By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
Field service organizations historically haven’t been known to be very agile, and the reality is that many likely still aren’t. That absolutely must change, though, and in short order. Gone are the days where set-in-stone processes, siloed strategy, and outdated technology can help you just “get by” and do what you’ve always done. Companies that refuse to evolve will simply cease to exist in today’s competitive landscape.
As service becomes viewed more strategically and recognized as a competitive differentiator by wise businesses, the call for agility arises. Becoming more agile may force many service businesses to step out of their comfort zones, but those that hope for a fruitful future are embracing the need to change and working diligently to adapt. Agility must become the lifeblood of the service organization in order for you to thrive in today’s fast-paced, increasingly competitive experience economy. While agility needs to become woven into all you do, there are three major categories for which you need to examine just how agile you are and adjust accordingly.
#1: Meeting Customer Demands
What your customers want from you and the type of interactions they value are evolving quickly and on an ongoing basis. To keep up, you must become more adept at collecting regular data on what those wants and needs look like to determine how you will deliver. Not only do you need to be proactively seeking this input, but you have to be ready and able to act on it and give your customers what they want. This is where agility becomes important. Let’s say your business is home security, and you’ve gathered significant data from your customers that they highly value the ability to schedule appointments online. If you’re asking for this feedback and they are providing it, but then it takes you 18 months to be able to deliver this experience – your customers will become frustrated. I realize you can’t deliver on every whim in an immediate fashion, but the points that are universally important need to be assessed and then executed on fairly expediently.
#2: Operational Readiness
The only way you can quickly and effectively execute on demands you feel from the market is if your business operations are aligned. You need to create a culture where evolving and optimizing processes is more fluid, rather than a once-a-decade exercise that causes all parties involved massive pain. To be able to make ongoing changes and tweaks to business process, you must be sure your entire company is working toward the same core objectives and that your view of service as a strategic arm of the business is shared by top leadership. You also have to manage change so that your employees become comfortable with a process of continual evolution and embrace their ability to provide key insights and opinions on what will help you be successful. To this end, recruiting, hiring, and retention are areas where most service organizations need to adopt more agile practices and work to make wholesale changes to long-standing existing processes to better align to today’s talent pool.
#3: Technology Evaluation & Use
The third core area that needs to become more agile is around technology evaluation and use. Historically most field service organizations have deployed technology using a waterfall approach, but with the changes in the industry as well as the changes in technology, that approach doesn’t make much sense anymore. Rather, you need to look to become more agile both in how you evaluate technologies as well as how you deploy them. Cycles that used to be five or ten years have shortened to mere months (and often are just continual). The need for agility with technology applies, too, to making changes once it is deployed. As you get feedback from users, it should be able to be incorporated quickly. You also need to be regularly assessing your use of the systems you’ve invested in to ensure you are deriving the full value from them and learning how to leverage new capabilities as they are introduced. Keep in mind as you evaluate your need to become more agile that agility isn’t simply speed. Being more agile doesn’t just mean racing along – it means being nimble, not overthinking decisions or ignoring the need to change, and realizing that it’s okay to try things and fail then use those lessons to improve and forge ahead to success.