November 30, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

5 Steps to Future-Proof Your Field Service Workforce

November 30, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

5 Steps to Future-Proof Your Field Service Workforce


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Finding, attracting, obtaining, and retaining talent is one of the most complex challenges that field service organizations face today. There are a variety of factors at play – changes in the demands of the role, an increasingly small pool of talent to compete for, differing desires from the new generation of worker, and now COVID complexities. Not to mention, the service landscape is evolving rather significantly as organizations adopt digital tools and embrace the move to outcomes-based service – which means the traits, skills, and characteristics sought today are vastly different than they were just five years ago and will be even different yet in another five years. So, with all of this said, is it even possible to future-proof the field service workforce? Not entirely, but we need to prepare. While no one can predict precisely what the future will hold, we know enough that it is important to start taking steps now to set us up for success as the future (rapidly) unfolds. As such, here are five steps you can take now to help you prepare the workforce of the future:

#1: Optimize Automation to Maximize Utilization

Step number one is to ensure that the resources you have are fully and properly utilized, and this rests largely in the hands of your digital journey. Do you have tools in place to plan and schedule your workforce in a streamlined manner or are your technicians wasting time each day on unnecessary travel? Does your workforce have access on site to all the information and inventory they need to get the job done, or are they frequently making return trips? Have you incorporated IoT or Remote Assistance to be able to diagnose and even resolve issues before going onsite? Do you have an effective knowledge management system in place to capture the insights of your most experienced workers and make them accessible to others? It only makes sense that before you work to future-proof, you are making the most of what you have today.

#2: Think (Ahead) About Field Service Responsibilities

We know that the role of the field technician is changing, but what will that look like for your business? Have you thought about what your frontline workers will be doing in five years, once some of the more monotonous and administrative tasks have been fully automated? Have you considered the ways in which your company’s progression toward Servitization will impact what you need your technicians to do differently? This can be an area that is difficult to fully predict, but there are some general points to consider such as how soft skills or even selling behaviors may become more important or how the ability to consume and present data may be more relevant. We recently had Bonnie Anderson, Global Manager of Talent Acquisition and Future Talent at Tetra Pak on the Future of Field Service podcast to discuss how Tetra Pak tackles field service recruiting. One of the pieces of advice she offered is to use an outcomes-based approach to hiring – in other words, to consider what outcomes you need to deliver to your customers and then translate those outcomes into the skills you’re seeking. This practice can apply to the future state, too. How do you think the outcomes you’re delivering for customers will be different in twelve months than they are today, and how do you prepare to hire skills needed to deliver those outcomes? You can future-proof in part by thinking ahead to where the business is going rather than “doing what you’ve always done” when it comes to hiring.

#3: Consider the Role of The Gig Economy

I was listening to an HBR IdeaCast podcast recently on Why Companies and Skilled Workers Are Turning to On-Demand Work that featured Joseph Fuller, professor at Harvard Business School, and Allison Bailey, senior partner at Boston Consulting Group. It was an interesting episode because it looked at the intersection of several trends, including digital transformation and COVID-19, that are leading to a major uptick in the use of on-demand workforces. I’ve spoken with service leaders who are successfully leveraging third-party workers, but thus far those conversations have been the exception versus the rule – often, it is a concept being considered but not yet incorporated into strategy. I think it is inevitable this will change in many cases, so it is worth investigating further and thinking about how a gig approach could help to fill certain gaps or needs.

#4: Adopt a Skills-Based Approach to Hiring

For the talent you do need to bring on board, Anderson of Tetra Pak suggests evolving from an experience-based approach to hiring to a skills-based approach. “When we look at a skills-based approach, it’s shifting that mindset that a candidate needs to have a certain background to be able to fill a position. Having an experience-based assumption has limited talent pools for employers particularly for in demand and niche skills, that are hard to find,” she explains. “So, by flipping that a little bit and saying, ‘Okay, well, actually, a candidate might get a skill from somewhere else other than from their qualification or from their experience;’ you can find a whole talent population that might be untapped, or that you’ve never considered before.” In my words, this means that companies who have traditionally hired based on experience need to understand that the experienced pool is diminishing and that means you need to work harder than you may have before to hired based on skills and then build the experience. While this means more training time and development programs, it is a critical part of the answer to the talent problem many companies have. In addition to considering skills-based hiring, you also need to be thinking about how you can upskill and reskill your existing workers as certain parts of their jobs are automated and/or as new facets of the role are introduced.

#5: Take the Reigns on Developing Future Talent

Step number five is to do what you can to take the future into your own hands, in the form of creating a program to develop future talent. Anderson of Tetra Pak spoke about the company’s Future Talent program, “Future Talent is our graduate development program designed brand new graduates coming out of university, for us to build our long-term strategy in developing that new talent,” she says. “We have a technical track to close the skills gap between industry and the skills that we require in the organization. We don’t really expect graduates to have the skills that they might need, that we might look for in somebody that does have experience. But we do look for potential, how willing they are to learn, how quick they are to learn. And the program is to expedite that learning so they can pick up those skills very, very quickly. If you pride yourself of being at the forefront, you really have to invest your time to get the talent that you need to have that competitive advantage.”

Anderson says, “It’s not necessarily about future-proofing, because I think that’s impossible, but perhaps future preparing.” I like that – prepare today so you are not behind tomorrow.

November 27, 2020 | 4 Mins Read

Is it Time to Servitize Black Friday?

November 27, 2020 | 4 Mins Read

Is it Time to Servitize Black Friday?


By Tom Paquin

Starting in High School, I worked a cascading series of retail jobs. While the day-to-day operations of sales and service were actually something that I quite enjoyed, I’d always have to to shut off all higher brain function from the end of November through January 3rd. The numbing din of massive crowds, low, low prices, and verbally abusive parents chiseled me down into a fine paste by the time the ball dropped in Times Square. This slog of exhaustion and inescapable noise always kicked off with the darkest of dark days: Black Friday.

While Black Friday is typically honored by charging a $300 laptop to a credit card at 4AM and parking lot fistfights over Tickle-Me Elmo, this year will likely look more like Black Friday’s little sister, Cyber Monday. Perhaps this year is an opportunity to reset people’s expectations about Black Friday, and retail in general. Perhaps now is the time to look beyond brute forcing predatory pricing, towards a more holistic reimagining of what makes compelling retail. Is it time to servitize Black Friday?

This was literally the first topic I wrote about after joining Future of Field Service two years ago, and given my personal background, both as a rank-and-file retail person, and then working for two analyst firms with a large swath of retail customers, it’s definitely something that I feel compelled by. 2020 has exacerbated retail’s challenges by advancing digital adoption and channel disruption, accelerating our natural progression away from traditional retail by five years or so, according to some estimates. This time last year, your mom wouldn’t know an Instacart if it bit her on the face, but now she’s getting two deliveries a week and hasn’t seen the inside of a Tesco since February. Unsurprisingly, this is also something that I wrote about within the context of service. But Black Friday itself is a slightly different animal.

Black Friday has the unique and bizarre dichotomy of offering deals while enticing people to spend exuberant amounts of money. It if frequently and inaccurately referred to as “The busiest shopping day of the year,” which, again, means that the average shopping mall usually smells like the inside of the average High School locker room by 3PM or so. This year, though, a large quantity of those sales have either been stretched over the course of several weeks or will take place in large part online.

For businesses ready for the ecommerce boom, that’s great. For smaller shops that don’t have the infrastructure or tools in place, things are a little more complicated. Since we’ve long since cleared the Black Friday Event Horizon, we’ll have to think about most of this in the hypothetical, but it’s useful to think about this in the longer-term as well. Here are some thoughts:

Making Retail a Service Operation

This in many ways is the Instacart-ization of service. While it’s certainly fun to browse aisles and look for the perfect tchotchke for Auntie Roxanne, as a crowd-averse person, I appreciate the idea of getting access to Black Friday deals with a quick drop-in rather than a lengthy stroll through the store. By creating a buy-ahead system, you get a little bit of crowd control, you get a new spate of emails with which to market to, and you get some new customer loyalty. Some of my local bookshops are doing that, and it’s fantastic. I’d much rather give them my money and go pick up a book than feed it to the website equivalent of Smaug that Amazon has become.

The Service Upsell

The other benefit of a digital storefront, and moving more commerce onto it, is that it makes upsells to service products much easier. I used to work for a company wherein we had a service bundle that we wanted to sell the customer. We also had self-checkout machines. When tabulating the metrics of who sold more service bundles, the self-checkout machines beat the honest-to-goodness humans every week. Why? Because the self-checkout machines asked every customer, and presented a lot more information on the screen than their meaty colleagues behind the counter bothered to. Selling online already requires a certain amount of information be surrendered. Therefore, a service sell is that much easier. They’re already locked in! For that reason, if your looking to servitize your business, your online portal is an ideal way to reach customers.

Thinking About Next Year

Thinking ahead, we now have a more empowered consumer who is much more amenable to doing the bulk of their shopping through digital channels. How do you get them back in the store? For businesses balancing the cost and benefits of a physical presence, the answer should include a service appointment. Do you create a personal shopper-type service appointment that matches clothes to people? Is there a technical support hub that you can build for customers? Is the answer gift wrapping? Is it an experience that allows parents to entertain their kids for a few short minutes during an incredibly stressful day? No matter what—service can be the conduit back into the store.

Listen, here’s the deal—Retail is in a weird spot right now. The demand is there, for businesses looking to capitalize on it Perhaps this fake holiday is an opportunity for us to reset our expectations.

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November 25, 2020 | 1 Mins Read

Leadership Lessons of 2020

November 25, 2020 | 1 Mins Read

Leadership Lessons of 2020

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November 23, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

A List of Gratitude: 7 Things I’m Extra Thankful for This Year

November 23, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

A List of Gratitude: 7 Things I’m Extra Thankful for This Year


 By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

With the Thanksgiving holiday this week, I’ve been spending extra time reflecting on all that I am grateful for. In a year as challenging as 2020, the practice of gratitude has become even more important to me. It’s far too easy to succumb to the tough moments and dark days – putting effort into focusing on the things I’m thankful for helps me to be resilient in the trying times. So, without further ado, I am sharing with you a list of seven things I’m incredibly thankful for this year.

#1: Greater Perspective

I try hard not to take things for granted, but I think inevitably we all do to some degree. This year has given me greater perspective and a more profound appreciation for so much – for example, travel. I haven’t stepped foot in an airport since February and while many people who travel for work may be thankful to have that halted, I miss it in many ways. Meeting a friend for coffee or a beer, without second thought. Being able to take my kids to the Children’s Museum or local amusement park. Concerts. Hell, going grocery shopping without a mask. But while it can be challenging not to become frustrated or angry or sad about what’s been taken from us (which I do, sometimes), I am thankful for the perspective of looking back on so many moments with such joy and knowing that, when they happen again, I will appreciate them more than I ever have before.

#2: Deeper Connections

I love getting to know people and one of the things I’m thankful for this year is how people have been willing to engage on a deeper level. With such a major shared experience as we’re all having this year, it’s been interesting to observe how the “small talk” that often got rushed or dismissed before seems to have taken center stage in many conversations. It’s like we all want to know each other better – on a more human level – and I am loving it. I am so incredibly thankful for all of the interesting, enlightening, amazing conversations that I’ve had with service leaders this year – discussing how they’re leading through such crazy times, but more so just getting to know them for who they are.

#3: Being of Service

With in-person industry events on hold and challenges abound this year, I’ve felt that a platform like Future of Field Service is even more valuable than before in terms of keeping people connected and creating as sense of community. I’ve tried in my conversations to be a force of positivity for those I’m speaking with – whether it is offering useful information, or just lending an ear when it is most needed. I’ve tried to help folks in my network whose careers were impacted by COVID. I’ve brainstormed and worked hard to try to think of more impactful ways to serve this community, now, when we need it most. I am grateful to be of service in any way I can, small or large. And I’m grateful to IFS for the opportunity to do so through Future of Field Service.

#4: Technology

Shout out to today’s technologies for making this all possible, am I right? This is an area that, again, we can take for granted – but when you think about how COVID would have impacted us even more deeply without all of the tools we have access to today, you realize just how big of a deal it is. From fueling the ability to stay connected to friends and family that I can’t see in person right now to ensuring I haven’t missed a beat in my career, the virtual world we have created is quite impressive. Don’t get me wrong – I will jump at the first chance to have a conversation in-person over coffee versus on Zoom, but I am incredibly thankful to have the option.

#5: My Family

Can I tell you how absolutely insane it is to work from home with four and five-year-old boys? There are no words (and those of you that know, know). Yes, I have help – but there’s no replacement for mama. As crazy as it has been, and as close as I’ve been to losing my mind, it has also been sweet. I realize that all too soon, these boys will be off to school and no longer my “babies” and so I’m grateful for every extra lunch break I can squeeze in with them. In a year of isolation, it is really comforting to realize how much happiness and joy exists inside your own little bubble (plenty of screaming, fighting, whining and crying too – but, hey, this is a list of gratitude!).

#6: My (and my family’s) Health

My five-year-old son has Type 1 Diabetes which has given us some practice coping with scary health situations – but also put me extra on-edge when COVID began wondering how much more at risk he is due to his condition. I had COVID in October and overall, my symptoms were mild and thankfully my husband and sons were spared. While I do worry about the indications of potential long-term impacts, I’m very thankful that thus far my experience has been manageable. I feel immense gratitude to the healthcare workers on the front lines caring for those in dire need.

#7: Hope

I’m a skeptic with a healthy dose of anxiety mixed in, so hope doesn’t always naturally rise to the forefront of my mind. For me it is more of a muscle that needs strengthened and flexed and I’ve found this year has given me ample opportunity to do just that. On the days I feel most disheartened, I dig deep to find hope. It can be in the form of a prayer, a few deep breaths, looking around for examples of how people are coming together despite being apart, or the commitment to exert more mental energy on the positive “what-ifs” than the negative ones. I’ve learned I often find what I’m looking for, so I try to look for hope.

Thank you all for reading – I am grateful for each and every one of you as well. What are you most thankful for this year? I’d love to hear.

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November 20, 2020 | 3 Mins Read

Key Considerations for Service Surge Times

November 20, 2020 | 3 Mins Read

Key Considerations for Service Surge Times


By Tom Paquin

Every year I go outside and stare at my gutters. As a person with an exceptional fear of heights, the thought of maneuvering on my ladder to remove the accumulated gunk and misery deposited there by the two gigantic oak trees in my yard drive me to near heart attack. So I call my gutter guy and ask him to come out. My gutter guy then puts my name on a massive list and shows up somewhere in the ballpark of three to six weeks later.

I like my gutter guy because he’s the guy who installed my gutters, but I don’t like my gutter guy because the gutter guy knows that peak gutter cleaning season starts in mid-October and runs through late December, but he can’t seem to bring on additional gutter guys and gals to help manage the process.

Perhaps it’s because my gutter guy understands that a set of new gutters costs a full one hundred times what he charges for a gutter cleaning. My gutter guy looks at that, and asserts that his time is better spent installing gutters than cleaning them. Yet the cleaning service is not some sort of mandatory component of gutter service.

The leaves falling and embedding themselves like concrete in my gutters are not a yearly surprise, though, and I understand that for mom and pop shops, scaling up and down at any time of the year will be an unreasonable ask, but even if seasonality is not a consideration for the average gutter guy, there are some lessons on understanding the ebb and flow of service surge times that are worth discussion.

The most obvious, alluded to earlier in this piece, is the headcount challenges this presents. And again—I’ll couch this by saying this is not a tool of a small, local business—but smart optimization systems are specifically designed to allow organizations to plan for this. Demand is at X, headcount should be at Y, expected demand with ramp up by Z on a specific date, so we need to start brining in temps or contingents here.

Best-in-class optimization systems take it a step further. With multi-time horizon planning, businesses are able to automate surges well beyond a single day, week, or moth period. If you know that business tends to drop off around a certain date, you can automate the approval of more vacation time around that date, for instance. And you’ll know to allocate more payroll when business gets busier. The best of the best among these systems can take historical data and automate the output of these triggers through AI.

Though the seasons tend to be fairly predictable, we now know the volatility and unpredictability of external factors on our business, and the truth is that the best optimization systems not only can pivot in real-time, but offer the ability to simulate “what if?” scenarios in order to plan out the resource impacts and needs on particular hypotheticals. These are all initial planning steps that businesses can make, and they each offer the ability to more smartly serve customers. This saves firms money and time, and hey, if you can deliver faster gutter cleaning, I can tell you from experience that it improves customer happiness.

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November 18, 2020 | 28 Mins Read

4 Keys to Recruiting Success at Tetra Pak (And How COVID Has Changed the Game)

November 18, 2020 | 28 Mins Read

4 Keys to Recruiting Success at Tetra Pak (And How COVID Has Changed the Game)


Bonnie Anderson, Global Manager of Talent Acquisition and Future Talent at Tetra Pak shares insight with Sarah on how the service world needs to evolve hiring at the strategic and practical levels as well as discusses how COVID has changed the game when it comes to recruiting and hiring.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host Sarah Nicastro. Today we're going to be talking about recruiting and hiring success. So recruiting and hiring in the service industries was already a hot topic and has become even more complicated with COVID being introduced this year. I'm excited to welcome today to the podcast, Bonnie Anderson, who is the Global Manager of Talent Acquisition and Future Talent at Tetra Pak. Bonnie has a lot of experience in the recruiting space and specifically recruiting at Tetra Pak four different roles specific to service delivery. Bonnie, thank you so much for joining us today.

Bonnie Anderson: Thank you so much for having me, Sarah. It's really great to be here.

Sarah Nicastro: I'm excited too to have you, so Bonnie is going to be sharing with us today in our discussion her four keys for recruiting success, that she's learned during and I'm sure even before her time at Tetra Pak. And we're also going to talk about how COVID has changed the game when it comes to recruiting and hiring this year. Bonnie, before we dig in, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and your role at Tetra Pak.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. And so today I'm as you mentioned, the Global Manager of Future Talent and Talent Acquisition at Tetra Pak. I took this role at the beginning of 2020 and prior to this role and from 2015, I've been recruiting service engineers at Tetra Pak. I am originally from Australia. I've spent about eight years in the UK, and came to the U.S. in, I think, Oh, 2013 now. But I started my HR career and started in the recruitment space from 2008. So have really enjoyed, I love talent acquisition. It's a real passion of mine and I've found a real nation in recruiting, highly skilled engineering type roles. So really enjoy that piece of my work too.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes. And at Tetra Pak, this is something you're doing on a global level. So it gives you an interesting perspective because you can pick up on these trends and challenges, trends and commonalities or differences from country to country, region to region.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah. So when I first started at Tetra Pak and up until the end of last year my geographical scope was really U.S. and Canada, recruiting for service engineers with a little bit in Central and South America. But now I do have a global role and work with the teams across the globe in the different regions. And I can tell you that service engineering recruitment is difficult across the world. It's not just specific to our region.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. And that's what I was getting at. You have that perspective of how this is challenging at the global level, not just here specifically.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: And I'm excited to have you Bonnie, because I shared with you a bit when we connected that this is, it has been a very big topic among our listeners and our readership of our content for quite a while. Right? So as we see a lot of the workforce aging out and needing to be replaced, this is a bigger and bigger challenge, and there's a lot of layers to how the field technician role is evolving and what will that mean for the skills we need going forward? How is technology playing a role in what we may be able to automate? Or how service delivery is changing, et cetera. But the way that we have always discussed this topic on our podcast or within our content, and I've shared that with you, is from the perspective of service leaders, not from the perspective of recruiters and folks responsible for talent acquisition and development.

Sarah Nicastro: So I think it'll be very interesting today to have this conversation with you and interesting for our service leaders, which is a huge portion of our listeners to hear how a huge, huge company, global company like Tetra Pak, is tackling this. So, as I said, we're going to talk today about four key areas that companies need to consider or focus on if they're looking to improve their recruitment and hiring practices. And I want you to walk us through each of those four things, what they mean and what your perspective and advice is. So the first is, to understand that we've moved to a skills-based economy from an experience economy. And this is going to be tricky because some of these terms are also terms used in service content. And we're about something a little different here. So I want to make sure we take the time to explain it. So tell our listeners what this shift from a skills-based economy to an experience economy means in the recruitment world and how it would impact their practices.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah. And when we talk about the skills based economy, it's really a shift that we started seeing probably about five years ago, maybe a little bit longer, but the trend is really here to stay. And I think it's just going to continue to become more skills oriented as we go through. And the skills are really at the end of the day, what we look for and what we develop in ourselves, to make ourselves more employable, I suppose. And where in the past, we've used qualifications and experience as a proxy for identifying somebody with hard or soft skills, there's been an underlying assumption there that if a candidate has X degree or Y experience, then they have A, B and C skills. Now with I guess, the way that information is available, at the moment skills can be acquired in so many more different ways.

Bonnie Anderson: It's not just about acquiring skills through a degree or through work experience. It can be skills acquired from, I don't know, just throwing it out there, sort of like YouTube, something like a hobby, how somebody has grown up. So skills acquisition can come from just about any direction. And when we look at skills based economy, it's shifting that mindset that a candidate needs to have a certain background to be able to fill a position. And having an experience-based assumption has limited talent pools for employers particularly for in demand and niche skills, that are hard to find.

Bonnie Anderson: So, by flipping that a little bit and saying, "Okay, well, actually, a candidate might get a skill from somewhere else other than from their qualification or from their experience." You can find a whole talent population that might be untapped, or that you've never considered before. So and with that in mind, in today's world with digitalization and technology, we can actually use those tools at our disposal to identify those skills faster and quicker.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. And so, I want to give a shout out to my friend, Roy Dockery, who from Swisslog Healthcare, he was on our second podcast we ever recorded. And we talked about this topic and I'm going to paraphrase a bit for Roy, but he communicated the same message in a different way. Again, from the service executive perspective, but basically saying, when you hear people say we have a talent gap, his argument is we do not have a talent gap, we have an experience gap. And service organizations have become, I don't know if this was his word, but I'll say it, lazy in defaulting to wanting to hire based on experience, because it's easier in the sense of having that comfort level that they've done the job and minimizing, maybe training and ramp up time, et cetera.

Sarah Nicastro: But the reality is, particularly when we're talking about service, that experience pool is dwindling. And so if I'm understanding what you're saying, service organizations have to understand that continuing to hire based on experience is not a realistic path forward. We need to consider how can you find similar skills and necessary skills to do the job without that specific qualification.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah. And maybe creative. You have to get creative. Particularly, pre COVID and obviously COVID has had a significant impact on the employment market, but pre COVID, we had, I think, less than 3% unemployment within STEM skills, within STEM fields. And so we had a huge amount of pressure on finding the right skills that we needed in time to support our customers on the field. And we had very long lead times and it took a long time to find those skills. And sometimes we would fail at the last hurdle.

Bonnie Anderson: We thought we had a great candidate, but in the end, because they said they have the experience or on paper they have the experience and the qualifications that we think somebody needs to do this job, at the end of the day, at the final hurdle, they don't have the skills that we're looking for. So that was a real gap that we had and that we had to close quickly. But yeah, when an economy is as tight as it was in 2019, you have to find creative ways to get the talent that you need.

Sarah Nicastro: So let me ask you this question, Bonnie, for an organization that is still reliant on that experience economy, they're still working to hire based on experience, what's the biggest or the first step to shifting to a skills based approach?

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah. I think you have to start by challenging your assumptions and taking... And this is where it comes to, and we've talked about this a little bit around outcomes based recruitment and outcomes based hiring. What was it about that education or experience that is the crux that you know that you need from that experience that is important for your role, and that is the skill that you want. So you need to break it down in essence, to uncover and discover the skills that is coming out of that experience.

Sarah Nicastro: So, you said very nicely. You said, people need to start getting creative. And so again, not trying to sound like a jerk, but I do think there's a parallel here of, companies need to stop being lazy and, or get comfortable having to work harder than they have historically to find this talent by digging into, in that experience that you're used to searching for. What is it actually that you need?

Bonnie Anderson: Yes. Exactly.

Sarah Nicastro: And where else can you find that? Okay, so that's a good point. And it's funny because like I said, when you talk about the experience economy, there's a whole other connotation of that term. That is a positive thing in the service world, in terms of moving toward an experience economy, in terms of how you're servicing customers. So that's why I wanted to make sure we really were clear on why it's a bad thing related to recruiting different in the sense of, you cannot continue to just search for talent based on who has had relevant experience. You need to really dig into what within that experience do you actually need and where else can you find it. Otherwise you're going to run out of options.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah. And that's a very good point. And to be clear, experience means somebody's background and history, their employment history and their employment experience. The experience of, for example, in talent acquisition, when we talk about candidate experience, so the journey that a candidate goes on through the hiring process, and I know you would have a customer experience and that's something that we're very passionate about at Tetra Pak. They are different things, but just to give you an example of that, a hiring manager might say to me, I need somebody with dairy experience. And that, the dairy industry is a very close network. It's specific to certain areas within the U.S.

Bonnie Anderson: And so, to break that down, you say, "Okay, what is it about the dairy industry that's important for your role? Why do they need to have dairy experience?" Oh, well, they need to know aseptic technology. They need to know fluid dynamics. They need to know, how to separate the milk. And then you start to break that down from something that's broad, like the dairy industry into specific skillsets and that's how you can take it from an experience based to a skills based hiring processes.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. So the second key we're going to talk about also is parallel to another service term. So we're going to go through the same exercise here of clarifying all of this, which is to use an outcomes based approach to recruiting. So obviously in service, we also talk a lot about the trend toward outcomes-based service and delivering specific and often guaranteed outcomes to our customers instead of just time-stamped service delivery. So let's talk about what outcomes based approach means as it relates to recruiting and why it's important.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah. So, outcomes based could be another way of saying skills-based hiring. But when we talk about outcomes, it could mean so much more as well. So it's not just about the skills. It could also be the potential that you might see in somebody. It might be also their communication. It could also be various conditions around their employment, such as maybe where they're located or their availability to travel, which is super important in the service engineering world. It's not just about skills, but also can encompass a little bit more. So that's why it's important to have that differential because there are additional things that we look for when we look for candidates. But let me put it this way, I guess when we talk about outcomes based, it's about knowing where you're going before starting out.

Bonnie Anderson: And I'm sure you've heard that map analogy many times before, but if I was going to drive from New York to San Francisco, my ultimate outcome is to get to San Francisco. But there's multiple ways that I can get there. Right?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bonnie Anderson: I can fly, I could take the train, I could drive. And then once you have that ultimate outcome, you can start to feed into other certain parameters that you're looking for. Maybe you have a cousin in Nashville that you want to go and visit while you're on your journey. Maybe you want to go see the Great Lakes, you've always had the Grand Canyon on your bucket list. From that, once you've been able to understand what your outcomes are, then you can start to prioritize. And so maybe it's really important that you go and see your cousin in Nashville because you haven't seen them in 10 years. So that becomes priority number one. Maybe, the Great Lakes is, you have a friend that you can visit while you go and see the Great Lakes. The Grand Canyon might be able to just stay on your bucket list. And that's for another day.

Bonnie Anderson: So, from there, you can determine, okay, maybe I take the South route or the North route via Tennessee. So when it comes to outcome based hiring, then you start to lay out all the skills that you need, work with your recruiters to understand what that might be and then you can prioritize those accordingly. The day of a jack of all trades is really, doesn't exist anymore. So it's, we can't find a person that can do everything. As skills become more niche, more specialist, it's unrealistic to be able to find somebody that can do everything. And so this prioritization of skills I think becomes more and more important. And you can maybe take an 80/20 approach to that and say, "Well, if I can find somebody that has 80% of the skills that I'm looking for, I can compromise on those 20% that are less important or something like that." So yeah, that's how I see outcomes based.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So a couple of things I want to ask about. one is, the outcomes though, are really looking at what do we need to deliver to our customers, right? That's where you're defining what the outcome is. So in your example, the fact that you're going to San Francisco is dictated by what the customer need or expectation is, right?

Bonnie Anderson: Absolutely. Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: And the route you're taking to get there is the process of changing that thinking to the skills-based approach to determine what skills do you need to reach that destination. Am I, is that-

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah. And then another way you can think about it is, if we think about it as a customer, and customer oriented position, perhaps and I'm going to talk more about it in the Tetra Pak world. Perhaps we have a customer, for example, in Philadelphia and they might have a lot of packaging equipment on there that needs servicing. And so we don't have necessarily... It's a new contract, so we need a new service engineer to be able to service that contract. But then we have another customer perhaps in Pittsburgh, where there is already a service engineer. They're more of a processing equipment, the customer. So their equipment is slightly different. The outcomes there is okay, our customers here, one in Pittsburgh, one in Philadelphia, have two different needs.

Bonnie Anderson: Can that engineer in Pittsburgh service that customer in Philadelphia? Well, we need to look at that skills set of that engineer. Maybe they can, but maybe there's some gap in knowledge. So I guess it comes around to resource planning ultimately, and whether the resources that you have can fill the needs of that customer. And if they don't, then what are your other options to servicing that customer? You can recruit somebody in, you can perhaps shift some resource planning around, or you can have somebody that already services at another packaging customer in Texas, for example, fly to Pennsylvania to do that. So really and it's where you start to get creative, where you start to think about, okay, what are the outcomes that I need for this particular customer and how can I fill those needs?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And I think, there's a couple of comments I just want to make related to these first two points, because I think that this is really important insight, but I think it's also, we're at a point where we need to be looking forward. And I think particularly when we talk about taking an outcomes based approach to hiring, part of that is, you need to be thinking about how those outcomes are changing. So Bonnie, you and I were introduced by Sasha at Tetra Pak who runs industry 4.0.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: And Sasha's role is really around this new way of serving Tetra Pak customers. And so yes, to you guys have been doing that now for a few years, but it's relatively new and it's rapidly evolving, right?

Bonnie Anderson: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: So, there are outcomes that are new to Tetra Pak needing to meet that didn't exist before. And there are roles that have to be introduced that didn't exist before and therefore skills needed that that weren't needed before. I just think it's interesting, this advice is super applicable to present day. And just, I guess I think of it almost in terms of catching up with the times. For a lot of organizations that are very accustomed to being able to hire based on experience. You have to catch up with the fact that it's not really a good strategy at this point, but it's also important to think about how you take these practices and apply them to the future of this industry, which is really rapidly evolving.

Bonnie Anderson: Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: So I just think it's, this idea of looking at not only what are the outcomes we need to deliver to our customers right this moment and how do we work backwards from there and what skills we need, but also what are those outcomes going to look like six months from now, or a year from now? And how do we start planning for that?

Bonnie Anderson: And it's really interesting because, it's a strategy that we at Tetra Pak have had since 2017, when we first launched our graduate development program, Future Talent. And it's not necessarily about future-proofing, because I think that's impossible, but perhaps future preparing. And particularly for skills that haven't been invented yet. We don't know what the future holds. Look at this year, we've been completely derailed because we weren't prepared for it. And we don't know what the future jobs will be. And so it's really important, I think for organizations to have a long-term strategy to make sure we have the talent that can develop those skills, perhaps the new generation will be inventing new technologies and inventing those skills along with it.

Bonnie Anderson: And our future talent program is really pivotal to ensuring that we have what we need to prepare for the future. So yeah it's something that I think keeps a lot of us up at night in terms of what the future might hold and what happens to our own skills and how do we keep developing our own skills to keep up with the new generations. But yeah, I think it's important for them.

Sarah Nicastro: And perhaps I'll have you back on to talk about this, because we didn't even touch on this in our introductory chat you and I, but there is this whole topic too, as the service technicians role changes, how can you re-skill and up-skill some of those folks to these new, maybe almost customer service or human touch, more oriented service positions. So that's an interesting topic too, when you look at this future preparing strategy is not only how do you bring in the new talent, that you'll need, but how do you reshape some of the existing talent you have, whose roles are changing in a way that works for them and the company as well?

Bonnie Anderson: Absolutely. It's so much more than just the hard skills, isn't it?

Sarah Nicastro: That'll be another good topic. Okay. And we are going to get to the Future Talent Program, because I think that's a very important thing, but before we do let's talk about the third key or the third area, which is, ensuring clear expectations and clear communication on all ends of the recruiting and hiring process. So talk a bit about how mismanaged expectations or communication breakdowns can occur and how you can really work on streamlining that.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah, there came a point in the recruitment of service engineers where we just weren't able to find the right talent. We were taking too long. It was very difficult and clearly something wasn't working or multiple things weren't working. And we actually, I'm sure many of your listeners are familiar with all the types of problem solving methodology that are out there. But we use some within HR at Tetra Pak as well. And so we utilized some problem solving methodology, like 5W2H's fishbone to really get to the root cause of the problems, and working directly with our team leaders, our service engineer team leaders on those problems. And one of the highest occurring root causes was around communication and the relationship that we had between the recruitment teams and the hiring managers.

Bonnie Anderson: And so ultimately what we did is we just laid it all out on the table. And we really went through a storming phase of just putting it all out there. The difficulties that we have both sides of the table, because it's not just one person or one team that has the problem, but both sides. And so we came up with a number of different strategies and it was really exciting because not only were we able to come up with some really great actions, but we came together better as a team. Some of the solutions that we had was from group messaging, group chats, we implemented a WhatsApp group, just starting something simple like that. Having group accountability. So making sure that everybody was accountable for their actions.

Bonnie Anderson: And, at the time, we had in-person assessments that required travel from the candidates because of course the candidates can be anywhere in the U.S. And, our team leaders, which are based all over the U.S. as well. So the logistics of getting everybody in the same room at the same time was quite frankly a nightmare. And so we had to make sure that we had commitment from the business to get everybody in the room. And following that things went a lot more smoothly. Of course it was still difficult to find the talent, but I cannot stress enough how important having an open and transparent communication channel with your recruiter or recruiters with the hiring managers and just being really honest about what's going on and recruiters need to bring their game as well. They need to bring their market knowledge, need to bring their knowledge of what's happening. And so I think, both sides need to take accountability and bring up what they need to. Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Well, and as you said earlier, particularly when we talked about this idea of moving to the skills-based economy, it is a big mindset shift and it is a big change in how these service leaders are used to hiring. And so any time you're talking about a significant change in how things are done, you see some resistance to that and you see how important communication is and explaining the why behind, here's why this is necessary and those sorts of things. So that makes perfect sense.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, so you talked a little bit earlier about Tetra Pak's, future talent program. And I think this is our fourth key. And it's a very important one because if you're moving away from the experience economy and you're moving to the skills-based economy, when it relates to hiring, how do you take those skills that you know are important and make sure that they're leveraged in the right way and harnessed toward the outcome you're trying to achieve, et cetera? So tell us a bit about the Future Talent Program.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. As I mentioned, Future Talent is really our graduate development program designed for graduates, brand new graduates coming out of university. And for us to build our long-term strategy in developing that new talent. We essentially have two tracks. We have what we call a leadership track, which tends to be more towards commercial roles or management development type roles. But we also have one thing that we really identified when we were developing the program, was that we do have a skills gap between industry and the skills that we require in the organization. So the technical track is really there to help us close that skills gap.

Bonnie Anderson: And so, we don't really expect those graduates to have the skills that they might need, that we might look for in somebody that does have experience. But we do look for potential, how willing they are to learn, how quick they are to learn. And the program is really then to expedite that learning so they can pick up those skills very, very quickly, particularly specialist skills that we look for. And the service engineering profile, is a huge component of that technical track. So it's really important to us. And like I said earlier, we're future preparing, I suppose, for skills that we don't really know we need yet.

Sarah Nicastro: And I asked you when we spoke last, how common is a program like this? And I think you said that from a leadership perspective, the leadership side of it, it's fairly common from the technician side, more of the engineering side, it's not as common.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah, that's right. I think somebody had quoted to me at one point that maybe IKEA maybe except four or five graduates per year globally into a leadership type of graduate development program. We're accepting eight to 10 technical track graduates within the U.S. alone. We're investing a lot of time, and were truly committed to this type of program in helping us prepare for the future and that long-term strategy that we need to have. Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: And it seems to me like this is a path folks need to be taking. It seems to me that when you talk about this idea of getting away from being able to hire on experience, and you talk about evolving customer expectations and how do we meet those? It seems like to be able to nurture the volume of, and level of talent you need to have in a service organization, you have to take a more hands-on approach in making that click, you said, closing that gap.

Bonnie Anderson: Closing the gap. And that's really a big part of what it's about, particularly if you pride yourself of being at the forefront of technology, because you might not necessarily find that talent with your competitor companies. So you really have to invest your time to get the talent that you need to have that competitive advantage. And I think that's really, at the end of the day, what's really, really important for organizations to consider, is how can you use talent to find your competitive edge.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Right. Okay. So four very important areas and really good insight. And so great. So you've learned these things and you're plugging along and then everything changes because COVID hits. So tell us what impact COVID had on the recruiting and hiring process, how Tetra Pak has adapted and what you think the lasting change of that would be.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah, yeah. It's interesting. It was never in our mind that we had to stop or halt recruitment. We always had the mindset of, we have to make this work. At the end of the day, our customers need to operate particularly, they're at the forefront of food security, so we need to continue to service it. It would be able to service our customers. So there's never any question that we had to stop or that we couldn't make it happen. We had to continue hiring. And on the service engineer side we'd utilized an in-person assessment. And I touched on earlier, it's something that we had to logistically arrange on a regular basis. And it wasn't something we had considered changing because it really worked. Worked very well. And at the beginning of the pandemic, I think in March, we had something like 200 candidates globally that needed to be assessed, and that were in our pipeline, that needed to go through this assessment, interviews and exercises.

Bonnie Anderson: And so, we had to move really fast, and adjust very quickly to be able for business continuity. And this is where really the outcomes based hiring really came into play, because we were able to take that in-person assessment and those exercises and pull it apart and understand, okay, what is it from this exercise that we're looking to assess? What is it that the candidate needs to have for us to move forward with them as a candidate? I think we came up with something like 65 different outcomes from those exercises alone. Sometimes they were duplicated, sometimes things like problem solving came out time and time. And again, mechanical knowledge, dealing with pressure, working with others, those sort of outcomes were all part of it. So we knew that we needed to somehow assess all of these outcomes in a virtual or digital way.

Bonnie Anderson: And a lot of these exercises, with equipment, candidates are using their hands to solve these problems, it's like, "Well, how do we do that in a digital way?" And so what we ultimately did is we worked with an assessment partner to help us identify those different behaviors or those different competencies and knowledge. And we came up with some digital tools, some psycho metrically valid tools that we were able to use. Again, here we use the 80/20 rule, it was okay that we weren't looking for a perfect solution. We wouldn't be able to always measure 65 different outcomes. The biggest one today is manual dexterity. How do you measure somebody's manual dexterity if you can't actually see them working with their hands? We understood that risk and we're mitigating that risk through stronger onboarding, for example, supporting those new hires.

Bonnie Anderson: And last I counted; I think we're up to something like 65 different new hires through that digital process. And we've been able to continue supporting those, onboarding those new hires across the world. So it was very, very difficult time. We worked with our teams across the world to help us validate those outcomes. And we're still keeping an eye on it to make sure that the outcomes are still valid, that the new hires that we're onboarding are performing as expected. But we're very, very hopeful and think it's working well. So I think it's we challenged the status quo there.

Bonnie Anderson: And we were able to switch into digital tools, which is really cool, where the new normal comes in to play and as the pandemic recedes is about, "Okay, how can we maybe continue with these digital tools, but building back in some of that human touch?" Maybe it's important for the candidate to see where they're going to be working, to meet face to face. And we still recognize that that is a very important part of the candidate experience. And in some parts of the world, well, they have been able to open up some of the sites. And so we've built that back in as a hybrid process, a digital plus in-person process. So, yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: I don't know if this is a fair question, but do you have a sense of the balance, if it was 100% in-person before, do you think going forward, it will be 80% digital, 20% in-person? Or do you think you don't know that yet?

Bonnie Anderson: I think hiring managers are going to get comfortable with the speed of digital, using digital. And I think we've been able to break down and demystify some of that need of meeting in person. But it's not a one size fits all. I don't think, I think it's important that hiring managers continue to challenge some of those assumptions, but at the end of the day, if they do feel that they do need to measure somebody's manual dexterity, if they have questions still around how this person is using their hands, then it's important that we get the hire right.

Bonnie Anderson: And they invite them for an in-person interview to complete that gap in knowledge about that candidate. So some hiring managers might feel 100% comfortable with making a hire using digital tools only, some are not. So it's about striking that balance for that particular case. Of course, in places like the U.S. we just cannot, our sites are closed apart from critical personnel. So we really make sure that our hiring managers are comfortable with the hires and we're exploring as much as we can using interview questions as well. So, it's a blended approach.

Sarah Nicastro: It is safe to say that COVID has definitely forever changed the process and moved it in the digital direction for Tetra Pak?

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. No question.

Sarah Nicastro: Which is again, there's a lot of parallels between this conversation and some of our service delivery conversations. You see companies that have had different levels of resistance to varying technologies that by force, like you said, had to challenge the status quo and adopt, and now it's just that realization of, "Okay, this could work and let's look at how we make it work when we have to make it work and how we incorporate it into some hybrid world, as things return to some level of normal."

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah. You said it just there, you have to make it work. There's no question that you can't make it work.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Bonnie Anderson: And so, you have to accept imperfection and you have to accept sometimes that you make a call that might be the wrong call, but that's okay.

Sarah Nicastro: Everybody's feeling their way through. Right?

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah. Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: And for me, covering the space to me, it's the after that's so interesting because I think I've seen firsthand the resiliency of service organizations across a wide variety of industries that I've talked to and everyone is making it work, in some way to some degree. And I think everyone has set up to that task, but what's really interesting to me is how do things land as recovery ramps up and what will the new mix look like? Because I think the companies that have had been agile and adopted and adapted and are doing things differently by force, now have that comfort level. They're not just going to abandon those tools and go back to an all manual process. So it's just going to be really interesting to see how things net out over time.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah. And I think one thing that's really important on that is to measure the changes that you've made, related to COVID and measure the differences between pre COVID processes and post COVID. And that's one thing we'll be doing with the recruitment process and we've seen efficiency gains because we're moving to a digital process already. And we're only a few months in, so we continue to keep an eye on it. And we'll be in a position where we can take the best of the best, we can take the best of both worlds at that point. And that's where the hybrid will really come into play.

Sarah Nicastro: Yep. Okay. Any final words of wisdom for our listeners?

Bonnie Anderson: I was thinking about this question and you can really take it down a practical route or take it to a, I don't know, a different type of route, but I think for me the one thing that I think is really important at the moment is to remember that it's a super tough time for candidates right now. It's a tough time for all of us and having that empathy for our candidates and providing a great candidate experience when you're talking to them is really important. Sometimes they might've lost their job.

Bonnie Anderson: They may have lost loved ones. As hiring managers and recruiters, we really need to be mindful that all of us have other things happening in our lives that could be out of our control, but could be impacting our state of mind in a given moment. So having empathy and compassion will also help you really build trust with your candidates and will really help them shine and bring out their best selves in their hiring process. And if there's one thing that I really emphasize is just have that empathy, that top of mind.

Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. We all need that right now.

Bonnie Anderson: Right.

Sarah Nicastro: All right, Bonnie. Well, thank you so very much for joining today and talking through this, I really appreciate it. And hopefully, like I said, you'll come back at some point and maybe we could have a conversation about up-skilling and re-skilling and what that might look like going forward.

Bonnie Anderson: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. It's been a wonderful conversation. Always happy to come back.

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks again. I do urge you if you're listening and enjoyed this conversation to go back to futureoffieldservice.com, you could check out the episode I referenced earlier with Roy Dockery of Swisslog Healthcare, it's podcast episode number two, where we had a conversation about this topic from the service leaders perspective. You could also check out some of the coverage we've done on a Tetra Pak's move to outcomes-based service, you can just search under Tetra Pak. So check that out. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter @TheFutureOfFS. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more about IFS service management, by visiting us @www.ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.

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November 16, 2020 | 4 Mins Read

Preparing for a Post-Pandemic World: How Much Service Should Be Remote Service?

November 16, 2020 | 4 Mins Read

Preparing for a Post-Pandemic World: How Much Service Should Be Remote Service?


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

For many businesses, COVID-19 has proven to be the force in making remote service roadmaps a quick reality. We have featured a variety of companies that have shared stories with us about how acting quickly on Remote Assistance technologies was key in navigating the pandemic, including Munters, Alfa Laval, and Panasonic. With such an acceleration in the use of technologies that enable remote service delivery, combined with increased acceptance from customers due to current circumstances, it is interesting to think about what this period of business continuity through remote service will mean when a return to former service delivery methods does become widely possible and safe.

Of course, the answer will vary from industry to industry and company to company. Based on the conversations I’ve had; I know remote service is here to stay – but I also believe in-person service is a critical element of service strategy. On a recent podcast, I discussed this topic with Michael Blumberg, President and CEO of Blumberg Advisory Group. “I think every organization has to have a touchless service strategy,” he shared. “I think touchless service will become table stakes for all service organizations. Just like you can’t think of a field service organization that doesn’t have a mobility solution.”

Marrying Remote and Field Service

If remote service will become table stakes, does that mean the need for field service decreases? Well, yes and no. The burden of non-value add tasks on field service decreases – travel can be minimized, and issues that can be easily resolved remotely should be. This frees technicians up to spend time creating value – handling detailed repairs, working with frustrated customers, acting as a trusted advisor, even training new technicians. This change provides a valuable opportunity for you to more intentionally leverage your resources in a way that moves you toward your service goals.

So how do you create the best strategy for service delivery that combines remote and in-person capabilities? “I think the strategy may differ a little bit by industry, but some of the things you should consider is what is the complexity of the equipment being supported? What’s the level of mission criticality of that equipment? What are the safety issues?” suggests Blumberg. “You also have to consider the skill set of your customer, because remember when we talk about touchless service, we’re talking about supporting the customer.”

I agree with these criteria for consideration, but I think there’s also this softer element of when does an in-person visit add value in the sense of just needing to have human connection. We know how true it is that field service is the face of the brand, and I don’t believe all of that experience is replicable in an all-remote world. So maybe that’s something where it’s more of a frustration or an escalation or maybe it’s an initial install where that person is a part of the brand experience. But that softer element is important to consider, too. I believe a remote-first service approach makes sense as a really good frontline and first wave of service delivery. It’ll be powerful in terms of triaging and resolving simpler issues, so that the field technician’s role can evolve into being more of a customer service type role - a trusted advisor - than just a break-fix type role.

From Business Continuity to Business Transformation: Creating Your Hybrid Service Strategy

Having remote service capabilities is powerful in that it puts you in a position of power in terms of what you’re capable of and how you want to be strategic in making the decision of how and when you opt to provide service in a touchless way or in an on-site way. Perhaps remote service has become your only method of service delivery during COVID-19, but when that changes you will be able to move from business continuity to business transformation. As I mentioned at the beginning, the companies I’ve interviewed this year all had Remote Assistance on their roadmaps; they simply sped things up as a means for business continuity. But post-pandemic, those remote service capabilities will be leveraged to further Servitization objectives and create new revenue streams.

In considering this transition, Blumberg offers some advice. “They really need to gain clarity about the value in the use of the tool. They really need to be able to clearly articulate to the customer what it will do. What value will they get out of it? Will it save time? Will it improve productivity? Will it increase uptime? They’ve got to be able to talk about it in those terms, because without those terms, there’s no value,” he says.

Make sure that as you think through how to create new service offerings, you do so with customer pain points in mind. “Companies often have a production orientation versus a market orientation or customer orientation. Companies that don’t do a good job at monetizing their service or selling offerings is they’re talking to the customer in terms of what works for them – ‘look what this has done for us’,” says Blumberg. “That’s a production orientation. The market orientation is, “Look at what this can do for you. Companies also use too many buzzwords. In the research that I’ve done recently on touchless service, I find the companies that are really getting their customers to embrace it have branded it themselves. They’re not saying, it’s an AR solution from XYZ company; they’ve given it their own brand name. I think that makes a difference.”

We know that service holds immense potential for businesses, and that goes for both remote service and in-person service. Adding Remote Assistance capabilities to your repertoire varies the opportunities you have to differentiate your brand and solve your customers pain points; you just have to think through the right tool to use in each scenario.

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November 13, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

Back to Basics: The Politics and Potential of Changing Service Software Providers

November 13, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

Back to Basics: The Politics and Potential of Changing Service Software Providers


By Tom Paquin

This is part of an ongoing series on the state and standards of service management software in 2020. Here are the previous articles in the series:

Last we spoke, we were discussing what happens when a brand new piece of service software gets slotted into an organization’s workflow, either replacing a few small pieces of software, or nothing at all. While that particular scenario is a rare one for large organizations to find themselves in, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. This time, we’re going to approach the much more common scenario of switching from one service management software provider to another.

So why make the switch? One might assume—wrongly—that you make a trade when you’ve been scorned in some meaningful way by your software partner. If things are honkey-dory then why change your systems and processes? Of course, you make a trade in software for the same reason you make a trade in baseball: Because you need a mixture of elements that support your business. Let’s unpack some of what might cause that to happen.

You grew out of your software
There are an inordinate number of dollar-store service management software providers out there. More today than last year at this time, as more companies realize the incredible growth potential of service. This has led to a cottage industry of limited-function home and commercial service platforms. Any one of these may be perfectly fine as digital schedulers, or very basic invoicing tools. Why would I ever need anything more?

I also don’t want to imply that outgrowing software doesn’t happen with top-tier service management software, either. At that level, what most businesses find is that they start to conform their service delivery around the limitations of their software, rather than how they want to deliver service. For instance, if your scheduling tool is dumping out useless schedules that need to manually cleaned, you are likely at a point where you’ve outstripped your service platform.

Forced upgrades to inferior products

Allow me to editorialize for a moment. The current service landscape is littered with mergers and acquisitions. There are ways to do this effectively, then there’s the common scenario where a non-service brand acquires a service platform, stripmines it, and forces its users to upgrade to a half-cooked frankenplatform that they’ve created with some of the old company’s capabilities shoved into a home-grown utility.

Service companies are then faced with a choice: Embrace a new frankenplatform, or test their fortunes elsewhere. Either way, we’re dealing with a brand new implementation, which takes away some of the incumbency bias that companies naturally feel when evaluating new software. Unsurprisingly, when companies are presented with this option, a great many of them discover that a more viable solution exists elsewhere.

Implementation problems

This is a little bit more of an abstraction, but as I have often said, your field service management platform needs to be the Grand Central Station through which your company’s aftermarket activities are executed, logged, followed up upon, and preempted. So when a new piece, usually an emerging technology, does not play reasonably well with your service platform, then it’s time to start looking elsewhere.

Does this mean that you immediately start shopping around the moment a single bauble doesn’t work with your FSM solution? Probably not, but if, let’s say your IoT system, doesn’t integrate with your solution, then that is certainly a failing of one or both system (moreover it’s a failing of your team for not identifying that at the RFP phase). As noted earlier, your software and technology needs to work for you, conforming to the way you deliver service. If that software has failed you, it’s time to look elsewhere.

Obviously there are other reasons why people choose to switch service providers, but these are a few that we see all the time. If you happen to have an interesting story about what compelling your service software change, please reach out! We would love to hear from you.

Once the decision to employ new software has been made, there are naturally a multitude of stakes, elements, and decisions that need to be made. Many of these, in one fashion or another, can be seen in previous entries in this series. Before the choice is made, though, we need to start by evaluating the unique set of challenges that businesses find themselves in when switching from one service provider to another.

How do you unplug one system and prepare your business to onboard another? Let’s look at it through three different lenses:

The software

The main consideration here is integration. Do all of your legacy systems that are not being replaced work with the current software? If not, what is the best means to proceed? How easily or directly can historical documentation, parts and employee lists, and contracts, be ported from one system to another? The best way to absolve your firm of the crushing weight of these tasks is to employ an integration partner alongside your software partner. You’ll be working with seasoned professionals who have gone through this process before many times, and can help guide you through the crossover. With the appropriate guidance in place, getting this part right is not guaranteed to be frictionless, but will at least offer a more robust system of validation.

The employees

Employee buy-in is the key to any service strategy. We’ve all been in a position where a dramatic change in the way we do business disrupts life, and sometimes adaptation to the new status quo is not something that comes naturally. This is why it’s important to engage player-coaches early in the process. You’ll need advocates to make sure that technicians are actually pressing the service buttons—especially if their new service software will automate more than it did previously (which it should). By using in-role advocates and making implementation a big deal for the company, you’ll position yourself to hit the ROI that you expect to receive from a new service platform.

The customers

This one is a bit more squishy. Does your customer care about your shiny new service platform? The answer is a resounding and unequivocal no—BUT—your customer will care if your service platform now offers new ways to go to market. If you’re now tracking more elements of your business in your service solution, then you can offer solutions around that trackability. This is the core of outcomes-based service—build your contracts around uptime and output, not break-fix. Offering customer value like that means a lot to the average customer, who prefers guarantees to warrantees. Taking this seriously can extend the ROI of a new service platform out of the obvious, and help you build business and customer loyalty. A true win-win.

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November 11, 2020 | 19 Mins Read

What’s Your Touchless Service Strategy?

November 11, 2020 | 19 Mins Read

What’s Your Touchless Service Strategy?


CEO of Blumberg Advisory Group, joins Sarah to discuss what touchless service will look like in a post-pandemic world.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to The Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro today. Today, we're going to be talking about one of the hottest topics of the year, touchless service. In other words, remote service, the ability to deliver service remotely. I'm excited to welcome to the podcast today. Michael Blumberg, president and CEO of Blumberg Advisory Group. Michael, welcome to the podcast.

Michael Blumberg: Thank you, Sarah. It's really a pleasure to be here today.

Sarah Nicastro: Thank you for being with us. So today, Michael and I are going to be talking about some of the considerations for a touchless service strategy. So it's been a year of challenges in terms of the typical field service delivery that we're all accustomed to. And as such, we've seen a real spike in the use of tools like remote assistance and other technologies that enable remote service. And I think it's a really interesting trend. What I'm most curious about is what this is going to look like when things begin to normalize. So I'm excited to hear a bit about what Michael has seen and is seeing. And we're going to talk a little bit about some of the things that you'll need to keep in mind as you set your touchless service strategy for the post-pandemic world.

Sarah Nicastro: So as I said, Michael, here at Future of Field Service, we have interviewed a number of companies this year that have really relied on tools like remote assistance for business continuity throughout the pandemic and to really be able to keep their employees safe, to keep their customers safe and to continue providing service when their typical methods were brought to a halt. So tell us a little bit about what you've seen in your interactions over the year and how you've witnessed that trend from your side.

Michael Blumberg: Sure, Sarah. We're really seeing an uptick in the number of companies that are using remote assistance tools, their frequency in which they're used and in the types of applications that they're used. When these tools first came out, most people thought that they would be used in an emergency service environment, like a repair situation, but we're seeing more and more companies are using them to support installations even in a B2C environment, not just in a B2B environment. We're also seeing them for repairs, depot repairs, for site surveys, for application support.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So increased frequency and increased breadth of use cases. One of the things that I've had a lot of conversations around this year, Michael, with the folks that I've interviewed, particularly that have deployed tools like augmented reality remote assistance is the idea that... It's not like these tools are brand new, right? They were around before February or March, and certain organizations were already using them in different scenarios. However, I think it's fair to say, at least in what we've seen, that the volume of their use has certainly increased and companies that we've spoke to maybe had them on the roadmap, but were able to really quickly move on that to help them navigate COVID. But one of the themes that's come up in a lot of those conversations is how this situation, in particular, has really opened people to change a bit more than they were historically.

Sarah Nicastro: So, both from when you talk about touchless service and you talk about these technologies, both from the employee side. So employees that maybe in the past would have resisted the introduction of those tools a bit that were happy to have them, because it meant they could continue working and they could continue serving their customers. And then also on the customer side, customers that maybe were pretty comfortable with the status quo and would have resisted the introduction of something different a bit, have been very happy to have alternatives for folks to coming on-site in those old scenarios. Is that something that you've discussed with your contacts, something that you've seen as well?

Michael Blumberg: Yeah. It is something I've seen, and you're absolutely right. There were companies that had plans to do this prior to the pandemic. It was what led them to do it, because many cases they had no other choice, really needed to do it. But I think what's unique about the pandemic, what's the unique... Well, there's many unique things, but one of the things I think it did for changing the way we do things and deploying technologies like this is, we were all looking at what's in it for me? But we all had a reason to do it.

Michael Blumberg: The other part was what's unique is we're also looking out for other people. So one of the reasons why there's a resistance to change and implement new technologies is because people don't know why they're doing this. But there's a very clear reason why, because you couldn't go on-site. You didn't want to spread the germs, and there was a lot of uncertainty. So this was clearly a way to deal with it. It forced us. It pushed us forward.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And I think in this area and in others, I think that little bit of force is something that honestly will be a bit of a silver lining for folks. Because I think that it's going to spur a lot of acceleration and innovation as companies ramp up, because we've gotten a little rid of a bit of that resistance.

Michael Blumberg: Exactly.

Sarah Nicastro: So that makes sense. And as I said at the beginning, we've done quite a bit of coverage on the use of these tools for business continuity efforts. And I am very cognizant of the fact that some listeners are still in the midst of business continuity, and others are seeing things really take a turn for the better and focusing a bit on recovery and ramping back up. So I respect the fact that listeners are at different phases on this journey. But I do think what I'd like to center our conversation around today is what will come beyond the use of these tools for business continuity? As we look forward, what will the best strategy for touchless service be post-COVID? So when we are able to return to business as usual, but we have these new tools in place and we have these new methods of doing things, what strategy can we set to provide the right type of service in the right way at the right time for our ourselves?

Michael Blumberg: Sure, Sarah. That's a great question. And I've given some thought to that prior to this interview. I think for every service organization, they need to have a touchless strategy, a touchless service strategy. They can't go about business and say, "I'm not going to deal with this. It's not important." It is important. I think touchless service will become table stakes for all service organizations. Just like you can't think of a field service organization that doesn't have a mobility solution. I think that's what touchless is going to be. And while the pandemic created this buzz word, a touchless service, because the technology was always there, it really has a lot of benefits to a service organization and the customer. In my opinion, I think one of the biggest benefits is it eliminates friction, and friction is caused when there's a lot of touches or a lot of steps or a lot of additional time involved in completing a task or process.

Michael Blumberg: So, we do this with touchless. We don't have to send a technician in a car or truck and drive to a customer site. They can do it remotely, and therefore, complete more calls per day. And the customer gets a service completed faster. So it has a lot of benefits. So this will continue. Companies need to consider it. It's got to be part of their offering. It's got to be part of their service delivery. And the name may change. It may not be touchless service when we're post-pandemic, but the concept will still be there.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So what is your advice for folks on how to set the right strategy for their business when it comes to touchless service? They need to have one, but what should it look like?

Michael Blumberg: Yeah. I think the strategy may differ a little bit by industry or vertical, but some of the things you should consider is what is the complexity of the equipment being supported? What's the level of mission criticality of that equipment and what are the safety issues? So you can almost think of a grid, like a two-by-two grid or four quadrants where you look at the complexity of the equipment and is it mission critical? Is it high voltage? Is it dangerous? And then also what's the skill set of the customer? Because remember when we talk about touchless service, we're talking about supporting the customer. So if you're in an environment where it's not very complex, maybe the customer has some limited skill sets, you can use touchless service. I think it's a good solution to also deal with some of the shortages in labor right now. But in a more complex environments when it's highly complex equipment, maybe high voltage, and there's nobody on site that's qualified or certified to support high voltage equipment, then I think definitely on-site.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Michael Blumberg: And then there's another part of this is I think it should be part of an offering. So you've got, maybe it's a basic service, and maybe basic service will be remote assistance. Again, depending on the product. And in other cases, he might charge you a premium. It's a value-added service for the touchless service, if it's a more complex piece of equipment.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay. All right. So when folks are thinking through how they're going to set their strategy, what criteria would you use to determine what to do remote and what to do in-person?

Michael Blumberg: Well, I was trying to answer that previously. So think of maybe... One example is cable TV. A customer has to install a set top box. It's pretty simple to do, may be hard to get a technician out there, or they may have to wait a long time. You could give them an option of the remote assistance. We'll make this feature available to you to help you install your set top box. While we can describe it over the phone, you may not know what we're referring to. We might not be able to see what you're pointing to or what you're looking at. We can use remote assistance to observe, to see what's going on. Where we might be on-site is maybe it's a transformer, an electrical distribution transformer in a power plant.

Michael Blumberg: I don't know that that's something that we can do through remote assistance. If it goes down, you might have to bring a technician out there on-site, particularly if there's nobody on-site in the customer organization that can support that technology.

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Yeah. Those are good points. And I think that they're really good food for thought. I think that what this... I think this is going to be one of the toughest things for folks to sort through once things normalize is, what is the protocol? What is the process for how this fits into service delivery as a whole. So I think the points you brought up are really good ones. What's the complexity? What's the safety scenario? What's the possibility for danger? What's the customer's skillset and ability? I think there's also this element of... And it's maybe a little bit softer, but I also think there's this element of where does an in-person video or in-person visit add value in the sense of just needing to have that human connection.

Sarah Nicastro: So maybe that's something where it's more of a frustration or an escalation or maybe that's an initial install where that person is a part of the brand experience. But I think that one of the things that I believe about the future of remote assistance and touchless service is that I think it will become a really good frontline and first wave of service delivery. I think it'll be really good in terms of triaging issues and figuring out what's going on. Possibly completing simpler repairs remotely and things like that, so that the field technician's role can evolve into being almost more of a customer service type role than just a break-fix type role. So I think that's an important and interesting part of the conversation.

Michael Blumberg: Yeah. I think that makes sense, Sarah. I think if there's a role for the technician to play when he's at the customer site, besides just fixing something. Like being an ambassador or asking additional questions, you might want to do it on-site. And then I also think we'll likely see remote assistance tools as being part of the technician's toolkit. So before they think they might have to go on-site, but let's try to do it remotely. Let's see if we can troubleshoot and triage and diagnose, as you said, before we make the commitment to travel on-site.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. It's an important tool to put companies in a position of power in terms of what they're capable of and being strategic in making the decision of how and when they opt to provide service in a touchless way or in a on-site way. So when we talk about touchless service, I think my mind just naturally defaults to augmented reality remote assistance, because that's what I've discussed the most this year. But there are certainly other tools that folks need to be aware of. So what other touchless tools should companies be considering as a part of their strategy or toolbox?

Michael Blumberg: Yeah. Great question. So, I think it's any tool that is going to enable self-service or take the touch requirement to be an in-person on-site out of the equation. So yeah, we could think of things like just a basic telephone call, right? That's the remote assistance, although that's not what we're talking about. We could do go to use video conferencing as a tool. You talked about virtual existence and augmented reality, but we can also talk about look at full-blown augmented reality solutions. They make use of CAD drawings and digital twins as part of the solution. Connected to an IOT platform, that would allow a company to deliver touchless service. We can also consider a self-service tools like knowledge basis.

Michael Blumberg: I think I just described the gamut from a simple telephone call to a solution where you've got IOT platform with sensors, and it's running an AR algorithm to determine whether you should dispatch a technician or notify the customer that support is required. And then perhaps using an AR session to deliver the service to the customer without dispatching a technician.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay. Yeah. There's a lot of options, which is exciting. So the other topic that I think is probably... So to me, the most interesting parts of this discussion are what's the strategy in terms of how do companies operationalize touchless service in a way that works cohesively with the ability to go on-site if and when it's needed? So that's what we just spoke about. The other aspect of this that I know is really top of mind for the industry is looking beyond COVID. So again, there's companies that are right now relying on touchless service a lot or entirely to deliver service in the midst of this situation.

Sarah Nicastro: But after the fact, one of the biggest considerations for folks is, how do we monetize remote service as a part of the service offering? Okay. So I actually just... I knew we were recording this today, and I just had a conversation this morning where this came up and it's a huge, huge, huge consideration. So what are your thoughts or advice for people on how do you make this a part of the service offering in a way that ideally it drives revenue?

Michael Blumberg: Yes, Sarah. That's a great question. And it's a topic that's near and dear to my heart, because I love to help companies monetize service offerings and grow their top-line service revenue, and use tools and technology to achieve that outcome. I think monetizing is going to really depend on the product and the industry. I think there's some times where a manufacturer might find, or even a service provider, like an independent service provider, that it might be in their best interest to not charge for the touchless service. But there's other times where they might find there's definitely a value proposition to do that in the use case. But to get there, to get to the monetization, there's a couple of steps I think the company needs to consider or take into account.

Michael Blumberg: First, I think they really need to gain clarity about the value in the use of the tool. They really need to be able to clearly articulate to the customer what it will do. What's the benefit it will do? Why should they use it? What advice will they get? Not advice, what value will they get out of it? Will it save time? Will it improve productivity? Will it increase uptime? So they've got to be able to talk about it in those terms, because without those terms, there's no value. If there's no value, nobody's going to pay for it. You can't monetize it.

Michael Blumberg: The second thing is, I think it's really important that they conduct market research to validate there's a value in use, and customers are willing to pay for the solution. But we don't want to force things on customers. It'll fall flat on our face. Anyone who does will fall flat on their face, and likely what's going to happen is they're going to say, "Yeah, we tried it. There's no value. We can't charge for it." No. They just didn't do their proper due diligence. So conduct the market research to validate the value in use that there's a level of interest in it, and they're willing to pay.

Michael Blumberg: Third step is construct offerings, different offerings at different price points. And determine what kind of customers are going to buy, based on those offerings and price points. So there's some research upfront, and then some research after you develop the offerings. I would suggest anyone who's considering doing the research, they should do focus groups as well as surveys. So maybe focus groups to get the customers involved. Get their feedback qualitatively, what do they think about it? How much are they willing to pay? Get some ideas, and then validate that through large scale research efforts, like a telephone survey or email survey. But then when you have all that knowledge about what it is you're going to offer, and the customers want it and they're willing to pay for it, you got an idea of the price point. And then, of course, you want to conduct your market sizing and forecast on the market that there's a market. How big is it? How fast is it growing? How much of that you can penetrate?

Michael Blumberg: And then the last step, of course, is your go-to-market plan. How do you take it to market? Are you going to pilot-test it first? Do you have some beta customers or are you going to roll it out full-scale all at once? Probably the best thing is a pilot, but each company has to make their own decision until they do it.

Sarah Nicastro: Sure. Sure. Yeah. I like the point you made about... The way I took it was speaking their language, right? So this is a mistake that I see companies make time and time again, is using internal terms to describe an external value proposition. Right?

Michael Blumberg: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sarah Nicastro: So, "Hey, we're now we're doing touchless service." Well, touchless service might not sound appealing to a customer that likes to consider themselves high touch. Do you know what I mean?

Michael Blumberg: Right.

Sarah Nicastro: So remote resolution might be a better way to put it or, "We can solve your problems faster," or, "We can guarantee X result for you," or what have you. I think it's something that oftentimes doesn't even necessarily change the tools used, the steps taken, or the execution of what's being discussed, but has an incredibly important impact on the outcome of the project's success in terms of how it's received by the end customer. I think it's a really important point to have people remember that there is most often a difference between how you talk about this and sell this and plan for this internally, and the vernacular you need to use with your customers and how you need to sell it externally.

Michael Blumberg: Yeah. I agree 100%, Sarah. You point to two things. One is what I call the difference between having a production orientation versus a market orientation or customer orientation. Companies that don't do a good job at monetizing their service or selling offerings is they're talking to the customer in terms of what works for them. You call that internal. I call that production they're talking about. How difficult is it for us to deliver service? So we've introduced this new tool to make it easier for us. That's taking production internal orientation to the extreme. Versus the market orientation is, "Look at what this can do for you."

Sarah Nicastro: Right. Okay.

Michael Blumberg: And I think the other thing is that too many companies use buzzwords. They pick an industry term and say that's what it is. In the research that I've done recently on touchless service, I find the companies that are really getting their customers to embrace it and adopt it and use it and engage it have branded it themselves. They're not saying, it's a AR solution from this company, it's they've given it their own brand name. I think that makes a difference.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely. So how would you describe or summarize the opportunity for touchless service in a post-pandemic world?

Michael Blumberg: Well, I think it provides a trifecta of value in this post-product pandemic world. It dramatically improves customer experience. We're finding that the end customer likes this ability to get touchless service, to get service fast, to have somebody walk them through the solution. I know I had that occur to me when I had a problem with my cable TV. We had a touchless service experience. It optimizes service delivery, so you can do more with less, because you don't have to necessarily send the technician on-site. You could do it remotely. You can also be more productive and efficient, because you're doing the triage. You're doing the troubleshooting remotely and you get a better chance of knowing exactly what's going on. Because you could see and observe it.

Michael Blumberg: In the past, you had to do it based on somebody's description of it. And maybe there is some language issues, or what have you. Or just they weren't describing it in a way that the expert on the other end knew what they're talking about and vice versa. And then the third benefit is, we just talked about it, generates a new source of revenue for companies.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's going to be really cool to see this evolve and to see companies navigate some of these things we're talking about, in terms of how to incorporate this into their operation and how to monetize it and how to evolve those relationships with their customers and things like that. We talked a little bit earlier about this increased openness to change that we have both recognized this year with what's going on. What advice would you give folks on how to make the most of that attitude that exists right now? How could they capitalize on the fact that people are a little bit more open-minded right now than they maybe were before this situation?

Michael Blumberg: Yeah, sure. Yeah. As we discussed earlier that while the pandemic was putting these external pressures on us, that external pressure led us collectively to look at how do we make sure everyone's safe? How do we make sure we still get the job done? How do we make sure we still serve the customer? And most importantly, how do we look after one another? I think in the most simplest terms, it's how do we look after each other? How do we make sure we don't spread germs to somebody, we don't spread the virus to somebody? So part of it is like, "Let's protect ourselves. Let's look at what's in for us," but also how do we help the other person? So we could learn from that and look at applying that idea, that concept to any new technology or any new desire for change. It ultimately gets down to really being clear about the why we're doing something and answering for us and for others, what's in it for us all, collectively?

Sarah Nicastro: That's a good point. And like we talked about just in the question before, that answer is going to be different depending on which stakeholder you're looking at, right?

Michael Blumberg: Exactly. What you're getting into.

Sarah Nicastro: So going back to, in terms of... Yes, exactly. In their own language. Yes.

Michael Blumberg: Exactly. Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Good. All right, Michael. Any final comments, thoughts, advice, words of wisdom that you would want to share with our audience?

Michael Blumberg: Yeah. Yeah. I'm happy to do that. So when I talk to companies who have really powered through the pandemic, and even during the darkest periods, they seem to be doing okay. They're getting by. They had customers. They were delivering service. Versus other companies that were struggling and even still struggling today. Now some of them, it might be because they're in industries that are just unfortunately not doing well. But I saw other companies and spoke to other companies where the same industry, one company is doing really well through this, has customers, delivering service, generating revenue, making profit, and others are stalled. And I think what it comes down to is those companies that were stalled, were stalled all the time. It's just as they say, "High tides raise all boats." And so low tides prevent the boats from going out in the ocean.

Michael Blumberg: That's what was happening. Companies that, and that's what had happened. And so companies that are doing well were agile. They're agile companies. They had contingency plans. They were anticipating the change may happen. It was just a matter of when. Those who weren't, quite the opposite. So I think that's the takeaway is, do your best to be agile, have contingency plans, be ready for change, expect change to happen.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yep. Very good. All right. Well, thank you for that, Michael. And thank you for being with us today. I really appreciate it.

Michael Blumberg: Sure. It's my pleasure, Sarah. Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: You can find more on how companies have been navigating COVID-19 complexity and how they're preparing for the post-pandemic world by visiting us at FutureofFieldService.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter at The future of FS. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more about IFS service management by visiting www.ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.

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November 9, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

The 3 Essential Service Leadership Skills of 2020

November 9, 2020 | 5 Mins Read

The 3 Essential Service Leadership Skills of 2020


 By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Regardless of your age or geography or role or industry, 2020 has challenged and stretched you. For service leaders, this year has put an extra burden on an already tall task of spearheading immense change. In the same way companies that have reacted nimbly to how the pandemic has changed the needs of their customers; service leaders have had to tap into different skills to meet the needs of their teams in this new world.

In my conversations with service leaders over the last nine months, many have shared poignant stories of how this year’s experiences have impacted them as people – and also how they’ve had to rise above their personal impact to show up for their teams, their customers, and their companies. There are three skills that seem to have been particularly critical to hone this year:

Vulnerability. This may be the lease familiar or comfortable for some of the service leaders I’ve talked with, but it is also arguably the most important. This year has been hard, and we all need a little more empathy and camaraderie. In order for your teams to feel comfortable being honest about what they’re struggling with, or sharing their feelings, or expressing their needs, they need to have a safe space to be vulnerable. We published a podcast last week with Linda Tucci, Global Sr. Director of the Technical Solutions Center at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, which I highly suggest you listen to if you haven’t. In the episode, Linda says: “People are suffering. 2020 is throwing the kitchen sink at us, between the lockdowns, job loss, wildfires, hurricanes, stress, polarization. I would say that we have to ask ourselves, how do we manage, how do we lead in these times? If we want to be experienced as leaders, we have to demonstrate both empathy and compassion. People connect with people. And being vulnerable is not a weakness; it’s an act of courage. There’s evidence that leaders who are prepared to show their vulnerability more easily gain the trust of others and are believed to be more effective leaders, and I believe in that statement. Brené Brown says, endearing greatly, that, ‘Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of human experience.’ And I believe in that.”

Linda’s sentiment is one that is shared by many service leaders I speak with. They all discuss how they’ve become more personal with their team, more open in discussing feelings, and more connected on a human level. And, overwhelmingly, while they all wish circumstances were different, they feel increased vulnerability and connection is a very positive change. It’s important for leaders to normalize language about mental health in the workplace and being vulnerable yourself gives your team the permission they might need to do the same.

Flexibility. Chances are the way you work this year is different. Service delivery is different, business decisions are different. Customer needs are different – and employee needs are different, too. As leaders, we can’t hold to expectations, practices, or routines that worked in a post-COVID world simply because “that’s how it’s done.” We need to be willing to reexamine not only how we work to serve our customers in new and different ways, but how this year may change the way our employees work as well. We have employees now working from home that are juggling family and household responsibilities in ways that are just unprecedented.

In a podcast featuring Reihaneh Irani-Famili, VP of Business Readiness, National Grid, we discussed the need to evolve to a value-based mentality when we think of assessing productivity. “You need to replace the 8:00 to 5:00 mentality by a deliverable based mentality and a value-based mentality. And it’s both for the leaders in the companies as well as for those employees. Because as an employee, if before my success was I spent eight hours in the office, now that needs to be replaced by this is the value that I have created in the hours that I was working or being productive,” she says. “The more clarity you can give on the outcomes and the value that you’re trying to drive and less about how they would get to that, it helps people be more productive, more engaged, and it would really make sure that your productivity doesn’t get impacted by this sudden move to a virtual environment.”

The consideration around flexibility becomes even more critical when you think about how you support the women in your workforce. In this article from McKinsey & Company, they state: “Due to the challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis, as many as two million women are considering leaving the workforce (defined as taking a leave of absence or leaving the workforce altogether). If these women feel forced to leave the workplace, we’ll end up with far fewer women in leadership—and far fewer women on track to be future leaders.”

Fortitude. We can likely all identify with times this year where we’ve just felt like throwing in the towel. When you’re facing your own challenges, it can be daunting to show up – let alone show up and try to be positive for your team. But service leaders have. They’ve show up when they don’t feel like it. They’ve dug deep to be positive when it’s easier to give in to negativity. They’ve worked tirelessly to rally their team. They’ve had to continue showing up through hard decisions, layoffs, and reductions in workforce. Leaders too have to balance the stressors of work with the demands of home. None of this is easy, but service leaders have shown immense fortitude this year. To do this, you need to determine how to recharge. You have to figure out how to put your oxygen mask on before you focus on helping others. Fortitude is admirable, but without an element of self-care it will result in burnout.

I want you to know how much I respect each of you and honor what it’s taken to lead in a year like this. I’ve felt so genuinely fortunate to get to have conversations with so many service leaders this year – to hear their stories firsthand and to witness the greatness that is in all of us come to life in such challenging times. I’ve hoped to be a sunny spot in some of your cloudy days, and I hope you know you’ve been the same for me. None of us know what 2021 will hold, but I do believe wholeheartedly that this year has made all of us stronger, closer, and more acutely aware of what really matters.

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