes to quality, compliance, best practices and regulatory standards. As Banding People Togethers’ Founder Alan Shaefer put it, “In the absence of clarity, the brain functions from the same place as mistrust.” Simply put, if a technician doesn’t trust that the “new way of doing things” is effective, they’ll keep doing things the “old way,” making the change management initiative a lost cause. Without a culture of involvement from the frontline, change management efforts will often feel like a new trial and often be received as the new “Flavor of the month”. Shockingly, according to the 2023 Voice of the Field Service Engineer survey, field technicians (engineers) were still non-believers with respect to their role in innovation with 40% indicating they did not believe they had a voice in innovation. Further, 61% did not believe that management listened or enacted change based on their feedback to business improvements. We will be reporting the 2024 results in late August, and we hope these figures have changed since last year as this represents a huge missed opportunity.

Data Overload and Inertia-Based Policies Will Slow Down Innovation

Once considered a dinosaur industry, service and support has eagerly embraced digital transformation in recent years. While this is genuinely positive to see, it has also caused some unanticipated challenges. Many organizations jumped headfirst into adopting new technology without a clear strategy. Additionally, service leaders have found that, while their tech stack has been modernized, their policies and processes have not.

The result, as one service leader put it, is that they are drowning in data but haven’t achieved meaningful visibility. It also means that organizations are struggling with technical debt that stakeholders must now contend with. These data silos not only hinder service operations, but also the extended network’s ability to make an impact.

Therefore, it is becoming increasingly more important that service leaders take the time to review their tech stack, develop a clear, long-term vision that includes their distributed network, identify the blind spots, silos, integration opportunities and the data needed to achieve this vision. We still see quite a degree of fragmentation when it comes to the tech stack (where disparate, siloed technologies are managing different functions of the customer and operations databases). The latest evidence of how this translates into operational challenges comes from the 2024 Service Supply Chain survey, where 37% reported the service parts business suffered from “overreliance on partners and lack of visibility into their performance”, ranking third as most frequently mentioned.

Anticipate Friction Points Throughout the Partner Ecosystem

The partner ecosystem is a complex network that grows even more so by the day, thanks to the growing complexity of assets, contracts and service delivery. An extended network needs to be enabled and empowered if they are to deliver the quality and efficiency necessary to be successful brand ambassadors for your organization. There is a two-way dependency between the OEM and extended network. On one hand, the OEM is placing trust on the maintaining of brand and customer experience. On the other hand, the extended network is placing trust on the enablement of success by way of access to training and knowledge, aftermarket parts and clear policies and procedures to be successful.

To do this, it’s important that service leaders have a good understanding of the many potential friction points that exist throughout the service delivery journey. These can include the above-mentioned technology silos, lack of multilateral (as appropriate) data sharing, price regulations, lack of technology and process standardization, territory management, competing incentives and conflicting priorities.

By identifying and anticipating as many friction points as possible throughout the partner ecosystem, service leaders are better equipped to handle – or avoid- them altogether. It also allows partners to function more smoothly and will accelerate an organization’s capacity to scale.

Final Takeaways from the Service Journey Day

For Coca-Cola, the key to developing a world-class service distribution network involved the above components of communication, visibility and planning. While their service delivery model was very different from many of the other organizations in attendance, all agreed that it provided an example of best practices that they could incorporate into their own operations.

Below are some questions that we discussed in the workshop, which service leaders should consider with regards to their own partner ecosystem:

  • Which operations that directly impact your brand’s perceived experience are not executed within your four walls?
  • To what extent does your brand’s perceived experience depend on the localized innovation, behaviors and actions of your distributed network?
  • How are you communicating and managing a standard governance with your partners?
  • How are you leveraging common data, processes and technology to empower both your distributed partners and your own teams who interact with their behaviors/performance?
  • How are you preventing your governance framework from hurting empowerment, dissuading innovation, and eating up bandwidth?
  • How are you accommodating adaptive relationship models across your network without losing underlying consistency and speed?

Service Council’s next Service Journey Day will be hosted at DISH Network in Denver, CO. The topic will be, “Building an Intelligent Service Strategy Through Data,” and will look at how service leaders can harness data to fuel customer insight and adaptive customer experiences. Click here to learn more!

Tags: Coca-Cola, Customer Experience (CX), Customer support, Digital transformation, Distribution Network, extended network
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